Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Turkey Bolognese (ish) and a disclaimer

What does one do when they are swept up into a new way of eating, but their husband is like "meh, I'll kinda do it with you, but I like all foods thank you" ? They devise and scheme up new dinners where one half of the couple can eat like a happy cavewoman and the other half can gorge like modern man and they both can live happily ever after.

Disclaimer: I'm excited for my new diet. It probably shows. I'm down a healthy amount of poundage and I feel good. But I don't want to turn my little blog into a religiously Paleo type thing. It's working for me and I believe it will continue to work for me until I am happy with my weight again. At that point, like I've said, I may have the occasional burrito after a big workout. I can tell you I'll never go back to my old ways again though. Having said my piece.....

Turkey Bolognese!

My favorite start to anything I make: Onions sauteeing in a little oil.

Did I say that was my favorite? Add in some fresh garlic and ground turkey...

Throw in some red chili flakes, salt, pepper, saute and saute and saute....

Throw in a large can of organic choppoed tomatoes or tomato sauce and some frozen spinach...and voila! The husband can top this over a bowl of pasta and throw on some cheese, while I can pour this into a bowl and eat it while making happy grunting sounds. Everyone wins!

Turkey Bolognese

1 pound ground turkey
1 large white onion
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1/2 to 3/4 bag frozen organic spinach
Liberal amount of red chili flakes
Salt, pepper, olive oil for sauteeing

Use a  little olive oil to coat the pan, add your onion, some salt, and saute until soft. 

Add your turkey, your garlic, a touch more salt, and let brown a little. 

After the turkey has mostly browned, add in the remaining ingredients and bring up to almost a boil. 

Turn the heat down to low, cover, and saute for up to an hour on low heat to let all the flavors come together. 

I recommend eating it as is!

Chicken Broth

It seems like when I talk to friends and family about my "new" diet, I'm starting to get some looks I can start categorizing into different lists of patronizing/concern. For example, before I'm done explaining, I often start to see the "Oh, you're doing Atkins" look. No. I'm not going out and buying double bacon double cheese bacon cheese burgers, hold the bun. I'm not counting carbs. Oh, and I just had a banana for breakfast with my egg.

It's often those reactions mixed with, "oh, life without pasta would be so sad, it's not worth it!" mixed with a pitying head-shake. I must say, I might have been guilty of that attitude more than once in my life. I honestly do feel like I've shaken it forever though. To me, pasta is that filler I could pour a pound of into a bowl, cover with cheese, and just eat until I was numb without thinking. Looking back on that, nothing seems sadder. 

Taking the time to be mindful, appreciate the protein and veg on my dinner plate for where it came from, taste the strong flavors, and be done and satisfied when I've eaten the right amount is priceless. I think too many of us have lost the simple sight of that.

Enough philosophizing for this entry. I meant to be writing about home made chicken broth! For my most recent batch, I had saved up two carcasses from recent roasts in the freezer. I was also keeping a bag of all vegetable scraps I wasn't using-- broccoli bottoms, carrot tops, dill that went limp, onions, brussel sprouts we never finished, etc. I took both carcasses, all the veggies, and dumped them into my husband's giant stainless steel pot he uses for brewing beer (maybe that's my secret ingredient??). I add salt, pepper, whatever spices I have on hand that look tempting, and a splash of vinegar the way my grandma used to!

After bringing to a boil, I generally cover the giant pot and let it simmer hours, sometimes all day. Then, I strain out all the liquid, feed some chicken bits to my dog, and dump the rest in our compost bin. I separate the broth out into little containers that I freeze and boom... we have about 10 portioned out tupperwares of chicken broth for the next couple weeks anytime someone wants a bowl of soup or one of my recipes calls for chicken broth.

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it might be the best hot liquid of all time. It's been cold and rainy here, which I love, but it's also been a winter of runny noses and fevers around here--and I don't just mean the baby. So whipping out one of these batches of the soup has been a tiny piece of heaveny-goodness each time.

I love this homemade broth so much, I took it outside in one of its containers before freezing and took a picture of it (maybe I need help):

It's magical, I tell you.

So last week when we needed a warm little pick me up, I whipped up this with the broth above:

I took about  1 1/2 cups broth per person
1/2 avocado per person
1 clove raw garlic, crushed
Kosher Salt & Pepper
Dash of lemon
Dash of hot sauce (TJ's Habanero for us)

I heated these up nice and hot and sat around sipping them watching the rain. Perfect. And Paleo.

Paleo "challenge" check in

To borrow a phrase from McDonalds... I'm lovin' it! ;)

Seriously though, it's been about a week and a day since I've started the Paleo 30 day challenge, and I feel amazing. I know that after these 30 days are up, I may do another 30 or 60, but I can already tell what kind of modifications I'll be making when the "challenge" portion is over. I know I'll re-incorporate high quality dairy in the end--I just don't think I see a long term problem for me personally with adding in organic cheese, russian or greek yogurt, etc. I can also see myself being able to go out for a giant Mexican meal once in awhile and enjoying it sensibly, but for now, my body is thanking me loud and clear for laying off my old habit of beans, beans, beans, cheese, rice, tortillas...followed up with pasta and pasta and pasta. Gross.

Anyway, here's a favorite we made last week that's been good for several days of leftovers for hubby and myself.

Garlic Meatballs in organic Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti Squash:

Check out my little suckers sitting there waiting to stew in the crock pot all day!

I took:

1 pound grass-fed organic beef from Trader Joe's (6.49 a pound!)
3 (okay, maybe a little more, but I don't want to scare people) cloves of crushed garlic
1 1/2 tablespoon Worcester sauce
A few heavy sprinkles of Hungarian Paprika
Kosher Salt & pepper to taste
Juice of maybe half a small lemon...old trick I saw my grandma always use

I balled them up into the small size you see above and lined them up in the crock pot. Then.......

I topped it with a sauce I was simmering--

1 can Trader Joe's tomato marinara sauce (Paleo enough)
1/3 of a white onion (I imagine any kind is ok)
1 clove garlic
A dash, to taste, of red chili flakes
A dash of red wine I happened to have open
A dash of Thyme 
Kosher Salt & Pepper

I simmered for probably 20 minutes just to get all of the flavors mixing in, and then topped the meatballs in the crockpot, while adding another liberal dash of red wine.

Finally... Dinner! And then, lunch and lunch and lunch. My hubby got to add Parmesan cheese to his, but I went all hard core paleo and skipped the dairy:

Isn't it glorious? For the Spaghetti Squash, I just cut it in half, scooped out the seeds and visible fibers, drizzled some olive oil, salt, pepper, and popped it on a baking sheet in the oven. I do it on top of a sheet of aluminum foil and cut side down, though you will see it both ways if you google a recipe. I pop it in there on 350 for about 45 minutes before I take it out, scoop out the "noodles" with a fork, and top it with whatever we have around. 

This is seriously such a good low carb trick that I feel like calling it a "low carb trick" cheapens it. It's so healthy for you, so filling and satisfying, I dare anyone to say they feel better an hour later after eating a bowl of pasta noodles instead.

Friday, March 9, 2012

"A change is gonna come"

The following is how today went down and how it ultimately led to My New Plan.

For breakfast/lunch, I prepared a very familiar (to me) concoction. Rosarita refried beans from the can, a slice of cheese (pepper jack in this case), a small handful of rice, a generous topping of salsa, a couple green onions, and some guacamole we had sitting around. I heated it all up and wrapped it in a whole wheat tortilla and had this beast for breakfast and for lunch. Sounds yummy, eh? It is. I've been having this meal on and off SEVERAL times a week since I was about 19 years old. I'm 34 now.

Anyway. Today, I finished the lunch version of this meal and caught a glimpse of myself passing a mirror. Now, I've lost ALL of my pregnancy weight and am back to where I started. Yes, it's still 20ish pounds from where I want to be, but I've been doing well. However, my eye caught a bulge in my stomach. I looked 5 months pregnant. Gross. I also felt sluggish, and a little cranky. Kind of like a sloth. It didn't feel good.

You see, I pride myeslf on "eating well"--I rarely eat sugar/candy/soda/pies/cakes....barf. But I had to stop and think. I'm 20 pounds over weight...why? And why do I feel crappy. Low on energy, slothy, cranky, quick to anger, and with a pregnant-looking belly to boot.

And then the wheels started turning. It's a combination of some posts I read on Facebook recently-- friends getting into Crossfit, getting into Paleo, PREACHING how great they feel. Yes, yes, I can give this a try. If you scroll through the paltry amount of recipes I've posted so far, I think you'll see I have Paleo tendencies as it is. I love seafood, chicken, good beef, pork, love all my green veggies, love the right fruits. I guess the problem is I've been loving too many carbs as well.

I can easily binge on a whole can of refried beans in one sitting. Often on top of rice and rolled in a tortilla. This kind of meal all of a sudden is just not ringing as right to me. If a portion of food should be about the size of your fist, there is something very wrong about being able to put down two tortillas filled with beans and rice and cheese in one sitting. And it's not like I'm running a marathon everyday and need to have these glycogen stores filled.

So before I get too far off track... One thing led to another and I've decided to try the 30 day paleo challenge. I went out to the store (Safeway and Trader Joe's) today and bought the following:

Pork tenderloin
Bone-in french cut pork chops
Grass-fed organic ground beef
Organic chicken legs
TJ's frozen chicken breast tenders

Green onions
Gem lettuce



And I have a well-stocked pantry to start.

Tonight, I'm making sauteed pork chops that I've marinated in garlic, olive oil, and lemon. I'm adding a gem lettuce salad with cucumber and avocado. I'm EXCITED. For the first time (about food) in a long time. I already feel great.

So. For the next thirty days, you'll see me posting the best paleo food I can come up. I might get inspired and post an old meal that's not paleo, but I'll always post a disclaimer. I'm really excited to try new recipes and feel like a new person. I know it's going to happen.

And finally, my pork chops marinating for tonight. To be enjoyed after some home-based crossfitting and a dog walk:

Friday, March 2, 2012


Ever since I discovered that Trader Joe's was carrying cheap, 100% corn taco shells, we've started adding taco night to the regular rotation. Here are two recent successes:

For these, I just took about a third bag of TJ's frozen thighs, microwaved them per the instructions (seriously! this needs to be a whole separate blog entry), and shredded them.


1 small red onion
Homemade guacamole (I go really simple on this -- a couple fresh avocados, mashed with salt, pepper, lemon, and fresh garlic. Done)
Shredded mozarella cheese (it was what we had on hand, probably not my first choice, but good)

Topped them with some splashed of TJ's habanero sauce (I swear I don't work for them).

Perfect little dinner--made about 6 tacos and some leftovers for salad.

THEN, we made these:

Almost too pretty to eat. I was making pasta sauce with ground beef, and had a little extra beef leftover. So I just browned it up with a clove or so (ok, maybe three) of garlic, added shredded butter lettuce, a chopped up tomato, and more hot sauce. As fast and easy as chopping up a salad, only more fun to eat!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Grilled pork chop, grilled corn, wax beans:

Pork good enough to stab with a serrated knife.

So easy too.

I took two chops and did my usual marinade of italian dressing, then threw the suckers on the grill for about 15-20 minutes until they reached 155ish degrees and pulled 'em off. I kept the corn on there for about the same amount of time. The wax beans were from our weekly CSA veggie box, and we steamed them for just a couple minutes--they were so fresh and delicious they almost didn't need cooking.

Bean salad and avocado!

Another item on the permanent rotation around here.

1 avocado, cut into halves
1/2 can of black beans, rinsed
2 stalks jarred hearts of palms
1/2 can corn
a handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped up... or really a 1/2 normal tomato

I mix everything but the avocado up in a bowl, add some lemon juice, some olive oil, salt, pepper, maybe sneak a mashed clove of garlic in there, and let it sit for a few hours...stewing in its own awesomeness. 

Then spoon some into each avocado half (this feeds me and the hubs for dinner), and spoon the rest on your plate as a side because it's so good you can't get enough.

Sauteed chicken breast with mashed cauliflower!

This is definitely one of our favorite weeknight dinners! I usually take two chicken breasts, and marinate them in bottled italian dressing (Wishbone) or oil and vinegar and garlic if I'm out of dressing. I keep them marinated at least over night and it just results in the juiciest chicken you can imagine. I saute the breasts in a small mixture of olive oil and butter, but add water or wine when it starts to get dry. Saves a lot of calories and if anything, makes the chicken juicier in the end.

The mashed cauliflower (for two people):

1 head of cauliflower, steamed until soft (I feel like boiling kills too many nutrients--maybe it's just an old wives' tail)
2 cloves garlic
Olive Oil

I take the above, throw it in my food processor until it looks like a giant pile of mashed potatoes...and plate it up!! So delicious, healthy, and I personally think better than clumpy gummy carby old potatoes!

Another favorite dinner salad that's super filling and gorgeous to boot:

Mixed greens
1 hard boiled egg
1 cucumber
4 stalks jarred hearts of palm (Trader Joe's!!!)
1 avocado, or you can use half
1/3 red onion
A couple slices of salami to garnish with

That will give you two servings, and a beautiful dinner to look at and feel good about eating. 
Speaking of grilling and summer!

Is there any finer thing? I'm going through pictures deciding what to blog about, and I'm re-inspired by lower carb goodness (just ignore that red wine there, you!). There is nothing tastier and more satisfying than a fresh steak grilled to just barely rare (what can I say, I like it bloody) with a side of fresh grilled veg. We took two steaks here, though we probably should have just split one, and salted, peppered, and grilled. Nothing else to it! I took mine off in probably 10 minutes, the hubby probably almost twice that. We grilled the asparagus on foil for about the same time and with the same toppings: salt, pepper, little bit of olive oil. It really leaves you feeling like you've eaten something delicious and healthy and light. MMMMMM.
I still fail at updating this in a timely fashion.

Anyway, regarding weight goal-- I'm within 5 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight and I'm elated! Old clothes are fitting...(happy dance).

Food pic and recipe: It's been unseasonably warm here for the past few days (though now it's cold and rainy again, which is also fine), so I decided to post one of my favorites:

OH, yeah.

Shrimp, fresh from the store. I just don't have good luck heating and cooking shrimp that's been frozen.  I love to defrost it under cold water and eat it in a million different varieties of salads, but for grilling or anything else, they have to be fresh!

Anyway, I took these suckers, poured some oil and chopped garlic over them and let them sit a couple hours. Then grilled them on skewers until they were firm-ish.

Gratuitous picture of them all skewered coming off the grill:

More pictures, you ask?

They are truly a thing of beauty. 

And these grilled little guys were perfect with that salad above. 

My summer salad goto:

1 large tomato, or a couple smaller ones
1/2 red onion
1 avocado
1 cucumber

All chopped up into similar sized pieces, and drizzled with salt, pepper, lemon juice or red wine vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. SO good, so refreshing, and the perfect accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats (in addition to a crisp white wine of course!).

I topped the salad over quinoa that I just cooked up with nothing special added, but this could easily have been a lower carb meal without it.