Do you need some great ideas for your meatless Monday menu planning? Here are 52 awesome vegetarian meals – one for each week of the year!Continue reading
Do you want to get healthier? I know you’ve heard green smoothies are the way to go for getting nutrition-packed veggies into your daily diet. I’ll share my favorite shortcut with you – making homemade green superfood powder for your green smoothies!Continue reading
Kids can cook real food – but we need to teach them how. Here’s how I’m teaching my kids to cook and giving my kids an arsenal of kitchen skills that will serve them for a lifetime.Continue reading
Snacks are gonna happen. Even if they eat well at mealtimes, they’re going to get hungry in between. It’s just an inevitable part of this whole kid growth-spurt phase thing.
I make it easy on myself by planning ahead for easy-to-grab snacks.Continue reading
Love the convenience of Starbucks Bistro Boxes, but not the price or the exact foods? Make your own ahead of time. Examples, nutrition facts, and resources.Continue reading
A lot of times, I read School Lunch Tips type posts and am a little horrified… I have a much simpler way of thinking about my kids’ lunches, to make sure they get the healthy balance they need.Continue reading
These homemade Paleo Skittles are slightly chewy snacks made with tons of whole fruits and vegetables. A great healthy snack for toddlers on the go.Continue reading
Lately, my daughter has been more into Real Kitchen Stuff. Wanting to help wash, peel, and cut fruits and veggies. Stirring and pouring. Wearing her little apron. Sweeping and cleaning spills. And standing inside the refrigerator, door open, scanning for snacks. So I figured it was time for a fully-functional toddler kitchen.Continue reading
Some of you know I did a Whole30 “Paleo Challenge” during the second part of January through the middle of February. I didn’t blog about it (obviously) but I posted a bit on twitter and Instagram about it.
It was good. Seriously. I craved milk, hot chocolate, chocolate ganache, hard. At the beginning, anyway… I made mental lists of all the things I wanted to eat when it was over. And since it has ended, I’ve really been quite “bad”… but now I’m noticing how bad the bad makes me feel, way more than usual. Because I had an entire month of feeling amazing.
So I’m gearing up for another one for the month of March. I’m partly doing it again to get myself into a different mindset about it… I did it as a physical AND mental detox and “back to basics” challenge. The rule about not paleofying meals made me eat a lot less of the grain free muffin/pancake/paleo pizza “food group” and a LOT more vegetables.
I also didn’t eat any pepperoni or salami for the month, and didn’t buy any deli meats at all. They seem fine on the outside – I mean, they’re meat – but who knows what all the ingredients are, since the packages aren’t really available to pick up and read.
I’ve been reading the book Paleo Coach and realized I Really Really Really do need to “divorce myself” from foods I know aren’t doing me any favors. It’s true. I need to stop thinking of sugary cupcakes as an awesome delicious treat, and realize that the stomach cramps and itchy skin might be a sign that they aren’t really that great. There is a LONG history of happy associations with so many bad foods that it is going to take a while to completely break those associations… I know several of the primal/paleo “gurus” took years and years before they were truly divorced from the SAD. I’m still working on it. I’m completely divorced from pasta, which is a major win. I can take or leave rice. But I have trouble with bread and bready things.
Soooo… as quickly as I can, before a child wakes up and needs me (and with the dishes still waiting for me in the kitchen), I’m going to answer a few of your questions, from facebook. (Don’t follow me on facebook yet? Now’s a great time to click “like”!)
What is Whole 30? I’m going to guess eating “clean” for 30 days?
Basically. But not just like clean-ish. Super duper clean. NO grains at all. NO dairy. ZERO legumes. NO nasty vegetable oils. NO paleo-fied treats, even if the recipes follow all other rules. And you have to lose the attitude that you’re doing something hard or honorable.
I love the quote from The Whole30 Book (It Starts With Food):
It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.
Kinda gives you a “Suck it up, Ninny-pants” kick in the butt, doesn’t it?
So if one wanted to get started with this, what do you suggest doing first?
Really decide you’re going to do it, and set a date. Read up about it on www.whole9life.com so you know what you’re getting into. Read the book It Starts With Food. Start making lists of things you’d like to eat on Whole30. And maybe find some friends who want to do it with you, whether in person or online. Make sure the friends you’re doing it with are committed too, otherwise you’ll have a possible situation with “enablers” trying to derail you.
I’ve decided to sign up for the emails from whole9 this time, not because I feel like I need them, but because I’m nosy and want to know what’s in them.
Did you pay for the meal plan or just do it on your own? And what major changes from your normal diet did you make? Weight loss? Recommended after pregnancy?
I’m not sure what meal plan I would be paying for… is there one on Whole9? No, I didn’t pay for a meal plan. I planned my own VERY SIMPLE meals, which I’ll write another post about later.
Major changes from my normal diet were no paleo-fying non-paleo food, no “cheats” or “slips” (or no obvious ones), no deli meats at all, and zero dairy.
Weight loss? Yes. I LOST TEN POUNDS. Seriously. I fit into my smallest pair of pants, perfectly. Effortlessly. With 0 exercise. After returning to normal/not good eating… About 4-5 came back, which is kind of my normal water weight/ bloat amount. It’s super easy to lose but super easy to gain back too… but 5-6 gone for good, and inches from several major body parts too.
Did you cheat any? Did you have cravings? Have you continued eating whole30 style after the 30 days?
I did cheat. My husband and his squadron planned a dinner for us wives to celebrate the halfway point of their deployment. I knew ahead of time when it was happening, but the details were a secret. I knew it wouldn’t be a paleo night though… and thought about waiting until after that dinner to start, but though that kind of wasn’t the point, and that it would be better to start ASAP even if I knew that dinner was coming. The REAL Whole30 response would have been to refrain from any non-paleo foods and drinks because “you’re a grown up” and you can say no. But I wanted to relax with the other pilots’ spouses and celebrate, and damn it, if my husband planned a dinner for me LITERALLY from the other side of the earth, I was going to enjoy it.
So I did. I had a few drinks (I’m NOT a big drinker, and I think my few drinks was literally more than I’ve had in over a year combined), enjoyed a couple of truffles, and ate some non-paleo food (a semi-set menu, with no real paleo options), including bread pudding for dessert, and then had a stomach ache (But no hangover. I’m still proud of never having one ever.) to remind me that it was a bad plan.
I had “regular” mayonnaise twice, but also made my own. I had wheat-free tamari a couple of times, which is a soy product so not whole30 approved, but I plan to buy some coconut aminos this go round. The sausage I buy has some sugar in it (actual sugar, not corn syrup). I can make my own, but with all of the veggie prep, this was one corner I was okay with cutting, and it isn’t like I was eating sausage 3 times a week. I think I also had 2 single-serving packages of salt and vinegar almonds (they’re GOOD) which have “bad oil” in them. I think that’s all.
Cravings – ganache, (grain free) cookie dough, french fries, anything fried, chocolate milk, milk, hot chocolate, sour cream. But they were manageable after the first couple of days, and I just added them to my list of “things I want to eat when this is over.” For the record, I haven’t had any milk, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, or sour cream. I have had french fries, grain free cookie dough, and ganache. haha.
(So no, I haven’t continued whole 30 eating after the end, which I kind of think shows me I need a huge overhaul of my relationship with food.)
How strict were you? Honey? Paleo baked goods? Why are you doing another one so soon?
Super strict, but with the “mistakes” in the last Q/A still (which I knew I was doing as I did them, and my Big Girl Panties told me I could). Zero honey, sugar, or sweeteners. Zero paleo baked goods. I didn’t even make paleo pancakes for my kids.
I’m doing another one so soon so that I can re-detox, and view it as more of a long-term change than “I can eat ganache when this is over!!!” I’m working on the divorce (mentioned above. From crap food, not from my awesome husband). I know it’s going to take more than another month to finalize the divorce, but every month/day/meal of “perfect” food is a step in the right direction.
Did you have a toxin unload? If so, did it affect your nurslings?
I’m not really sure what this means… “Toxin unload” that might be harmful to my kids makes me think of tar oozing out of my pores, while I off-gas noxious fumes, and poop “colon cleanse” type stuff into the toilet.
I had a couple of pimples pop up the first few days (I normally have clear skin), and after that, nothing. My nurslings were eating the same foods as me, and none of us oozed black tar, and we all pooped pretty darned well. The only fumes I off-gassed were those of garlic, because I kind of love roasted garlic, and some days I ate a lot of it.
What did you make for breakfast besides eggs? What were things you made for dinner? Were you able to eat a lot of variety? Did you spend a ton of time in the kitchen?
I’m actually planning a whole post on what I ate, and another on preparation in the kitchen. And about variety? I chose to keep things simple and pretty repetitive, because simplicity meant success. It worked out really well but I might infuse a little more variety into it this time, especially trying some spice mixes and recipes from Practical Paleo, my #1 favorite paleo book on the market right now.
Even with the simple, repetitive menu, I always looked forward to my paleo meals because every one of them rocked my socks.
Zuppa Toscana Crockpot Recipe
While in one of my pinning frenzies, I came across this recipe for (Olive Garden copycat) Zuppa Toscana in a crock pot. It looked darned good to me, and also like something that I could double without much effort, AND freeze successfully. I wasn’t 100% sure about freezing it because of the potatoes (which sometimes freeze weirdly) and cream, so I had to test it out before I could recommend it.
I made some changes to the recipe, enjoyed a bowl of soup that night (my toddler loved it and asked for several bowls, and my baby boy slurped down several of the potatoes, quite a bit of sausage, and some kale), and then froze the rest. I ended up with 3 quarts in the freezer – 2 in freezer jars, and one in a freezer bag (lay flat to freeze, then you can move it wherever it fits best in your freezer). I don’t see the exact jars I used but they’re similar to these.
I also froze a bowl of soup in my small freezer, just overnight, to try the next day and see if the potatoes and cream got weird or not.
And the next day? Success! The texture of the potatoes was a little bit different, but not off-putting, and the flavor was good. Everything was as delicious as the first night, and I was excited to have 3 more quarts of this soup in my deep freezer for later.
Tuscan sausage, kale, potato soup. Easy to make in the crockpot now, and freeze for later.
- 2 lbs pork sausage
- 3 russet potatoes cubed
- 3 onions diced
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1/2 gallon chicken stock 2 quarts
- 4 cups or more of kale ripped up (stems/ribs discarded)
- 1 cup heavy cream
Brown sausage in a pan, then add to crock pot.
Add the potatoes, onions, garlic, and chicken stock.
Cook on high 4 hours or until potatoes are cooked through.
Turn off the crock pot and add kale. Cover and cook 5 more minutes.
Stir in cream.
Serve or freeze.
Chicken pot pie is one of those foods I’ve always loved. It’s warm and creamy, there’s just the right amount of chicken, lots of vegetables, and a perfect crust to include a bit of in every bite, like a biscuity condiment.
But I haven’t made it in ages, because my “go-to” recipe involved canned “Cream of” soups, and bisquick-mix biscuit lumps on top.
So when my friend Katie posted pictures of her chicken pot pie preparation and my stomach started to growl, I knew I had to do something! I NEEDED to find a recipe that would work. And not *just* work… but be delicious and nostalgic while also being wholesome and healthy.
I had a bunch of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts that needed to be used, so I threw them into the crock pot one morning, knowing that by the evening, they’d be cooked.
The meat was juicy and easy to pull off the bones, and after the kids’ bedtime, I removed the chicken, then tossed the bones and skin back into the crock pot with a splash of apple cider vinegar, to make stock overnight. And in the morning, all I had to do was strain out the bones and such… look at that gorgeous stock!
The vegetables were a mixture of things I had on hand and things I bought specifically for my pot pies, but you can really use whatever you want.
I heated about 1/4 cup of expeller-pressed coconut oil (the one that doesn’t have coconut flavor, so I use it for savory stuff), then threw in 2 diced onions. When they started to get translucent, I threw in 7 sliced carrots, 5 sliced celery stalks, and 10 cloves of garlic, minced. I really wanted pearl onions too, but the commissary didn’t have any and I didn’t want to wait until I went into town to look at other stores. So…next time.
While those were cooking, I diced 3 zucchinis. I threw them into the pan with 2 cups of peas (though I might use more next time because I LOVE peas in chicken pot pie) and a 10 ounce bag of mushrooms. Once everything was in the pan, I added a cup of chicken stock.
I let the vegetables cook for a while longer, so the stock could reduce a bit, and meanwhile, I cut up my chicken. It ended up being about 6 or 7 cups of chicken. Any chicken will work…breasts, thighs, the whole bird, whatever.
Then I dumped in the veggies and stirred it all together.
Once that was done, I started the gravy. In my search for awesome pot pie, I found this recipe by the Urban Poser, which featured a cashew gravy. It sounded amazing. Like… amazing. And while that recipe calls for raw soaked cashews, I didn’t have any and neither did the commissary.
So I searched around for similar recipes, and found that other recipes didn’t specify raw, but they would boil them for a few minutes before blending. This, my friends, is called winning.
I used the same pan I had used for the vegetables, to simplify the dishwashing, and the gravy came together very quickly. Just sautee an onion and some garlic in coconut oil, then add 5 cups of broth, 2 cups of cashews, and boil.
After it boils for a couple of minutes, blend it (I used my immersion blender right in the pan), and add pepper to taste.
Mix the gravy into the chicken and veggies, and you have your pot pie filling!
There are much “greener” ways to do this… but I’ve decided to use the foil disposable loaf pans for my freezer casseroles. They go from freezer to oven with no problems, and they’re just the right size for dinner for Anneliese and myself (then lunch for myself the next day), with the added bonus of not having to wash pans or casserole dishes afterward.
I was left with a slight dilemma about what to do for crust. Most of the paleo pot-pie recipes I had found while googling had some sort of almond flour-egg crust. Some used coconut flour, but I knew I didn’t want that flavor or texture here. I just worried that the almond flour crusts would be too dense.
When it comes to pot pie crusts, give me flaky or give me…biscuits.
And flaky is hard to come by in the grain-free world (gluten-free is easy. grain-free not so much). So I thought maybe I could lighten up the almond flour crusts with some arrowroot powder… but wondered if someone had done it before. So I googled for an arrowroot-almond-flour biscuit recipe. Real Sustenance delivered! I doubled the recipe (using butter of course, not earth balance), and used my cookie scoop to make lumps on top of the pot pies.
Just a little pat with my fingertips to flatten them, and they were ready to freeze or bake!
I put five into the freezer… just press some aluminum foil down onto the surface of the biscuit dough, so that there isn’t much air inside, then crimp the edge all around. Don’t forget to label the side with a permanent marker so you’ll know what it is in the freezer.
The other one? I baked at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. The biscuits cooked perfectly, and the pot pie was a success. Anneliese loved it too, and she is not usually big on casserole-type foods. So this recipe is a win all around, and definitely one I’ll be repeating once my freezer stash is gone!
It was a lot of preparation at once, but I kept reminding myself that I would have many delicious warm creamy nostalgic comfort-food dinners “ready to go” afterward. Definitely worth it.
- 1/4 cup expeller-pressed coconut oil
- 2 onions diced
- 7 carrots sliced
- 5 celery stalks sliced
- 10 cloves garlic minced
- 3 zucchinis peeled and diced
- 2 cups frozen peas
- 10 ounces mushrooms
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 6-7 cups cooked chicken cubed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup expeller-pressed coconut oil
- 10 cloves garlic minced
- 1 onion diced
- 5 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups cashews
- Pepper to taste
- 4 cups almond meal
- 1 cup arrowroot
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup butter
- 4 eggs
- 1.5 tsp white vinegar
Heat coconut oil in a deep pan.
Add onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until onions are translucent.
Add garlic, zucchini, peas, and mushrooms.
When carrots are starting to get softer and mushrooms are mostly cooked, add broth, salt and pepper.
Simmer until most of the broth evaporates.
Mix with chicken.
Heat the coconut oil in the same pan you used for the vegetables.
Add onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent.
Add chicken stock and cashews.
Boil about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender.
Pepper to taste.
Combine Gravy with the filling.
Divide mixture into baking dishes, or foil pans for freezing.
Mix almond meal, arrowroot, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
Cut in butter until everything is crumbly, almost like damp sand.
In a separate bowl, mix eggs with the vinegar.
Add eggs to the almond mixture, and lightly combine until a dough forms.
Drop biscuit dough over the top of the pot pies, and flatten slightly with fingertips.
Freeze the pot pies at this point, or bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes (They'll need more time if you made yours bigger/deeper than mine.)
If frozen, bake at 375 for 30 minutes, covered, then 20 minutes, uncovered.
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