A Little More Tweaking

I mentioned last week that we would be attempting to have a menu made up for our meals all week–breakfast, lunch and supper. I made up a whole menu, pulled all the recipes (mostly from the cookbook Against All Grain) and did the grocery shopping. We did pretty well! Honestly, we did better than I thought we would–I know, what confidence! We have gotten in the habit of going out WAY too much. I mean, really, it’s such a bad habit, and it’s one we’re trying to break. We did MUCH better with eating out. I think most of our meals were a hit, at least with David and I, and I was encouraged to keep it up for this week too!

I noticed a few things last week with having this menu. A) I had to really be on the ball with thinking ahead to make sure meat was thawed, and dishes were done in plenty of time. B) I found I was in the kitchen even more than I usually am. C) I found it very overwhelming trying so many new recipes! This week, I’ve added a couple new recipes but am doing things I’ve done many times before. I think David might be a little relieved too, because I’m guessing (though he would never say, or complain) he was getting tired of something new and different every single meal!

I think once we do this for a good month I’ll get into a better rhythm, and it won’t feel like I’m in the kitchen all the time. I would highly encourage you making up a weekly menu. If doing a whole week of 3 meals is too overwhelming, just start with the meal you have the most trouble getting on the table. I would say for most of us that is supper. I always find it easier when I have a plan. When you get in a good routine with that 1 meal a day add another one, and so on. I do believe it helped our grocery bill, and it certainly helped our eating out “budget.” It’s always cheaper to eat at home, and with small kids, way less stressful! My goal is to do 2 wks of menu, then 3 and eventually 4 weeks/a whole month.

What’s something new you’re doing to help your household run more smoothly?

Homemade Sausage Patties

Since changing the way we eat we have increased our consumption of bacon and sausage. And, yes, we’re losing weight! Not gaining it! Anyway, have you ever read the ingredients on pre-made sausage patties in the grocery store? Unless you’re going to pay an arm and leg at a store like Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s, you’re going to have a hard time finding sausage that doesn’t have ingredients in it that is NOT meat and seasonings. I was so excited to find this recipe for homemade sausage! And, let me tell you, IT IS SO GOOD!!!! I’m not a huge sausage fan. I eat it, but it’s not something I crave, or anything. However, this stuff? SO GOOD! So much flavor! I had to share the recipe with you! On a side note, the one thing I will change next time is not adding as much onion to the mix. Other than that–YUM! I have linked the title to the blog I got the recipe from! I added my own notes in italics.

Make Ahead Homemade Sausage Patties:

2 lbs. ground pork, at room temperature

1.25 lbs. ground turkey, at room temperature

1/4 c pureed, or finely chopped, onion (puree in food processor)

2 tsp. finely minced fresh parsley, or dried if you don’t have fresh

2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. ground sage

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

2 tsp. pure maple syrup, optional (I left this out)

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, optional (I left this out)

1. Combine all the seasonings and mix until well blended.

 

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2. Add in ground meat, syrup and onion, using your hands to combine thoroughly. If cooking right away, shape into patties and cook over med-high heat on heavy skillet or griddle sprayed lightly with oil (I encourage you to lightly grease your skillet/griddle). Cook until nice and brown and no longer pink in the middle, a few minutes on each side.

 

 

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3. To shape patties you can either use your hands (which is what I did) or…take some meat and place between 2 layers of plastic wrap. With a  rolling pin roll out meat to desired thickness. Remove top layer of plastic wrap. Take a round cookie cutter, or top of a drinking glass, and press down to cut out nice, round sausage patties. Transfer to hot griddle, or baking sheet to be frozen. To save room in freezer, put parchment paper down, fill with patties, layer with another sheet of parchment, patties, etc. until all meat is made into patties. I was able to get 3 doz patties made.

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4. Oh! And make sure you have a REALLY cute assistant! This is the most important part of the whole process!

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, it’s been over 2 years since I’ve had a chocolate chip cookie. I’m not a huge cookie person, but I do enjoy chocolate chip, probably because of the chocolate! In my attempts to find good recipes to use that I can eat (meaning no grain in them and little to no dairy) I came across this recipe. It’s from a lady, Danielle Walker, who has a blog called “Against All Grain.” I have tried a few of her recipes and they have all been really good! These cookies are no exception! I will say this: the flavor is great! You can really taste the chocolate! The texture is a bit different. They are more spongy. However, don’t let that keep you from trying out the recipe. They are worth it. And, as I’m learning with grain-free recipes, the quantity is small–you only get about 12 cookies. I suppose if you made them really small you’d get more but that wouldn’t be much fun, huh? Here’s the recipe! The title is a link to the original.

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Real-Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies 

1/4 cup palm shortening or grass-fed butter (I used butter)

1/4 cup coconut palm sugar (I used regular ol’ sugar)

2 Tbsp. honey

1 large egg, room temperature

2 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour

2 Tbsp coconut flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces

1/4 cup enjoy life chocolate chips (I used 1/2 a cup of semi sweet chips)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a food processor, cream the palm shortening, coconut sugar, honey, egg and vanilla for about 15 seconds until smooth and fluffy.

3. Add the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda and sea salt, and mix again until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed in order to incorporate all of the flour. Pulse once or twice more.

4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.

5. Place golf-ball sized balls of dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a SilPat. (this is very important as they WILL stick otherwise! I used parchment paper.) Using another sheet of parchment on top of the dough, flatten them slightly with the palm of your hand or a spatula. The cookies don’t spread much so create the size and thickness you want prior to baking them.

6. Bake for 9-12 minutes, until slightly golden around the edges.

 

2 Years and Still Pressing On

While on vacation we hit the 2 year mark of us changing the way we eat, the way we look at food, the way we grocery shop, and the way we pretty much do life. It’s been quite a crazy 2 years. We’ve learned so much about ourselves, about our weaknesses, and what foods are most difficult to give up (dairy and chocolate!). We’ve learned how cheating just isn’t worth it and sticking to a mostly paleo diet is simply what works best for our family. We feel healthiest and best when we eat meat, fruits and veggies and keep the other stuff (starches–potatoes, bread, grains of any kind–sweets, pop) to a minimum, or in my case not at all on the grains. I did a long post last year about all the changes we had made in our first year. You can look at that list here. We have continued with these changes and have added a few others.

One of the biggest things we’ve started doing is seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis. I wrote about that here. I know it’s helping to keep us healthy, and I’m looking forward to seeing how much healthier our winter will be. For Cora, who always gets sinus infections during the fall/winter, she’s been getting sinus massages the past few times we’ve gone. We see the effects (eyes and nose running) of the massage as it’s happening. This is helping to keep her sinuses clear, and the thought is this will prevent infections. She’s already had 1 sinus infection (before we started doing the massages), and I’m praying it’ll be the only one. 

I have been doing a lot more baking using almond meal, coconut flour and garbanzo bean flour. So far the things I’ve made have been good and are things David says he doesn’t mind eating! One thing I probably make the most often are biscuits. We all like them and though they’re made with almond meal and not wheat flour David says they remind him most of the biscuits his grandmother used to make. I have lots more recipes to try, but so far I’m having fun learning to bake differently and learning the different qualities of the different meals/flours. 

Something we have discovered is we are a family who is trying to become as natural and chemical-free as possible. This means I am cleaning exclusively with a tea tree oil/water mixture, baking soda and vinegar. I clean our fruits/veggies in vinegar and water and make our laundry detergent. We don’t burn scented candles or use air fresheners of any kind. This has helped our allergies and the biggest improvement is David’s asthma, which is pretty much non-existant now! I am beginning the long process of researching the things to avoid in hair care products and make up. Changing these things in our home is the next big thing I need to do. We’ve come so far in our attempts to live a healthier life, and this is one area that has seemed very overwhelming to me. However, I (we) believe it’s the next step. We have the food pretty much figured out, and the cleaning products. Now, we need to finish with our own personal care products. 

We are also going to be adding regular exercise to our routine. Now that I’m entering my 3rd year of the best health I’ve ever been in there is no excuse to NOT exercise! I hate to do it, but I know it needs to be done. 

What have we learned thus far? Change is hard. Change takes time. Change can often be a daily struggle. Change is good. There are a lot of benefits to change despite the difficulty in it. And, most change is absolutely worth it! What is 1 thing you can change in your daily life TODAY to put yourself on the road to better health? I encourage you to do it! If you make just 1 change a week, or month, you’ll be further ahead than the person not making any changes at all. 

Smells of Fall

I would be lying if I said summer wasn’t my most favorite season of the whole year. I love it! I like to be hot (hate being cold!), and I like all the activities of summer–being outside, swimming, getting ice cream (OK, in all reality I get ice cream even with feet of snow on the ground!), etc! However, we are currently in the season of fall. I would say I enjoy fall (and also dread it because that means winter is on the way…). I love the beauty of the trees changing colors (and haven’t the colors been stunning this year?!), the smell of leaves burning, the ability to drink hot chocolate without sweating, and a new wardrobe! One of the things I also love about fall is all of the smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin, etc. Those smells just go with this time of year, dontcha think?

As I’m writing this blog post, our home currently smells heavenly! I try to make applesauce every year in the fall (last year I did not as I was puking my guts out being pregnant with Rebekah!). I have not had great success with apple peelers, and so it takes me forever to peel all those apples! This year I decided I was not going to peel them, and I was going to chop the apples as I often see it being done on cooking shows–basically getting the core out with four cuts around the middle, making the core a square. I then cut the quarters into smaller chunks. It went really well, and my dutch oven filled up in no time (8 lbs of apples!!!). I added about 3/4 cup of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg! YUM!!!!!! It smells so good. I’m just letting it sit on the stove top and do it’s thing. It’s bubbling along happily and every now and then I stir it, and then I mash it down with my potato masher. Yes, I like my applesauce chunky so I’m not going to be sending it through a sieve or anything like that! I can’t wait to eat it! I also love it best when it’s still warm. What’s your favorite smell(s) of fall? What’s your favorite thing to make this time of year?

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Paleo Chocolate Cheesecake

I like cheesecake, but have realized that every “normal” recipe contains wheat flour. And then, there’s the crust, which is made with Graham crackers–wheat again! We had a couple from church over last week to share dessert with us, and David requested cheesecake. I decided I was going to find a recipe of cheesecake  I could eat too. And, I did! I found it here and was so excited!!!!! The cheesecake was DELICIOUS!!!! Honestly, you could NOT tell it was paleo, not made with Graham crackers, and the taste and texture were just like any other cheesecake you would eat. It was so good! I have to share it with you because, well, it just wouldn’t be right NOT to! I hope you make this, it truly is a great cake, even if you CAN eat wheat/gluten. Enjoy! We sure did!

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PALEO CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE

Cheesecake base:

1 1/2 cups almond meal

1/4 cup butter (or chilled ghee or coconut oil)–I used butter at room temp

1 Tbsp cocoa powder

1 Tbsp coconut crystals (I used plain white sugar)

Dash of salt

Cheesecake filling:

6 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped small

24 oz cream cheese

1 cup coconut crystals (again, I just used sugar)

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

7 oz container of Greek style yogurt, plain

1/2 tsp cocoa, dissolved in 1 Tbsp hot water

1 tsp vanilla extract

Sauce: (I didn’t make the sauce, I made a raspberry sauce instead)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. To make the base, in a food processor combine the almond meal, butter, cocoa and coconut crystals until it makes damp, clumping crumbs; tip them into the 9″ springform pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan to make an even base and put into the freezer while you make the filling. Put a kettle on to boil.

3. Melt 6 oz of the unsweetened chocolate either in a microwave or double boiler, and set aside to cool slightly.

4. Beat the cream cheese to soften it, then add the coconut crystals, beating again to combine. Beat in the whole eggs, then the yolks, Greek yogurt, cocoa dissolved in hot water, vanilla an melted chocolate; mix to a smooth batter.

5. Take the springform pan out of the freezer and line the outside with a good layer of plastic wrap, then another layer of strong aluminum foil over that (note: I was nervous about the plastic wrap, but it was totally fine!). This will protect the cheesecake from the water bath. Pour the cheesecake filling into the pan.

6. Fill a roasting pan (I used a cookie sheet with 1 in sides) with just boiled water to come about 1/2 way up the cake pan. This will keep the oven moist and prevent the cheesecake from cracking.

7. Bake in the oven for 45 min to 1 hour. The top of the cheesecake should be set, but the underneath should still have a wobble to it. Peel away the foil and plastic wrapping and sit the cheesecake, in its pan, on a rack to cool. Put in the refrigerator once it is no longer hot, and leave to set, covered with plastic overnight. Let it lose its chill before unspringing the cheesecake to serve.

Move-Over-Shepherd’s-Pie Casserole

I have been pinning many recipes on Pinterest of foods I can eat. That means food that is GRAIN free, SOY free and DAIRY free. Not only is this how I have to eat, but we’re learning more and more that it’s the best way for us as a family to eat–we all do so much better without grain, soy and dairy. Anyway, I finally got around to printing off some of the recipes to start trying them. As we try them I’ll be adding the ones we like to my blog so you can have some healthy alternatives to your weekly dinner menu!

Shepherd’s pie is something I have always enjoyed. However, it’s usually made with cheese, and potatoes aren’t the healthiest thing to eat as it’s more starch than vegetable. I was excited to see this recipe. I made it last week, and David and I really enjoyed it. Cora said she liked it and then refused to eat it, so who knows? And, Ben isn’t eating anything but fruit these days so I wouldn’t trust his opinion! But, here’s what David said about it, “I was very suspicious when I saw the Brussel sprouts and cauliflower, but I have to say this is delicious, and you should definitely make it again.” YEAH! Below is the recipe and in the parentheses is what I did differently!

Move-Over-Shepherd’s-Pie Casserole

Bottom Layer:

1 small onion, chopped

227 g mushrooms, sliced (didn’t have them so didn’t use them. Though we were sad not to have had them!)

454 g (1 lb???) ground beef

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp anchovy paste (did not use)

1/4 tsp salt (I used Kosher)

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp ground coriander (didn’t use as I didn’t have any)

1/8 tsp ground clove

1/8 tsp cinnamon

few grinds freshly grated nutmeg (I just did a couple shakes of ground nutmeg)

1/4 c water

Middle Layer (I simply mixed this with the above layer):

400 g turnip, cut into 1/2′ pieces (didn’t find turnips so used carrots)

400 g Brussel sprouts, quartered

1/4 c sliced almonds, toasted (didn’t use as I burned them while toasting…)

Top Layer:

1 large head cauliflower

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

few grinds nutmeg

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard (didn’t have so used spicy mustard)

toasted almonds and fresh parsley to garnish

Instructions:

1. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. When pan is hot enough, melt a little bit of coconut oil then add the mushrooms and cook them until they get all nice and golden brown on both sides. Add onion and cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. (I also cooked the carrot at this point, and add yellow squash too.)

2. Add ground beef and continue cooking until the beef is no longer pink.

3. Meanwhile, combine tomato paste, mustard, anchovy paste, salt, pepper, coriander, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and water in a small mixing bowl. Stir until well blended and pour over cooked ground beef. Continue cooking for a few minutes until liquid has completely evaporated.

4. Transfer to an oven safe dish (or several individual ones) and set aside.

5. Cut the cauliflower into small florets and throw it into a saucepan with about a cup of salted water. Place a steaming basket over that saucepan an dadd the turnip and Brussel sprouts to it. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt, cover and steam until all the veggies are fork tender, about 5 minutes. If you don’t have a steam basket, you can cook the veggies in 2 separate pots (or in microwave, as I did!).

6. Dry roast the almonds in a small skillet set over medium heat (watch closely so as not to burn, like I did!!!).

7. When veggies are cooked, add turnip and Brussel sprouts on top of the reserved meat. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and set aside once again.

8. Add cauliflower, olive oil, salt, pepper, nutmeg and Dijon mustard to the bowl of your food processor and process until smooth. You might have to scrape the sides and push the cauliflower down a few times to get all the pieces in.

9. Spread puree over the casserole.

10. Drizzle with a tiny little bit of olive oil and place under the broiler for a few minutes until a beautiful golden crust forms. (I don’t have a broiler so I baked this at 450 degrees F for about 15-20 min. Still got browned on top.)

11. Garnish with almonds and parsley before serving.