Sunday, September 28, 2014

Carne Adovada

The Universe sent this recipe to me.

That's a fact. Maybe you don't believe me or maybe you're rolling your eyes at just how silly this little cavegirl has become. But it's a fact and I have proof.

The Universe sends me things all the time. The things I need to survive. The lessons I need to learn, right when I need to learn them. And pretty little gifts to remind me that there is a higher power looking out for me.

For example, I had been telling the Universe for months that I wanted a purple lacrosse ball (for mobility). I workout pretty hard in the morning, and then I go sit all day, which basically is a recipe for hip-mobility-disaster. So I needed a lacrosse ball to keep at my desk to provide myself some relief when the going got too tough. But I wanted a purple lacrosse ball. My basement cubicle is a drab-brown place and I wanted any new permanent fixture to be soothing and pretty.

Now before you link away because you think I've gone past silly and straight into ridiculous, let me be clear: I wasn't actively telling the Universe I wanted a purple lacrosse ball (you pictured me shouting my desire at the full moon, didn't you?). It's far more simple to communicate with the Universe than all that. In this case, every time I went to a sports store and found only orange or white, I'd lament to myself the lack of purple and walk away. Or when I felt myself getting tight at my desk, I'd think "man I wish I had a purple lacrosse ball right now." That kind of thing.

Fast forward a few months to this Summer. I was out for a run with one of my coworkers to take advantage of the beautiful weather and a long mid-day gap between meetings. We were on the jogging trail complaining about our management (as you do) and half-mocking-half-motivating each other through the final stretch when I spotted something on the side of the trail and had to stop. It was my purple lacrosse ball.

In case that isn't clear enough proof for you, let me describe the setting. We were on a jogging trail. Through a wooded area. With no lacrosse-approriate fields within miles. And I am a scientist working in a male-dominated field. Hell. My running partner and everyone else we saw on the trail that day was male. Where did this lacrosse ball come from? And why purple? Because the Universe sent it to me.

I carried it in and washed it off. Now it sits in a place of prominence at my desk. I let my co-workers hold it while I tell this story whenever someone makes fun of my Vision (white) Board or my claims that it totally works! It's pretty compelling. Stops the cynical mockery right in its tracks!

I also tell this story to friends when they hear me say "I want to be loved like a Brad Paisley song," and they realize that A) I'm not kidding, and B) I'm super optimistic. The Universe delivers!

But back to this recipe.

In June I was on a work trip to New Mexico and binge ate Carne Adovada and green chile. I only make it to New Mexico a few times a year, and my local "new Mexican" restaurant is a sad disappointment, so I started to think that I needed to find a New Mexican grandmother willing to share her recipe with me. I even bought a package of dried New Mexican chiles to have on hand when I found her.

I traveled back to New Mexico in August for work/play and again had the same thought, "I need a New Mexican grandmother's Carne Adovada recipe." I didn't want one from a cookbook or pinterest or I wanted something legit. With lard in it perhaps. And I put the Universe on notice.

Then. At the end of August, I made a new friend. We exchanged normal get-to-know-you information and I found out he was born in New Mexico. I didn't put it all together until a week or so later when I was walking home from the grocery store. He knew about my lacrosse ball so he didn't think I was totally crazy when I texted to see if he happened to have a New Mexican grandmother. He did! AND he was willing to call his mother for her Carne Adovada recipe.

And now I have it.

I had to modify the original to make it SillyLittle CaveGirl-safe. But the flavor is truly authentic. A real gift from the Universe.

Carne Adovada

Yes, those are corn tortillas. Sometimes I "cheat" a little bit...


3 lbs pork shoulder, trimmed and cubed
10 dried New Mexico chiles
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño (optional)
3 cups water + 1 cup
3 tablespoons potato starch
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin


Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Remove the stem and seeds from the dried chiles and (optional) jalapeño. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees for 15 minutes, careful not to burn the jalapeño. Remove from oven and place in a sauce pan. Pour over 3 cups of water. Place on medium-high heat until water boils. Remover from heat, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes until peppers soften.

Meanwhile, sprinkle the salt all over the cubed pork. In a large pot over medium heat, add olive oil and garlic. Once you can smell the garlic, add the salted pork. Turn the pork frequently to brown the sides. Remove from heat and set aside.

Once the peppers have softened, pour the mixture into your blender and blend until smooth. Return the sauce to the pan and season with oregano and cumin. You can add a touch more salt and pepper here (to taste) if desired, but be careful because the pork already is salty.

Pour the sauce over the pork and turn well so that the cubes are well coated. Let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate over night.

In the morning, pour the marinated pork (and all the sauce) into your Crock-Pot. Set on low and let cook until the pork is fork-tender. About 4 hours. Turn heat to low. In a small bowl, mix the potato starch into the remaining 1 cup (cold) water until dissolved. Pour potato starch slurry into the Crock-Pot and stir to combine. The sauce should thicken nicely. 

Serve with (homemade paleo) tortillas, salad, avocado, etc. Makes 6 servings.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Turkey Burger

This is the best Turkey Burger ever. I'm not kidding around. I'm not even bragging...

I am a huge Turkey Burger fan. When I'm feeling especially lazy and particularly hungry, I'll often walk up the hill to Cheesecake Factory and order a bun-less Turkey Burger with salad instead of fries. It's a weakness. It's my go-to snow day treat (because somehow they're open when everything else is closed). It's warm and savory and comforting. CB first introduced me to the dish and I've pretty-much eaten it with everyone I know at some point or other. My history with that burger runs deep.

But you know I don't really love eating out.

Sure I love good service and new and interesting foods. And I love grabbing a few cocktails and spending social time with friends (new and old). But I also feel a lot of the time that I could make just as good of a meal, or better, for a much lower cost, in the comfort of my cave.

With that in mind, I set out to tackle the Turkey Burger.

But I couldn't just make any old Turkey Burger. It had to be a better Turkey Burger. No matter what, it was going to cost less if I made it myself. And take about the same cook time as I normally spend waiting around in the Cheesecake Factory bar. And I would be able to avoid vegetable oil and the load of sugar (I'm positive) they put into their salad dressing to make me crave it all the time... All amazing benefits. But the taste! The comfort! The history! I had to best all of that to make making it myself worth my while (a girl's got to have her priorities).

Even after I devised the recipe, prepped my mise, and opened a cider, I was bracing myself for disappointment. Don't get me wrong. I know I'm a good cook (please see previous 103 blog posts for proof of my self-confidence). But I didn't know if I could recreate (or especially best) something that I loved so much. On the first try.

But then I did.

I've made this recipe a few times now (and most notably haven't been back to the Cheescake Factory since its invention). I even solicited a second opinion and was assured that this Turkey Burger recipe is one for the books (or the blog, as the case may be...). Please enjoy. And. You're welcome.

Turkey Burger

If you really want to get fancy, stir some garlic and parsley into a tablespoon of
homemade paleo mayo. And don't forget to dress your salad in my French Dressing.


1 lb ground turkey
1 egg
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup diced white mushroom
2 strips thick-cut bacon, cubed
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 tablespoon Herbs from Provence
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper


Place a small sauté pan over medium  heat. Add cubed bacon and cook until some of the fat starts to render. Add diced onion and mushroom, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until onion becomes translucent and mushroom as released most of its water. Add garlic. Continue cooking until everything becomes brown. Add Herbs from Provence. Stir to evenly combine. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place ground turkey in a medium bowl and combine with egg. Once the sautéed veggies are cool enough to touch, add them to the turkey and combine (I used my hands. It's easier). Roll and pat turkey mixture into evenly sized patties.

Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot add olive oil, and place turkey patties into the pan* (careful not to crowd them, you probably will need to make them in batches or use two pans). Cook thoroughly. About 4 minutes on each side. Makes 5 patties.**

*Note: This recipe probably isn't the best for the grill. The ground turkey is pretty viscous and probably would stick to the grill grates and turn into a disaster. I don't know what would happen if you tried ground turkey breast (I prefer the higher fat).

**Note: I wouldn't dream of telling you how many servings that should be. These were so amazing I wouldn't be surprised if a knife fight broke out in the kitchen over the last one (so don't say I didn't warn you!).

Monday, July 21, 2014

French Dressing

I don't know what this is. Or even this. I mean. I've tasted them before. But I'm not quite sure where they came from or how they came to be known as French. In all my time in France, I never once came across a neon-lit salad dressing (but then again maybe I was just partying with the right crowd...).

So. If you came looking for a paleo version of a creamy orange dressing that boasts ketchup as a key ingredient (and let's not even talk about the corn oil). You came to the wrong place. Sorry, I'm not sorry. But if you're looking for an amazing, mustardy, salty, tangy vinaigrette that goes great with literally everything, Welcome!

I learned this recipe from the coolest French woman I know. She tossed it over every kind of green, practically nightly. And mid-way through my year in her home, I graduated from observer to support staff in her kitchen, and often made the dressing myself. I carried the recipe home with me and used it to wow my friends and woo men on let-me-cook-for-you dates (it works every time, ladies). And now I'm sharing it with all of you (because I love you all so much).

I recommend mixing this dressing together in a small resealable glass container. It'll keep for basically ever (not that it will last that long). If you're picky you can put it in the refrigerator, just remember to take it out about an hour before you want to use it because real olive oil solidifies at cold temperatures.

You're welcome.

French Dressing

Now isn't that 1000x more appetizing than neon orange gelatinous goop?


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar (raspberry or balsamic)
2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
1 tablespoon dried chives
1 tablespoon dried parsley (optional)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon course ground sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Combine ingredients in a small bowl or salad dressing shaker. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

CaveLife: Paleo in Paris

Yes. It's possible.

Sure. Yes. I get it. Cheese is almost a religion in France. And there are bakeries and crêpe stands on every corner. But the food culture in Paris is so centered around high quality meat, fresh game, seasonal produce, and great affordable wine, that it is one of the easiest places to maintain a primal lifestyle. If you're willing to expand beyond the stereotype. 

Surprised? I wasn't. But I knew what I was getting myself into...

The fall of my senior year of high school (so waaaaay back in the old days), when my friends were spending long evenings and weekend afternoons writing essay after essay for their college applications, I was hanging out with my little sister looking for something better to do.

Don't get me wrong. I wanted to go to college eventually (spoiler alert: I did go. And go. And go. That's how I ended up a silly little scientist in a basement cubicle). Just not right then. I had great grades, took AP classes, played 2 sports, did all the community service. I was ready for those applications. But I had other plans.

I had decided the summer after my freshman year, while I was hanging out poolside between two-a-day swim practices, that it might be fun to live in Europe for a year between high school and college. Two-and-a-half years later that was still the plan (I told you I'm decisive).

So I sent a bio and a photo to an au pair agency, hoping that an awesome family would hire me. I didn't have a back-up plan. Didn't submit a single college application. I threw everything into this one idea (because that's what I do). And through the magic of the Universe and my guardian angel, I was hired by an amazing French family.

I could go on for days about all the things that I learned, and the ways that I grew, while I lived with my French family. About becoming my true self, and about courage, and about the payoff when you're willing to take big risks. I could tell hilarious stories about watching beautiful little children experience new aspects of the world for the first time. About climbing on trash cans and breaking toddlers out of locked bathrooms and teaching baby girls their first words.

And all of that is bundled up into my feelings about Paris. And my comfort when I landed. And my faith that Easter weekend with my #1 Loves from Grad School was going to be amazing. And my expectation that the trip was going to help me along the path toward reestablishing myself.

I flew over Wednesday night and landed in Paris about dawn on Thursday. Thankfully, I sleep great on planes (even in coach. I'm little... I fit.) so I had a jump start on getting my body into the right timezone.

I got off the plane at Charles De Gaulle, hustled to the RER (stopping at the ATM for Euros), and hopped onto the next train to the city. What was amazing was that even though I hadn't been near an RER train for years the smell was exactly the same - indescribable - and brought me all the way back to my first trip into Paris. And it felt like home.

My #1 Love Aurelia lives in a swanky neighborhood in the 6th Arrondissement, near the Jardin du Luxembourg. So I got off the train near Notre Dame, popped up out of the RER station and caught a glimpse of the cathedral backlit by the early morning sun. Talk about a "welcome to Paris!" Then I navigated my way to Aurelia's apartment and got my real welcome to Paris (which was really just a lot of screaming-hugging-jumping-up-and-down in the stairwell. Sorry neighbors).

Aurelia made me a delicious breakfast. Then we changed clothes and went for a brisk walk through the neighborhood and Jardin. I hadn't seen Aurelia in years and had so much to tell her (and her me). About life. About love. About work. About play. We finished our walk. Hit the showers. And then headed out in search of low-key tourism and lunch.

We climbed up to Sacré Coeur on Montmartre and toured the basilica.

One of my favorite places to visit when I lived in France.

After the tour, we climbed back down and ordered Salad Niçoise and a bottle of rosé at a nearby cafe.

Yes, we were day-drinking. It's called vacation for a reason.

Then we headed back to the home-base, changed into shorts (because the weather was beautiful) and walked over to the Jardin to do as the Parisians do (lay in the sun and nap). It was probably one of the top five naps of my life.

Ahhhh. Springtime in Paris.

That night, we dined at Le Relais de l'Entrecôte. The restaurant only serves four things. Steak in a delicious sauce. French fries. Salad. And Dessert. When you order, the waitress asks for your wine choice and preference for steak temperature. But be careful. The lady at the table next to us asked for well done, and they wouldn't serve her. You cannot insult the chef!

The salad comes immediately after you order.
This would be the perfect place to go when you're hungry, except for the looong line out the door.

Mine was medium-rare. And yes, I eat potatoes (they totally count!)
And Sally Dee if you're reading this, please forgive the fork and knife placement.
I swear it was just for the photo!

I wasn't kidding when I said there was a line.
We got there just before opening so thankfully didn't have to wait too long.

Friday morning, we slept late and Aurelia cooked a delicious breakfast of veggie hash, tomato, avocado, eggs, coffee, and juice.

Seriously. How spoiled was I?

Then we left to explore a part of Paris neither of us had seen before. In all our time in the city, we hadn't visited the French military museum at Hôtel national des Invalides or Napoleon's Tomb. So this was the day!

The museum grounds are pretty great by themselves because of the funny trees,
the moat, and also because of the cannons. I'm a sucker for copper cannons.

Napoleon's Tomb or as Aurelia called it,
"The most impressive monument to a
personality on Earth."

Then we walked back toward the 6th along the Seine where I snapped my own version of one of the quintessential Parisian pictures.

How can you not love this place? There is beauty around every corner!

We had a little café near the Louvre to perk ourselves up from all the walking. And also to prepare ourselves for the long night ahead. Our other #1 Love Kristin was flying in from Moscow late that night, and we had plans to cook a midnight dinner at home once she arrived. 

We made haste to the markets after finishing our café to collect meat, veggies, and wine for dinner. We also decided to treat ourselves to a delicious snack.

Artichoke, smoked salmon, lemon, olives, homemade olive oil garlic basil mayonaise,
and of course champaign. "Because we can!"

When we were full and mostly drunk on champaign, Aurelia told me all about her recent trip to Kenya and showed me her amazingly-beautiful pictures. I decided then that Kristin and I had to make our next major adventure a safari (of course I planned to ask her opinion, but I also knew she'd say yes)!

When Kristin arrived, we walked down to the RER station to meet her and had another screaming-hugging-jumping-up-and-down celebration on the sidewalk in the middle of the night. Then we whisked her home for a bottle of good wine and our delicious midnight dinner (we even saved her a little bit of the champaign, because we're that kind of friends).

Filet, radicchio salad, and sweet potato fries.

We laughed and joked. We caught up on girl talk. And then we passed out.

The next morning, Aurelia spoiled us again with an amazing homemade egg scramble with fresh veggies and tons of cilantro. 

Seriously. Spoiled.

And then it was time for tourism. Whereas Aurelia and I had both seen a lot of the city, this was Kristin's first time in Paris. So we organized our Saturday around making sure she saw the must-see attractions. We started at Notre Dame because it was the closest.

Happy Easter, right?

Then found a nice little place to enjoy a café and get Kristin her first-ever pain au chocolate. It smelled amazing and would have been tempting, but my café came with a homemade dark chocolate truffle (totally counts).

Ok. Maybe I ate two dark chocolate truffles. Maybe.

We walked around the city some more. I bought an amazing oil painting from the venders on the side of the Seine (that's now hanging in my living room), and a few souvenirs for the less fortunate back home. Aurelia haggled with one of the vendors until she got the perfect Air France poster for a rock-bottom price. And then we headed back to the markets to find the perfect ingredients for our Easter Sunday Brunch.

That was one of the most fun parts of this trip. The food shopping. I love the grocery store. So being able to go daily to the markets, see what looked best, pick out meat and fresh produce to eat that day (or the next) was a real pleasure. We took everything back to the apartment, changed clothes, and headed toward the Tour Eiffel by way of our dinner reservations.

Aurelia asked me when I first arrived where I thought we should take Kristin for dinner on her first trip to Paris. We kicked around a few ideas but nothing could top Aurelia's first suggestion: La Petite Chaise, the oldest and longest continuously operating restaurant in Paris. How could we not? The food was traditional French. The wine was delicious. And this time, everyone had dessert.

To start I had a bacon and egg dish in onion broth... 

... and one of Kristin's escargot.

For my main course, I had the duck breast with pear and a delicious potato casserole
(that I am totally going to recreate at some point).

And of course there was wine.

Yes. I had dessert. Yes. It was Crème brûlée. No. It's not paleo.
I couldn't resist. I didn't eat the whole thing (not even close!)
And still, it was more sugar than I had probably eaten in an entire year...

After dinner, we continued our walk to the Tour Eiffel. It was late, and the tower was twinkling on the top of every hour. There were people everywhere, and the mood was festive and bright.

I probably took 50 pictures. This is my favorite one.

We waited to see the twinkling spectacle close up and then walked across the bridge to take a midnight spin on the cutest little carousel on Earth.

You know all those dreams?
They came true!

The next day was Easter. We slept late, updated social media, and started cooking the prettiest brunch I have ever eaten. I should note, Aurelia did most of the work. Kristin and I sipped champaign, arranged the radishes, and provided the moral support.

Champaign. Juice. Melon. Radishes. Quail Eggs.
Cured meat. Heirloom tomatoes. Strawberries. And a surprise.

We picked quail eggs because a) they're delicious and b) they come pre-painted.

Our pretty Easter table. Between the three of us, we pretty-much ate all of it, too.

And for dessert we had the apple tart from the Parisian bakery. And it was amazing.
And proof that the quality of the ingredients matter: I didn't react to the wheat at all.

For Easter afternoon, we took Kristin up the Champs-Élysées

On the way we stopped to watch the lovers attaching
their locks to the railing at 
Pont de l'Archevêché.

While we were out, the girls talked me into buying a very expensive perfume by one of the oldest perfume houses in the world. To be honest, I didn't need much convincing. I kind-of loved the idea of from that moment taking on a new signature scent. A fresh start to mark the next chapter of my life. I wear it every day (and some nights) and remember not only my #1 Loves but also the feeling of that Easter afternoon, of being truly myself and truly at peace.

Then we hopped in a Taxi and headed back to Aurelia's apartment, because I had a dinner date with my amazing French family from the au pair days. They were lovely and welcoming and just as fun and loud and full of life as I remembered. The kids are grown. And the family make-up has changed. But the spirt was still alive and well. It made me miss Paris even though I was in it. And it made me regret spending so much time away from them. I vowed then to see them all again soon. 

And then that was it. The trip was over.

The next morning, Kristin and I had to catch a flight back to the states. I used the free WiFi in the United lounge to download The Little Prince in French and English. I had left my copy at home, but felt with all the tender emotions and feelings of renewal and life lessons bubbling up in me from the trip, I needed it close to me on the flight home.

On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. 
One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

I read both versions on the plane and a few other things. I slept. I drank (a little). And I started to transition myself back to real life. Even though it was short, it was one of the top five trips of my life. 

I cannot wait for our next adventure!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Green Smoothie

I have a love-hate relationship with breakfast.

I love coffee. And breakfast food (all of them). And lingering at the breakfast table reading the news or blogs or Facebook. Sipping a second cup of coffee. The smell of bacon cooking. "Dippy" eggs. Day drinking (oh, that's brunch. but still...). You get it. I love it.

But I hate waking up early enough to eat a real breakfast on a school day. Especially in the Winter when my bed is so warm and the kitchen floor is so cold. So. For years, breakfast and I only really saw each other two days a week. And that's no way to treat something you love.

When I started living the basement-cubicle-life, I rekindled my romance with breakfast when I discovered my building cafeteria. Sure, it's powdered eggs and so-so pre-frozen sausage eaten in front of my computer screen. I mean nothing to write home about. But better than eating air, which is what I had been doing... Still, let's be honest, it was a poor substitute for a lover...

So I decided I needed something better. For my health and for my sanity. But it had to be quick and portable. Something that didn't require a lot of logistics in the morning, could be prepared after only a partial cup of coffee (so no chopping!), and could be carried from bedroom to bathroom and back while I completed my morning routine. So, basically, it had to be a liquid. Which meant it had to be a smoothie.

Thankfully, I have a Ninja Kitchen System. So I knew it would be a snap to get some nutrients into my body before 10 AM without so much burden that I quit trying after the first week. And spoiler alert: it really is super easy.

I started paying closer attention to my dairy consumption a few months back, after a particularly brutal allergic reaction. And I've always been leery of too much soy. So my first objective was to hunt down an egg-based protein powder. Surprisingly, GNC didn't have anything of note. So I grabbed this one at my local Whole Foods. I bought the smallest bag, in case it tasted like dirt, and was pleasantly surprised by how well it mixed up into the smoothies.

My second objective was to ensure I got enough fat. Over the Winter I ate a lot of fruit and potato, probably in an effort to self-soothe during the cold dark months. So with the changing weather, I'm prioritizing high-quality protein and healthy fats to get my body back to being fully fat-adapted (Summertime bodies in the Summertime, and all that). The natural choice for a healthy-fat-laced liquid is coconut milk. But if you want your smoothie to mix well, you need to thin it out with water (or use a carton coconut milk - but note: the carton kind is not Whole30 approved).

Then I started looking around for fruit and vegetables to make the smoothie taste like something but preferably not salad. My first attempt had 1/2 a banana (13 g. carbohydrates for those of you counting along at home) and a huge handful of spinach. The banana masked the spinach and I was filled with vitality all week.

My second version kept the 1/2 banana and added a 1/2 cup of raspberries. They're in season now so it seemed like a good option. The taste was great! At first, I left out the spinach because red + green = grayish brown and unappetizing. But there was no taste-based reason to skip out on the nutrients, so I added it back in.

My third attempt doubled down on fat-adaptatation by removing the 1/2 banana and replacing it with 1/2 an avocado. It was super tasty, like a creamy guacamole, but almost impossible to drink through a straw. So before weeks-end, I was back to banana.

After a few weeks of watching me post pictures of "baby UFO vomit" (thanks Terry) to my Facebook account, my little sister decided to jump on the smoothie train. LittleSister is allergic to banana so she had to be more creative. To date she's had great success with frozen blueberries, diced watermelon, and spinach. And when she runs out of fresh watermelon, she replaces it with shredded coconut (do I come from a brilliant family or what!?).

And that's that.

My abs are poppin', I have tons of energy, and the flavor combinations are basically endless. So, I can pretty-well see this basic formulation carrying me through the Summer.

What are your favorite smoothie flavors?

Green Smoothie

Yes. That is an Athleta bag as background.
I'm an equal-opportunity shopper when it comes to expensive workout attire.


4 ice cubes
1 scoop egg white protein
1 huge handful spinach
1/2 cup canned coconut milk + 1/2 cup water
      OR 1 cup carton coconut milk + 2 tablespoons coconut butter (for the fat)
Fruit of your choice (to the fill line)


Combine all ingredients in your blender (I use my Nutri Ninja cups because less dishes). Enjoy.
Makes 1 serving.