Going Paleo

I’m going Paleo. And I’m terrified.

I’ve already cut down on dairy because it gives me stomach and intestinal pain. If I do consume something with cheese or milk, I usually take a lactase pill to control it a bit.

I tried to go gluten-free out of sheer curiosity last year, but I barely lasted a week.

I mean, I love me some bread. And pizza. And Oreos.

I could go on and on about things that I like to eat. And of course none of them are considered Paleo. At least not the ones sold in most stores.Paleo diet, not Paleo diet

But this “diet” has been suggested to me by people I know, as well as others whose stories I have only read online. And they seem pretty convincing to me.

The main reason for introducing this change to my lifestyle is for health reasons. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease about a year and a half ago. Before the diagnosis was official, I had 2 major flare-ups during the two years prior to that. You can read my blog post about it, but basically, in order to maintain remission, I’m on meds for the rest of my life. So far, so good; I haven’t had a flare-up since my diagnosis in October 2012.

However, prescription costs add up. I’ve had to switch insurance plans (and therefore meds) 3 times due to moving downstate and enrolling in and graduating from graduate school. Monthly co-pays for my meds have ranged from really cheap (as in paying $1 when I was on Medicaid upstate) to now paying over $100 with Empire Bluecross Blueshield. Thanks a lot, Obamacare!

Plus, it’s a real pain in the ass having to take multiple pills multiple times per day. I was originally taking 6 pills twice per day with my first set of meds. When I went to the doctor near campus in NYC, he suggested I try another kind, in which I would only have to take 3 pills twice per day. Heck yes! Well, now on this new plan, my insurance won’t cover that medication, so I’m back to taking more pills – three pills, three times per day.So many colorful pills! Looks like candy!

At this point, I’ve been taking so many darn pills for so long that it has just become routine. But that’s not to say I wouldn’t love it if I could simply get through the rest of my life without being a pill-head. One less thing to worry about.

Back in 2011, my now-fiancé Tom was the first person who told me about this Caveman/Neanderthal/Paleo Diet. He was convinced that it was a great idea; it’s based on what cavemen and women used to eat, so obviously it’s natural and healthy. Sure enough, he lost weight. But I think it’s mainly because he was sleeping during the day, working in his basement apartment at night, and mostly only consuming foods very high in fat like nuts. Oh, and cups upon cups of coffee. He didn’t stick with it very long as there were some, ahem, crappy side effects and he started looking very sickly.

Since then, it has become a popular diet. Many people partake in this and other “fad” diets to lose weight or to reap the health benefits. But still others do it just to say they are partaking in X, Y, and Z. Like I said, I’m more in it for the health benefits; losing weight and maintaining it would just be a bonus. I’ve got a wedding dress to fit into!

Personally, I think I’ve gotten too lazy and have started taking my health for granted now that I have it back (with the exception of those dang pills). So I’m making a commitment to start introducing Paleo meals and guidelines into my diet. I’m not going to just dive all-in all at once because I find that this is more difficult to stick with than making small efforts here and there. I would hope that in the near future I can be mostly Paleo. And maybe pill-free?

I’ve started looking into recipes, cookbooks, blogs, etc. on all things Paleo. One blog that I’ve come to love is called Against all Grain by Danielle Walker. Her story is similar to but even worse than mine – she dealt with crazy abdominal pain, lost tons of weight, and had multiple blood transfusions and iron infusions, before she was finally diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (which is similar to Crohn’s).Against All Grain - Danielle Walker

She changed to a Paleo-style diet and has seen remarkable results. She posts Paleo recipes, has her own Paleo cookbooks, reviews of others’ books, and even writes about her struggles with not eating those comfort foods we all know and love. Definitely relatable and inspiring. And so dang gorgeous!

So the first step would be to pick out some Paleo meals to replace my typical ones, get the ingredients, and try this thing out! Suggestions, personal accounts (successes and failures), or favorite Paleo recipes would be greatly accepted and appreciated!

Mac&Cheese&Meat Amaze-balls Recipe

If you’re like me, you enjoy macaroni and cheese. And meatballs.

And as the saying goes,

Two rights make 180.

(Math joke, anyone? Just me? Okay.)

Well, you get the idea – two good things, when put together, make a thing that is even better than the original things separately. Cake and Ice Cream. Peanut Butter and Nutella. Chocolate and…Anything.

While this recipe was inspired by the lovely guys at Epic Meal Time with their Mac & Cheese Balls video, I wanted to put my own spin on it.

Instead of frying them, I went the “healthy” route of baking them. And then to undo that silly thinking, Tom suggested adding meatballs. Meatballs enclosed in a macaroni & cheese blanket? Sounds precious. And, more importantly, delicious.

So for Tom’s family’s Thanksgiving gathering, we decided to provide a couple hors d’oeuvres (I still have to Google those words for spelling. French. Bah.) and we set out to make these heavenly orbs or meat and cheese and pasta.

We learned a few tricks along the way while making these, as some parts were kind of difficult. I found that the entire process is best done with a partner, so make it a fun activity with a friend or significant other! Finster wanted to help, but I told him to keep his paws off our balls.Fin wants to help

Alright, so here it goes; this recipe makes about 20 balls, depending on how big you make them.

Ingredients for balls (heh):

  • 1 box of elbow macaroni
  • 20 Swedish meatballs
  • ½-ish pint of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 package each of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese (or preferred shredded cheeses)
  • Flour
  • Tin foil pieces – make each about the size of a piece of paper
  • 3 smallish bowls
  • 6ish eggs
  • 2ish cups bread crumbs (seasoned if you like some extra flavor)

Steps:

  1. Cook and strain entire box of macaroni. While macaroni is cooking, now would be a good time to thaw the meatballs. I just followed the directions on the package – microwave 1 minute for every 6 meatballs, turning after each minute.
  2. Pour macaroni back into pot, turn heat on low, and add cream and stick of butter. Stir frequently until butter is melted.
  3. Add cheese as desired, stirring continuously as cheese melts. (Note: Tom was cheese-happy, so we actually added probably half of each bag – about 8oz in total.)
  4. Turn heat off and let cool a bit since you will be handling it. With you hands. (Note: We didn’t let the macaroni mixture cool, so not only was it kind of hot to handle, it was difficult to work with and it didn’t want form into balls that would stay together.)
  5. Sprinkle some flour into the macaroni mixture, and stir. This allows the macaroni and cheese mixture to stick together more.
  6. Okay, here’s where a partner comes in handy. So while person A handles the macaroni, person B should have the pieces of tin foil ready. (Note: Although the size of the pieces of tin foil might seem excessive, trust me when I say too much tin foil is better than too little.)Partner A handles balls
  7. Person A: Grab a handful of macaroni and cheese and spread on your palm, like a blanket. Place meatball in the center of your palm and wrap in the macaroni. Squeeze so that ball maintains shape.
  8. Person B: Place piece of tin foil flat on palm and let Person A place mac&cheese&meat ball into center. Wrap so that macaroni is completely encased.Partner B holds and wraps balls
  9. Once all of the meatballs are tightly wrapped in macaroni that is tightly wrapped in tin foil, place tin foil wrapped creations on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet in freezer. Wait around for about 20 minutes. (Note: The longer the better. I know you’re anxious about these cheesy truffles. But trust me. Wait.)Tin foil blankets
  10. Preheat oven to 375ish degrees (F).
  11. Now it’s time to make the coating before baking. In one of your bowls, pour some flour. In another, beat a couple eggs. In the last, pour the bread crumbs. Grab your partner because they will make this part easier!
  12. Person A: Take balls out of freezer and begin (carefully!) unwrapping from their tin foil blankets. If they are not staying together, put back in freezer for a bit.
  13. Person B: Take balls and cover completely in flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs. Place on a lightly Pam-ed (greased) baking sheet.
  14. When all balls are on baking sheet, place in oven for about 20ish minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool. (Note: I know it’s tempting to just throw them in your mouth, but you’ll just end up burning your tongue and then lack the ability to taste how delicious these are.)

finished mac&cheese balls

Ingredients for cheese dip:

  • 1 package (8oz) cream cheese
  • 8oz sour cream
  • More shredded cheese

Steps:

  1. In small pot on low heat, stir together cream cheese and sour cream until there are no lumps.
  2. Add cheese and stir mixture until creamy.
  3. Serve with cooked balls. It’s easier to spoon the cheese dip onto the balls rather than actually dipping the balls.

So there you go! Overall, they ended up being a hit, so happy cooking and eating! Make sure you don’t eat too many of them or else you’ll ruin your meal! Unless of course you decide to make this your meal! Fin here had one too many, and ended up lounging on the couch the rest of the night.Silly Fin

If you try this out, take a picture and share it with me! If you found a better/easier way to do something, let me know! If you added your own twist, I’d love to hear it!

Also, we did not feed Fin any of these balls. I think he did get some Thanksgiving turkey though.