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Cashew Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m relatively new to food blogging, so I’m learning as I go along.  I’m used to making things on a whim when it comes to cooking, and everything usually ends up being pretty tasty, and sometimes even better than expected!  But as it turns out, developing recipes for gluten-free baked goods is a whole other animal.  The ratio of gluten-free flours (i.e., coconut flour, almond flour, cashew flour, etc.) to liquids (i.e. eggs, liquid sweetener, etc.) is not consistent across the board, and can vary wildly depending on what ingredients you want to use for a recipe.

Normally, I typically just follow a recipe when I bake gluten-free treats and breads.  But I wanted to create a brand new recipe for the blog, and to do that I need to experiment in the kitchen.  After much trial and error, and several batches of cookies later, I think I’ve come up with a recipe that will not disappoint!

This recipe for Cashew Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies tastes delicious, and has been a hit with all of my friends and co-workers.  I’ve had several people tell me they couldn’t tell it was gluten-free/Paleo friendly, and that it just tasted like a delicious chocolate chip cookie.

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I’ve had requests to make several batches of these cookies, so be warned that if you take them to a party, you may have people wanting to become your best friend so that you’ll whip up some more.

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CASHEW BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES inspired by Slim Palate

Servings: makes 18-20 cookies


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup creamy cashew butter
  • 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk (room temperature), beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cashew butter, egg and egg yolk,  and vanilla extract, and stir until all of the liquid ingredients are well combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the coconut sugar, baking soda and sea salt.
  5. Add the coconut sugar mixture to the liquid ingredients in the large mixing bowl, and mix everything together until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated (you’ll need a little muscle to do this, but you want to make sure all of the ingredients are mixed throughly.  You can do it!).
  6. Add in the chocolate chips, and stir to combine.
  7. Place dough on the parchment sheet, about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons per cookie.  Don’t crowd the sheet with dough.  I would only do eight or nine cookies at a time on one tray, since the dough spreads on the pan while baking.
  8. Place in the higher rack of the oven, and bake for approximately 12 minutes.
  9. Take the cookies from the oven, and cool on parchment paper for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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Creamy Avocado and Cilantro Cauliflower Rice

I like to live dangerously, on the edge of my seat.  I go where the wind takes me, and love to experiment and try new things all of the time.  I’m a true rebel, wild and free.  Okay, so those last three sentences were complete fiction.  Well, not complete fiction.  Sometimes, I like to live dangerously by going 4 miles over the speed limit in a 40 mile an hour zone, but only if there are several other cars going over the speed limit.  And when I say I like to experiment and try new things, I really just mean going through the grocery store in a different order than my usual pattern (but I don’t do that a lot, since it means getting out of my comfort zone.  I mean, what happens if they run out of avocados because I decided to go through the bulk section of the store first?  True story.  Okay, not really).

I know I have your rapt attention now, you’re probably just hanging on the edge of your seats waiting to see what else I’ll reveal, huh?

The one place I do like to experiment is in the kitchen.  I love whipping up meals, and making friends taste test my successful (and unsuccessful) recipe developments.  This particular recipe for Creamy Avocado and Cilantro cauliflower rice turned out to be very tasty, and I’m excited to share it with you.  I have mentioned the versatility of cauliflower in a previous blog post here, and decided to use it to create a delicious side to take with me as a contribution to a BBQ party with some friends from my CrossFit gym a couple of weeks ago.

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Does continuing to exercise for 2-3 seconds after the instructor calls time during a CrossFit WOD (workout of the day) seem dangerous to you?  If so, I’m bad to the bone.

Be a rebel, and try out this recipe 😉  Let me know how it turned out in the comments!

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CREAMY AVOCADO AND CILANTRO CAULIFLOWER RICE – recipe adapted from Girl Meets Paleo.

Servings: serves 8-12


Ingredients:

For the Rice

  • 2 heads cauliflower, rinsed, chopped and broken into small florets
  • 1 tablespoon ghee*

For the Sauce

  • 2 avocados
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves, rinsed with 1-inch of the stems removed
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Place cauliflower florets in a food processor, and pulse until the cauliflower is the size of small grains of rice.  You will need to “rice” the cauliflower in several batches.
  2. Heat the ghee over medium high heat in large skillet.  Once the ghee is heated, add the riced cauliflower to the skillet, and saute  the cauliflower rice on medium high heat for 6-8 minutes until cooked through.
  3. Once the cauliflower is cooked, turn off the heat and set aside.
  4. Place all of the ingredients for the sauce In the food processor, and puree until smooth.
  5. Pour sauce mixture over the cauliflower rice, and stir to combine.
  6. Pour mixture in a bowl and serve immediately.

 

Notes

  • You can substitute coconut oil for the ghee to make the recipe vegan friendly.
  • I made this recipe for a large crowd, so it makes a lot of servings.  I would recommend cutting the ingredients in half (and using the same instructions) if you want to serve this for a smaller crowd.


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Mongolian Beef

I have many friends who eat a gluten-free and/or grain-free diet, either for weight-loss, medical reasons, or as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.  But I also have many friends that don’t, and within that subset are friends that seem dubious over the possibility of eating gluten-free meals that actually taste good.

Just so you know, when I cook for a non-paleo palate, my priority is serving meals that taste good.  I don’t ever plan on springing  organ meats and fermented foods to my dinner guests the first time they come over.  Let’s be real, even I don’t eat that kind of stuff (I have beef liver sitting in my freezer, and still don’t have the courage to actually make a meal out of it).  My goal is to make foods that are so delicious, no one questions whether or not it is “weird diet food.”

One of my go to recipes that never disappoints in flavor is Mongolian Beef from The Iron You.  This recipe is full of flavorful ingredients like fresh ginger and minced garlic, and the dish can be paired with white rice or cauliflower rice (if you want to keep it lower in carbs).

My friend Krystal and her boyfriend Josh were in town for the weekend, and came over Sunday afternoon for lunch.  Since I knew it had never failed me before, I figured Mongolian Beef would be the perfect meal to share with them.

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Krystal was in town this weekend for a wedding reception.  I always love hanging out with her and sharing about some of our favorite things (which include cupcakes and working out).  With a sweet personality and infectious smile, it’s hard to be in a bad mood when she is around.  She has her own blog Moving Wright Along which I recommend you check out, where she shares her adventures in healthy living while going back to school to become a Registered Dietitian.

As I knew it would, the meal did not disappoint.  Krystal’s boyfriend Josh doesn’t a eat gluten-free diet, but liked it so much that he hinted to Krystal that he wouldn’t mind this meal being included in their regular dinner rotation.  Recipe success!

I hope you like the recipe as much as Krystal and Josh did.

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Recipe

Mongolian Beef – recipe adapted from The Iron You.

Servings: serves 3-4


Ingredients

  • 1 pound flank steak, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup coconut aminos
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus two teaspoons olive oil (divided)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly

Instructions:

  1. Combine the coconut aminos and water into a small bowl.
  2. Heat two teaspoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  3. To the heated oil, add the ginger and garlic and saute for 30 seconds, and then quickly add the coconut aminos/water mixture before the garlic scorches.
  4. To the saucepan, add the coconut sugar, ground black pepper and red pepper flakes (if using)
  5. Raise the heat on the mixture and simmer for about 4 to 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
  6. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside.
  7. Combine beef slices and arrowroot powder in a ZipLock bag (or in a shallow dish) and toss until all beef slices are evenly coated.
  8. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan (or wok), until it’s hot but not smoking. Add beef and saute/stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, until it begins to darken around the edges, stirring every now and then so that it cooks evenly.
  9. Remove the beef from the frying pan and clean the pan (but be careful, since the pan will be hot).
  10. Return the pan back over the heat, add the meat and simmer for one minute.   Then add the sauce and cook for one additional minute stirring constantly.
  11. Add the green onions and cook for one further minute.
  12. Transfer to a plate leaving the excess sauce in the pan and serve.

 


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Indian Spiced Roasted Cauliflower

I love brussels sprouts.  Weird, right?  The first time I ever ate this vegetable, they had been cooked by steaming them whole.  I took one bite, and spit it out in disgust.  I vowed never to eat them again, figuring there were plenty of other vegetables I could tolerate; although at the time, the list of veggies that I actually liked was small (turns out corn covered in margarine does not a healthy meal make).

After I  transitioned to a more Paleo/Primal lifestyle, I realized I needed to start loving veggies, since they would play a much bigger role in my diet.  I started of with simple things like salads and frozen green beans.  But that wasn’t doing it for me.  I needed more flavor and more variety.

A whole new world opened up for me when I started roasting vegetables.  Roasted zucchini, roasted spaghetti squash, roasted broccoli, roasted green beans, it seemed I couldn’t go wrong with roasting (probably because roasting brings out the natural sugars, and I admit to being somewhat of a sugar addict). Which brings me back to brussels sprouts.  I discovered a tip for cutting them in half before cooking them so that they are less bitter, and decided to give them another chance.  Roasting the halved brussels sprouts (before roasting them I tossed them in a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar) forever changed my world, and I now typically eat roasted brussels sprouts at least once or twice a week.

So what does that have to do with roasted cauliflower?  Nothing actually.  Okay, just kidding.  For people who don’t like veggies (or think they don’t like them), I would recommend finding different ways to prepare them.  It may not be about the veggies themselves, but instead it may be how they are prepared, since different cooking methods can greatly affect both taste and texture.

I initially felt the same way about cauliflower as I did about brussels sprouts.  But I’ve since learned a variety of ways to cook cauliflower, making such recipes as cauliflower mashed potatoes, cauliflower pizza, cauliflower soup, and cauliflower bread sticks.

Another secret to enjoying veggies is covering them in ghee (or butter, depending on whether you have any dairy sensitivity).  What is ghee, you may ask?  It is a type clarified butter, made by heating butter until the water has evaporated, and the milk solids have browned, which gives ghee its nutty flavor.  For more information about ghee and its benefits, check out Stephanie Gaudreau’s take on incorporating ghee  into a healthy diet on her blog Stupid Easy Paleo.

When I went to Paleo F(X) back in April of 2014, I checked out a booth hosted by Pure Indian Foods.  Pure Indian Foods is a company that makes several different types of products, but is known for its production of ghee.

They make grass-feed ghee,

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spiced ghees,

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and something truly unique, a mixture of coconut and ghee (a 50/50 mixture of organic grass-fed ghee and organic virgin coconut oil).

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After answering several of my questions about the company’s products, the owner of the company graciously provided me with a jar of ghee to try out.  And after seeing all of the different spiced ghees available, I went head and purchased a sample package of the different flavors – with flavors like garlic ghee and italian ghee, I just couldn’t pass them up!

Although I have learned many different ways to use cauliflower, roasting is usually my go to method for cooking them.  This simple recipe for Indian Spiced Roasted Cauliflower is a great addition to any meal.  I like to pair them as a side dish with chicken tikka masala.   I incorporated Pure Indian Foods grass-fed ghee into the recipe, and it did not disappoint!

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Indian Spiced Roasted Cauliflower – recipe adapted from Oroville Crossfit.

Servings: serves 4-6


Ingredients

  • 2 heads cauliflower, rinsed, chopped and broken into small florets
  • 3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons Garam Masala
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Place cauliflower florets into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Place the remaining ingredients in a small mixing bowl, and stir thoroughly until combined.
  5. pour the mixture over the cauliflower florets (mixture will be thick), and toss to coat.
  6. Pour the cauliflower onto the lined baking dishes, and spread out evenly so that the cauliflower florets are not too crowded.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes.
  8. remove from oven and serve immediately.

 

Notes

  • You can substitute melted butter for the ghee.


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Paleo Schmaleo – What the heck is it, and what in the world can I eat?

What is the “Paleo/Primal Diet”(note that I use the term Paleo and Primal interchangeably throughout this post)?  Is it a caveman diet encouraging people to eat copious amounts of red meat?  Or is it a diet in which people are forced to eat dry chicken and steamed broccoli, while fantasizing about never ending pasta bowls, or bread rolls slathered in butter? Are you thinking about flaky biscuits right now, because I may be 😉

There are many differing views on how to describe/define Paleo, like whether people should eat diary, whether potatoes are Paleo, or whether people should be eating low-carb vs. high-carb diets.  I’m not going to go over all of the different issues, since they are covered more extensively in blog posts of great Paleo bloggers that I’ll mention later on in this post.  However, for an overall view of the Paleo lifestyle, I think popular Paleo blogger Liz Wolf does a pretty good job of getting to the heart of Paleo and healthy eating with her take on what constitutes good nutrition:

“Seek real, nutrient-filled food, as close to its natural state as possible: whole, unprocessed, unmodified, and unrefined.  Pretend the modern supermarket doesn’t exist.  Choose foods that could be hunted or gathered-food that has ALWAYS been food; not factory-made products.  Support local, responsible producers.  Eat animals, eggs, seafood, vegetables, fruits and traditional foods.  Eat fats from pastured animals, seafood, coconut, avocado, olives, and cold-pressed oils.  Drink water.  Incorporate super-foods: fermented vegetables and beverages, homemade bone broth, and organ meats (if you dare).  Above all, ditch obsessive behavior and “diets.”  Question conventional wisdom.  Fuel with Real Food.”  Liz Wolf, Good Nutrition (in 100 words)

If you are just starting, and want to learn about the basics of Paleo, I would encourage you to start with Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson, two leaders in Paleo/Primal community.

Mark Sisson is the author of several books, including “The Primal Blueprint” and “The Primal Blueprint 21 Day Transformation: A Step-by-Step Guide Gene Reprogramming Action Plan.”  Mark Sisson has an amazing website called Mark’s Daily Apple.  The website has a wealth of helpful information including lots of charts, graphics, and Q&A blog posts, in which Mark Sisson answers many common questions people have about living a Primal lifestyle.  When I first learned about Paleo, I spent hours read through his articles.  The website archives blog posts by topic, so if you have a specific question on a particular issue, you can jump straight to those blog posts instead of having to click thorough years of posts.  Mark Sisson also recently started a podcast called the “Primal Blueprint Podcast” which you can download on itunes.  It has lots of information for beginners, and expands upon the information presented in his website.

Robb Wolf is the author of “The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet.”  Robb’s website is Robb Wolf, where Robb shares lots of tips, tricks and real world advice for transitioning to Paleo.  He also has a great podcast called the “Paleo Solution Podcast” that you can download on itunes with tons of helpful information.  His podcast is nice if you like to get into the geeky science stuff behind why the Paleo diets promotes certain foods (warning, he does sometimes use explicit language during his podcasts).

There are several other leaders in the Paleo/Primal movement providing information on living a healthier lifestyle.  My go to people for information and helpful guides are as follows:

Diane Sanfilippo, author of the book the New York Times Best Seller “Practical Paleo”, “The 21 Day Sugar Detox”, and “The 21 Day Sugar Detox Cookbook.”  Her website is Balanced Bites.

Chris Kresser, author of the book “Your Personal Paleo Code.”  His website is Chris Kresser.

Dallas & Melissa Hartwig, authors of the New York Times Best Seller book, “It Starts with Food.  There website is Whole 9 Life.

Sarah Ballantyne, author of the book “The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body”, and the upcoming companion book, “The Paleo Approach Cookbook: A Detailed Guide to Heal Your Body and Nourish Your soul.” Her website is The Paleo Mom.

Okay, that’s all well an good you say.  But the real question you may be asking is, “WHAT CAN I EAT?”  The thought of reducing the amount of processed foods you may normally eat might be freaking you out.  However, once you realize all of the foods you get to eat (bacon, anyone?), you’ll be amazed at some of the awe-inspiring recipes you’ll whip up that will rock you (and your family’s) taste buds. There are hundreds, if not thousands of amazing Paleo blogs and websites that provide lots of mouth-watering recipes.  I’ve spent several years researching and reading through these blogs, and want to share with you some of my favorites.

Here are several blogs/websites that will help you get started:

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Bill Staley and Hayley Mason

Primal Palate – Bill Staley and Hayley Mason are a husband and wife team that run their website, and they are also the authors of several cookbooks, including “Make it Paleo”, “The 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking”, and “Gather.”  A big plus on their website is a feature that allows you to make grocery lists from the recipes posted to their website,  and you can also filter recipes to avoid specific ingredients (which can be very helpful, depending on what food sensitivities you may have).

Civilized Caveman Cooking – George Bryant runs this successful Paleo Blog.  His recipes are delicious, and his photograph skills are so good, they make me want to reach into the screen and take a bite (too bad this isn’t a reality yet).  In addition to providing a food blog, he also sends weekly meal plan for subscribers of his newsletters (signing up is free).  In addition, George has co-authored a cookbook with Juli Bauer of Paleoomg, the New York Times Best Selling cookbook “The Paleo Kitchen.”

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Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry

Paleo Parents – Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry are the husband and wife team behind this website.  Their website provides lots of yummy recipes, and is also a great resource for families with small children who want help transitioning their family to Paleo.  They are the authors of “Eat Like a Dinosaur”, “Beyond Bacon”, the ebook “3 Phase Paleo”, and the soon to be released “Real Life Paleo.”

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Michelle Tam

Nom Nom Paleo – Michelle Tam is the author behind this blog, and makes great mouthwatering recipes that adhere to stricter version of Paleo (helpful for those who are participating in elimination diets).  She is the author of the New York Times Best Selling cookbook “Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans.”

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Danielle Walker

Against All Grain – Danielle Walker is the blogger behind this blog, and creates recipes that are hands down some of the best Paleo recipes I have ever had.  It’s hard to go wrong making a recipe from her website.  Danielle is the author of the New York Times Best Selling cookbook “Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great”, and will be releasing a new book in September titled “Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple.”

Stupid Easy Paleo – Stephanie Gaudreau provides great recipes, along with tips and advise on Paleo living.  She is especially helpful for athletes who want to stick to a Paleo diet, but have issues with getting enough carbs from good food sources.  She has even written a book an ebook on this topic, “The Performance Paleo Cookbook: Recipes for Eating Better, Training Harder & Getting Stronger.”

For even more blogs with mouthwatering recipes, check out these Paleo blogs:

Paleomg

Paleo Cupboard

Urban Poser

The Healthy Foodie

Slim Palate

Zen Belly Blog

Paleo Newbie

The Clothes Make the Girl

Everyday Paleo

Brittany Angell

Taylor Made it Paleo

Multiply Delicious

There are lots of great health blogs/websites that are not strictly Paleo, but provide a lot of nutritious and delicious recipes, along with helpful tips and advise on leading a healthy lifestyle.  I refer to these types of websites as “JERF” (Just Eat Real Food).  Some of my favorites are:

The Domestic Man

Healthy Living How To

I Breathe I’m Hungry

The Iron You

Deliciously Organic

Inspiralized

As I mentioned earlier, the blogs and websites I have referenced are in no way an exhaustive list of all of the great Paleo blogs out there, and I am discovering amazing new Paleo/healthy food blogs all the time.

Here are several tips if you are interested in looking up even more Paleo/Primal recipes:

1. Many vegetarian and vegan blogs have recipes that are very Paleo friendly, so don’t feel you have to limit yourself to Paleo/Primal websites.

2.  Go to Food Gawker, which is a website that brings together amazing recipes from all over the internet.  You can type in “paleo”, “primal”, “gluten free”, “vegetarian”, “vegan” or any other combination into the search function to find great recipes that suit your dietary preferences.

3.  There are several websites similar to Foodgawker which cater to the Paleo community:

Stalkerville

The Foodee

5.  Finally, I have several pinterest boards you can follow to get even more recipe ideas:

Paleo/Primal Recipes

Whole 30 Recipes (an elimination diet)

Gluten-Free and Grain-Free Desserts and Baked Goods

Paleo Drink Ideas

I hope this post leads you to great recipes that will become family favorites.  With meals like Paleo Pad Thai, Pizza Spaghetti Pie, Chicken Sausage Sweet Potato Hash, and Mixed Seafood Paella, there is sure to be something that you and your family can enjoy.    If you have a favorite blog you read and would like to recommend, please feel free to share in the comments below!


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I’ve been on a baking kick lately.  In fact, I have been on a quest to make the perfect almond butter chocolate chip cookies.  I’ve tried several different recipes, and although each recipe created great cookies, I was hoping to create a version packed with flavor and chocolate goodness.

While experimenting in the kitchen last week in my attempt at almond butter cookie awesomeness, I accidentally ended up creating a new recipe for Almond Butter Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies.

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I was hanging out with my friend Rachel at the time, and convinced her to help me on my chocolate chip cookie quest for perfection.  I decided that the addition of pumpkin and cinnamon to the cookie batter would kick it up a notch.    However, it turned out that the addition of pumpkin to the cookie batter resulted in batter that was too thin.  I forged ahead, and stuck a small batch of cookies in the oven, hoping that the oven would work some kind of miracle on the cookies.  Rachel and I tasted tested the first batch of cookies out of the oven.  While they were tasty, the batter had spread very thin, and as a result, the cookies looked like chocolate pancakes.

Rachel mentioned that the cookies had the taste and texture of brownies.  That gave both of us the idea to take the rest of the cookie batter and bake it in a pan to see what would happened.  The cookie batter created brownies better then I could have hoped for.

It was a very happy accident indeed, and I am excited to share the results!

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Have you every had a “happy accident” in the kitchen?  If so, feel free to share in the comments section!

Almond Butter Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies

Servings: makes 12-15


Ingredients

  • 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raw almond butter (creamy)*
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda*
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate chunks*

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. grease an 8 x 8 inch (or 7 x 11) baking dish.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg and egg yolk, pumpkin and vanilla extract and mix well.  Then add the almond butter, and stir until all of the liquid ingredients are fully incorporated.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the coconut sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, sea salt, and cinnamon.
  5. Add the coconut sugar/cocoa mixture to the liquid ingredients in the large mixing bowl, and mix everything together until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  6. Add in the chocolate chunk, and stir to combine.
  7. Pour the brownie batter into the greased baking dish, and spread evenly.
  8. Place in the lower rack of the oven, and bake for 30-35 minutes until done (to check if it is done, insert a toothpick into the brownies.  The toothpick should come out mostly clean).
  9. Let the brownies cool before serving.
  10. Brownies will keep in an airtight storage container at room temperature for 2-3 days.*

 

Notes

  • To make the recipe dairy-free, use the chocolate brand enjoy life chocolate chunks (they are diary, soy and gluten free).
  • If you want the brownies to be more cake like in texture, use 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda instead of 3/4 teaspoons of baking soda.
  • If you have difficulty finding raw almond butter, you can make your own.  Place 3 cups of raw almonds into a high powered food processor.  Process  the almonds for 15-20 minutes (scraping down the sides as necessary) until creamy.  This will yield approximately 1 cup of creamy almond butter.
  • How long these brownies last is my best guess, the pan is usually empty by the second day!

 

 


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Epic Orange and Chocolate Date Balls of Awesomeness

Testing and creating new recipes is a passion of mine, a passion born of growing up as a picky eater, and learning to cook food that I enjoyed since my Mom had no plans to become a short order cook.  I’ve had multiple successes and failures in the kitchen, but for the most part the meals I create are enjoyed by both family and friends.  And since stumbling upon what I call the JERF movement (just eat real food), I strive to incorporate real, whole, unprocessed foods into my diet as much as possible.  But, please don’t think my diet is bland and boring.  Trust me, I don’t sit around eating steamed veggies and dry chicken every day, although I wish I could sit around eating bacon all day (but that’s just a wish my heart makes).  I want the meals I create to be both visually exciting and full of flavor.

One recipe in particular, involving date balls, gets rave reviews every time I whip a batch of these treats to share.  There are many date ball recipes floating around on the internet, and I am excited to add my own personal spin to on the standard date balls to the mix.

These date balls include the following ingredients:  dry roasted almonds, mejool dates, unsweetened shredded coconut, enjoy life chocolate chips, cocao nibs, vanilla extract, orange extract, sea salt, coconut oil, and Barney’s chocolate almond butter.

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After mixing the ingredients together (using the instructions detailed below) and shaping them into balls, you get these lovely things:

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The date balls are fine as is if you stopped at this part of the recipe, but if you enjoy coconut and want an added layer of flavor, you can roll the balls in a mixture of unsweetened coconut and cacao nibs to get these beauties:

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These treats are easy to make and fun to share.  If you create this recipe, I would love to hear what you think of them!

Epic Orange & Chocolate Date Balls of Awesomeness – recipe yields 15-20 date balls (depending on size)


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry roasted and unsalted almonds
  • 20 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup + 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (divided)
  • ½ cup enjoy life chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • Zest from ½ orange
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ cup Barney’s chocolate almond butter
  • ¼ cup cocoa nibs

Instructions:

  1. Process almonds in a food processor until they look like crumbs (don’t process too long or it will turn into almond butter).   Empty almond crumbs into a separate bowl.
  2. Process the medjool dates until they are sticky and in small pieces.  It may form a ball in the food processor.  You’ll want to break this ball apart before the next step.
  3. Once you have processed the medjool dates, add back into the food processor the almond crumbs.  Then add in 1/2 a cup of unsweetened shredded coconut, vanilla extract, orange extract, orange zest, sea salt and chocolate almond butter.  Process the ingredients in the food processor until it looks like the ingredients start to stick together.  If the mixture is still crumbly, add more medjool dates, 2 or 3 at a time, until the mixture becomes sticky and you can form the dough into balls.
  4. Once the dough is ready, add the chocolate chips and use the pulse feature on your food processor until the chocolate chips have been incorporated into the mixture.
  5. Form the dough into  balls using 1 or 2 tbs for each ball (depending on how big you want them to be) and place the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Once you have finished forming the balls, add the remaining1/2 cup of shredded coconut and ¼ cup cacao nibs in the food process and process for 20-25 seconds.
  7. Lay out the shredded coconut/cacao nib mixture onto a plate and roll each date ball in the mixture.   Once each date ball has been coated, place them back on the parchment paper.  Repeat this step as necessary until you have used up all of the date ball mixture and coating.
  8. Refrigerate the date balls for 30 minutes or until you are ready to serve them (you can also freeze them, although you may want to defrost for 10 to 15 minutes before serving).

Notes :

  •  If you can’t find dry roasted unsalted almonds, you can roast 1 cup of raw almonds at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Let the almonds cool for about 10 minutes before moving on to the next step of the recipe.
  • If you have difficulty finding Barney’s chocolate almond butter, you can substitute with regular almond butter, or any other kind of nut butter you may prefer.
  • You can substitute cocoa butter for cacao nibs.
  • This recipe is great even without the orange extract/orange zest if you would prefer not to add it.


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PaleoF(x) Part 3: Meeting Some of My Favorite Paleo Bloggers

If you have not checked out my earlier recaps of Paleo F(x) 2014, you can check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

I crammed a lot of experiences during that weekend, but my favorite part about the whole experience was being able to meet some of my favorite bloggers!  There are so many great bloggers who give tons of insight, encouragement, knowledge bombs, and much more as they share their stories and experiences living a healthy real food lifestyle.  These bloggers also post tons of recipes, which I am then able to recreate and share with friends and family!

I loved meeting some of the biggest names in the Paleo/Primal movement and finding out how nice and down to earth they were.  Mark Sisson is one of the top people in the Paleo/Primal sphere, and the writer behind the hugely popular Primal blog Mark’s Daily Apple.  His blog was the first one I started reading when learning about how to transition to the Paleo diet.  I spent hours reading through his articles and learning the ins and outs of eating for health and performance.

I found out how kind Mark Sisson was after trying to capture pictures of him without him noticing, since I didn’t want to bother him.  He caught me lurking near him (still trying to work on being more stealthy), and when I went over to introduce myself and let him now I wasn’t trying to be the creepiest person on the planet, he graciously posed for a picture.

 

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Another big name in the Paleo community is Robb Wolf.  His book the Paleo Solution has helped lots of people to get healthy, and he shares many knowledge bombs on his blog and through his podcast.

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I was able to meet the lovely Danielle Walker, the popular blogger from the website Against All Grain.

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She had a book signing for her cookbook of the same name during that weekend, a New York Times Best Seller, and when I went up to have my book signed, she recognized me from Paleo F(x) 2013 (which meant the world to me)!

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She has a new book coming out this fall, “Against All Grains – meals made simple.”  I am very excited to check out her new recipes once the book is released on September 2, 2014.

I met Diane Sanfilippo during her book signing event.  She blogs at Balanced Bites, and is the author of the Twenty-One Day Sugar Detox, The 21 Day Sugar Detox Cookbook, and the New York Times bestselling book Practical Paleo.  As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, she co-hosts a Paleo podcast with Liz Wolf of Real Food Liz, the author behind the book Eat the Yolks (I have not had a chance to read the book yet, but it is on my long list of books purchase).

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I meet the lovely, talented, intelligent, fierce and all around awesome woman Stephanie Rouper, the blogger behind the blog Paleo for Women.  Her blog tackles some of the issues women within the Paleo movement face, including struggles and issues that may not be fixed with just diet and lifestyle changes.  I met her at Paleo F(x) 2013 last year, and was so glad to catch up with her again.  She has a new book out, Sexy By Nature, which I look forward to reading.

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Juli Bauer, the blogger behind Paleoomg, also attended Paleo F(x) 2014. I watched her food presentation, and listened to her in a panel discussion about incorporating treats into a Paleo lifestyle (both of which you can read about in Part 1 here). Juli’s blog is legit awesome, with tons of amazing Paleo recipes, lots of pictures of her adorable new puppy Jackson, stories about her life as a CrossFit coach, and also discussions about the ups and downs she faces being in the lime light as a popular Paleo food blogger.

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Juli and George Bryant (the blogger behind the popular blog Civilized Caveman Cooking) have co-authored a new cookbook, the Paleo Kitchen, which releases on June 10, 2014.  I have already pre-ordered the book, and can’t wait to make the blueberry pancakes pictured on the front cover.  Whose ready for a pancake party at my house?

Finally, I met my ultimate Paleo blogger girl crush Stacy Toth.  Stacy Toth has lost over 100 lbs + while on a Paleo diet.  That type of success is amazing and very inspiring.  Stacy and her husband Matthew McCarry are the couple behind the popular blog Paleo Parents.  They use their blog to share not only amazing recipes, but also tips and advice as they raise their three boys using a Paleo template.  They have co-authorized several cookbooks together, including the cookbook Eat Like a Dinosaur and the cookbook Beyond Bacon.  They have a new cookbook coming out soon, called Real Life Paleo, which is scheduled for release on November 4, 2014.

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On her blog, Stacy shares about her journey starting Crossfit, and then discovering strongman training – competing in her first competition this year (and winning it!).   I find it empowering and encouraging as she shares her stories about lifting heavy and see her body transform, and using that strength not only in the gym, but also in her daily life.

When Stacy isn’t co-writing books with her husband, working on her blog, or training for strongman competitions, she finds time to co-host a popular Paleo podcast called the Paleo View with co-host Dr. Sarah Ballantyne.  Sarah is the blogger behind the popular blog The Paleo Mom, and author of the recently released book The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Health Your Body.  The podcast provides a wealth of information, and the friendly banter between Stacy and Sarah provide lots on entertainment on my way to and from work.

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I got to hear real life evidence of that friendly banter when meeting both of them at Paleo F(x) 2014.

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience at Paleo F(x) 2014, and can’t wait to go back next year!  I hope you enjoyed learning about Paleo F(x).  If you’ve read this far, you are truly amazing 😉  Next up, yummy Paleo recipes!  Do you have any suggestions on recipes you would like me to test out?  Leave a post in the comments section and I’ll see what I can whip up!


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Paleo F(x) Part 2 – New Food Finds

Part 2 of my recap discusses some great food finds during Paleo F(x).  If you missed Part 1 of my recap, you can read about it here.

Paleo F(x) 2014 wasn’t only about presentations and panel discussions.  Attending Paleo F(x) gave me a chance to sample many grain-free, gluten-free and Paleo friendly food options.

The main section of the conference floor area was set up with different booths that allowed conference attendees to sample products brought by different vendors.  There were a lot of vendors, and below are some of the items that caught my eye:

Choffy:

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Choffy is made out of roasted cacao beans, which are then ground up and brewed to make a chocolate drink.  Choffy has roasts that are made from cacao beans from all over the world, including Ghana, the Ivory Cost, and the Dominican Republic.  The chocolate drink can be made using a french press or coffee brewer.  The owners of Choffy were there the entire weekend to hand out samples, and I purchased a bag of Ivory Coast Choffy to take home after sampling and enjoying the flavor profile of this lighter roast.

Eating Evolved:

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Eating Evolved makes chocolate bars with minimal real food ingredients (gluten free, soy free, dairy free chocolate bars  made with fair trade cacao and none GMO ingredients) that are delicious, and left me coming back for more samples each day.

The company’s motto is, “It’s food, not candy.”  I can get behind that!

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I tried the 72% dark chocolate bar with sea salt and almonds.  The sea salt added an additional depth of flavor I really enjoyed.  When I came back to purchase some sea salt and almond bars to take back home with me, they only had one bar left.  I ended up buying that bar, as well as two of the 85% dark chocolate bars to enjoy.

Jilz Gluten Free Crackersz:

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These crackers were legit, and very flavorful.  They are made out of almond flour, organic sesame seeds, organic flax seeds, organic chia seeds, organic tapioca flour, apple cider vinegar and seasonings.  They come in three different flavors – Mediterranean, Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper, and Tuscan. I ended up purchasing a package of the sea salt and cracked pepper crackers.

Kosmic Kombucha:

 

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For those of you not familiar with this drink, Kombucha is a drink typically made from sweetened tea that has been fermented, and has been shown to have a variety of health benefits (Click here for more information on the health benefits of Kombucha).

Despite the drink’s health benefits, I have not fully embraced this drink into my everyday lifestyle for several reasons.  First, Kombucha is pretty pricey, selling anywhere from $3 to $4 dollars per bottle.  Second, Kombucha has a very distinct taste, and until that weekend I had not tried a brand of Kombuch that I enjoyed.  During the conference, I sampled several flavors offered by Kosmic Kombuch, and ended up really enjoying the Mint Julep flavor.  It was so good in fact, that I stocked up on several bottles to take back home with me.

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Base Culture:

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I’ve tried many different store bought gluten-free/grain-free breads, and tried my hand at making several different sandwich bread recipes.  Some recipes are better than others, but I have only sampled one or two recipes that really stand out in my mind as being good, at least until Paleo F(x).  Initially, I had only casually strolled by the Base Culture booth with no intentions of stopping.  However, I decided to picked up piece of bread to sample as I was walking past.  I didn’t have high expectations when I popped it into my mouth, but after i actually tasted the texture and flavor and realized how good it was, I slowed down and decided to take a better look at the company.  I was able to talk with the owner to find out more about the company and its products.

The company is based in Florida, and offers for shipping grain-free and gluten-free products that compliment a Paleo lifestyle.  The sandwich bread offered by Base Culture was delicious, and actually tasted like a (somewhat denser) version of sandwich bread.  Even more amazing were the almond butter brownies (pictured in the front board shown below).

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I wanted to sample those brownies every time I pasted by the booth, but I resisted (for the most part).  Unfortunately, the company’s owner, Jordann Windschauer, didn’t have any products for sale.  She came to Paleo F(x) to promote her company and get the company’s name out, and had only planned to offer samples of her products.  I kept trying to get her to agree to sell me whatever products she had leftover after Paleo F(x) had ended, but because she wasn’t set up to sell anything that weekend, it wasn’t an option.  However,  Jordann was kind enough to look for me the last day and personally give me several additional samples of the almond butter brownies to take home.  Yeah, that pretty much just won me over 😉

I knew I couldn’t go to Austin during Paleo F(x) without a trip to Picnik, a coffee shop/restaurant that offers Paleo/Primal/Grain-Free/Gluten-free food and drink options.

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I swung by there during a lunch break, and was so glad I did.  I got to meet popular blogger Liz Wolfe from Real Food Liz, who was only going to be at Paleo F(x) for one day due to a scheduling conflict.  She was just as funny, witty and kind in person as she is on the weekly Balanced Bites podcast she co-hosts with Diane Sanfilippo.

She was also gracious enough to pose for a picture.

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After stepping into the restaurant to look at menu, I knew I had come to the right place when I saw this:

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I wasn’t very hungry, so I decided to go with a chai tea latte made with butter, MCT oil, and grass fed whey-protein.

There is so much more about Paleo F(x) that I want to share with you guys.  In the final installment of my recap  (I know it’s a lot, but I couldn’t fit it all in two posts), I’ll share my experience meeting some of my favorite bloggers during the conference.

Have any of you tried out the products I mentioned in this post?  If so, I’d love to read about your experiences trying them out in the comments section.


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Paleo F(x) 2014 – Part 1: Meeting the People

Last month, April 11-13, 2014, I attended the third annual Paleo F(x) conference in Austin, Texas at the Palmer Events Center.  What exactly is the Paleo F(x) conference?  It’s a chance for people in the Paleo community to gather together to learn more about the Paleo lifestyle, meet other Paleo enthusiasts, and learn how to lead a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

The conference discussions spanned a variety of topics, including: (i) a focus on eating real, whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods; (ii) engaging our bodies with a different exercise methodologies; (iii) maintaining a well-rounded health approach by focusing on proper sleeping habits; and (iv) living a life focused on overall health and wellness.

During the three days of the Paleo F(x) conference, I was able to attend an exercise skills workshop, and variety of panel discussions and cooking demonstrations.

It was fun watching some of my favorite bloggers creating their culinary creations in front of a crowd:

Juli Bauer and Vanessa Barajas whipping up teriyaki beef stir fry with cauliflower rice.

Juli and Vanessa making beef teriyaki stir fry with cauliflower rice.

Danielle Walker prepared ginger chicken and broccoli:

Danielle Walker from www.againstallgrain.com.

All of the  meals looked amazing.  Too bad attendees didn’t get to sample any culinary treats made during the cooking demonstrations :/

There were also multiple discussion panels each day, and multiple stages for each panel during the three-day conference.  Below are some of the panel discussions I sat in on:
Ancestral Health For Women: discussion of Paleo lifestyle principles specifically as it relates to the needs and circumstances of modern women (from left to right: Dr. Ruthie Harper, Dr. Lauren Noel, Dr. Deborah Gordon, Stefani Ruper and Diane Sanfilippo).

from left to right: Dr. Ruthie Harper, Dr. Lauren Noel, Dr. Deborah Gordon, Stefani Ruper and Diane Sanfilippo

Fairies, Unicorns & Paleo Cookies: description – “determining the place of cheats and treats in the Paleo lifestyle (from left to right, Juli BauerBill Stayley, Steven Wright and Dallas Hartwig).

from left to right, Juli Bauer (paleomg.com), Bill Stayley (primalpalate.com), Steven Wright (scdlifestyle.com) and Dallas Hartwig (whole9life.com)

Think Tank: Catalyst for Change: description – “No more sitting on the sidelines, get in the game: Share the health…what begins here will change the world” (from left to right: Abel James, Diana Rogers, Robb Wolf, Dr. Shili Mehta and Roger Dickerman).

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 Beyond Food: description – “Health is about more than food.  This   panel covered the oft-neglected topics of sleep, stress, mindfulness, and learning to find balance” (from left to right: Kyle MaynardDarryl Edwards, Dr. Dan Stickler, Kendall Kendrick and Steve Kirsch).

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All of the panels I attended were informative, and brought a wide variety of perspectives.  Not everyone agreed on each point of view for all of the panels, but for the most part I heard with each discussion topic a respect for people’s differing points of view while engaging in lively debate.

There were several movement workshops offered.  Attendees were offered sessions for improving kettlebell work, core training, technique for the Olympic lifts, and even general play outside.  I attended a skill workshop focusing on improving back squat and dead lift technique, hosted by Jim Laird.  Jim Laird is an elite level powerlifter, and the co-founder of the gym  J & M Strength and Conditioning based in Lexington, Kentucky.

The initial part of the workshop included mobility exercises to warm us up, and then Jim Laird and his assistant worked with each participant individually to go over their form and technique.  It was enlightening for me to watch and listen to Jim go over the strengths and weaknesses of each individual, and then see those same issues in my own form and technique.  He pointed out weaknesses in my core and hip mobility, and gave me several things to work on.  Below are some pics from my one-on-one with Jim:

Working on  hip mobility for back squats:

working on hip mobility....something of which I will need to work much more on.

Working on additional squatting cues by squatting to a box, or in this case a large tire 😉

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One day while I was walking around and checking out all of the vendors, I saw a booth for something called Gymnastic Bodies.  I’d never heard of the program before, so I sat in on the lecture (turns out this was the same time as the Robb Wolf/Mark Sisson panel, which I totally forgot about.  Oops!).  It turns out that the founder and CEO is a man by the name of Christopher Sommer, a National Team Coach for the USA Mens Gymnastics Team, who has been coaching gymnastics in the USA for over 40 years.

According to the website http://www.gymnasticbodies.com, coach Sommer has

“[t]aken the core of what makes Olympic gymnasts strong and broken it down step by step from the most basic to the most impressive feats of strength.”

Gymnastic Bodies held several skill workshops during Paleo F(x), including leg mobility and handstand balance.  Below are some images from the handstand workshop:

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As a CrossFitter, the program offered by Gymnastic Bodies seems like something that could help me improve my CrossFit performance, and something I want to look more closely into in the future, especially with CrossFit’s heavy emphasis on gymnastic movements.

I know I’ve covered a lot for my inaugural post, but there is so much more I want to share with you guys!  In Part two  of my Paleo F(x) recap, I’ll share my experiences interacting with more of my favorite bloggers, and also share some of the yummy treats and eats shared by many of the vendors at the conference.  Please come back, because you won’t want to miss what new food discoveries I found!