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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A New View of Convenience

We all like to throw something together fast for breakfast/lunch/supper, don’t we? The internet is full of blogs, websites, etc that tote having the fastest and best meals for you and your family. You’re just a click away from putting together something quick and easy. Unfortunately, those quick and easy meals usually involve opening a can or box of some kind and then ingesting a lot of salt, sugar and other ingredients you can’t even pronounce. They usually mean putting a bunch of unhealthy (in my opinion) ingredients together to make that easy meal.

As our family has been on our journey of health and wellness this has meant changing how we eat (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this a time or 2!). We do our best to eat as Paleo as possible–eating mostly fruit, veggies and meat. My husband is able to tolerate dairy so he still eats cheese and drinks milk, although his consumption of those things has gone down considerably. After the insanity of the holidays and eating way too much junk and sugar, David and I are motivated to get back to being more strict with our diet. And I don’t mean diet as in the eating-cabbage-only diet, or only eating lettuce and celery. I mean, diet, as in what we put in our mouth on a daily basis. The way we eat to be healthy, not to loose a bunch of weight all of a sudden. We are all on a diet, some are on a Hostess cupcake diet, others are not! Anyway, I digress! We have noticed, once again, that when our children eat too much grain their behavior worsens. David has noticed the same in himself. We’ve noticed that when we ALL eat too much sugar we are all more irritable, crabby, tired, etc. And so, with that in mind we are hoping to make some more changes in our eating, or get back to what we were doing initially over 2 years ago!

I will be setting up a weekly menu of what we’ll eat breakfast, lunch and supper. My husband has been suggesting I do this for YEARS, and I have ignored him. However, he’s right. (And yes, he knows I said he’s right, and he’s danced his jig of glee over it!) We’ve always found it helpful when I have our suppers listed out for the week, so why not for breakfast and lunch too? Not only will this ensure we have healthy choices purchased while grocery shopping I won’t be left scrambling and wondering if they kids should have an almond butter/jelly sandwich or hotdog for lunch. Also, it will, in theory, keep us from eating out so much! We eat out way too much, and we’re hoping having all 3 meals planned & the food bought for them will help keep us at home more.

As I’m running through my head just what all this entails, and the different meals I’ll put down, I realized this just isn’t very convenient. It is WAY more convenient to put some cereal in a bowl and hand it to the kids then to make a quiche, or oatmeal, or fry up some bacon. I’m not saying cereal is evil, it’s just a difference we want to make in OUR family (and I say difference, because the kids eat a lot of cereal and toast in our home right now). I’m also realizing that by eating in a way we find healthier will make us healthier. It will keep us from getting sick so much and if we do get sick, theoretically we should heal faster. And so, I’m left to look at convenience in a different way. Yes, food out of boxes, cans and the freezer are fast, easy and convenient, but they do not promote health. And being sick is WAY less convenient. It’ll take time, practice, diligence, and we’ll need to form new habits, but I do believe we’ll find this way of eating in a not-so-convenient way to actually be far more convenient.

As we continue on this new leg of our journey to wellness I will do my best to post how we’re doing, & share recipes we all like. I was thinking of even sharing a menu for a week that we’ll be eating. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate when someone else has information to share and if it helps me, then I hope it will help you!

Taco Seasoning

With all of our changes in our health and eating I have had to become more creative about cooking. I’ve had to make pretty much everything from scratch and basically can’t do anything with packets of seasonings. This includes taco seasoning. Tacos are a huge favorite in our family. It seems to be the one meal that EVERYONE likes (Ben pretty much eats his body weight in taco meat), so we have it frequently. For a long while I was able to use McCormick’s taco seasoning packet, however, I have noticed that they’re putting corn and wheat in their packets now. So, I went to the almighty internet and started looking around. I found a recipe and have been using it for months now. To me recipes are merely a suggestion, so I have, of course, adjusted things according to our tastes. And, honestly I just dump the spices in. We really enjoy it and it’s nice to know exactly what we’re eating. Here’s the actual recipe as I found it online! 🙂

Taco Seasoning:

1 Tbsp chili powder

1/2 Tbsp cumin

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp salt

pinch of cayenne

–Brown 1 lb of ground meat; drain fat; add above seasonings and 1/4 c water. Simmer for 5 min and enjoy!

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.

Potatoes Again?

Since I can’t eat grain that eliminates a lot of usual side dishes specifically pasta and rice stuff. So, we tend to eat a lot of potatoes and sweet potatoes. I gotta tell ya, I get tired of mashed potatoes! The other night I was wondering how to cook the potatoes differently and knowing we also needed to eat the peppers we had picked from our garden. Then, it hit me, what if I just put it all together? And so I did! I chopped up onion, mushrooms, red skin potatoes and the three kinds of peppers we had (green, purple and banana). I sauteed it all in butter, and seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder (wanted to use fresh garlic but was all out!). It was SO GOOD!!!! There was enough there for 3-4 people and David and I ate the whole thing! Hey, it was mostly veggies so who cares, right? Anyway, I encourage you to try it! We thought with some ground sausage or bacon it’d be a great breakfast meal. And, I do believe the possibilities are endless as you could put whatever kind of veggie you wanted! So, experiment and enjoy!

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Summer…

Ah, blissful summer! A time of freedom, being outside and HEAT! I love, love, LOVE summer!!!! I am NOT a cold-weather person. Never have been, probably never will be. I’m sure growing up on the Equator in the jungles of Africa has something to do with that, nonetheless I feel like my body and mind wakes up when it’s spring/summer, and I just love it! As I was outside with my kids the other day I was thinking of all the words, phrases, things that mean “summer,” especially this summer.  Here’s my list! What can you add?

1. A little girl riding her bike, and getting so very good at it!

2. A little boy getting hot and sweaty as he runs around in the yard.

3. A husband working hard in the garden, fending off late-season frost, rabbits and DEER!

4. Picnics, cook-outs and romps in the creek.

5. Hamburgers, hotdogs and anything that can and WILL be grilled!

6. The smell of freshly cut grass.

7. A little boy who loves to “mow” the driveway with his little lawn mower!

8. Vacation Bible School for our girl who is growing up too fast!

9. Swim lessons for the same little girl who doesn’t like to be called our little girl.

10. A new baby sister for said girl and boy.

11. SUNSHINE!!!!!

12. Trips to visit family.

13. Trips to the zoo.

14. Taking family walks around the neighborhood.

15. Getting all hot and sweaty doing the simplest things.

16. Canning and freezing the veggies from our garden.

17. Going outside withOUT coats!

18. Baseball games–either attending, watching on TV, or listening on the internet!

19. ICE CREAM!!!!

20. And…not thinking about how all too soon summer will end, and we’ll back to being cold again!