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Paleo Challenge Round-Up: Week 1 Redux

I fell off the wagon. Not by choice—not at first—but a domino effect caused by moving to a new place, combined with a Presidential election that has left me unusually stressed and uncertain about the future, led me back to my greatest stress-management tool: stuffing my face with junk food. I plan to rededicate myself to these recipe reviews, partly (as always) to give me something to blog about, and partly to keep myself honest by making sure I keep cooking for myself.

I don’t want to go on and on making excuses, because I hold the philosophy that I can eat whatever I want—I just choose to eat paleo because I feel significantly better when I do. It’s as simple as that. All I will say is this: adjusting to a lack of dishwasher and a lack of kitchen space proved to be an extremely difficult (but not insurmountable) challenge. You would think, for someone who cooks as much as I do, I would prize the apartment kitchen over all other things. That’s true, but beggars can’t be choosers, and it’s simply difficult to find apartments with reasonable counter space—and especially difficult to find one with dishwashers.

Oh, and also, I’m kind of an idiot. My new apartment, when empty, looked like it had an acceptable amount of counter space for cooking. Then I moved in, unpacked all my shit, and—oops, no more counter space.

Weeks passed. Sandwiches, Chinese food, and pizza filled my gullet. Weight increased, ankle/knee/wrist/back pain returned, and I have been approaching that crucial “Ozzy Osbourne hobble” turning point. I’ve spent evenings and (especially) weekends working on this pad to make sure everything’s just so, so not only did I have less time to cook, I had less inclination since I’d spent all day working on household projects. I got some new furniture, so the lack of counter space caused me to get a significantly larger dining table. I also got a storage cabinet for my appliance arsenal and, most importantly, a wheeled island with a cutting board surface. I’ve settled into the apartment and have no reason not to resume eating like a grown-up.

It’s past time to get back on the horsemeat and resume weekends full of cooking magic.

Breakfast

Civilized Caveman Cooking: Apple Cider Donuts

The new living situation has resulted in a new mission statement for cooking: use the smallest number of dishes possible, and use disposable where possible. In this case, not only do I not have a mini-donut pan (or maker), I couldn’t find a disposable one at Jewel. I debated between making muffins or a bread loaf instead; in the end, I made the loaf. This required doubling the recipe (a perfect amount for a loaf pan) and extending the cooking time to about 40 minutes.

Now, anyone who has read past paleo challenge round-ups knows of my hatred of coconut. It almost prevented me from making this recipe altogether, but George’s write-up and some of the comments led me to believe the coconut flour would soak up the cider, and the cider would neutralize the horrific taste of coconut. Oh, also, I happened to have a few spare cups of coconut flour I needed to use up, so I figured if it sucked, I could just try again using almond flour instead. (I don’t think almond flour is quite as absorptive, and I’m also trying to limit the amount of almond baked goods I make as I try, once again, to get this flab down to a manageable level.)

Now, I’m very sensitive to the flavor of coconut flour, so it’s high praise to say this is edible. The cider masks about 80% of the coconut flavor, and it adds a peculiar spice that kinda tickles my tongue. I should also add that I omitted the icing, which might have masked the remainder of the coconut—but I really don’t need or want the extra sugar. It tastes reasonably good even without the icing, and it’s rather filling.

Lunch

PaleOMG: Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Chili

I’ve always loved Juli Bauer’s recipes, but let me tell you something I haven’t loved: her blog’s increasing focus on workout and fashion posts over recipe posts. I’ve had a change of heart about that, though, and let me tell you why. No, it’s not the fact that God created blog categories to separate the recipes from the workouts; it’s the fact that, scrolling through all the recent posts like the half-Luddite I am, I see the inspirational (literal) figure of super-ripped Juli and think, “Oh yeah, that’s what I’m striving for—not the bloating and the wet farts of an all-Domino’s diet.”

At any rate, months back, I made the regrettable decision of ordering a full gallon of Frank’s Red Hot. I couldn’t find a bottle at any of my nearby grocery stores, and the only iteration I could get through Amazon Prime was the gallon-refill size designed for restaurants. As a result, I jump at any recipe that involves hot sauce, and this one involves a metric shit-ton (especially when doubling the recipe).

One of the many things I love about Juli’s recipes is how hearty and vegetable-filled they tend to be. I tend to determine meal size based on amount of meat (usually a third to a half pound per meal), so I figured I’d get four meals out of a double batch. This nearly maxed out my giant (8-quart) Crock-Pot, and nearly filled up the larger sized plasticware I use for soups/chili. There are a lot of vegetables here, and that’s fantastic! I will say, for anyone trying to limit sugar/starch, the sweet potatoes might be too much. I have a feeling, though, that this recipe would be just as good without them—in fact, I may try it that way next week.

Bottom line: this is a heaping helping of buffalo-flavored goodness, and it’s incredibly easy to make.

Dinner

My Longevity Kitchen: Grass-Fed Pot Roast

The simplest pot roast recipe is simply a chuck roast, a mirepoix, and some water. It’s boring but easy (especially if you can find frozen, pre-chopped mirepoix). Marisa’s recipe results in a very flavorful roast with only a few small tweaks to the basic pot roast.

Look, if you’re a paleo eater and/or a Midwesterner, there’s a 99.9% chance you’ve eaten pot roast once in your life. I happen to use a larger roast and put it in the slow cooker, rather than the smaller roast/oven method (Marisa accounts for both in the recipe). It comes out tender, juicy, and flavorful every time. In a way, it’s the perfect roast, because it doesn’t overkill on the prep/ingredients (like the mocha-rubbed pot roast that didn’t change the game enough to merit the excessive preparation), yet it doesn’t go so “simple” that it’s bland.

Miscellaneous

Bonison Borosilicate Sports Bottle

As mentioned above, my cooking mission statement seeks to minimize dishes. One piece of the puzzle revolved around how to batch prepare smoothies, my newfound love. Freezing them was the obvious solution, but I needed a container I could both freeze and drink from. So whereas most online recommendations involved pouring the smoothie into ice cube trays, then breaking the smoothie cubes into a glass/bottle, I demanded a better way. So far, these glass bottles work very well for my purposes. The Amazon listing claims these are cheap because they have slight defects/imperfections; whatever imperfections they might have, they aren’t noticeable to me. Besides which, they serve only one purpose: a vessel for holding smoothies. Would I care even if I could see the alleged bubbling or scratches? Nope! At $13 for five, they’re a great investment.

Ninja Professional Blender

Speaking of great investments, I decided to upgrade to a larger sized blender, and let me just say: mission accomplished. This thing is goddamn huge. More importantly, though, it blends like a fucking dream. It hearkened back to my years as a coffee jockey, using high-end commercial Blendtecs. This is advertised as a “professional blender,” and Ninja ain’t kidding. On the lowest setting, it absolutely destroyed my smoothie ingredients, blending them to a perfect consistency.

Some blender nerds might not appreciate the simplicity (read: lack of options). This blender has four settings: pulse, low, medium, and high. The only question among these settings is how much damage you want to do to your solids and semi-solids. Ninja advertises this as having “Total Crushing Technology,” and they are not fucking around. Using this thing was a real Thrillhouse moment.

Moxie & Oliver: Traveler Kindle Case

I love the leather goods from Moxie & Oliver. It’s all handmade, with prices to match, but sometimes you gotta treat yo’self. Over the years, I’ve purchased a wallet for myself, a guitar strap as a gift, and most recently, the Traveler case for my Kindle. The beautiful leather obscures a molded silicone case stitched to the inside, giving the appearance of reading a journal or some sort of Lovecraftian ravings.

I love my Traveler case, almost as much as I love my Kindle. But like so many things I love, I murdered my Kindle. As a result, I needed to buy a new one. Of course, newer Kindles are much smaller than my older one, which meant the molded silicone would no longer fit. Since I’m not made of money, I reached out to Caitlin McNamara, proprietor of Moxie & Oliver, designer and leathercrafter extraordinaire, and maybe the nicest person on the planet, with a single question: if I sent my Traveler case back, could she replace the silicone holder with a new one? For a small fee and the cost of the holder, she very kindly agreed. (Note: I gleefully volunteered to pay for all labor/shipping/materials costs.)

It was actually an ordeal that stretched out for months, because nobody was making silicone holders for the latest generation of Kindle. I finally found one, sent everything to Moxie & Oliver, and just got the case back…well, several weeks ago at this point. I was so thrilled to have it back, and I remain thrilled that Caitlin was kind enough to take pity on me when she could have easily told me I would have to buy a new case for my new Kindle (something I couldn’t afford after buying the stupid Kindle itself).

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