Be careful what you wish for

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I wanted Michelle Bridges arms and a six pack. As I have had numerous people point out over the past four weeks, you don’t need legs for that.

Maybe I should have added in killer thighs – plural – or curvy calves – again plural. But I didn’t, so I really don’t have any excuse if I don’t get them, even with my dodgy achilles.

In the weeks following my operation not a lot happened. I was picked up from the hospital, still slightly drug induced and wheeled home with a goodie bag of takeaways including Tramadol, Endone, Oxycontin and my first three weeks of Clexane injections.

I was promptly placed on couch, handed TV remotes and given permission to boss, direct and order others around whenever I needed something.

What I needed was better TV. Even with Foxtel I forgot how boring, yet strangely addictive day time TV is. 16 and pregnant, 4 Weddings and my all time favorite Geordie Shore.

For whatever reason, perhaps because my brain was still floating in clouds and my leg still ached, but whenever I tried to read I had a hard time focusing. The words would swim on the page and well constructed sentences made no sense. So I gave up and just succumbed to the junk that is reality TV.

Along with the bossing and the ordering, I also called on a few more favours.

The first day post operation my ‘almost always paleo’ friend who happens to be a pharmacist bought over the pair of crutches she had ordered and I had paid for, saving me the weekly $10 hire fee from the local chemist. Given I had a bill from almost every doctor in the Epworth, the savings was well welcomed.

Her biggest favour however, was her clinical hand there to steady my own when the time came for my first injection.

Actually her hand was the only steady one, and so instead it was she who injected the preventative blood clot drug into me, slightly pinching my stomach and using one of the alcohol swabs she had thoughtfully also bought over. This time I watched. I wasn’t naive enough to think I was going to have her come over at 6pm everyday for the next six weeks.

The needle pierced my skin and the fluid was pumped into me. It swelled around the area, between her fingers and the flesh of skin she was still pinching and even when she slowly withdrew the injection the fluid remained poised. We could both feel it, bubbling just under my flesh, until she lightly pressed over the pin prick with the swab and sent the fluid flowing through my body to help keep my blood flowing.

The first of many injections was dropped in the safe syringe canister and I popped another pain killer. When my head was too cloudy to focus, she left and I returned to my TV viewing.

My routine of waking, stumbling to coach, being fed, bought coffee, food and handed remotes, iPad and water was interrupted in the first few days by welcomed visitors. My circle of friends who were part time workers or stay at home mums were the biggest help during the day. Not only did they bring conversation that actually made sense and did not involve underage sex, but my visitors also bought well meaning care packages and lunch. And their children, who could run around and distract me from the throbbing that had remained in my leg since the surgery and who pointed at my boot with a confused look on their face and asked what my ‘ouch’ was.

Good old trusty Grandma, Gma to those who know her, was also a big help visiting twice during the first week I was home alone. The first time she came for lunch it was with chicken, salad, fresh rolls and her world famous orange cake. I was thankful and hungry, but also vividly aware her orange cake was loaded with sugar and gluten and the rolls, despite being still warm, were something I had stayed away from too long to risk.

Bollucks. The part of my brain that was less drug affected thought. How was I going to tell my 84 year old Gma that all the food she had bought had recently been crossed off my ‘yes I eat that’ list. The very same Gma that had once scolded my vegetarian sister for not eating the zucchini slice she had made because it had ‘only a little bit’ of bacon in it.

Oh thanks Grandma, but I don’t eat bread very much anymore (at all)

Oh don’t you love? Do you want only half then?

Um, maybe I’ll just have the salad and not the roll.

Ok, I’ll just put you the half, which half do you want?

I faced the same challenge with the orange cake.

I’m a little full now Grandma, I might have some later.

You didn’t each that much love, ill just put you a little piece.

The second time she came, it was with her homemade soup that not long ago was my favorite. Luckily Joel had eaten most of the remaining orange cake and what little was left I had farmed off to my sister so nothing but crumbs remained.

But how this time could I explain that her once treasured and loved chicken and corn noodle soup was now a big NO on the paleo diet.

I didn’t. I ate the soup; nobody likes a fussy disabled girl.

The days were largely boring. I had visions of writing a witty and entertaining blog entry every day, but just like the fog that entered my brain when I tried to read, I couldn’t find the right words to write into my newly purchased journals and so the pencil stayed pointed the pages blank.

Slowly, at my brothers warning, I tried to wean myself off the pain killers. Perhaps I tried a little too early but his sms had freighted me

What drugs are you on? You better be careful, some people can get addicted to those you know. You should try not to take them.

Three years ago, my brother had broken his neck playing football and while thankfully he is fine now, he had been in a world of pain and bother back then, and had also been doped up on various blood thinners and pain killers. I was worried his warning may have come from personal experience, so excluded my daily helpers only a few days post surgery.

It was a mistake. By Tuesday I found myself in a bout of depression and pain. I had been home alone for most of the day left for once to manage my own snacks and hobble up to the kitchen every time my water bottle needed filling. TV had been bad, I was bored and feeling a little sorry for myself. And my leg was throbbing.

Epic fail.

Dad called, criticized my brother for his ‘well meaning’ warning and told me to pop a pill if I needed it.

I took two.

Nights were better.

At night friends popped over with care packages. Annie with parcels of food – all paleo food I might add – recipes she had taken the time to photocopy from the Against All Grain cookbook. Magazines, books and DVD’s. Nisha with more magazines. Megan with hand weights to help focus my frustration (and get those Michelle Bridges arms) Anna came to see me on a visit from Perth and together with Annie and Nisha, I broke my paleo diet with Thai food, wine and champagne.

But it was worth it, I felt human again.

And of course there were the flowers. A beautiful bunch from all the coaches at Crossfit Hawthorn East that arrived (conveniently) on a day when my sister was babysitting me.

A bouquet from work, cuts from Gma’s garden. Nisha, Anna and Charly all bringing a bunch when they came. My house smelled and looked beautiful, even if I didn’t

And then the first week was over.

The second week I went back to work. Well I went back working, from home. I had decided again to stop taking pain killers and for the most part the days were fine. But long. I had underestimated how much longer everything would take when dong it on one leg, by oneself, still slightly fragile from the surgery and post op week.

Getting dressed – unable to take my moonboot off until the stitches came out – meant that my wardrobe was limited. Very limited. As in I often stayed in my pajamas all day or managed to stretch a pair of trucksuit pants over the boot and hoped I had no visitors.

Making a coffee. Travel mug strategically placed on the edge of the kitchen bench. Down the two stairs I go on the crutches, leg held in air. Mug placed carefully in bag then gently lowered onto right crutch or over shoulder and slowly, very slowly, maneuver over to the couch or into the study. By the time I got there, the coffee was cold.

Showers. All of a sudden I was a child again and couldn’t perform this simple task on my own so resorted to (as hideous as it sounds) bathing only every second day. Garbage bag over moonboot, stool in base of shower. Leg stretched out of shower door and resting on another chair so it didn’t get wet and stayed elevated. All of this had to of course have a helper to lower me on stool and get me out of the shower when the time came.

Food. It was almost too hard. Breakfast was provided to me by well meaning husband (who now refers to me as the English patient) before leaving for work, but lunch and snacks were left up to me. It meant I got up only when I was starving and not for snacks, although my appetite still had not come back from the operation. At least I managed to FINALLY give up my nut addiction.

I was exhausted.

Just getting around on my own sapped my energy, and my brain trying to focus on working that first week was tough. I took regular lunch breaks, plopping myself in front of the TV on the couch for an hour while eating whatever it was I had managed to make and carry on my own.  I answered emails and dialed into meetings said a silent thanks that I didn’t have to make any massive decisions.

On Friday of that second week I glanced at myself in the mirror after negotiating the shower and was a little horrified by what I saw.

Dark bags circled my eyes, unwashed, greasy hair that hadn’t been brushed in a day or so. Pale face, very pale face from sitting indoors for weeks. Track marks and bruises some purple, some black and blue spotted my stomach from the daily injections.  And I had lost weight. The muscle tone I had tried so hard to achieve had faded into the background and left my stomach, arms and back with a thin layer of flesh. It wasn’t fat, it was just skin. For some reason despite the lack of exercise I had lost both size and weight.

Defiantly no sign of Michelle Bridges arms and a six pack. I looked hideous.

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Bacon and Sweet Potato ‘Pie’

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We all know how important breakfast is – paleo or non paleo. The days of me eating sugar laden muesli with low fat, extra sugar yoghurt, and thinking I was being healthy and not understanding why I was hungry again in an hour – are gone.

And while I love eggs, I also love variety and experimenting. So one Sunday, on food prep day, I pulled out the ingredients I had in the fridge and pantry and thought about what breakfast concoction I could make for the week.

I had done muffins and a frittata recently, had run out of zucchini for a slice and, well just wanted to try something new.

What I ended up making, was a sweet potato and bacon pie. It really is a frittata, looks like a pizza but either way tastes delicious!

The ingredients I had and used were below –

  • 1 cup diced smoked paleo ‘speck’ bacon
  • 1 cup diced sweet potato
  • 1 container of cheery tomatoes – quartered
  • ½ cup green beans diced (again you can use whatever you have here)
  • Fresh oregano (you can use whatever herbs you want)
  • 1 x can coconut milk
  • Salt & pepper
  • 8 (approx) smiling eggs

The paleo speck bacon I got was from Cannings butchers. It has no added sugar or nasties in it, and can also be kept in the freezer. If you are a first time eater of this, make sure you crisp it up in your cooking or it can have a rubber taste. I leave my skin on, but you can remove if you would like.1271850_10200846452538487_255684771_o

Method –

  • Melt your coconut oil in a large pan and add your bacon. Fry for a few minutes until it start to get crispy. Add your sweet potato and fry together until bacon is cooked and crispy and sweet potato is soft and almost cooked through.

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  • Grease your dish, (with coconut oil) I used an oven proof dish that has a lid and can be used for casseroles and other such delights. Just find one that suits.
  • Line the bottom of the dish with some of your cherry tomatoes. Leave enough for the top of your pie.
  • Once the bacon and sweet potato is done to your liking, add to the dish over the top of the tomato.

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  • Meanwhile beat your eggs and coconut milk in a separate dish with salt and pepper and oregano. If you like you can add extra coconut milk to help thicken, or even almond milk – get creative!
  • Add the green beans to your egg mixture and stir to combine.
  • Pour egg mixture over your bacon and sweet potato in the dish.
  • Place the rest of your cherry tomatoes on top of the egg mixture, season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Cook in a moderate oven, approx 180-200 until egg is cooked through.

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Enjoy!

The pie also freezes well and travels well – I took a piece on board my flight to Perth recently.

Again, you can change this to include onion, garlic and herbs or vegetables you have.

Cooking paleo is all about being creative and combining flavors that works, so have a play. Google, and then change/adapt/adjust as needed.

Learning the Rough Way

I spent the next two days pre operation at work. Some thought I was crazy, coming into work before having an operation. Why wouldn’t I just take the days off? I would like to say it was the allegiance and dedication I felt to the job, and perhaps there was a little of that. I probably wanted a little bit of sympathy also from my colleagues. In truth though, the main reason I went back to work on Tuesday and Wednesday was to keep sane.

I was already worried about the boredom I would find at home waiting for me on the couch; between the remote control and the mound of cushions I would need to support me for the next few weeks.

I was grasping onto the remains of normality for at least the next two days. I needed people. I needed routine. I needed to keep busy.

The Monday after we left Dr Hau, me with a fake smile plastered on myself to try and pretend I wasn’t shocked or surprised at the length of recovery he had outlined for me, I called in a bigger favor from Laura.

Time to fit me with a cam walker, or what I affectionately (not) refer to as a moonboot.

Laura paid me a home visit that night and expertly fitted me with the shoe, showed me how to use it and left me with a few compression socks and bandages to use in future. Helpful tips on how to shower with one on (cover with garbage bag and use electrical tape) on sleeping (pillowcase to keep your sheets clean) and promises that eventually I would get used to it.

Her visit saved me not only a trip to the hospital the following day to get one fitted, but also saved me some much needed cash. At this point, after paying $100 for the Dr visit, $90 for the ultrasound and $98 for the Xray’s – all before operation and post operation care – I was starting to wonder why I had private health insurance in the first place and with election time looming, was almost half interested in the ‘policies’ our ‘level headed’ governments were trying to sell.

Her visit also meant I was free on Tuesday and could go to work and given it would be the last two days in a few weeks I could, I actually really wanted to.

Plus I knew what was coming. Weeks of alone time, getting bed sores and most likely putting on a few kilos and loosing the 15% body fat I at worked so hard at achieving.

I couldn’t drive. The moonboot had seen to that – for at least three months.  So not only was I couch bound, but housebound too. I had to rely on others for everything – something I’m not really good at.

Good old Dr Hau with his remarkable bedside manner had been very stern about the first two weeks post operation and their significant in helping me to repair. Leg raised, elevated to prevent swelling that could then rip at the stitches or pull at the recently attached tendon. No moving unless I had to. And by had to, it meant unless I had to go to the toilet.

Just sit on the couch, Dr Hau had said. Like this was easy.

I’m sure for some it would be, but I have never been a couch sitter for lengthy periods, unless I have lost myself in a novel or with my notebook and have successfully managed to lock out the outside world.

Just sit on the couch.

So no crossfit in the morning, no yoga at night.

Just sit on the couch.

So no cooking dinner or preparing meals.

Just sit on the couch.

So no driving, no grocery shopping, no walking the dogs.

Just sit on the couch.

So no working, no visiting friends, no brunch on Sunday mornings, no drinks Friday night.

Just sit on the couch.

So no dusting, no vacuuming, no mopping or sweeping or cleaning.

Just sit on the couch.

I was worried.

I may have a slight obsessive compulsive nature when it came to housework and if I spot dust on my dark chocolate brown coffee table can’t relax until I remove it. Couch time was only after dinner had been cooked and dishes had been washed and dogs had been fed and the next day smoothies had been made.

My day used to start at 5:15am and end at 11pm. That was going to be a lot of couch time.

At some point during a fit of self pity I reached out to Jarryd Roughead via twitter.

I never expected him to respond, although I hoped he did. After all he had done this same injury and had come back to play some of his best footy. He was in the lead for the Coleman medal, surely if someone could spark some sort of fight in me it was him. It was a simple message, and he responded not half an hour later.

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I’m not ashamed to say, this made my day.

It pepped me up when I needed it. It also reconfirmed to me what I heard from the surgeon, the doctor and everyone else who knew me well. I needed to stop, relax, and not try to rush this or do too much. I needed to literally, once my leg had been cut open and my tendon mop ends reattached, do nothing.

So that Tuesday and Wednesday, before my operation date, I went to work. I worked hard, not leaving until late on Wednesday night. I tried to handover what I could, tidy up other things and ensure my team had what they needed. I hobbled to the disabled loos on my own with my hired crutches and yet to be named moonboot and managed to master the art of carrying my drink bottle in a bag over my shoulder every time it needed filling.

I smiled and joked and laughed and told the story of my popping achilles about 20 times over and never once minded, because I knew I would miss this, this normality, when I was alone on the couch for two weeks.

And I may have, when the cab had dropped me home and I was alone for an hour before Joel came back from his day trip to Sydney, stumbled around the house trying to dust what I could, putting away clothes where I could and trying to arrange the study in some sort of order. Because this was also normality, and while everyone hates housework, I knew I would miss this also.

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.

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Packing Paleo

You know it’s serious when you change your flight dietary preferences to gluten free.

I wish, to be honest, there was more than just a drop down. Perhaps a multi select box, or a free text field and that way I could add in the additions. Gluten free also means dairy free, but of course grains, potatoes, and sugar all find their way onto that small plastic wrapped tray of ‘food’.  If there was the option to choose more than one, I could have gone diabetic friendly also, and hoped that I was left with more than a rice flour sugar fuelled cake and a thimble of soy milk.

Ok, so there was more. A few bits of lamb, some sugar filled sauce, a pile of greens and some potatoes that I really wanted to eat. The only thing that stopped me from pushing them onto my white plastic fork was the fact that if I was going to break for the starchy goodness, they were going to be half decent, not microwaved pre-prepared plane potatoes.

There was also a box of sultanas and a tub of two fruits. Both claimed they were natural and healthy, and I think even sported the heart tick approval, but the nutritional panel on the back showed more than just goodness. Lots more. Like sugar more. Like 63.5g of sugar per 100 gram.

Of course its natural sugar, but over 50% of those dried things is a little too much.

I ate the greens, ignored the potatoes, picked my way through the meat, left the gluten free bread, tried to leave the juice behind and eat only the two fruits and succumbed to the coconut gluten free macaroon.

Half way through the four and a half hour flight when I was starving (after the same flight attendant who had previously provided my gluten and dairy free meal offered me cheese and biscuits and a packet of Anzac cookies) I popped a few of those dried grapes into my mouth and was surprised and shocked at how sweet they tasted. Too sweet. I had to stop eating them.

I should have just had the free wine that was offered. At least then I would have forgotten I was starving.

Travelling with such a long list of requirements is hard.

A day trip to Sydney, not so hard. You can pack your full lunch in one bag and not have an issue with excess luggage. You can decline the meal and not risk starvation, and even though the security guards look at you strangely during the bomb check, they keep their mouth closed.

A week trip to Perth, not so easy.

Before my flight like general Sunday afternoons, I spent cooking my week’s worth of meals. An oversized smoothie that I froze and added extra chia seeds in it to help it last the plane ride and beyond. Some chewy mocha balls to ensure snacks during the week were covered. A few pieces of the left over paleo gingerbread and three of my paleo banana and berry muffins. The standard nut trail mix and a few tins of tuna.  I even went so far as to bake a new paleo crust-less sweet potato quiche and while I froze half of it for my return, I took a piece of that too just in case I had to (god forbid) miss breakfast at the hotel one morning.

I know it sounds crazy. It looked slightly odd also.

All these Tupperware containers full of food going through security, getting put in the overhead locker as I was sitting under a bulk head.

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When my stomach was rumbling so badly on the flight, and I took out one of my muffins from the bag overhead, the passenger next to me didn’t know what to think.

Personally I think he was a little jealous. Mine looked much better than his frozen/thawed/sugar preserved cupcake.

I was hoping my muffins would make at least the flight trip, so before I could be tempted by anything else I packed them away and tried to forget about them.

But I am not that strange.  There are others like me who also pack paleo.

Nom Nom Paleo recently called out to her social media following remarking “I may not have time to pack any food for my flight tomorrow….”

She got 56 comments asking for help to determine where she could get paleo friendly food.

I got about 56 odd looks for packing and travelling paleo style.

But despite the strange looks and carting my containers from customer meeting to office, to hotel and beyond, I was glad I had taken the time to do it.

My Perth friends did remark they had supermarkets and organic shops over here (yes even Perth is not that behind, just don’t try to visit one after 9pm) which also helped to fill my stomach paleo style during the day, and let’s just say nights – well I tried as hard as I could… it was the wine that got me in the end.

Glorious & Gluttonous Paleo Gingerbread Cake

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If you read day 29 of my blog you know that during my 30-day primal/paleo challenge I was enticed, seduced and ultimately fell in love with a sweet treat introduced by a friend of mine, paleo gingerbread.

If you haven’t read day 29  – then get on it!

The seduction itself occurred on day 21, but I was too in lust and love with the dessert to bring myself to post about my forbidden love and treachery.

I admit, weeks after I ate that wonderful paleo gingerbread that my ‘almost always’ paleo friend made for me, I thought perhaps I had just imagined the goodness of it given I was in the middle of a tempting feast of sugar (dinner party) and was in day 21 of a 30 day paleo challenge.

So when the challenge finished, and I along with fellow challenges were invited by Primal Junction, to join a celebration, I thought I too would try my hand at making the gingerbread goodness, and see if a) I was a good as cook as my friend and b) if it really was three slice worthy and that good.

So I pulled up the original recipe, and just as my friend did for me that day made a few modifications. The modified list of must have’s is below –

  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2/3 cup coconut nectar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract or vanilla bean (I have used both)
  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder (gluten free)
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Now the recipe we had, said stern words like follow the ingredients exactly, and make sure you do everything just as I have blah blah blah, and while I very much appreciate the author had taken the time to experiment and find a great paleo option for us all, there were adjustments to be made.

For instance the original recipe called for 2/3 cup blackstrap molasses, which we substituted for coconut nectar, and also for maple extract, which we left out completely. The first time I made these I also omitted the baking soda (by mistake) but it didn’t seam to matter and I didn’t have cloves so just added in extra cinnamon. So basically, you can just work through the spices to your taste and don’t get too hung up about it.

And best of all, its very easy to make.

Simply combine the eggs, coconut nectar, coconut oil and vanilla and beat well until its combined.

While your kitchen aid is churning that goodness, combine the rest of the dry ingredients in another bowl and mix with a spoon so it is combined.

While your blades are still churning, add the dry ingredients to the wet slowly, until it is combined and mixed well.

Now the recipe I had also was very particular about cooking this in a glass greased dish, 13×9. I used a metal non-stick square loaf pan that I greased with a coconut oil. On one occasion, because I was scared it wouldn’t come out cleanly; I also used baking paper to line the tin. Again don’t get too hung up about what you cook it in – but it does effect cooking times.

Choose your tin/pan/dish and spread the batter in evenly as best you can.

Bake in your pre-heated oven at 180 degrees and cook for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to about 110 for another 30 minutes.  Personally, my tin takes a little longer at this temperature so keep checking and don’t stress out if you need to keep the oven hot for a little while longer.

I also found this temperature and time often did not darken the cake enough, so would crank up the heat again to get a nice dark colour. You know its cooked inside if your poker/prodder/toothpick comes out clean, so if you do like a darker colour you might like to do the same. Word of caution however, this baby tans quickly so keep your eye on it or your brown will soon turn to black….

Once cooked, let the cake cool enough that you can safety take it out of your pan, but not completely or it might get stuck.

If possible try to let it cool completely before cutting  – more harsh words from the original recipe author – although again the first time I made this I was running late and cut it as steam was rising from it, and it still got rave reviews.

So, back to my original questions.

A)     Was I as good a cook as my friend? – No. Her colour was better, and its always nicer when someone makes it for you.

B)     Was the paleo gingerbread cake as good as I thought it was? Yes. It was snaffled up by most of the challenge celebrators and the recipe was asked for. Even my sugar loving family and Great Baker Gma complemented it the second time I made it for a family dinner.

The only problem with this little puppy is its so easy to make and eat, you will end up doing both WAY too much!

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The ‘Almost Anything’ Omelette – Sweet Potato, Bacon and Tomato

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So this little bad boy does not look the best, but I blame that on travel rather than taste.

I made him the night before, and carried him to work in my trusty Tupperware container ready for a warm up at work the next morning.

Problem was, my trusty Tupperware container was too big to fit in said microwave, and getting Mr Omelette out of container onto plate for heating was more of a challenge than making it in the first place.

Omelette’s are great for breakfast and not bad heated up, making them versatile for those of us who have office jobs. They are also versatile in you can literally put ‘almost anything’ in them.

This Almost Anything Omelette is sweet potato, bacon and tomato.

There is some method in my madness which is below –

  • 4 x Happy Eggs from Happy Chickens
  • 1 x small brown onion
  • 4 x Rashes of free range bacon diced
  • 1 x Tomato
  • 1 x Cup diced sweet potato
  • Herbs of your choosing

Heat and grease pan with coconut oil

Brown your onion

Add sweet potato and fry until it starts to soften

Add bacon and fry until it gets to the level of crispiness you like

In a separate jug or bowl add your eggs, salt pepper and any herbs or spices (with no hidden extras) you like.

Whisk away.

Dice tomato and add to your whisked eggs.

Pour into pan over bacon and sweet potato. Use a spoon to evenly distribute chunks in your omelette.

When the sides start to bubble and have set enough, flip your omelette and cook until egg is set and cooked through.

See – really not Jamie Oliver worthy…

But you can also add kale, zucchini or whatever else your fridge or vegetable crisper holds.

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) 😉

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The Primal Challenge Day 29

I have a confession to make.  Its day 29 and I feel like it is only right, with only one more day until this is officially finished, I need to get something off my chest.

It was over a week ago, and I would like to say it has been playing on my mind. That I have not been able to sleep from the guilt, that I regretted my actions. But in truth, I have been sleeping fine, (excluding the night I was poisoned) and there is no regret (excluding my nut habit).

It was at the girls Christmas party. Day 21. Remember the failed pudding, celebrity heads, the ‘your boring’ remarks and the self righteous ‘I didn’t even find it that hard’ comment.

I didn’t. Not at all.

Because, after the main meal, there was dessert. Fantastic dessert (not my failed pudding that is still hanging in the laundry, hoping it will self cleanse itself into something worth eating) but a range of homemade and store bought sugary goodness.

Ohhh dessert….. Rightly or wrongly, I indulged.

Yes that’s right. When it was all lined up on the table, the fudge, the chocolate, the gingerbread, the cheesecake, the fruit, and the nuts …. I ate something. And it wasn’t just the fruit.

I ate…..

No gluten….

No dairy……

Paleo gingerbread.

My beautiful and very talented ‘most often’ paleo friend with a passion for baking, researched, adapted and ultimately succeeded in bringing the moist, light, and I’ve never loved it so much in my life before, gingerbread before me.

Here friends is the recipe –

  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2/3 c. blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. maple extract
  • 3 c. almond flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Knowing I was not yet able to tackle molasses she replaced it with coconut nectar and took out the extracts and used a vanilla bean instead.

Amazing….

I ate two pieces. Or it might have been three. Either way it was too many and when I broke off half of another of the delight I begged her to put the rest away before I ate the lot. Thank god she did.

I can still taste the goodness of it now… well no I can’t, but I wish I could.

It literally was the answer to all my clean eating prayers.

Except of course on Sunday I went to Google and found that coconut nectar is still sugar and sugar is still not part of the 30 day challenge…. and so it wasn’t all that clean eating at all.

Fail.

I wrote about it on that Sunday. After I had shut down Google and stomped around the house in disgust and thought about how I could justify the coconut nectar. I even made a trip to the organic shop and purchased some (along with coconut flour, coconut sugar, organic vanilla essence, organic cacao powder and a range of – you guessed it – nuts) to see if by some miracle it had a low sugar content.

I tried to justify it to myself by saying it was like fruit. A banana was 55% sugar, and they are ok (in moderation) so why not coconut nectar?

I tried to justify it to myself by saying I had been clean on everything else in a borderline obsessive-compulsive way, that surely this one slip up (or three, it was three pieces) was ok?

But I couldn’t justify it.

I felt ashamed, and angry and a bit too full of self-pity.  Which is why I deleted my first attempt at a blog post on Sunday that talked about my subsequent failure. I didn’t want to admit it, because I still had over a week to go and if I had already failed then what would stop me from opening the flood gates and letting all the sugar wielding nastiness back in?

Angelic clean Stacey was on the ground and red wearing horned Stacey was holding her down with a pitchfork while she drowned me in fine white sugar.

So, if I’m honest, I failed the challenge. One way or another I fed my sugar addiction and I failed. On day 21.

But I picked myself up.

Even if I was not yet ready to admit it. And I got back on that clean eating bus, brushed off the sugar particles still stuck to my shoulders and went about the rest of the nine days as if they were the first.

I’ve tried almost every MOD Primal Junction has offered, and even some of my own or some from others with a slight twist.

I cleaned my pantry on the weekend and threw out and donated a range of ‘not clean’ jars of sauces and spices.

My pantry at work is (almost) empty of sugar full muesli bars and snacks – although a few of my colleagues are full of them.

I’ve spent hours researching food options and trying to find my own primal and paleo baked recipes to feed my habit of feeding others in a more clean eating way.

I’ve made my clean muesli and kept it in a jar ready for when I can introduce some good full fat Greek yoghurt back into my diet.

My freezer is full of frozen banana’s, my homemade stock- both chicken and beef –  pumpkin soup and some Cannings meat (wanted to get that last discounted order in).

My fridge is full of kale and organic eggs and broccoli and 3 C’s salad and speck paleo bacon and empty of ‘light’ yoghurt and milk (although there is still that double cream full fat brie cheese wrapped up on the top shelf).

My breakfast is either zucchini slice, frittata or bacon & egg muffins and is the envy of the office.

Today I even took home all my nuts from work, not one remains in my filing cabinet. I made another trail mix using more seeds and coconut flakes along with the berries and the nuts. And then I put it all in a tall glass jar, keeping only a small (very small) green container out that I can take to work tomorrow  – my last ditch attempt at curbing my nut snacking.

I’ve even tried to stay off the fruit for the last few days, only having it in smoothies and nothing else.

Although, I did fail on that tonight too when I found a ‘one mug paleo cake’ recipe.  Ingredient list below, I excluded any additional sweeteners or mixes that the website says you can use SURELY that is ok?

  • 1 small ripe banana
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons almond butter (or any nut butter)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 heaping Tablespoons cacao powder

Side note – quite nice, but a little dense. Can be bitter, and not as good as a oven baked cake. Suggest a few drops of water to keep it moist or less cacao powder based on the size of your banana. But overall a good quick option if you need something extra to keep your mind off the passionfruit gluten free but still full of sugar cake your husband is eating next to you on the couch. 

I have influenced others at work who are also making their own muesli and protein balls. Even a ‘crossfit cult’ believer has been converted. My sister in law lives clean most of the time, and shared a great paleo banana bread recipe with me and a few good chicken curries. I’m taking my husband to paleo places for breakfast (although he still ensures there is bread) and cooking us the same meals at night with no complaints.

I sorted through my wardrobe on Friday and had three bags of clothes I needed to donate, or sell or thrown out. While some were based on fashion changes (what WAS I thinking??) others no longer fit. I had to pack away 10 pairs of pants I had only just purchased at the start of the year as they were too big (couldn’t quite bring myself to throw them out yet just in case).

While most of the weight loss is thanks to an increased exercise regime when I found crossfit (I was already exercising five days a week before I moved to the sport, which gives you some indication of the intensity) it will be interesting to see if any of it is thanks to the Primal Junction, Primal Challenge.

I’ve done all of this in 29 days.

You realize I am still trying to justify the paleo gingerbread?

Either way, it’s an accomplishment.

Like a child in the lead up to Christmas I’m counting down.

Two more sleeps.

I’m not sure why I’m counting down, maybe just to say I’ve done it, that I succeeded (lets look past the red wine jus, the paleo gingerbread and the gravy poison sauce shall we?). Maybe to see if there really has been a difference. Or maybe just because I really would like a glass of wine to celebrate.

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The Primal Challenge Day 26 & 27

I’m never going Paleo. My exact words not even six months ago when I told a friend I was going to try crossfit. It’s a cult. She told me. I’ve lost another friend to the crossfit cult. Next thing I know, you’ll being going Paleo.

I looked at her, arched my eyebrows the creases in my forehead emphasized and with hands on hips scowled at her. I will never go Paelo. NEVER. I love potato too much, and pasta. And I drink. I could never not drink.  You know me. I told her. I believe everything in moderation, I don’t believe in cutting out foods, especially entire food groups.

Looks like I’m wiping off the remains of a happy smiling healthy egg from my face.

Not that it was planned. If you asked me in March when I eventually did try and join a crossfit gym (Hawthorn East was the second one I tried, the first almost put me off which shows how great the community is we have at CFHE) I would still have told you the same thing. I’m not getting caught up in this cult like mentality and never going paleo.

You know I think crossfit is a cult. Another friend told me at boxing this morning.

I can safely say, the cult like mentality is a myth. You can spend as much or as little time at CFHE as you want to. You can train as hard as you want to, as often as you like. I have seen a few come and go, then return. And there are the regulars too. The morning crew and the night crew come together on Saturday’s or at events such as the Primal Junction Seminar, or this Saturday’s screening of the Crossfit Games. But either way, no matter what group you fall into, each coach will remember your name and welcome you with a smile.

But unlike a cult, they also let you leave. After all, they have lives too – outside of the box.

I think most of my friends have also realised they haven’t ‘lost me’ to crossfit. I still go out, I still do ‘normal’ things. While I have been dry this July, I have still joined in social activities and I try not to talk about clean and jerks with non-crossfit people.

And the paleo….. well on that one I will be happy to eat my words. As long as they are sugar free, cooked with coconut oil and completely free range.

It’s not like I meant it. To be honest, I’m not sure what really drove me to sign up for the challenge to being with. But here I am day 26, and so far not really thinking too much about going back to the way things were before. I’m quite happy being paleo and have embraced it so much I’m meeting my ‘almost always’ paleo friend for brunch tomorrow at a paleo restaurant. I’ve even managed to convince my husband to join (although not sure what he will do when he finds out there will not be any bread on the menu, or tomato sauce to go with his eggs…)

Of course there are things I still miss.

Today when I was getting a coffee before my market shop I eyed off the buttery croissants and salted caramel tart with a little bit of envy.

And talk of potato’s still hits a nerve. Any potatoes. Roasted, mashed, smashed, baked. I love loved them all.

And corn. Steamed corn heaped with butter and salt and pepper. Yes it stuck in your teeth, spat juice in your eye and ran down your chin, but that was half the fun.

And cheese. Soft cheese, hard cheese. It was my favorite, all time snack or pre dinner staple when guests were coming. Not blue cheese, not even expensive smelly well aged cheese. Just cheese.

There will be a day I eat all of those things again. Just not today. Or tomorrow. Or, maybe, even after day 30.

And wine. I still love wine. And vodka. And gin. And cocktails. And because I’m strong enough to ignore the bottle of white in the door of the drinks fridge, and can walk past a bottle shop without walking in, I know I will drink again, and there will be times when I wont.

And I miss the flexibility. Of eating out mostly. At home its fine, and when I have control of my meals is great and I enjoy it and enjoy cooking something new. But when faced with a menu not that paleo friendly, it can be a challenge.

I miss being able to just order from the menu and not have your friends exchange glances and the waiter roll their eyes to the chef behind the menu when they think you cant see them. I miss going to the football and being able to pack a roll or order a hamburger if I got stuck  – although if Buddy Franklin is going to kick eight and the Hawks demolish the dons, i can live with having to take the extra time to pack my salad.

But back to the ordering out. I’m sure everyone knows what I mean. When they put on a fake smile and raise their eyebrows. Or they look you up and down before looking at the menu to see where you are pointing. Or they just look at you, and know no matter how much tip you are going to leave them, you simply are not worth the trouble.

If that’s the attitude they give me, like the waitress in the Geelong Edge restaurant on Tuesday night, then you get NO tip. I mean its really not that hard to change lentils that would be premade for a salad, to not put the dressing on and don’t cook with butter.

So don’t stare at me like I have two heads, or as if I am an alien from another planet, or as if I have just asked you to wipe my salmon on the bin, spit on it and then serve it to me.

I actually have asked for quite the opposite, for a CLEAN meal.

So let’s hope tonight, when I meet friends for dinner I don’t cop any anti menu change attitude. As the only one not drinking and already slightly stressed after looking at the menu given I’m not sure how I can change much of it, it will be the last straw. Even the steak comes with things I can’t pronounce which makes me worried. If I don’t know what it is, then how will I ask to change it?? And if I do, and they give me attitude, how can I prevent the eye rolling if I am already uneducated by something called chickpea zimino – cant you just say chickpeas with tomatoes and peppers? And if cavolo nero is kale, why cant you just print that!!??

Maybe this is why I said I was never going paleo…