Sunday, July 26, 2015

Meal Planning and... ok, mostly babbling...

So, remember how I said I was going to post every week about my meal plans?  I have a REALLY difficult time forming habits.  All it takes is one missed day and, boom, back to square one.  It's something that I've both been working on improving and also working on accepting about myself.
After the weeks I did post, we went on an awesome mini weekend trip up to northern AL for some vineyarding and foodie adventures.  I took that week off from meal planning and we just sorta winged it, eating things from the freezer and cobbling together simple meals. There is NOTHING wrong with going to simple meal route.  I sometimes realize that I take on too much when it comes to meals because I get excited and want to make ALL THE THINGS! It can be exhausting sometimes when every meal is a fair amount of work and planning and recipe reading.

I'm starting to finally get the hang of meal planning.  I'm cooking some super fun recipes I've found, but alternating with some super simple things that I can make myself.  This week, lunches will either be leftovers (I made too much food last week!) or cold cuts and fresh veggies. As to leftovers, I'm still working on portion sizing.  The boy is eating less food than he used to and I'm having difficulty scaling back.  Our freezer is already too full to add more uneaten food.  It's a work in progress, ok?

What was fun about this week was that I finally got myself back to the farmers market! We generally have lazy Saturday mornings and, by the time I remember around 1030-1130, it's too late to go.  Oops.  This week, I set an alarm and everything.  And it was great.

Unfortunately, the local growers here are pretty "conventional".  If I want to find organic/pastured/grass fed, I have to do a bit of driving (I get meat and lamb from a farm 45 minutes away and whole pastured chickens from 1.5 hours away... that doesn't happen often), so I didn't see any organically raised produce.  But, I still believe in helping local farms and the produce was CHEAP. Like a grocery bag half full of okra for $3 cheap.  I also got a dozen eggs from chickens that have access to a large open yard and are supplemented with corn feed as my usual supplier of pastured chicken eggs has been short lately.

My goal with this is to buy what's available at markets first and then meal plan around that, which should save me some money. I got a bunch of super adorable tiny delicata squash that I think will be awesome roasted for breakfast. Why winter squash were available in July, I don't know.  I was too excited to ask.  I'm gonna eat that ish.

Highlights from last week:

Made the baked chicken wings from Paleo Takeout by Russ Crandall, using my own seasonings/sauces.  It was the best method of preparing wings we've tried yet and "Wings Wednesday" is officially here to stay.

I did the ultimate (and yet so common) stupid thing of putting a spoon in the Vitamix I JUST GOT for my birthday and badly mangled the blades and scuffed up the container (but check out the spoon!).  I fessed up to Vitamix, hoping for some sort of discount on a replacement, and they appreciated my candor and are sending me a replacement for FREE! So that was a very bad, followed by a very good, day.  Be polite and honest, kids: people WILL want to help you in return!

I also made the Kalbi recipe today from the aforementioned Paleo Takeout and it was also amazing.  I may be a little obsessed with this book.

Food prep this week was short and sweet:

Hardboiled some eggs and made blueberry turkey sausage patties for breakfasts.  Our current schedule of Meatza Monday, Taco Tuesday and Wings Wednesday makes figuring out most meals really easy and, since we're eating up leftovers, there are no lunches to prep.  This is what my meal plan usually looks like to start, though it goes through endless mods before the week ends (I've already changed up breakfast and eliminated curry from the menu).

Wanna see more?  check me out on Instagram as @better_than_bread.  More food porn, less babble, I promise.

That's all, folks.  Have a great week!

Family time with my loves yesterday.  Make time to relax!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Another Week, Another Plan

I survived a week, y'all!  Actually, week 1 of my new meal planning went surprisingly well.  My fridge was full to bursting at the beginning, but by the end, I just had a few sets of leftovers that I've actually worked into this week's plan.  The prepped lunches and breakfasts made each morning move very smoothly.  Sometimes I was extra lazy at home and then packed up my breakfast to lug to the office too.
Dinner wasn't a perfect system.  I came home, we went for a swim, took a shower, then started prep and I pulled off some tasty meals.  But I still found myself wanting to plop on the couch after dinner rather than clean up the fresh mess I had made.  That part is simply going to come down to sheer willpower... and sometimes, I will be going to bed with a messy kitchen.  But hey, that's life.  

I'm pretty excited about this week's plan again, and I've had a really busy day in the kitchen getting ready for it.  First things first though, I broke in my new waffle iron with a batch of Brittany Angell's Extra Crispy Paleo Waffles, which were amazing and a fulfilling treat after being totally waffle-less for over a year.  On that note, I've decided that every weekend, I will enjoy a totally SWYPO paleo treat, such as waffles or pancakes or, heck, donuts.  Because, life is too short and I spent too much time craving and not enough time having!

Also, shout out to my new Misto!  It's advertised as a "low fat cooking" tool, but I just see it as all the convenience of Pam with none of the gross! It's basically a refillable pressurized spray bottle, which I filled with olive oil and used to keep my waffle iron happily greased. Plus, mine is purple.  Boom.

Anyway, after my amazing breakfast, I went shopping for the week's needs.  I won't try to tell you how to be paleo on a budget or any of that shenanigans because, honestly, I haven't figured it out.  Phil and I spent a lot on groceries for 2 people.  He eats a LOT, and, I guess, so do I.  for about $100, I got: 
4lbs ground beef (conventional 97%)
1lb boneless chicken thighs (step 2)
1.5lbs pork chops (conventional)
2 dozen free range eggs
a whole lotta non-organic produce
a few canned/jarred essentials like coconut milk, salsa, almond butter, olives
random needs like paper towels

Now, I'm listing the "quality" of the meats and produce I got for a reason.  Grass-fed/pastured/free-range/organic is amazing and I would love to buy it all that way, but I already spent $100 on just this, so you really have to pick and choose what is most important!

I buy low fat ground beef because the most toxins of conventional beef are found in the fat.  When I can, I get "slightly better" raised chicken breasts and thighs, and I always aim for the highest quality eggs, because those things aren't a huge price hike (think about it: if you buy 1-2 dozen eggs a week, would you rather pay $5 for battery caged chicken eggs or $10 for eggs from hopeful happy hens?). I usually get my eggs from a local farm, but the egg scare has her pretty out of stock lately.  Unfortunately, I just get regular pork because it's really all that's available around here and I refuse to give up pork entirely.

When it comes to produce, I consistently get my spinach, kale and carrots organic because they are still affordable and I don't trust my ability to properly wash greens, but I have been getting conventional everything else for now.  Baby steps, people.

I got home, stashed the goods, did some dishes and started what became 5 hours of cooking.  Oof.  You'll notice that lunch this week mentions rope vieja, which I actually made last week.  Well, I happened to have used a 3 pound chuck roast, so I have just a few leftovers... But that made this easier, because all I had to do was cook up some rice. 

While I had my rice going in the rice maker (such a handy gadget!), I roasted a spaghetti squash, prepped a meatloaf and chopped baby potatoes.  The loaf and potatoes went in around when the squash came out, then I prepped my frittata and threw that in.

Once the rice was done, I threw it in my cast iron pan with bacon grease, tomato paste and spices and cooked it up like the Cuban cauli rice in Juli Bauer's Crockpot Ropa Vieja recipe because we want more carbs for our lunches.  I steamed some green beans, shredded my spaghetti squash and grilled some chicken thighs, then finally made a batch of mayo and Sunshine Sauce.  It all sounds like it should have gone so much faster!

Still, doesn't look too shabby, does it?  My frittata ended up just being spinach and tomato, because the chorizo was in the freezer (oops).  Guest star is the bottle of local wine that fueled me through the cook-up. I didn't bother to portion out Phil's rope vieja and rice because, frankly, I was out of containers.  He eats lunch at home anyway, I think he can manage that much.

The spaghetti squash, chicken thighs and sunshine sauce are all going to be featured in Monday night's pad thai (courtesy of Mel Joulwan), which I'll pretty much just be able to throw together in a pan.  Looking forward to that!

After all that, I STILL made dinner!  Balsamic bacon brussels (from The Frugal Paleo cookbook) and grilled honey mustard SHARK steak, an interesting experience.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Motivational Hole and Meal Planning

I have a lot of passion for food.  Food is the main thing I am thinking about at all times.  Even when I am not hungry, I'm often daydreaming about what I will make and/or eat later when I am inevitably hungry again.  That passion, plus a love of cooking that developed when I began my whole foods lifestyle over two years ago, led me to begin this blog.
But unfortunately, I have discovered that the passion alone is not enough.  While I love to eat and often to cook, it is somewhat rare that I "create" or invent awesome new things to share.  So, once again, I've hit a long dry spell and abandoned this page. I really try not to look down on myself for my "failure" or for "giving up", but sometimes those feelings sneak in, that I will never be a real food blogger like some of the people I idolize and follow regularly, simply because I am too lazy and don't have enough willpower to put the work into creating.  
We all find ways to make ourselves feel small.  It's amazing the damage we can do to ourselves just by looking at our own lives versus another's.  But hey, its a work in progress.  I'm a work in progress. And that's ok.  You know what I'm gonna do?  Keep blogging.  
It feels awesome to think that someone is reading this and appreciating my words, and maybe even feeling inspired or enjoying the recipes I created.  But even if not one person glances at this, I need to write.  Even if I don't have a recipe to share, I still have words and experiences that could help someone.  And myself.  
So today, I'm going to tell you a little about what I HAVE been up to, rather than moping about what I HAVEN'T. The boy is in flight school for the army, which is why I am currently living in Alabama, and he started up classes again this week after a couple months' break.  During his break, I leaned on him a LOT for cooking and cleaning, because he had the time and I didn't have the energy or motivation (there's that word again).  His time has disintegrated to almost nothing as of today and I knew I needed to step up.  Last go around, I did ok, cooking dinners and trying to leave leftovers for lunches.  But, I felt disorganized and tired and, too often, there were either no leftovers, or Phil didn't want them, so he'd go for fast food and I'd scrounge for whatever.  So this was a slow death of a system.  
THIS TIME, I went in prepared.  I decided it was time to take on the time honored tradition of meal planning and prep. Dun dun dun.  I reached out to my awesome friends on TwoGrand (a social media food photo journaling app that is great for bonding with fellow health nuts and enjoying some good old food porn) for some suggestions on delicious prep food and went to work. This was my week one plan:

It went through a few modifications, but the idea was this: on Sunday, I'll prep a large, low carb, easy breakfast for me for the week (the boy doesn't eat breakfast and I've given up there), two lunches so we can alternate meals to reduce boredom and, each day, I'll cook dinner.  Everything is loosely or almost Whole30 friendly, because if I have good food ready to go, I'm less likely to cave to my cravings for naughty things, like the Urban Poser Dutch Baby I really wanted to make on Sunday (and frankly might make this weekend, if I'm still craving it).  Fridays are my cooking "day off" so the boy can get fast food for lunch and we'll probably go out for dinner.  Sundays will be a busy, big food prep day and then I only have to worry about making dinner, which makes life much less exhausting, when I'm not trying to make breakfast and lunch in the morning, plus dinner at night (BONUS: so much less dishes after dinner when there is nothing in the sink from the morning). 
So, yesterday was my first big food prep day.  I'm pretty damn proud of what I accomplished.  I made a batch of Mel Joulwan's Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup (which was ten times more amazing than I expected, I only wanted to use up old zucchini), and a large frittata made with a pound of homemade pork sausage (I like Gutsy By Nature's breakfast sausage), meatball marinara, 2 roasted spaghetti squash, mayo and lemonade.  Plus, I set Monday's tandoori chicken to marinating.  I didn't have to prep two lunches this time because we took a few things out of the freezer (it was too full, oops).  Still, busy day.

Suggestions to make everything easier:

Get soups and sauces that need to cook a while to bubbling ASAP, then ignore them.  

Find a baking temperature that works for all the things you are prepping.  My frittata and squash both baked at 375, so I threw them all in together.

Fridge Tetris
For marinara, it's much faster to start with a sauce you already like and add to it.  I used my favorite Classico tomato basil (DOES have sugar, so not ok for Whole30) and threw in plain tomato sauce and spices till it was doubled in quantity and extra delicious.

So what did I do?  First, I browned up my pork sausage, while sautéing the onions and chopping zucchini for soup.   Then I poured the sausage into the casserole pan to cool and started browning my meatballs (NOT very efficient, but I love pan cooked meatballs).  I got the zuke soup simmering and threw my sauce ingredients together to warm.  As I finished each batch of balls (three pounds of meatballs take a while), I threw them into the simmering sauce to finish cooking.  I topped my pork sausage with spinach and eggs and sent it into the fire, then split open and added the spaghetti squash to the oven also.  During any down time, I washed dishes.  SO MANY DISHES.
Once things finished, I started taking them out and trying to figure out how to tetris everything into my very full fridge.  This was the hardest part, but I think I did pretty darned good!

The last steps, when everything else was done, was mayo, lemonade and tandoori marinade, then I still had some serious evening chill time.  Not a bad day, huh?
Here's a tease of what I ate today:

"Tandoori" chicken with The Domestic Man's Aloo Gobi Matar

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cinnamon Carrot Soup (Paleo + AIP + Low-FODMAP + Whole30)

I eat a lot of carrots. It helps that I can get a 5lb organic bag at the store for 6 bucks. Plus, now that I am trying out being strict low-FODMAP AND low carb, my list of veggies has shrunk significantly. Carrots are a good compromise. They feel like a starchy vegetable, and are very versatile, as you may have noticed if you came to me from Instagram or TwoGrand and see carrots on my plate in some fashion many days. So, it makes sense that it was the ingredient I turned to when I was craving comfort food that met my current restrictions.

Don't forget your floor cleaner!
Browsing through some of my cookbooks, which I often do when needing inspiration (or gratuitous food porn), I saw a lot of soups made from starchy orange veggies. See where I'm going with this? 

Tada, carrot soup! I threw this together on a whim one night, knowing that cinnamon and carrots were a winning flavor combination.  Fortunately, with just a few, simple ingredients, it was easy to reproduce.  Cinnamon makes this soup extra warming and comforting, but so many flavors work with the sweetness of carrot. Try it with ginger or curry for something a little different. 

Cinnamon Carrot Soup (Paleo + AIP + Low-FODMAP + Whole30)

4 cups chopped carrots (or about 10 small-medium carrots... remember guys, I never deal in absolutes, so don't worry about this too much)
4 cups bone broth (I used beef, so if that works, anything will!)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or ghee
1tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt

Chop your carrots, don't worry about peeling them, especially if they are organic, and cover with the broth in a pot on the stove.

Bring to a boil, then walk away to watch tv and forget what you're doing until the carrots are almost mush (or, well, not really, just boil them until soft).

Using either an immersion blender if your carrots are really soft or a food processor, puree the carrots and broth until smooth.

Add olive oil, cinnamon and salt and blend well.

Adjust thickness by adding more broth if you wish a thinner soup and adjust seasonings to taste.  The cinnamon flavor will be light, but I like to leave it so and then garnish with extra cinnamon, so you still get the full flavor, without losing the vibrant orange color!

Serve hot or cold, with lots of cinnamon!

Happy eats!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Chocolate Covered Orange (Paleo + Low-FODMAP)

I'm alive, I swear!  I've been sort of subsistence living lately, due to lack of energy, motivation and passion.  I've cooked either basic/boring food, cooked recipes by other people or just plain made the fiancé cook for me while I adjusted to a new work schedule and dealt with the fact that my body was not cooperating with me.

But, I've embarked on a new journey and with it came new passion and energy!  AIP was a great stepping off point in my healing journey, but through it all, I realized that there were other things wrong with me that AIP wasn't fixing.  I've been having indigestion issues and my acne breakouts have travelled up towards my forehead (my chin and jawline are practically clear though, which means my hormones are in a MUCH better place than they've been the last few years!), and my depression has worsened, despite the fact that I spent my winter somewhere relatively warm with lots of sun.  I decided to take on a low-FODMAP plan a couple weeks ago, and then I finally matched up my symptoms, thanks to some help, to potentially simply low stomach acid.  So now I am working on reducing my carbs, increasing my acid intake, plus I will soon start supplementing with HCL.

Sounds fun, right?  Well, it gets better.  I've taken on strict low-FOPMAP paleo, plus no eggs or dairy and NOW I'm dropping my carbs.  So I have to get really creative with comfort food.  Because, I assure you, I need comfort food.

So, this was a really fun discovery.  It is NOT extremely low carb (I said working on, not perfect, ok?), but it is free from added sugars, low-FODMAP and extremely easy and delicious!  I wanted chocolate.  Badly.  But without maple syrup, honey, or any sort of sugar, how could that be?  Well, it turns out that bitter chocolate encasing something sweet taste like sweet, delicious chocolate!

Chocolate Covered Orange (Paleo + Low-FODMAP, small batch)

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 navel orange, peeled and broken into segments

Simply melt your coconut oil and mix thoroughly with the cocoa powder.  It will be thick but pourable and only mildly coconutty.  More cocoa powder will make it less coconut flavored, but thicker.  Dealer's choice!

Peel your orange and pull into segments (try not to butcher the peeling and be "forced" to eat most of the orange because it's now to ugly to show off).

Two choices here:  either add the orange segments to a bowl or plate and drizzle the chocolate over, or dip the segments in chocolate and place on a wax paper lined dish to harden.
If you store your orange in the fridge like I often do, the chocolate will harden almost immediately. If not, and you want hardened chocolate, pop it in the fridge for a few minutes to solidify.

Yes, I did butcher my orange and only got 5 pieces.  Don't judge me.  
Store in the fridge for hard chocolate (if you don't eat it all right away).

Change it up!  This would work with any tasty, sweeter fruit like bananas or strawberries.  Try it with carob powder to make it AIP!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cavemanwich Sloppy Joes (Paleo + Whole30)

I don't know about you guys, but I grew up eating Sloppy Joes made with ground beef (or ground soy "meat" once my parents went vegetarian, eiw) mixed with a can o' Manwich on white sandwich buns and loving every messy bite.  It's funny how, even after you clean up your diet and eliminate all those artificial ingredients, you can still crave that exact comforting taste.

Turns out, you can still have those delicious, childhood flavors without all the high fructose corn syrup and fillers.  What?  Real food can be just as delicious as artificially flavored, engineered-to-be-addictive, laboratory food?  Yes.  I'll prove it.

I've added back nightshades in the last few weeks and, boy, did I miss them.  There are just some things that I cannot replicate... YET.  I plan to try. Believe me.  So, for now, I present you all the comforting flavors of your childhood in all their nightshade-y glory.  Though please, cross your fingers and toes that I'll have a follow up in a week or two of these same flavors WITHOUT all their nightshade-y glory.  Yes, I want AIP Manwich.  Cus I can... I hope.

Oh, and it's Whole30 friendly.  You're welcome.


1/2 tbsp cooking fat (I used bacon grease, but anything will work)
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 lb ground beef
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2-1 cup water
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp coconut aminos
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
more salt + pepper to taste
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (ACV) - optional

Melt your cooking fat in a sauté pan over medium high heat.
Once hot/melted, add your chopped onions and cook until translucent, approximately 3 minutes.
Add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, another minute or until fragrant (mmm, garlicky goodness).
Crumble in your ground beef and cook until browned.
Add all remaining ingredients (starting with 1/2 cup water) and reduce heat to medium low and simmer until desired thickness is reached (15-30 minutes), stirring regularly.
Add more salt and any pepper to taste.
Serve over baked sweet potato, plantains, greens or even bread if you're feeling frisky.

Note: if your mix has reduced, but the flavor is still tomatoey, add additional water and continue to simmer.
Note 2: I leave the ACV as optional because, though it makes a more authentic taste, we actually like it best without.  Try it both ways or start without, taste after its cooked down for a bit, then add it and simmer some more if you feel it needs it.  Taste is so individual, isn't it?

I particularly liked it served over a baked sweet potato with a side of lemony baby kale.  Like childhood, but better.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pumpkin BBQ Sauce 2 ways (Paleo + AIP + Whole30)

Going AIP meant giving up a LOT of the sauces I am most used to: ketchup, mustard and mayo, to start, but then also tomato and barbecue sauce. Talk about rough, right?
Fortunately, pumpkin is kinda a miracle food. Once roasted and puréed, it has a texture similar to tomato sauce and it's light in flavor on its own, so it can be enhanced however you want. 
Through my Whole30, I played with a few variations of pumpkin BBQ sauce, and they were all tasty in their own right: pumpkiny and sweet and a little reminiscent of pumpkin, but I REALLY wanted something that would mimic tomato based sauce. Finally, after my Whole30, I found the missing ingredient. Molasses. It adds that depth that allows the flavor to caramelize and taste just like what I remember of sweet and tangy barbecue. 
Unfortunately, molasses isn't Whole30, but that's ok, my Whole30 modifications may not imitate tomato based BBQ, but the sauce is still a fun, pumpkiny flavor, which might be interesting and different for those of you who maybe CAN have tomatoes, but want to try new flavors!

Pumpkin BBQ Sauce (Whole30 friendly, AIP, no sugar added)

1 can pumpkin
1 cup apple juice
1/2-2/3 cup apple cider vinegar (ACV)
3 medjool dates (pitted and soaked in water for 1 hour)
2 tbsp coconut aminos
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sea salt

First, pit and soak your dates. It's simple, cut out the pits by slicing down the side and pulling them out, then place in a bowl or cup and cover with cold water.  Ignore them for an hour (or forget like me and let them sit for 2-3, it's all good).
Add your dates and 1/4 cup of the soaking water to a blender or food processor (both will work, but a food processor may not get them as smooth).  Blend into as smooth a paste as you can.
Add the date paste and all remaining ingredients to a pot, cover loosely (do not seal, you water it to be able to reduce slightly, but pumpkin bubbles and POPS like crazy, so to spare a huge mess and burned skin, definitely cover).
Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium heat to simmer for up to one hour, stirring (carefully to avoid being splattered) occasionally.  Adjust seasoning (and vinegar) as needed as you go.  This will not get very dark and will look similar to plain pumpkin puree, but it should be tangy and mildly sweet.  If it reduces too much, add water.

I recommend letting it sit overnight in the fridge before using it to allow the flavors to meld further.

Molasses Pumpkin BBQ Sauce (AIP + Paleo)

1 can pumpkin
1 cup apple juice
2/3 cup ACV
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sea salt

Simply mix all ingredients in a pot, cover loosely.
Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium heat to simmer for up to an hour, carefully stirring occasionally.
Adjust seasoning as needed and add water if it reduces more than you like.

The molasses in this version balances out the vinegar nicely, which is why I use more ACV and adds depth and color.  It reminds me so much of regular BBQ, but slightly less acidic.  My boyfriend actually likes it better than the usual stuff.
Excuse the mostly empty one.  Girl's gotta eat!

Both work wonderfully for anything calling for BBQ sauce, but my particular favorite is baked BBQ chicken thighs.  I use this recipe by Ree Drummond to go with my sauce:

Mmm, crispy, BBQy goodness