Weekly Meal Plans

After battles with a notebook, pen, and my brain for months when trying to write a full weekly meal plan, I’ve figured out something a lot less complicated.  I would sit for an hour at a time trying to come up with breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the week as well as shopping lists to go accordingly in order to save money and waste less. The breakfasts usually got changed anyways, the lunches were half-assed based on work schedules, and sometimes the dinners went according to plan.  I’ve decided that an hour is a lot of time and energy to waste on something that doesn’t really get used.  Recently, we’ve come up with a weekly layout that we try and stick to for dinners only.  I usually stock up on eggs, bacon, avocados, flax/chia meal for hot cereal, yogurt&fruit , kraut, etc. for breakfasts and combine them with leftovers for lunch and put all my real effort into dinners. We now have a guideline to follow which is based on this:

Mondays: Poultry

Tuesdays: Burgers or Tacos

Wednesday: Ethnic or Exotic/Offal Meats

Thursday: Pizza/Pasta Night (recently changed from Fridays because of fish specials at work)

Fridays: Seafood

Saturday: Date Night

Sunday: Leftovers,  Comfort Foods, or Dinner with Family

This has made it SO much easier to sit down and figure out what I need for groceries.  Every other week or so, on Mondays we do a whole chicken and use the leftovers for lunches, make stock, and soup for the week.  Of course there are days I work until close and we don’t get to do dinner together and we just work around it.  I write down what I plan on having for dinners for the rest of the week usually on Sunday night and grocery shop on Monday.  I know when to pull what out of the freezer and what I can use in different meals to save from having to throw anything out.  We also enjoy vegetarian meals from time to time so the pizza and pasta night gives us a ton of room to play with either a tapioca pizza toppings or some zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash with a ton of fresh vegetables.

I hope this helps if you are a meal planner like me and if not, give it a try! I promise it will save you money and make life less hectic whether you’re just cooking for yourself or a family.

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The Ancestral Table Book Review

I’ve been following The Domestic Man’s (aka Russ Crandall) blog and Instagram for a while now and I’ve always thought he had something a lot of other food bloggers didn’t have, especially in the paleo/primal community.  Maybe it was because in a world of desserts and baked goods his posts always had something different about them, a sense of fresh thinking on old authentic dishes with real food, real meat, real vegetables. When I found out he was coming out with a cookbook, The Ancestral Table, of course it was ordered almost immediately after release.  I don’t get too incredibly excited about cookbooks nowadays.  Usually they contain a few recipes out of a hundred or so that I actually have tried and even fewer that I use on a regular basis.  There are a lot of quality books on the paleo lifestyle that are GREAT for beginners, for those who haven’t had much experience in a kitchen or how to cook your everyday cuts of meat.  With having quite of a bit of experience already, I don’t find many cookbooks useful in my household.  Maybe I’m just a jerk, it’s possible. The one thing I have been trying to do is dig into some ethnic dishes from different parts of the world and I think I’ve found my main resource.

Every recipe is different.  He takes traditional dishes from all over the world and makes them easily accessible in our own kitchens.  Only after having the book for a couple weeks, I’ve already tried out a number of dishes and LOVED EVERY SINGLE ONE.  The Ancestral Table is both for chefs with years of experience and beginners who are ready to dive into a world of pure culinary awesomeness.  

The other aspect of the book that differs from other paleo lifestyle books is his use of rice, dairy, and potatoes.  These three items have been staples in the human diet for thousands of years and today remain an inexpensive way to feed our families.  I do not use rice incredibly often, but we have it on hand for days we are low on protein and vegetables or are just straight hungry for a starch.  I think it’s great to include these in some of the recipes for those of us who can consume them without an detrimental effects to our health.  

So far, we have tried the lamb tagine, crab cakes, pizza dough, tostones, butter chicken, pesce al sale, and have used his methods for preserved lemons and mayonnaise.  We have honestly loved every one of them.  Image 

And yes, I’m holding two copies. 

I highly suggest whatever diet you follow to check out Mr. Crandall’s book.  Here you can order it on Amazon.

 Thanks to Russ for giving us all something to learn from and enjoy at our dinner tables.  I can’t wait to cook all the way through your book.

Some New Favorites

I have been a bit stricter about my eating habits as of lately and I’ve come up with some great recipes to use often that are both versatile and delicious.  I won’t be doing too much talking on here today because I have a 4 year old who is very anxious to get started on his Valentine hearts so here they are! I hope they become regulars in your household as well!

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First up is my Ham, Broccoli, and Chevre Frittata.  You can use pretty much whatever vegetable/meat combo you have going on in your fridge at the time but these two together are a classic.

You will need:

4 Eggs

coconut oil, ghee, or butter

1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 cup diced ham (I still have some left from our pig from Jim Berger, owner of Green Vista Farm)

A handful of crumbled chevre (goat cheese)

Chopped fresh rosemary and parsley (or one or the other)

Preheat oven to 350.  Melt fat of choice in a skillet and toss in your onions.  Add in your broccoli and ham and a small amount of water to help everything steam up and put the lid on. Meanwhile, whisk your eggs in a small bowl.  Once broccoli is tender, add the eggs to the skillet. Sprinkle chevre on top and cook on low for about 5 minutes until the bottom is set.  Pop in the oven for another 7-10 minutes until the eggs are cooked through.  Top with herbs and cut into 4 wedges. This serves two but if you are looking for a larger amount, just add some more eggs and extras and cook slightly longer in oven!

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Baked Collard Rolls

These are another thing you can fill with anything you’d like.  The first time I made them I used a Creole style cauliflower rice alongside crawfish and the second time I filled them with a Mediterranean cauliflower rice that was loaded with great earthy flavors. Here are the instructions on how to prepare your rolls along with the two fillings I made.

First, you need to blanch your greens.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and add in your leaves. Cook for only about two minutes and pull out of water. Lay flat on your work surface. I cut the thick part of the stems out to make them easier to roll. Meanwhile, get your filling cooking in a skillet. 

Creole Style Cauliflower Rice:

1/2 head cauliflower, grated (come on jerks, use your grater instead of a food processor. It’s like a free forearm work out)

1 small onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

3 bay leaves

3 slices bacon, chopped small

1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves

a pinch of cayenne if you like things spicy

salt and pepper

Fry the bacon up, then add the rest after some fat renders out.  Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the cauliflower becomes “al dente”.  Take out the bay leaves and fill your leaves.

If you want to go a Mediterranean route, use this filling:

1/2 head cauliflower, grated

1 Tbl butter or coconut oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

zest from one lemon

a handful of fresh parsley

And a couple pinches of the following spices:

cumin

coriander

nutmeg

salt and pepper

Melt the butter and cook the all of the ingredients as stated above.

How to roll. (Can’t help singing “they see me rollin, they hatin’..” which leads me to the Nelly song I heard earlier on the radio. Something about smoking L’s. I know what smoking J’s are, but L’s? Someone fill me in here). Anyway, fill each leaf with about 1/4 cup of “rice”. Roll like a burrito (bottom up, sides in, roll to the end).  Place on a baking sheet and put a small dab of butter on top of each.  I salted the tops of mine with my applewood smoked sea salt because it’s just so good I put it on almost everything. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes until the bottoms turn slightly browned and crispy. 

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Chocobanacado Pie

I don’t do a lot of desserts on here but I think this one is definitely worth posting. Not only does it not use ANY added sweetener or nut flours, it contains gelatin.  PLUS, you get to use up ripe bananas and avocados. We all know how often those come about in a primal kitchen.  I’m proud of myself for coming up with this all by myself. Usually for desserts I have to base them off of other people’s recipes. Nope, not this one. This one is all mine. 

For the crust:

Pulse 2 cups dried, unsweetened coconut flakes with 2 Tbl of cold butter in a blender or food processor.  Press into pie tin and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 until it’s nice and toasty.

Chocobanacado filling:

2 1/2 ripe bananas

1 ripe avocado

1/4 cup dark cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 coconut milk (canned preferably. And preferably Native Forest brand)

1 Tbl unflavored gelatin powder

cacao nibs or whatever you want to top it with 

Heat the coconut milk up gently until it simmers. Stir in the gelatin and simmer for a couple minutes, remove from heat and let cool slightly.  In a a blender or processor, blend the remaining ingredients. Add the gelatin/coconut milk mix and blend until smooth. Pour into crust and top with cacao nibs. Place in fridge for at least an hour to set. 

Now I need to go make Valentines with my main little man before my house gets destroyed by him and the 3 dogs running amok.

Be on the watch for my Wild Boar roast I’m making on Wednesday.  

Beef Tongue, Anyone?

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In the corner of my freezer sat this little guy.  For months.  I finally got up the courage to try it out.  The results were phenomenal.  Now, I know some of you are thinking I’m disgusting (tongue, really?) but think about it.  It’s just a muscle.  A very tough muscle covered in tastebuds (but you get to peel those off anyway).  I got some flack from a fiesty vegan when I posted this photo on Facebook (even deleted when I didn’t feel like debating my eating habits.. Oh no!).  My other vegan/vegetarian friends all respect what I do (or at least don’t try to argue with me) because I do it the best way next to raising and slaughtering my own animals.  This tongue was from the cow Matt’s family split up amongst everyone (thanks for giving us the tongue, future Mom and Dad!) that had been fully grass-fed on a family farm about a half hour away.  I use all the parts of animals possible.  I even saved the stock that was left in the pot after this cooked.  So angry vegans, please save your shit for someone less educated than I am.  I put a lot of time and energy into the meat I cook.  I buy and cook it with respect.  I also respect others’ diets. Ok well maybe not respect, but am more indifferent towards them unless of course they want advice.  Ok onto the tongue..

You will need a good 5-6 hours for this baby to cook.  I saw a few recipes with it cooked less and sliced for sandwiches but I decided to go more with a pulled beef sort of texture which requires a longer cooking time.  

First I rinsed the tongue off under cold water. It had been in a plastic freezer packaging and it just seemed like a good idea to do so. Then get a stock pot, some water, and whatever you usually make stock out of.  I threw in some onions, carrots, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, cloves, and some salt and pepper. I tossed in a little apple cider vinegar as well.  Bring the pot to a boil and with the lid on, simmer for about an hour or so.  Preheat your oven to 300. Remove your tongue and set on a cutting board.  At this point it will feel like a big piece of rubber.  You may be a little disheartened at this time but seriously, keep going. Now try to peel off the outer layer of skin and use a knife where it sticks.  Place the tongue in a roasting pan and add some red wine and enough of the stock that you originally simmered it in to cover.  Throw in some cloves of garlic if you wish. Roast in your oven with the lid on for another 4 hours or until the meat is shreddable.  

Mine was served with a little of the stock and fresh parsley with some roasted thyme whole carrots on the side. I know that tongue tacos are a big thing and I think it would be awesome as barbacoa. If you’re wondering how it tastes, it’s honestly just like a beef roast from a very lean meat.  Once it breaks down and gets tender, it’s delicious.  I saved the stock and had some leftover meat so I may make some type of soup or chili with it.  

Have fun and don’t be afraid of less common cuts or parts of meat.  You’ll be helping put all of the animal to good use, saving some money, and experimenting with awesome dishes!  My four year old son even liked it and asked for seconds.  And he DID see it before it was cooked! 

Homemade Coconut Milk and An Experiment in Joint Pain

I woke up this morning, like many mornings, with soreness in my shoulders and back.  Some days the pain flares up to where it feels like fire in my shoulder joint. I have severe grinding in both of my shoulders when I roll them.  I have always attributed the pain to the constant motion of my shoulders at work.  It started years ago in the kitchen when I did a lot of prep work (cutting and stirring motions all day) and have had it so bad at times I can’t lift my arms even to the straight out position.  I figured I had some type of rotator cuff or tendinitis that came and went with my activity level.  I’m too stubborn to go to the doctor for these types of things and just kind of thought it’d always be there because of my work atmosphere and I’d just have to deal.  I haven’t had any of the excruciating rotator cuff pain lately, but I have a burning inside my shoulder that comes and goes.  I also have been waking up with soreness in other joints, my hips especially.  When I woke up this morning and felt like my body had been run over by a truck, I decided it was time to experiment.  I looked back on the last few days and realized I had been eating a large amount of nuts. Two mornings worth of almond flour muffins, pecans as a snack, walnuts on my salad, and a box of some gluten free nut crackers.  I already knew nuts, nightshades, and egg whites were problematic for people with autoimmune conditions, but never thought they would be for me. After doing some research on chronic inflammatory disease, I seem to have a lot of those symptoms.  I’m not self-diagnosing but feel like it’s worth checking into.  So for the next couple weeks I’m going to avoid nuts and nightshades (which SUCKS because I love spicy stuff, chili powder, and paprika). Hopefully it’ll just be the nuts that are causing the issue.  

One item I’m determined to get more of into my diet is coconut.  For a while I consumed more coconut milk than I have been lately, but every carton or can in the stores contains additives to emulsify it. Coconut milk in the carton is made from rehydrating dried coconut.  Coconut milk in a can is thicker and made from pressing fresh coconut meat.  Coconut milk in a can is delicious and an awesome replacement for dairy and can even be whipped into cream, but often times is in a BPA lined can and contains guar gum or other additives.  Native Forest is a brand with a BPA-free lining and does contain guar gum (can be problematic for people with intestinal issues) but otherwise no other ingredients.  In this post, I’m going to teach you how to make the carton kind, adding as much or little water as you want for desired thickness.  It’s super easy and cheap.

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You’ll need:

1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut flakes (I get the organic package from the health food store, about $3-4)

3-4 cups hot, filtered water

A blender (I used my Blendtec)

Cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer

How to do it:

Soak dried coconut in hot water for about 10 minutes. Add to your blender and blend for about 2 minutes.  Strain into a mason jar from the cheesecloth leaving a little liquid in the blender.  Take your strained coconut flesh and add back to remaining liquid and blend again.  Strain once more and squeeze remaining liquid.  Let it cool without a lid on and then stick in your fridge. It won’t stay as long as the store bought kind since it’s free of all the other crap so use it within a few days. Once it cools, some of the fat might rise to the top and harden. You can either stir it back in or use it as a creamer in coffee.