Dining Out Paleo: Cracker Barrel

Welcome to my Thursday series: Dining Out Paleo
Thursdays I post a recent dining out experience and how I chose the best possible options to stay true to a whole foods diet, opting for the freshest and most nutrient dense foods while avoiding grains, sugars, sometimes dairy, and soy to the best of my ability.  Unless informed otherwise, I always assume that the restaurant uses vegetable/canola oils for cooking.

It was after 8:00 pm.  I landed at the airport in San Antonio, gathered my luggage, picked up my rental car, and set Waze to navigate me to my hotel.  I was just starting to get hungry but still holding out from all the healthy snackies I had brought with me on the plane.  My stomach was on California time, my brain was on Texas time.  By the time I reached my hotel and got settled into my room it was well past 9:00 pm and my stomach and brain were finally on the same page.  Not much was close to where I was staying and it was far too late to seek out some of my ol' Texas dining favorites.  After a few desperate searches on Yelp, it was either the warm crunch of a Schlotzky's sandwich or the creamy comfort of Cracker Barrel.

With the thought of having to squeeze into my interview suit in just over 12 hours, I figured my best options for meat and veggies would be found at Cracker Barrel.  I figured correctly.  I scurried my way through the general store and was quickly seated among the other two families dining so close to closing time. 

I was thrilled to see a Low Carb Offerings section of the menu.  Options that wouldn't require much thought from my overtired travel-frazzled brain.  Chicken, roast beef, fish, and steaks!  Actually, now that I write this and look back over this menu, I can't imagine why I passed on all those tasty options.  I must have been seeking out one thing and one thing only...

...a bacon cheeseburger.  I have been incorporating small amounts of cheese into my diet lately, mostly in the form of feta and salads.  When I start to notice stomach disgruntlement, I immediately know it's time to cut the cheese right back out of my diet.  While I waited for my food, I played a requisite round of the peg game.

On this particular evening, I devoured the meat patty and bacon and cheese with no issue.  I also opted for a side order of green beans.  Not farm fresh, but also not a hash brown casserole. 

For a late night, last minute meal I was pretty satisfied with my option and was happy to discover that any future visits to The Barrel won't require a glutton-fest of pancakes, gravies, and hash brown casseroles, but instead I have a few better grain-free, sugar-free options awaiting me.  And maybe there will be a bite or two of hash brown casserole without any photographic evidence.

The next morning, I gladly slipped right into my suit which was surprisingly more loose than the last time I sported it for an hour of professional Q&A about my life and times as an engineer.  And now for another gratuitous suit-selfie:

The rest of my time in Texas was spent eating great food with great company and those posts will be up in the next few weeks.  And for those of you who may be asking...all two or three of my friends... this suit has proven to be pretty lucky.  Or maybe I'm just good at interviewing.  And I'll leave it at that.

Maybe some time in the not too distant future there will be a whole lotsa more Dining Out Paleo posts from deep in the heart of Texas.


Dining Out Paleo: Red House BBQ

Welcome to my Thursday series: Dining Out Paleo
Thursdays I post a recent dining out experience and how I chose the best possible options to stay true to a whole foods diet, opting for the freshest and most nutrient dense foods while avoiding grains, sugars, dairy, and soy to the best of my ability.  Unless informed otherwise, I always assume that the restaurant uses vegetable/canola oils for cooking.

This Texas girl has officially found her surrogate BBQ heaven in the little mountain town of Tehachapi, California.  Red House BBQ could easily be situated on one of the dusty back roads between my alma mater and the big city and would be just as packed, if not more, than in its current location in Kern County, California.   

Red House BBQ is located in a big red barn-like structure at the east end of downtown Tehachapi.  The menu is simple and comprised of some of the best dang BBQ that's ever melted across my tongue.  Ribs, chicken, brisket, pulled pork, and even catfish if that's your thing.  Meat plates, meat in a salad, meat in a giant Indian Fry Bread taco.  No matter how it's served, the meat at Red House is smoky and melts in my mouth just as I would expect good BBQ to do.  Side dishes are the standard BBQ house fare: side salads, spicy chili, mac & cheese, potato salad, and a very tasty crispy red coleslaw to name a few.

My most recent Red House BBQ lunch was a brisket topped salad.  A hearty portion of Red House's perfectly tender brisket, with its smoky deliciousness layered on a giant bowl of fresh salad ingredients.  Lettuce, carrots, onions, peperoncini, cucumber, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, and bacon... there was hardly any room left for the meat!  It couldn't get any more perfectly Paleo than this gargantuan bowl of meat and veggies...

The taste verdict?  Crazy amazing!  I couldn't even finish all of it, there was so much flavor and food packed into that bowl.  Each salad comes with a choice of salad dressing and regular or spicy BBQ sauce.  My sentiment is that there is enough moisture and flavor in the brisket and vegetables that the dressing is hardly necessary.  Red House has delicious BBQ sauce, but if you're completely avoiding sugars merely take a taste and then move on.

Red House BBQ is absolutely worth the drive from our house and I'd even make the trek if I was still in LA.  Good BBQ is hard to find and for now, my search is over.  Even Volt likes it here.  He's especially fond of the warning sign out by the smoker!  I can see why.


Dining Out Paleo: Tender Greens (again!)

Welcome to my Thursday series: Dining Out Paleo
Thursdays I post a recent dining out experience and how I chose the best possible options to stay true to a whole foods diet, opting for the freshest and most nutrient dense foods while avoiding grains, sugars, dairy, and soy to the best of my ability.  Unless informed otherwise, I always assume that the restaurant uses vegetable/canola oils for cooking.

Oh Westside food options, how I miss having daily access to you!  Tender Greens.  One of my favorite places to grab a quick lunch when I'm in the area and know that whatever I order is made fresh and is locally sourced. 

The Tender Greens Farm to Fork philosophy is one that makes me more than happy to support their endeavours by patronizing their business.

Photo source: Tender Greens Farm to Fork DNA
Last time I mentioned that I always order the Backyard Steak Salad.  Well, THIS time for the first time EVER, I decided to change it up and try something a little different.  I ordered the Backyard Marinated Steak as a hot plate.  I opted for the Baby Arugula Simple Salad with a peppery pile of baby arugula, fresh tomatoes, and a balsamic vinaigrette.  The roasted vegetables are always so enticing and I was lured in by a plate of roasted cauliflower.  My taste buds were not disappointed.


The highlight of my meal, however, was the Soup of the Day.  A silky smooth zucchini soup.   Hot and rich with a bright clean flavor, my only complaint is that the bowl wasn't bottomless.  I always enjoy Tender Greens' Soups of the Day.  They are a delicious highlight of fresh in-season vegetables and are often a vegetarian or vegan friendly option.  Add in a prairie raised piece of protein and it's the perfect Dining Out Paleo meal!


Dining Out Paleo: Burger Barn

Welcome to my Thursday series: Dining Out Paleo
Thursdays I post a recent dining out experience and how I chose the best possible options to stay true to a whole foods diet, opting for the freshest and most nutrient dense foods while avoiding grains, sugars, dairy, and soy to the best of my ability.  Unless informed otherwise, I always assume that the restaurant uses vegetable/canola oils for cooking.

I always love tagging alongside my hubby while he busts his hind-side working so that I can eat at new restaurants, take pictures of my food, and write about it to my loyal online readers and friends.  Last week we were in Bakersfield, California.  This week, I found myself in the bustling little town of Bishop at the north end of the Owens Valley, just outside of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Most Angelenos have made Bishop a mandatory pit stop on their way to Mammoth Mountain or Reno, Nevada.  My hubby has made it a destination for drilling holes in the ground and giving surrounding area residents access to their groundwater.

We made this particular visit a family mini-vacation and tossed the pups in the truck and headed north.  Volt was a little reluctant to give up his seat.

While Matt was out diligently getting his jeans and boots sufficiently layered in mud, Miss Ellie and Volt were partaking in the vast play area at the Bishop Dog Park.  Actually, they overheated just walking over and spent most of the time lounging in the shade.  And the pool.

When play time was over, for both the dogs and my big kid husband, it was time for lunch!  I resorted to my usual Yelp search incorporating some variation of the terms "Grass fed", "Locavore", and "Organic".  These search terms have a knack for turning out Dining Out Paleo gold.

Bishop Burger Barn was a clear winner for finding a meal made with local flavors.  Bishop Burger Barn is a few miles off of the main stretch of 395 in a quiet and secluded residential area.  It is set in what looks like another home in the neighborhood with quaint outdoor picnic tables and few covered patio sections with open seating.

Bishop Burger Barn serves dishes that are homemade from local, organically grown produce and meats.  The bacon is from nearby Bishop business Mahogany Smoked Meats.  The ice cream is also homemade and is used in their shakes and malts, without any added fake and not-good-for-you ingredients.  The owners and staff are passionate about supporting their community and running a sustainable and environmentally conscious business.  What a beautiful example of "locavore" dining!

I ordered a Double Cheeseburger and a side salad with the homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  When our food was ready, I had no idea how beautiful and well arranged it was going to be based on the rustic outdoor setting of the restaurant.   

Obviously the Paleo picture does not include bun - it is easily plucked off.  I have two dogs that love to hover by the table waiting for the bits and pieces I don't like to eat.

The salad was amazing.  Being called "side salad" hardly gives this little accompanying masterpiece any justice.  The greens mix was fresh and crisp and full of flavor.  Bright fresh strips of carrots and peppers.  The homemade vinaigrette was also incredibly flavorful and I was tempted to lick the cup once my salad was complete.  I didn't.  Neither did my furry dining companions.  I couldn't resist trying the fresh-squeezed lemonade and it was well worth the sugar shot... in fact, it wasn't too sweet at all and was a delicious mouthful of fresh lemony drink, pulp and all!  It was fantastically refreshing and I loved it.

Matt, the pups, and I enjoyed our leisurely local lunch taking in the peace, quiet, and fresh air of the valley.  I was so thrilled to discover the Bishop Burger Barn and know that what I am putting in my body is made with a lot of care and healthy local ingredients.  Next time I am passing through Bishop, I will skip right past that tourist trap bakery on the main stretch and steer my car off the beaten path and head straight for a burger and salad!


Dining Out Paleo: Moo Creamery

Welcome to my Thursday series: Dining Out Paleo
Thursdays I post a recent dining out experience and how I chose the best possible options to stay true to a whole foods diet, opting for the freshest and most nutrient dense foods while avoiding grains, sugars, dairy, and soy to the best of my ability.  Unless informed otherwise, I always assume that the restaurant uses vegetable/canola oils for cooking.

Kern County, California.  A metropolis of oil production and agriculture.  Home to a tax rate more desirable than that of LA County and one of the top ten largest cities in the state - BakersfieldMatt's company does quite a bit of work in the area and he's always traveling up there to pick up industry related parts, drop off parts, make sales calls, and even get my wedding ring cleaned at our favorite jewelery store.

Matt had a sales call a few weeks ago, meeting with a gentleman at his home surrounded by farm land and orchards.  He needed a water well.  And I needed an excuse to get out of the house, so I towed along for the ride.  When Matt was done selling the gentleman on the benefits of direct rotary drilling and assessing the area for workability, it was time to hunt down lunch.

The decision was made immediately with no discussion required.  Moo Creamery.  This unique little spot is tucked deep inside of a commercial/industrial complex and requires a bit of navigating through back streets.  All the more time for my rumbly tummy to appreciate the meal that was forthcoming.  The simple facade outside of Moo is no indication of what to expect once inside... a bustling diner/soda shop atmosphere with the tantalizing smells of burgers and ice cream permeating the air.  What I love about Moo Creamery is the menu diversity and the possibility of enjoying an upscale (Paleo, if I want) meal while my dining partner may choose to chow down on a deli sandwich and an ice cream sundae.

Moo Creamery has partnered with local farmers to source their ingredients and whenever possible, uses ingredients that are local and in-season.  Sauces, seasonings, toppings, brioche buns, ice cream, and desserts are all made from scratch.  And if you're up for a heck of a cheat meal, this is the place to do it.  Just a few of the ice cream flavors that appear on the menu board:  Guinness Stout, Bacon Love, Lemon-Ginger, and Malted Butterscotch Brownie. 

But since this particular lunch date was a day for clean-eats, I scoured the menu up and down, across all the amazing lunch options before coming to a final decision.  The menu has an assortment of salads and burgers and the cool part is that any of Moo Creamery's burgers can forgo the brioche and come out lettuce wrapped or prepared "salad style."  When they say "salad style", they don't mean a few shreds of bagged iceberg and cabbage.  The burgers are served on a legit bowl heaping with leaves of fresh romaine and greens.

I have been on an ever growing quest to increase my protein intake and I happened across the most perfect burger selection:  The 24-Hour Burger.  Sharp cheddar, bacon, caramelized onions, arugula, moo sauce and a sunny-side up egg.  Lop all of the above into a massive bowl of salad greens and I was in pure protein heaven!

The hamburger was tender and moist.  The egg was a perfect creamy consistency which was a beautiful balance against the salty crunch of the bacon.  Light fresh greens and bold burger flavors made this a perfect Paleo lunch while supporting a small local business and in turn local growers. 

Tasty salty pig parts??  Yes, please!  My kind of place!

When lunch was over, I drooled over the ice cream and sorbet options and the multitude of soda fountain ways I could have consumed each and every flavor... except maybe JalapeƱo.  Matt and I decided that we'll come back on a day when we feel like throwing all caution to the wind.  I will sport my biggest pair of Lululemons and we will order Richard's Ultimate Gravy Fries followed up with a big Bacon Sundae.  No shame in this girl's game!

I love Moo Creamery.  In fact, it's one of my favorite places to eat in all of Southern California and not just Kern County.  There is a lot of heart in the food and it clearly shows.  And the best part is I can land anywhere on the Paleo spectrum... from very very good... to total Faileo and not many restaurants offer that option.  Now I have to keep my fingers crossed that some of those local farmers need more water wells so Matt has even more reason to toss me in the truck for a mini-roadie out of the Antelope Valley.  I'm coming, Moo!  Save me some 'scream!


Look At All The Healthies I Ate... This Month!

Yeah, yeah... I've been a bad blogger lately.  Without Facebook draining my days away, I've actually been busy and even found myself on a mini-getaway to Vegas with the hubby.  It's always nice to return to the city that changed my life with the man that changed it for some R&R and some wicked awesome pool time.  Nothing says vacay like a three-story water slide through a shark tank.  Amirite?

Photo source: http://www.goldennugget.com/lasvegas/pool.asp
So in between road trips and everything else I've been wrapped up in, what did I manage to get down my gullet these past few weeks?  Here's a peek...

Plenty o' pastured eggs.  Poached.  Scrambled.  Seasoned.  Served with uncured bacon.  Served with tri-tip.  Sometimes a side of wilted spinach and garlic.  Sometimes a side of Farmhouse Culture sauerkraut.  

Uncured bacon-wrapped pasture-raised, uncured beef hot dogs.  See the theme?

Oh so many salads.  Baby spinach salad with tri-tip and salsa.  

Baby spinach salad with tri-tip and strawberries.  With extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Strawberries and balsamic = magic in my mouth.

All of the above, but with grilled chicken instead of tri-tip.  I like to change it up every now and then.

Even baby spinach salads with carrots, cucumbers, baby beets... and yes, that is feta cheese.  Because I really had a hard-core hankering and there just isn't any type of sub for feta.  Man, feta tastes good on salad.

My paleo-ish dog even got in on the action.  He has taken to harvesting his own fruit snacks from our backyard garden.  Watermelon right off the vine?  He nabbed one.

My little locavore even eats peaches that he collects straight off the tree.  That is a peach.  A good peach in his little doggy mouth.  I wish I could train him to pick the whole tree without leaving bite marks.

There were even a few dining out options where I kept it as clean as possible...  like the delicious chicken and vegetable soup from The Thai Garden in Rosamond.

A 3x2, animal-style, protein-style, add chopped chiles from In-N-Out.  Not the healthiest, but on the go I could have done a whole lot worse.  I was aiming to up my protein intake that particular day.  I think I achieved my target of 100 grams.  Thanks In-N-Out.

On the way to Vegas, I managed to gobble up the best Paleo option for fast food: Chipotle.  So good, it was even Whole30 compliant!  It was THAT clean.  No pictures because I horked it down before I grabbed my phone, but if you're curious how I order... check out my Dining Out Paleo: Chipotle post.

Want to know what else I tore through before taking any pictures?  Korean BBQ at Genwa in Los Angeles.  Here is Matt contemplating our delicious meal and the remnants of Banchan.

And my most favorite meal of the past few weeks??  Homemade Paleo meatballs, made with grass-fed ground beef served on a bed of zoodles (zucchini noodles) topped with Paleo friendly (even Whole30 friendly!) 365 Every Day pasta sauce.  These awesome little guys might just make it into next months healthy eats, too.

Rinse and repeat.  A few of these made it into the rotation more than once... twice... maybe even three or four times.  They were all so tasty good that I didn't mind one bit.  My body is feeling so much better than it did this time in April.  Hooray for the "magic" of healthy eats!


F- Off Facebook! and How I Reclaimed My Life

Yeah.  This basically summarizes my entire sentiment around Facebook.  The colossal self-esteem reducing, privacy invading, time wasting, life sucking void.  It started as a way to reconnect with friends from high school.  Then it slowly evolved into some soul draining mass that kept my right thumb constantly hovering over my iPhone in anticipation of the next stream of pointless updates about a friend of a friend's sister's cat and its Jesus-shaped litterbox-poo. 

I had been toying with the idea of closing my account for some time and it was a casual conversation over coffee that finally pushed me over the edge.  A wonderful acquaintance of mine, who used to push me even harder in my once upon a CrossFit days, mentioned she deleted her FB account when she realized she was spending too much time comparing her personal results and successes to all her friends and fellow CrossFit athletes.  And it made her feel like she was never good enough.  If you happen to be reading this, CheckaMae, you are MORE than good enough and a total butt-kicking inspiration.  I miss you, my friend!

The day following that conversation, with some reluctance, I clicked the great big DEACTIVATE button.  Not a true delete.  Just in case I change my mind and want to hurry back and catch up on all that I missed.  That was in March.  I haven't touched it since.  I haven't missed it.  I miss my friends, but the ones that count found a way to get in touch with me and me with them.  I miss seeing pictures of my friends' families.  And by "friends", I mean the real ones that I have known in person and interacted with most of my life.  But there are old ancient ways of acquiring those, like through e-mails and requests over a telephone.

So what has happened since?  My life became real again.  I became present in what was going on with ME.  I obsessed less over what everyone else was doing, experiencing, buying, eating, and complaining about.  And I put 100% focus on me, Matt, and getting my shit together.  After a terribly cathartic day and then a fat smack in the face less than 24 hours later, there came an avalanche of blessings beyond anything I could imagine. 

I submitted resume after resume after resume that one day in April.  One day.  And a progressive few as the weeks carried on.  And all of a sudden, the phone started ringing.  And resume after resume turned into interview after interview.  I couldn't believe it.  It felt like 2002 all over again.  Real life had become the antithesis of Facebook.  Things were happening to ME.  Good things.  My self-esteem was slowly climbing from just below rock bottom to somewhere a little higher.  I regained confidence in my abilities, my knowledge, and what I have actually accomplished in my short little time on this planet. 

Matt made it a point to inform me that I was a more pleasant person without Facebook.  Perhaps he was just happy I wasn't relaying every one's status updates to him anymore.  In fact, I found myself surrounded by some of the most positive real people.  Maybe they were always there, but I just never noticed because I was too immersed in a gnarly, negative, full of grouchy complaints virtual world.  And for now, all the gnarly negative grouchies have vanished and that's a really good feeling.

Matt and I have taken mini-roadies together.  Conversing about intellectual topics between Point A and Point B.  I've spent more time reading actual literature and not just two sentence status updates.  My garden is a crazy explosion of watermelons that I continuously hover over like a new mom in awe of her first born.  Except I am assuming new moms don't get so excited, they eat their babies.  Or maybe they do.  I'm not well versed in child rearing. 

There have been interviews.  And even job offers.  I've been rowing on my C2 like a mad woman and eating Paleo like I'm living in February 2012.  My "big girl" pants are loosening up in the thighs and if I keep at it, Matt's going to get front row tickets to the "gun show" in a few months.  Something along the lines of my running days... only better...

My sister-in-law gave birth to the very first grand baby/nephew of the family this past weekend.  Not super specific to MY life, but crazy amazing that Matt and I are officially an uncle and aunt and we get to meet the little man and hold him in our arms very soon.  (I promise I won't try to eat him.)  My in-laws are almost finished building their gorgeous new home.  Also not specific to MY life, per se, but I have picked out which room Matt and I plan to crash in once it's complete. 

Time with family.  Time with friends.  Getting healthy.  Getting employed.  It is mind-blowing how much I had distanced myself behind a wall of pseudo-anonymity.  Focusing on everyone else.  And not at all on me.  I still grouse.  I still complain.  I still grumble at Matt about the 115 degree heat and the falling ashes from nearby wildfires and the nowhere near excessive amount of time he spends at work.  I think nagging is just genetic.  But every day I wake up and give thanks.  I am so grateful for these past few months and the realization of how important it is to be present.  And private.  At least when I'm not blogging, or e-mailing, or on my phone, or anywhere within earshot of the NSA. 

Present and private.  I have truly gained and reclaimed so much from fully investing myself back into these states.

So f- off, Facebook.  It's not me, it's you. 


And so you know,  I DO get my social media fix through Instagram, which I am well aware is a billion dollar entity of the FB giant.  But pictures and 15 second videos of people, food, and scenery make me laugh and smile and bring me great joy.  And aren't tied to anything else.  And don't require updates.  And aren't shared with friends of friends of friends.  And most importantly, it doesn't evaporate the hours of my day which I happily spend living my life.  Which I then take pictures of and post to Instagram


Dining Out Paleo: The Apple Shed

Welcome to my Thursday series: Dining Out Paleo
Thursdays I post a recent dining out experience and how I chose the best possible options to stay true to a whole foods diet, opting for the freshest and most nutrient dense foods while avoiding grains, sugars, dairy, and soy to the best of my ability.  Unless informed otherwise, I always assume that the restaurant uses vegetable/canola oils for cooking.

Breakfast.  Probably the easiest meal for dining out Paleo.  And breakfast is just an awesome meal all in it's own right.  The smell of bacon sizzling before getting out of bed in the morning.  Families coming together.  Starting the day.  There is just something special about breakfast.

Before Matt and I ventured off to Murray Family Farms a few weeks back to collect hoards of berries in our little wagon, we fueled up on a hearty Paleo breakfast at The Apple Shed in Tehachapi, California.  The Apple Shed reminds me of a small town Cracker Barrel, only a little more cozy, a lot less commercial roadside stop, and no peg game.

I scanned through the omelets, the egg options, and the available meats.  I decided with all the walking and picking we had ahead of us, I would fuel my fire for the day with two poached eggs and tri-tip.  I just have this thing for poached eggs on top of meat products.  I believe that at some point on this journey I have replaced eating a favorite comfort from my youth:  "dunky egg with a bagel" with "dunky egg with meat product." 

I nibbled on a few of the potatoes.  Curious about the potatoes?  Read more on whether or not to make potatoes part of your diet over at Mark's Daily Apple.  And more than likely, breakfast potatoes served at restaurants are cooked in oxidizing oils which places them in a special treat/every once in awhile category and not the breakfast norm.

I also added a side bowl of fruit.  Since I didn't see any available options for something leafy green and vegetabley, fruit made for a nice side instead.  Little did I know how much MORE fruit I would be consuming later that morning.

And this is pretty much how all my breakfasts at restaurants pan out.  Eggs, meats, fruits, and vegetables whenever possible.  No toast.  No pancakes.  Occasionally potatoes if the hankering arises.  Just a "dunky egg", a tasty slab of meat, and some great company with my berry harvesting hubby!