Friday, August 21, 2015

Our 30-Day Grain-Free Challenge!

Sweet, aromatic flavors waft through our kitchen. A subtle spiciness hangs in the air. Coriander and cumin and cinnamon, with a hint of cayenne. I feel as though I could walk out onto our deck and find myself a few stories about the bustling streets of Marrakesh, breathing in the sights and sounds of people meandering through their open markets, sampling delicious street food. I'd love to go there someday. Until then, I plan on creating as many Moroccan-style meals as I can get my hands on.

Today was one such day, in that I experimented with my first recipe from Danielle Walker's Against All Grain web site: Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken with chopped almonds, apricots and cauliflower "couscous." Recipe here. Warning: this dish is amazing and you will most likely forget that it's completely grain/dairy-free while partaking of it. If I was asked to describe the flavor profile, I'd peg it as buttery, rich and bright - the chicken is initially seared before being placed in the slow-cooker, and then the use of dried apricots, which plump up in the almondy-garlicky-oniony sauce, rounds out the high and low notes. In short, this dish is sumptuous and satisfying. The side of "couscous" is simply shredded cauliflower that's sautéed with handfuls of fresh basil and cilantro and spoonfuls of dried cherries with lemon zest. Incredible - in that way where you want to keep going back for seconds or thirds or spoonfuls or lickfuls. You get the idea. I had our crockpot simmering all afternoon so that when Ken got home from work, we could sit down to this special meal together. The smells were hypnotizing, and helped motivate me through an afternoon with my usually happy 4-month-old who unfortunately, decided that today was not a good day for napping. Mama, on the other hand, would've loved a nap. 

I digress.

Today, I wanted to share some news with you. Ken and I have decided to go on a 30-day Grain-Free Challenge! You see, everyone we know is on some sort of diet (can't eat this or that) and well, that whole "since our friends are jumping off a bridge, we decided to as well" thing - Just Kidding! Er - kinda, sorta. Actually, my older sister and her husband have been living the paleo lifestyle for years and recently, Ken's dad chose to go completely grain-free, and in seeing how great it's been for each of them, we decided that it'd be good to try this thing for ourselves (yet again.) 

For some background, a couple years ago, Ken and I did the "Whole 30 Challenge," a stricter-Paleo diet/cleanse. We meal-planned and cooked tons of meals focused solely on meat and vegetables (see cute picture of me cooking paleo here) and while it went great for the first few days/weeks, I got super, super sick and ended up losing weight mainly because I got tired (and grossed out) by eating so much meat (mainly red meat, sometimes chicken) and then didn't want to eat all. One thing I should share at this point is that my body is not wired for lots of meat consumption. I do much, much better when I'm eating more vegetarian/vegan meals and have meat as a once-a-day thing or every-other-day thing. The same goes for dairy. I can have cheese and dairy products in moderation, but if it turns into a regular thing, my allergies flair up and I just feel icky inside. I guess that my main problem or issue that I struggle with as far as food goes, is my intense love for all things bread-related and sugar-related (and while we're on the topic, cheese-related and bacon-related. Hehe.) I love dessert. I see it as serving a very real purpose. A quick "hit" of sugar and I feel like I can get through the day after not sleeping well with baby. But I can so easily become addicted to sugar once I start having it. It's a drug for me, a coping tool, a comfort, and a dear friend. 

But Sugar and I need to break up for awhile. Go our separate ways, in the hopes that I won't allow it to define my eating patterns. And that is why Ken and I are embarking on this 30-day Grain-Free Challenge. We want to give up processed foods (within reason) and added sugars (again, within reason) and focus on more vegetable-centric meals and snacks. I like a lot of what the Primal Diet says in how to go about that. 

Anyway, all that to say, I would love prayer and support for me/us the next 30 days, as Ken and I try to get back into more healthful living. For those of you who know us well, we have always eaten pretty healthy and enjoyed all things in moderation, but recently we noticed a trend in the wrong direction and want to correct those behaviors. We want our trajectory to change. For me, I want my focus to stop being about what my next treat is (i.e. cookies, ice cream, all-things-yum), and more about what God is doing in my life and how to better steward this body I've been blessed with (by making wiser decisions about what I put in it.) Health is a gift, and I want to take care of myself so that I can better take care of my family. 

Our game plan is simple: no grains (breads, pasta, rice, oats, etc.) and no added sugars (this will be harder since sugar is added to almost everything). Veggies, fruits (in moderation), nuts, oils, meats, and some dairy is A-Ok. We can have one "cheat" meal for special occasions (for example, we're planning on getting sushi for our anniversary next week) or once/week, but we can also choose to go without these things. We're committed to trying this approach, and recognize that in Christ, we can find grace if we fail at any point. Our hope is to succeed at trying this for the whole month!

I plan on blogging about this next month's victories, challenges and my overall progress. I'm curious to see if I can actually 1. stick with this challenge and 2. not eat cookies and stick with this challenge. Haha! 

Check back often on how we are doing and to hear what I think of the grain-free lifestyle, whether the principles are something that we'd like to continue or simply learn from. Also, please feel free to share your favorite grain-free dishes in the comments section or send me a message. Cheers!

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