Friday, January 25, 2013

DIY BBQ-Flavor Kale Chips - Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, Paleo, Primal

True confessions time: I have been having a really hard time with this nutrition challenge. You'd think a challenge vet like myself would not have difficulties with a challenge - I've done 3 on my own and this challenge makes the 5th with my Crossfit box. And it is true - the more challenges I've done, the better I've gotten with economies of scale, sourcing my food, planning ahead, and honing the recipes that really work for me and my family.

For me, this time the difficulty is boiling down to a) motivation - it is so hard to keep it going when I am not able to work out the same way that I did in past challenges (due to rehabbing an injury), and b) boredom/monotony, because I haven't been proactive about mixing it up with different foods, instead falling back frequently on my usual stand-by recipes. Also, during this challenge I am trying something new and combining the J.J. Virgin recommendations with the paleo challenge portion, so I am not eating eggs, which has proven far more difficult than I'd have guessed - eggs are my breakfast go-to, after all!

The monotony thing has really gotten to me, because even a good 12 days into the challenge, I am finding myself drawn to taste-bud-hijacking junk foods (sweet and salty both) and prepaleo comfort foods. I have managed to not slip up, but these cravings tell me that I need to get some new challenge-legal snacks in my life!

Speaking of challenge-legal snacks, I'm already thinking ahead to a classic comfort food occasion: the Super Bowl. I don't even care about football, but boy, do I love football-watching food. We are hosting some friends, and I'm planning ahead this year to have challenge-friendly fare at the ready: Some slow-cooked shredded carnitas in a crock-pot, maybe some hot wings (if it's not too cold for grilling), veggies and guacamole, Clementines, and so on. Perhaps I will also make kale chips! After all, nothing says, game food like something crispy and savory.

Today, I tried out my first go at kale chips - I've had them store-bought before from the company Brad's, which does a marvelous job - but I was hoping to get similar results at home for a fraction of the price. The cashew butter combined with the apple cider vinegar and seasonings lends a rich umami "cheesy" flavor, to these, as well. This is what resulted, and my daughters and I enjoyed the chips so much that I couldn't resist sharing!

Barbecue Flavor Kale Chips
Makes about 2 cups of chips


  • Bunch of fresh kale, about the size of two fists, with stems removed and chopped into roughly chip-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons cashew butter (can sub nut butter of choice, or tahini, or sunbutter - though I don't recommend the final toasting at 450 with these due to oxidation concerns)
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat
  • 1 tablespoon oil of choice (I used macadamia oil, which has a higher smoke point)
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar (raw organic apple cider vinegar is usually cheapest found in stores, around $3/bottle)
  • 4 drops organic stevia extract (optional, adds to the BBQ flavor, could also sub honey or maple syrup depending on your goals)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 4 drops fish sauce (optional; I used Red Boat, which is free of junk - made of just anchovies and salt)
  • Sea salt to taste (I used 30 cranks from my sea salt grinder)


After washing the kale pieces, use a paper towel to get as much moisture as possible off of the kale. Put the kale pieces in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag.

In a blender or mini food processor, blend the remaining ingredients until smooth. Mixture will be thick unless bacon fat was already warm/liquid.

Spoon the blended seasoning mix into the Ziploc bag with the kale pieces. Close the bag and "massage" it for a couple of minutes to get the seasoning mix into as many crannies of the kale as possible. The mix will warm just a bit from the massage action and probably become a little less thick, so this will help your task.

Spread the kale chips in a cake pan or cookie sheet, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, gently stirring the chips around the pan every 10 minutes or so. The kale will get a little limp before it starts to dry and crisp up during this process. Finish the chips with 1 minute of the broiler set on 425 just crisp the chips just a little more. Enjoy hot, fresh, and crispy, straight out of the oven!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Shopping Amazon through Primal Kitchen affiliate links supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you, so thank you!!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

On Reward Alternatives to Food

I sat this morning amid a cluster of people on the floor, as we listened intently to our fearless leader - the Crossfit box's nutrition coach. She was giving an overview of the upcoming challenge; paleo nutrition options, and Zone nutrition options. Much of it I had heard before, but this time I really tuned in to something that she emphasized.

"Find other rewards for yourself besides food..."

Oh, how familiar I am with this need! She had willfully acknowledged the common battle that many face, of using food as an emotional salve. There is just something about the end of the day that beckons for a treat to take the edge off - a minicelebration for making it through another gauntlet. A glass of wine, some chocolate, some toasted nuts (or how about all three!).

While processing her encouragement on that topic, I vowed to draw up a list of non-food rewards that I'm going to look to during this challenge. Here are mine:

Sometimes mini mental escapes are
the best form of nonfood reward.
Via Flickr Creative Commons/The Smithsonian.
  1. Mobility sessions. Rewarding? Maybe not immediately. But, I always come away from 10 minutes with my roller feeling much better and a little more supple all around. Even better, our challenge awards bonus points for mobility work. For small sessions at home I'll be looking for pointers from
  2. Words with Friends. Any time the urge for junk food strikes, I know I can depend on the 5-10 games of Words with Friends that I have going on at any given moment. Sometimes taking a few turns is all I need to be distracted from that craving.
  3. Planned TV time. Hear me out on this - I'm not talking mindless TV consumption. I mean deliberately seeking a TV show or movie to watch as a reward. Being a Star Trek and sci-fi junkie, I luckily have quite the vast selection of favorites. I will still be honoring my earlier bedtimes though, per challenge sleep recommendations!
  4. Hot salt baths. There is nothing quite so relaxing for me as a long soak in the tub. I will add in some Epsom salts for enhanced relaxation and mobility, thanks to the magnesium!
  5. Magnesium oil. Magnesium oil does an even better job of getting magnesium to muscles when applied by rubbing on the skin. I plan on using some every day, if I can manage it.
  6. Hot yoga. Another mobility-enhancer, I see the reward of exercise in the optimized hormones, the delicious muscle exhaustion, and the boosted mood for the rest of my day. Though I won't be attempting a return to Crossfit WODs for a few weeks yet, I embrace whatever workout reward I can derive through hot yoga!
  7. New reads. I'm going to find some good reading material in the next week or so. I especially like biographies. Does anybody have some to recommend?
  8. Home DIY pedicures. A hot foot soak in Epsom salt water, followed by some Piggy Paint. Amazing what prettier toes can do for one's mood!
  9. Scent therapy. Lighting a scented candle, or putting on some of my favorite junk-free fragrance - Lavanila's Vanilla Grapefruit - are often enough to brighten my mood. I love the portability of the Lavanila, too, for mood boosts on the run!
  10. Earlier bedtimes. Yup, instead of seeing earlier bedtimes as a drag, I'm going to embrace them as a reward in and of themselves! So when the nighttime itch to snack strikes, if nothing else on my reward list sounds good, it's off to bed with me.

    Maybe, though, I'll squeeze in a play or two of Words with Friends before I go to sleep.

What are your favorite non-food rewards that make you sigh contentedly at the end of the day?


This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Shopping Amazon through Primal Kitchen affiliate links supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you (i.e. the item's price does not go up for you), so thank you!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Paleo DIY Challenge-Friendly Cobb Salad

Ah, the flurry of whole30s, sugar detoxes, and other noble nutrition challenges has taken hold of the Twittersphere. Every other tweet seems to be folks ready to cast aside their dalliance with sugar and other less savory characters in favor of the basics, fuel-wise: meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and natural fats.

When embarking on such challenges, I've come to appreciate the value of having ingredients ready to go at a moment's notice. This is why the paleo-fied version of a Cobb salad makes a great fast meal: everything can be chopped and ready to add way ahead of time. The DIY aspect also makes salad assembly company-friendly.

Also get yo'self some romaine.
This is what we made today when we had my inlaws
for company. I like my Cobb salads to be as colorful
as possible, so I go for as many contrasting hues
as I can manage. Red peppers, orange carrots,
yellow egg yolks - delicious!

Our ingredients included:
  • Cubed cold chicken
  • Bacon, cooked crispy
  • Fresh sliced red pepper
  • Fresh shredded carrot
  • Some hot-and-sweet seasoned/baked pecans and almonds
    (These pictured I made at can make your own seasoned nuts low carb and challenge-friendly by coating them in the barest splash of hot sauce and macadamia oil before toasting in the oven, 425F for 20 minutes, stirring throughout.)
  • Hard boiled eggs
    (We kept them in their shells until chosen for a salad so they'd go right back in the fridge if we didn't use them all.)
  • A batch of my homemade ranch
Part of the appeal when serving to company is presentation, and nothing presents more beautifully than simple, fresh ingredients. 


What salads are you throwing together in a bid to clean up your diet in the new year?


New Year's T-Shirt Giveaway Winner

Thanks to I was able to pick a number to determine the winner of my T-shirt giveaway - number 4!

That means that commenter #4, Nancy West Johnson, has won herself a free Primal Kitchen t-shirt. Hooray! Nancy, please contact me at primalkitchen at gma¡l dot com and we can work out getting your shirt sent your way.

Thanks to everyone for participating, and I hope that you have a happy 2013!

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