Sunday, March 31, 2013

Our Paleo Challenge Results

Well, we made it through our 40-Day Paleo Challenge!  It was a really interesting and different challenge for us, and it was definitely NOT easy.  We both agree that it was tough, but it was nice to stay disciplined and have some sort of goal to stick to every day.  It was also fun to get creative and learn about different ways to prepare healthier but delicious meals. I found a TON of new recipes and substitutes for my typical ingredients that will help us lead healthier lives forever.  I also really loved sharing my successes (and difficulties) with everyone, and hopefully we inspired others to live cleaner-eating lives too!  Below are some questions that we have gotten, and some answers about our experience:

Do we feel healthier?  I would say yes.  I think my body has more energy and things are definitely regulated... if you know what I mean... Not to go all TMI, but your insides will surely be happy when you are only eating natural foods.  Just saying.  I would say above all, I feel good that we have not been putting any chemicals or crap into our bodies! 

So, how successful is this as a diet?  Well, we did not set out to do this to lose weight.  That means we still ate dessert (Paleo versions of course), drank alcohol occasionally, etc.  And I will tell you what, we have both lost a fair amount of weight.  I'm down about 8-10 lbs and my husband is down over 10 lbs.  So for people looking for a lifestyle change that will help them lose the pounds, I would definitely recommend it.  The proof is right there!  We have by no means been starving ourselves- we have just been replacing calorie-heavy foods with more vegetables/nuts/etc, and that led to weight loss for us.  I'm not sure what will happen once we start eating some of the non-Paleo foods again, but I am guessing if we stay 75% Paleo, we will at least maintain our weight, and stay healthy of course.

Was this more cost effective?  I honestly don't know.  I should have kept better track of our grocery store visits.  The thing is, we were basically only buying produce and meat and eggs.  So we definitely cut down on "snacks" and eating-out and alcohol, etc.  I tend to find that produce and eggs are generally more cost effective than buying cereal or bags of chips or anything like that.  The big cost would probably be the specialty items like almond flour, coconut oil, and so forth.  Maybe that will be my next charge: figuring out the cost difference!  It clearly wasn't very noticeable either way, but it might be more obvious over a longer amount of time.

So what is next? Well first, I am going to go CRAZY on some non-Paleo foods on Easter Sunday.  I know my body will not be happy for it, but I NEED some cheese and pasta.  For real. Beyond that, I'm not sure yet what will happen.  As we have said before, we want to stick with Paleo, but not 100%.  I am not willing to live my life without my favorite foods like cheese and pasta.  Life is too short!  We are still discussing how the 75/25 plan will work for us (probably 2 days per week eating whatever we want, and 5 days of strict Paleo), and I am definitely still planning to find new Paleo recipes and report on them!  So stay tuned...

We hope you have enjoyed following us on our Paleo journey, and be sure to keep up with us as we continue on (at least for the most part) in our Paleo ways!

Pork Tenderloin with Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

It's the last night of our Paleo challenge!  Wow.  I can't believe it has been about 6 weeks of strictly Paleo meals.  For our last Paleo dinner (of Lent), I wanted to do something sort of fancy and super delicious.  So I went with pork tenderloin, which I had made before and we loved, and stuffed portabellas.  This pork tenderloin is just as it should be- super tender and moist and tasty.  I actually used the same marinade I have used before with pork chops, except I was sure to marinate the meat for 3-4 hours this time for extra flavor.  For the portabellas, I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do, but I bought them at the store, along with some asparagus, and decided to find a recipe that combined the two.  So I used this one, with a few changes to make it Paleo.  Overall, this was a great meal, and healthy of course!  It was a nice final meal before we binge on our non-Paleo favorites tomorrow!  Here is what I did:

Pork Tenderloin with Pan Sauce
(serves 3-4)
  • 1 lb pork tenderloin
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T tamari sauce
  • 1/2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 t dry mustard
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 c chicken broth
Preparation
About 4-5 hours before you want to serve dinner, combine the marinade ingredients in a plastic Ziploc bag: olive oil, tamari, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Place the tenderloin in the bag and make sure to get the whole thing coated.  Refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours.  Once it is all marinaded, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Sear the tenderloin (without all the marinade- just the meat itself and whatever juices are on it) on each side for 2-3 minutes or until it is browned up.  Keep the marinade handy and keep the skillet coated in meat remnants!  Place the tenderloin in a baking pan/dish and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165-170 degrees (I use an electronic thermometer).

Once it is cooked through, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes.  In the meantime, make the sauce.  Use the same skillet and reheat it over medium.  Once it is hot, deglaze the pan by adding the chicken broth and stirring it all around.  Once it starts to bubble, add the rest of the marinade and continue to let it all bubble up.  Cook for 5 minutes or so, until it thickens up.  Slice the tenderloin, and serve by pouring the pan sauce over top of your slices.

Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms
(serves 3-4)
  • 3 or 4 large portabella mushrooms (or just the caps)
  • olive oil
  • 1 c chopped fresh asparagus (about 10 stalks)
  • 1/4 c onion or shallots, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tomato, diced
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 c (or so) almond flour
  • parsley flakes
Preparation
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, or in this case, once you remove the meat, crank up the temperature on the oven to 400 (bake these while you are finishing up the meat).  Carefully gut the gills from mushroom caps and remove stems, then rinse each cap under cold water and pat tops dry with paper towel.  Chop stems and set aside. Brush a bit of the oil over mushroom caps and place oiled sides down on a baking sheet (line it with foil for easy cleanup).  Heat 1 T oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus, shallots/onion, garlic and chopped mushroom stems. Cook 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are cooked but crisp. Remove from heat and stir in tomato, salt, and pepper.  Spoon mixture into mushroom caps. Sprinkle almond flour and parsley flakes, and drizzle a bit of olive oil on top. Bake 10-12 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Here is what mine looked like right before going into the oven:

So there you have it!  The final meal of our Paleo challenge!  Don't worry- we are not done with Paleo forever. Stay tuned to hear all about what our future holds, and hopefully to get more great new recipes!!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Paleo Apple Pie Tarts

For our last night of the Paleo Challenge, I wanted to make another special dessert- something more than just the usual cookies that we have come to know and love.  My husband really loves apple pie (as do I), so I started searching for a recipe for a Paleo pie crust so I could try to make a Paleo version.  I found this one using almond flour, so I decided to go for it!  Instead of making a full pie, I went with little mini pie tarts. This was partly due to the fact that I had gotten this really cool mini-pie maker from my sister-in-law for Christmas, and I still had not used it.  This was the perfect chance!  It really is a cool little machine- here it is:


It reminds me of a waffle iron, but for pies.  Pretty neat.  Anyway, I first made the pie crust dough, which you could really use for any type of pie, but I wanted apple!  Then I made the filling which was easy enough, and voila!  Here is what I did:

Paleo Apple Pie Filling
(enough for 4 mini pies)
  • 1-2 apples, peeled/cored/sliced
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • lemon juice
Preparation
As you slice up the apples, toss them into a bowl and add enough lemon juice to coat them.  This will keep them fresh as you go. Add the honey and cinnamon and allow to sit for a few minutes to get the apples soft and gooey.  Use as the filling for the pie crust.

Paleo (Gluten-Free) Pie Crust
(makes 1 pie crust, or enough for 4 mini tarts- top and bottom)
  • 2 1/3 c plus 1 T almond meal/flour
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T olive oil
Preparation
In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients with a fork.  Then, add the egg and oil and start mixing it up with your fork.  Once it started to incorporate, I used my KitchenAid to mix it thoroughly, but you can also knead it up by hand.  It should be able to form a nice ball, and it will be a bit oily.

To "roll" it out, I put down a piece of parchment to avoid any type of sticking.  It is tough when you can't use regular flour for that!  I tried to use the rolling pin, but without flour it got a bit sticky.  I just used my hands and pressed down on the dough to form the circles.  For the tarts, I made a bunch of small circles of dough, but if you want to do a whole pie, go ahead and press out a large circle.  I also just took small chunks of dough each time I wanted to roll out an individual circle.  My little pie maker also came with the circular cutting tool, which made things easier.  Heads up: the dough will probably feel really oily, but that is normal.  Here you can see my work station:


Once I had 4 bottom pieces and 4 top pieces cut out (and used all the dough), I got my machine all preheated and ready to go. You could also bake the pie(s) in a 350 degree oven using just a full sized pie pan or even mini pie or tart tins.  In my machine, I first fit my bottom layer in, filled them with some apple pie filling, and placed the top layer on, as you can see below.  HINT: This crust may be a little crumbly so do your best to piece it back together if it falls apart in this process at all.  HINT #2: Try to get some of the apple goop from the bottom of your bowl into each tart.  We discovered later that we wished there had been more saucy/goopiness.


After 5 minutes or so, mine looked like this (almost done):


If you are baking yours in the oven, just check to see when they get golden brown and bubbly- that means they are ready!  Here are my mini pies fresh out of the "oven":


We enjoyed these later on at night, and we found that they tasted better when heated up in the microwave for 30 seconds.  They also would have been great served with some sort of cream, but alas, I didn't make any (whipped coconut milk works great).  Regardless, here is what we ended up with:


These were good.  Like I said, we wished they had been a little gooier, and of course I missed my buttery flaky Pillsbury crust.  But however you want to make your pie or tarts, these crust and filling recipes are both great ones to try!  Enjoy!

My Hubby's First (And Hopefully Not Last!) Solo Paleo Cooking Attempt!

My husband wanted me to title this: Not a Complete Disaster. I am very proud of him, though!  Enjoy his guest blog post!

Some of you might not know who does the majority of the cooking in this house.  Some of you, however, might be able to guess, particularly those of you who read this blog on a regular basis. When my wife went out of town last Saturday, I knew that at some point, I would have to cook for myself, without supervision. For those of you who don’t know me that well, you might not understand the enormity of that task. 

I was able to sustain myself on leftovers for the first few days. As Tuesday evening rolled around, however, I knew I would have to venture in the kitchen if I wanted food. Doing some research online, (aka Googling “paleo chicken recipes”) I came upon the recipe found here.

Looking over the recipe, I thought to myself, “That doesn’t look too hard, and I have all of those spices.” So, I decided to give it a go.  Right away, I knew that I didn’t know the first thing about making mashed sweet potatoes and I didn’t even know if I had them. So, the first thing I decided to do was substitute mashed carrots for the mashed sweet potatoes seen on the plate for the recipe. Mashing carrots, however, turned out to be a greater misadventure than I anticipated. After picking out five large carrots and slicing them, I put them in a bowl and tried to mash them using a potato masher. Yes, that’s right. I had no idea what I was doing. When this was met with little to no success, I used the handheld immersion blender. This succeeded only in shooting carrot fragments all over the kitchen. So, unsure of how else to do this, I googled “How to Mash Carrots.” Realizing that I needed to boil some water and use that to soften the carrots, I grabbed a pot, threw the carrots in, and put the water to a boil. This, I figured, was probably the incorrect way, but whatever. After several more attempts and primarily through trial and error, I was finally able to mash the carrots up sufficiently. I then added a touch cinnamon for flavor.

Moving on to the chicken. I selected to use chicken breasts rather than chicken legs for the simple reason that I didn’t have any chicken legs. I selected three chicken breasts, and, following the recipe, coated them in olive oil. Here, I’m pretty sure I used too much, so if you try this on your own, make sure to do a lighter coat at first and add more if you need to. Then, I simply lined a baking pan in tin foil, though I admit I had no idea what a baking pan was, or how to line it with tin foil. Using the internet again, however, was my salvation. After a few minutes of wrangling with tin foil, I realized that I wasn’t that great at lining baking pans, but I made it work. Spicing the chicken was the easiest part of the whole process, just lightly spicing both sides with garlic powder, chili flakes, cumin, sea salt, and pepper. I didn’t really heed the estimates used in the recipe, but it turned out fine. Once I had the chicken prepped, I turned to the oven, which I have never used. Ever.

I knew enough to pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Once it was ready, I placed the chicken in the oven as instructed in the recipe: uncovered, in the center of the oven. I then thought I was ahead of the game when I used the oven timer to tell me when I needed to switch sides for an even roast. I, unfortunately, learned my lesson the hard way. This actually turned the oven off after 20 minutes. I learned this when I saw “Done” prominently displayed upon the oven’s display. So I then had to re-heat the oven, and this time used the microwave timer. Once everything was finished and I was able to enjoy my first solo-cooked meal in years, I had just a couple observations.

1)   Carrots were a good substitute, especially with the cinnamon added. That being said, I don’t think can beat the taste of sweet potatoes, so I know next time I try this recipe, I’m gonna use sweet potatoes. Hopefully my mashing experience will go better. 
2)   There’s a reason the recipe calls for chicken legs. I could tell, even though the chicken was juicy and tasted great, it would’ve been even better with the chicken legs. Further, and this may just be me being a salt fiend, but I could’ve used more salt in the initial seasoning process.

Overall, this wasn’t quite the disaster that I thought it was going to be. Nothing burst into flame and I didn’t burn the house down. If that were the only fact, I’d call this a win. I did, however, make a relatively easy meal that was a great jumping off point to further cooking endeavors down the road. Anyway, I wanted to make a “guest appearance” on this blog to document my experience. Hope you all enjoyed the story, and hope you keep up with our blog even after Lent ends tomorrow!


Paleo Pumpkin "Pasta" with Sausage & Mushrooms

This was our second-to-last night of our Paleo Challenge and I cannot believe we are winding down already! The meal I made tonight was one that I had been thinking about Paleo-izing for a while now, so it seemed as good a time as any!  I originally made this recipe probably about 2 years ago out of Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats cookbook. I never would have thought about combining pumpkin, sausage, and mushrooms until I tried it, but boy was she right about this one- it tasted delicious!  It wasn't too hard to make Paleo- mainly I had to just substitute spaghetti squash for that glorious Penne pasta.  And of course, I couldn't douse it in Parmesan cheese like I normally would...  Now, I used store-bought packaged sausage for this, which some hard core Paleo-ites would frown upon, so if you want to make your own or use organic or whatever, go for it.  Other than that, this recipe should be perfect!  Here is what I did:

Paleo Pumpkin "Pasta" with Sausage & Mushrooms
(serves 4)
  • 1 lb bulk mild (or sweet) Italian sausage
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 ounces white mushrooms, sliced (use any mushroom combination you want!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 c dry white wine or sherry (OPTIONAL if you are avoiding alcohol)
  • 1 c chicken broth
  • 1 c canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 c almond milk
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg 
  • 1/2 spaghetti squash (make the whole thing and freeze 1/2 of the "spaghetti" for future use)
  • sprinkle dried or fresh chives as garnish
Preparation
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees to roast the squash. Slice the squash in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds and goopy stuff from the middle.  Place squash halves on a baking sheet/pan flesh side up and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for about 45 min to an hour, until the flesh is softened.

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat and brown the sausage in it. Once it is all broken apart and cooked (no pink), transfer it to a plate.  There should be a little fat left in the skillet.  Return pan to the stove and add the olive oil.  Toss in the garlic, onions and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper.  Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender and mushrooms are browned. 

Deglaze the pan with the wine/sherry (or chicken broth if you aren't using alcohol).  Add chicken stock and heat for one minute until it starts to bubble.  Stir in pumpkin and incorporate - it will be thick.  Return sausage to pan, reduce heat to low, and stir in almond milk. Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

When the squash is done roasting, take it out of the oven and use forks to scrape away the flesh.  This will create spaghetti-like strands.  Get as much from the squash half as you can and add it to the sauce mixture.   Stir it all around and it is ready to serve!  Serve it up on a plate and garnish with chives.  If you were eating dairy, this would be a great time to add some Parmesan...


Other than roasting the squash, this meal takes only about 30 minutes of actual prep time.  It has a TON of different flavors that work really well together, and it is not something you would usually think to make!  I love Rachael Ray recipes, but they are typically grain and cheese heavy, so I am hoping to try to Paleo-ize more of her meals at some point.  Hope you enjoy this!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Paleo Apple Cinnamon Spiced Muffins

After I made my birthday dessert shortcakes the other day, I realized that I could transform that recipe into muffins for everyday consumption.  The shortcakes were a little dense and a bit plain (as shortcake usually is), so I decided to pump up the flavor, lighten them up, and turn them into muffins!  I would say it was a great success.  These taste delicious and will be a great treat for breakfast or a snack!  Here is what I did:

Paleo Apple Cinnamon Spiced Muffins
(makes 1 dozen)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c apple sauce
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/4 c melted coconut oil
  • 1 t lemon juice 
  • 1 t lemon zest
  • 2 1/2 c almond flour
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t baking powder
Preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs and apple sauce.  Add honey, coconut oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Once combined, add almond flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder.  Mix until it is all well combined.

Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. DO NOT SKIP THIS.  I tried to make these the other day by just greasing the tin and they were super messy when I tried to remove them.  You should DEFINITELY use the liners. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Like this:


Serve these warm or keep them in a sealed container for later.  Just a tip- if you serve them warm, they may still be a little crumbly.  These need to cool before they will be more "glued" together.  Regardless, they will taste great even if they are a bit messy!  I am excited that I tried these out and I will definitely be doing it again.  Enjoy!



Paleo No-Bake Pumpkin Almond Bars

I found this recipe on Pinterest a while back and it looked interesting.  I am always in search of new ideas for breakfast/lunch/snacks and all the ingredients seemed good to me!  I tried these out today, but made some changes since I didn't have everything the original recipe used, and I was fine with using just what I had.  These were pretty easy to make and will be handy to have around whenever I need a sweet and healthy treat.  They don't exactly harden up like a granola bar, but if you keep them in the fridge or freezer, they will be great.  Here is what I did:

Paleo No-Bake Pumpkin Almond Bars
(makes about 20 thin bars)
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 3 t pumpkin pie spice (I used 2 t cinnamon, 1/2 t nutmeg, 1/2 t ginger)
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1/4 c raw almond butter
  • 1 mashed, ripe banana
  • 1/2 c canned pumpkin
  • 1 T raw honey
  • OPTIONAL: raisins, shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, etc
Preparation
In a small sauce pot, mix together almond butter, mashed banana, pumpkin, and honey.  Heat over low until it is all soft and well combined, stirring occasionally.

In a food processor, combine almonds (and other seeds/nuts), spices, and salt.  Run it until they are broken down but not total powder.  If you want to add dried fruit, coconut, etc, stir them and the nut mixture together in a bowl. Combine the wet and  dry ingredients and mix well.  Line a baking pan/dish with parchment paper (mine is foil on one side so it conforms to the pan- I would recommend it!).  You could also grease the dish.  Use wet hands to press the mixture into the dish really well- I made mine pretty thin and almost went to the edges of a 9 x 13 pan.  This is what mine looked like:


Freeze for at least a half hour, or until firm.  Take them out and cut them into bars.  They will likely still be a little soft, so I would put them back in the freezer for a while.  Store these in the fridge or the freezer to keep them nice and solid.

Here they are all done!  These will be nice to enjoy for breakfast, lunch, or a snack anytime during the day.  All natural and yummy!

Seared Scallops with Creamy Avocado "Pasta"

I came across this recipe on Pinterest the other day, and it looked pretty good- except the original recipe calls for real pasta, of course.  Well, I decided to try it but substitute zucchini noodles instead of pasta (you could also use spaghetti squash or another pasta alternative).  For the protein, I wanted to make scallops.  I had just been talking about scallops with my mom the other day, and how they were so delicious but a bit expensive so I rarely splurged for them.  But when I was at Sam's Club and saw them, I decided to go for it.  They are the nice, big sea scallops that sear up all beautifully and taste amazing.  And no, they are NOT cheap, but of course cheaper than you would pay at a restaurant!  So this meal tasted delicious.  It was not the most filling of meals (it would be if you used real pasta), but it was refreshing and yummy.  Here is what I did:

Seared Scallops with Creamy Avocado "Pasta"
(serves 2)
  • 1 large zucchini (or 2 medium)
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 T olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • sea salt & pepper
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves (about 5-10)
  • lemon zest for garnish
  • 1/2 lb sea scallops
  • 1 T olive oil (additional)
Preparation
First, get the zucchini noodles ready.  Like I always do, I used my awesome vegetable peeler/julienner tool to make my thin noodle-like strips.  You could use a mandolin or just cut them super thin- either way is fine.  Toss the noodles with salt and let them sit in a colander over a bowl.  In about 15 minutes, "wring" out the noodles to get out the moisture, and they are ready.

To make the sauce, combine the avocado, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, basil, salt, and pepper in a food processor.  Blend until smooth. Toss the noodles in the sauce when you are ready to serve.  (Make sure not to use too much- you don' want to drown them!)

For the scallops, pat them as dry as you can and season with salt and pepper.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high to high heat and add the olive oil.  Once it is really hot, place the scallops in the pan.  Allow them to sear for about 4-5 minutes per side.  You want them to brown up!  Try your best not to move them around or else you will lose the sear.  It is hard to be patient but you want them to be nicely seared!  Serve them on top of your creamy "pasta" and garnish the whole thing with some lemon zest.


A few things: If you are using real pasta, the pasta will soak up the sauce a bit, so you can use more sauce.  With zucchini, it doesn't soak up the sauce so don't use too much.  You don't want the avocado flavor to be too powerful.  Also, if you serve it this way, the "pasta" will be room temperature.  If you want it hot, you can heat up the sauce in a skillet for a few minutes.  It will likely thicken and reduce if you do that, though.  Any way you do it, this meal will taste great and I am sure you will love it!  Restaurant quality, healthy, and made in your own home!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Yummy Paleo Strawberry & Pineapple Shortcake

I am still on my trip, at my parents' house, and tonight we decided to celebrate my birthday (which is next week).  We love birthdays in our house, mainly because we get to eat delicious desserts!  Last night my Dad brought up the prospect of making angel food cake for my birthday dessert.  Unfortunately, I don't think a Paleo angel food cake would be too easy or taste close enough to the real thing.  So, instead I decided we could still do the whole whipped cream and strawberries idea, just change up the cake.  Today I started searching for Paleo sponge cakes, shortcakes, even angel food cakes and found some good prospects.  I also went out shopping with my mom to Trader Joe's (which I have desperately missed in my life), and found the crucial ingredients: almond flour, coconut oil, and coconut milk/cream.  We were now set to make a great Paleo birthday dessert!  I decided to go with this recipe for Strawberry Shortcake, but to cut it in half since there are only three of us.  Then of course I would add lots of berries and cream (and even some pineapple)!  Here is what I did:

Paleo Strawberry & Pineapple Shortcake
(makes 4)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T honey
  • 2 T melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 t lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 c almond flour
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t baking powder
For the topping:
  • container of strawberries (or however many you want), sliced
  • 1/4 fresh pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 T (or so) honey
  • 1/2 can coconut milk/cream (must be the kind in the CAN)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 T honey (additional)
Preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl (I used the KitchenAid), beat the egg.  Add honey, coconut oil, and lemon juice.  Once combined, add almond flour, salt, and baking powder.  Mix until it is all well combined.

To bake the shortcakes, you can do a few different things.  I used little silicone muffin cups, and divided the batter among 4 of those.  These were really easy to use and popped right out once done baking.  You could also use muffin tins (just 4 of the cups) greased with coconut oil or in cupcake wrappers.  Finally, you could line a baking sheet with parchment and drop 4 even blobs (nice and far apart) onto the sheet.  Either way, bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve warm or keep them for later.  They should look something like this when done (minus the old yucky pan):


To make the topping, slice up your berries and pineapple and toss them in a bowl with a bit of honey to allow them all to macerate (get sweet and gooey).  To make your cream, scoop the coconut milk/cream into a bowl (if there is liquid in the can, DON'T use it).  Add vanilla and honey and whip it with a mixer until it reaches your desired thickness.  To serve, slice the shortcakes in half and top with cream and berries.  It should look something like this:


Feel free to switch up the fruit toppings however you want.  This was delicious and we all decided that the dessert had a bit of a tropical feel to it, which was fun and tasty.  You could add spices like cinnamon and/or ginger to the shortcake batter too, or even some lemon zest for a little flavor.  Really, this is a great basic dessert, and the sky is the limit for changes and additions!   




We had a great time celebrating my birthday (a week early), and this was a great ending to a delicious Paleo meal.  I may have even convinced my parents that Paleo isn't SO crazy after all...  Maybe...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Going Out of Town... And Sticking To Paleo!

For the past few days I have been away from home visiting my parents and my friends back in good old Virginia.  It has been wonderful and great to see everyone, BUT it has been a little trying on my Paleo life.  Obviously, I am the only one here living this lifestyle, so everyone else can (and does) eat whatever they want.  That is perfectly fine, it has just been a little tougher trying to figure out what to eat for my meals.  Here are some things I have been experiencing:
  • Traveling:  This one was a bit tough because I knew I wouldn't want to try to hit up an airport food vendor if I got hungry.  So I packed plenty of food for my trip.  I brought a banana, apple slices, almond butter (p.s. I was sure to take that out for security- technically a liquid of sorts), nuts, and a pumpkin muffin.  I had a few hours of travel, so I spread these out throughout the day and the flight.  The hard part was resisting the free pretzels and peanuts on the airplane!  But it was great to have my own Paleo food with me.
  • Breakfast/Lunch at My Parents' House:  First, I have been making eggs every morning for breakfast.  Luckily, there has been no rush in the morning so I have time to do them fried (in olive oil) or poached.  I have been serving them with ham.  I also have been eating bananas, grapes, apples, etc.  It's hard not having my favorites like almond butter (I guess I could have bought some if I wanted), but I am definitely living it up on the meat, eggs, and produce. So far, so good.
  • The Bridal Shower:  I was a little worried about what I would be able to eat there.  (This party was the main reason for my visit and it was great to celebrate one of my good friends!).  Luckily, I was able to eat fruit salad, shrimp (LOTS of it), and meatballs.  And, I won't lie, I indulged in some wine- remember, wine is okay in my version of Paleo!  Sadly, I had to miss out on the cupcakes/cookies/other delicious food, but life goes on!
  • Eating Out: Last night I went out to dinner with some friends, and I knew it would be tough to stay Paleo, since most restaurants don't have "Paleo options."  We went to Big Bowl, where we of course would be eating Asian fare, so I just did my best to avoid grains.  I ate lettuce wraps and then a seafood dish where I requested no rice and a gluten free sauce.  I figured that was the closest I would get to ensuring Paleo without having to ask every single ingredient used.  I really haven't gone out to eat at all during this Paleo challenge, so it was a little tough and it is possible that I wasn't 100% Paleo.  BUT, it was worth it to spend time with my besties!
  • Dinner with the Parents:  The other night my parents made a delicious steak, and we ate broccoli and corn (yes, not exactly Paleo) as our sides.  They were really willing to try a meal with no grains/sugar/etc for me.  Tonight I am planning to make a Paleo meal that my husband and I have already enjoyed, Pork Chops & Pineapple Fried Cauliflower Rice.  I am sure they will like it, and I can't wait to teach them all about using cauliflower as rice!
So, all-in-all, it has been a little tough watching everyone around me eating delicious non-Paleo foods.  Sitting there last night as my parents indulged in a cheesy pasta dish was a bit rough.  But I know that I only have a few more days to go, and I am happy that I am staying disciplined and staying healthy.  Hopefully other Paleo-ites out there will not be scared to travel or take a trip while living this life.  You just have to be diligent and careful about what you eat, and don't fall into temptation!

Stay tuned for an update later on about how my husband is faring at home alone for 4 days with no wife to cook Paleo meals for him...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Paleo Chicken Alfredo with Zucchini Noodles

I am a few days late on this post, mainly due to the fact that I have been a little occupied.  I am currently en route to the East Coast, but it has proven a bit difficult due to the massive snow storm that decided to hit on the 3rd day of spring.  Fun, right?  Well, the only benefit of a delayed flight is that I finally get the chance to blog about a delicious meal from the other night!  I found this recipe for Paleo Chicken Alfredo, and I was like, um.. how is that possible?  Chicken alfredo is delicious because it involves lots of cream and lots of cheese- how can a Paleo version be any good?  Well some genius out there discovered that crushed cashews, when spiced up, end up tasting a lot like alfredo sauce.  Who knew??  We tried out the recipe with a few changes, and boy was it delicious.  We don't even have leftovers because we ate it all...  I decided to use zucchini noodles again, rather than trying to find kelp noodles somewhere in this town, and they were great.  Plus, I had just recieved my Pampered Chef order which included the greatest tool EVER in the form of a vegetable peeler that juliennes the vegetable while it peels.  It is amazing- I got perfect spaghetti-like noodles in about 5 minutes.  Love it!  (Alternatively, you could use spaghetti squash here too).  So anyway, enough of my ranting and raving- here is what I did:

Paleo Chicken Alfredo with Zucchini Noodles
(could serve 3 if the 2 of you don't eat it all!)
  • 1 large zucchini or 2 medium ones
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1/4 t garlic powder
  • 1/4 t mustard powder
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 1/8 t paprika
  • 1-2 c chicken broth
  • 1/8 t nutmeg
Preparation
First, prepare the zucchini noodles.  Julienne them so they look like strands of spaghetti, using a knife, peeler, or julienne tool like mine.  Once you get down to the seeds, you should stop since they won't produce good strands.  Toss the zucchini with some salt in a colander over a bowl and allow to sit for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, wring out the zucchini (it's weird, I know) to remove all the moisture.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the olive oil and the garlic clove and saute it for about 3-4 minutes.  Remove the garlic clove (you just need it for flavor).  Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken and add the breasts to the skillet.  Cook for about 6-7 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through.  While the chicken is cooking, add the cashews, onion powder, garlic powder, mustard powder, sea salt, pepper, and paprika to a food processor or blender.  Cover and blend into a powder.  Be careful not to OVER blend, or it will become a paste!  Once it is a nice fine powder, remove to a bowl and stir in about 1 c of chicken broth (or you can keep it in the blender and combine it there, either way).  This will turn it into a "cream" sauce.  It's okay if it looks too liquidy- it will thicken up when heated. 

Remove the chicken to a cutting board.  Turn back the heat to medium-low on the skillet.  Cut the cooked chicken into thick slices (or chunks if you want).  Add the sauce to the skillet and allow to cook for a minute or so.  If it thickens up too much at any point, add more broth. Toss in the chicken slices/chunks and stir, then add the zucchini noodles. Toss it all around until everything is coated.  Finally, add your dash of nutmeg (gives it a little bonus flavor).  Serve it all up onto a plate!


I feel like the preparation instructions look long and complicated, but really this took about 20-30 minutes to make, and it was pretty simple.  I don't know how, but it really DID taste like chicken alfredo!  The miracle of cashews, I suppose.  If you are a pasta-lover like me, I would definitely recommend you try this- you may be skeptical too, but it will surprise you!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Must-Have Items While Living Paleo

As we have gone along on our journey, I have discovered that there a couple things I cannot live without while doing Paleo.  These include food items, kitchen gadgets, and so forth.  The food items are mainly ingredients that are subs for things I used to use, or just delicious items that I now have to have.  There are some "specialty" items that you may need to buy at natural/health food stores, but if you want to cook/bake delicious items while on Paleo, you need to splurge on these items for sure.  A lot of these things aren't too out of the ordinary, though.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is full of things that I am really glad I have had!  Regardless, here is my list of must-have items for Paleo-ites!

Food:
  • almond butter
  • almond flour
  • coconut oil
  • coconut flour
  • almond/coconut milk
  • dark chocolate/cocoa
  • eggs- LOTS of them (literally 2 of us go through about 3 dozen per week)
  • bacon (If your diet allows you to eat bacon, take advantage. Often.)
  • nuts (almonds, cashews, etc- they make great snacks!)
  • tamari sauce (or coconut aminos if you are hard core)
  • raw honey (buy it from Sams/Costco in bulk)
  • FRUIT & VEGGIES (this may seem like a duh-item, but make sure you always have fresh produce in your house!!!)

Kitchen Supplies:
  • food processor (not essential, but it is if you want to make almond butter, etc)
  • blender or better yet, blender immersion stick (minimizes clean-up when making one smoothie)
  • apple corer/slicer (I literally use mine every day)
  • pineapple corer/slicer (if you like fresh pineapple, get one.)
  • parchment paper (seriously, it will save you when baking)
  • muffin pan
  • slow cooker

And finally, the most important thing you need, in my opinion:
  • TIME- This is kind of a big one.  In my experience, doing Paleo requires a lot more food-prep/cooking/shopping time than living a "normal" life.  For example, I probably spend a good 2-3 hours every weekend preparing breakfast and lunch items for the week (egg muffins, pumpkin muffins, cutting fruit, etc).  Additionally, I find that I have to go to the grocery store at least once a week. I know this doesn't seem like a huge deal, but for 2 of us, we could often go with just one big trip every other week.  Now, with all the fresh produce we need to buy, it needs to be more often.  For our typical meals, I don't really need any more time than usual to prepare them, so it is really just the weekend time for me that is much more.  I wouldn't say any of this is BAD, per se, just be prepared that if you want delicious and healthy Paleo meals, you will need to dedicate some time.

So there you have it!  If you have any other must-have items that I may be forgetting, let me know!  And feel free to ask about any of these "must-haves" if you have questions!  Happy Paleo-ing!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Paleo Slow Cooker Cabbage Rolls

Tonight I decided to make something that I had never tried before, and had never really heard of either.  I came across the idea for cabbage rolls during one of my millions of Paleo recipe searches, and I figured why not try it?  I also wanted to use my slow cooker again since it made for easy prep and easy cleanup (when using a liner).  I decided to use this recipe as a guide, but replace certain items with Paleo-friendly ones, of course.  I actually prepared everything last night since I knew I would be busy today, so all I had to do for dinner was turn on the slow cooker this morning.  Pretty easy!  This meal is definitely healthy and super Paleo, and it tasted pretty good.  My husband and I decided that it wasn't our favorite meal ever, but that it was interesting and tasty.  I think for next time I would add more seasoning or maybe add something else to the sauce.  The meal lacked a bit of flavor and I think could use a kick of something, I just can't put my finger on it right now.  Regardless, it was fun to try something totally new, and I would say it was pretty successful.  Here is what I did:

Paleo Slow Cooker Cabbage Rolls
(serves about 4)
  • 10 cabba leaves (peel them off the head carefully!)
  • cup cauliflower, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten  
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth  
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 pound ground turkey (or beef- whatever you want to use)
  • salt & pepper 
  • sprinkle of parsley 
  • 1 can tomato sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Preparation
*I did this the night before and would recommend doing that too!*
Boil a pot of water and cook the cabbage leaves for about 2 minutes, until soft.  You may have to do this in batches (I did 2 at a time).  In the meantime, add the cauliflower, egg, broth, onion, turkey, salt & pepper, and parsley to a large bowl and mix it together until it is all mushed up.  Take a scoop of the mixture (about 1/3 c) and place it in the center of a cabbage leaf. Tuck in the sides and roll it up. Repeat this until all the mixture is used.  Place the rolls carefully in crock pot (lined if you want!). The rolls should look like this:


Next, in a small bowl combine the tomato sauce and lemon juice.  Pour it all over top of the rolls, like this:


If you did this ahead of time, place the slow cooker insert into the fridge, covered, overnight.  In the morning, place it in the outer shell and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.  You could also do this on HIGH for 4-5 hours.   When you are ready to serve, just scoop them out and plate them up!


 I would definitely recommend you try these as a great make-ahead meal and as a really healthy dinner.  You may want to experiment with the spices and seasoning and try to give it a little more flavor if you wish.  Either way, you will enjoy these rolls, and you'll really love the cleanup!

Paleo Slow Cooker Beef & Broccoli

Another night without water-usage means another meal that needs little-to-no-clean up!  (Are you getting sick of hearing about it?  Because I am sick of living it..)  I decided to use my slow cooker, since I recently bought liners that make it so easy to clean.  Literally you just throw the liner away and that's it!  Just what I needed.  I kind of made up this recipe (based on Chinese take-out), and I wouldn't say I nailed it exactly right on the first try.  It was delicious, but I don't know if the "beef" part was cooked properly... I will have to try again with another method, so stay tuned.  But for now, here is what I did:

Paleo Slow Cooker Beef & Broccoli
(serves 3-4)
  • 3/4 lb flank steak (or top round, etc), cubed or sliced- I did mine in cubes/chunks but for a flank steak, I think it would be better to use thin slices... it's at your discretion
  • 1/2 c tamari sauce
  • 1 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 T grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped into smaller chunks
  • 1 can water chestnuts (this is totally optional but I liked the added crunch... no idea if they are truly "Paleo" but oh well)
Preparation
In a small bowl, combine tamari, vinegar, and honey.  Throw the beef chunks/slices into the slow cooker (line it for easy cleanup!), and pour the sauce over top.  Grate the ginger over top and toss in the minced garlic.  Cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or HIGH for 2-3 (I did mine on high since I was pressed for time).  When you are about 30-45 minutes out from serving, add the broccoli and water chestnuts and give it a stir.  Serve with cauliflower rice or spaghetti squash (we ate ours with spaghetti squash).


Like I said, this wasn't the best meal I've ever eaten, but it was definitely Paleo-friendly and tasted really good.  I would recommend either using a different type of beef, or cutting a flank/skirt steak into slices before putting it in the slow cooker.  It will likely make for more tender and juicier meat.  The way I did it left us with meat that was a tad dry, but still flavorful.  Regardless, give it a try and hopefully yours will turn out great!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Grilled Chicken Kebabs & Cauliflower Rice Pilaf

So, it might be obvious that we are on this kick where we grill every night.  Well, this has to do with the fact that a) it is kind of nice weather out these days (aka not snowing) and b) we still can't really use water aka can't really clean dishes.  Regardless, I love chicken kebabs on the grill.  We have made them in my family for a long time, and they are super delicious!  I had to adjust our typical marinade a little bit, but it still tasted great.  For the side, I went with cauliflower rice pilaf, which I have made before and really love. I'm telling you, we are really starting to become fond of cauliflower!  It's amazing.  Well, anyway, I hope you will try out this recipe even if your house isn't a plumbing disaster like mine is!  Here is what I did:

Grilled Chicken Kebabs & Cauliflower Rice Pilaf
(serves 3-4)
  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into chunks
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T tamari sauce
  • 1 T pineapple juice (or you could use honey)
  • 1 zucchini, thickly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (I used green), cut into chunks
  • 1/2 red onion, cut into thick wedges and layers separated
  • handful of mushrooms (white or cremini)
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, grated
  • 1 T olive oil (additional)
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 c chicken broth
Preparation
First, make the marinade for the chicken. Combine oil, tamari, and pineapple juice in a bowl and add the chicken chunks.  Allow to marinade for about 15 minutes.  To make the kebabs, grab some skewers and your chopped veggies and chicken.  I like to just kind of alternate chicken, onion, veggie, chicken, etc until all my skewers are about even (I used 4 skewers).  Make sure everything is on there nice and snug.  Heat the grill to medium-high, and grill the skewers for about 10-12 minutes total, while rotating occasionally. 

While the meat is grilling, start the pilaf by heating 1 T oil in a skillet over medium-high.  Add the chopped onion and allow to cook until just translucent.  Add the cauliflower and fry until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes.  Just before you serve, pour in the broth and allow the "rice" to soak it up while stirring for about a minute.  To serve, pile some "rice" on the plate and top with the meat and veggies you pulled off the skewers!

 
I just love the flavor combinations of all the veggies and the chicken marinade, and it all tastes really delicious together.  I hope you try it out and enjoy it, too! 


Monday, March 18, 2013

Pork Chops with Bacon Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

Another night without water in our home meant making another dinner that required little-to-no cleanup.  This time, I used a combination of the grill and the oven (using a foil-lined pan).  I bought some brussels sprouts the other day that I needed to cook, and I love the combination of sprouts with pork chops.  For the chops, I used a marinade that I kind of made up, and it turned out tasting delicious.  For the sprouts, I decided to go with some alliteration and add bacon and balsamic vinegar.  Also delicious!  You can't go wrong with double the pork.  Like I said, I was trying to minimize clean-up, but you could cook the pork chops on the stove or in the oven if you wanted.  Keep the marinade the same though, if you want it to taste amazing!  Here is what I did:

Pork Chops with Bacon Balsamic Brussels Sprouts
(serves 2-3)
  • 1 lb pork chops (I used bone-in)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T tamari sauce
  • 1/2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 t dry mustard
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half
  • 4 strips cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper
Preparation
For the marinade, combine 2 T olive oil, tamari sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large Ziploc bag. Shake it up to mix it around, and then add the chops.  Allow them to marinade for at least 15 minutes, or up to a few hours.  When you are ready to grill, heat the grill to medium-high and grill for about 5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.  Alternatively, you can cook them on the stove or in the oven.





For the sprouts, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  I lined my baking pan with foil to minimize clean-up, but you don't have to.  Add the sprouts and onions to the pan and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper and toss until everything is coated.  Roast in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occassionally.  Once they are out of the oven, sprinkle on the bacon crumbles and serve!



This was another delicious (and mess-free!) Paleo meal that we would recommend you to try out!  Hope you enjoy it and stay tuned for more...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Coconut Fruit Dip

Today I had some ladies over to work on an assignment for one of my grad school classes, and I felt the need to provide some snacks for us while we worked!  I had just bought a ton of fresh fruit, but I wanted to make some kind of dip to go along with it.  I had also randomly decided to buy coconut milk, so I had that handy to use.  After a bit of googling, I came across this recipe which looked easy and delicious.  It was super easy to make and tasted great- it was a really nice accompaniment to the fresh fruit.  I would definitely recommend this to anyone entertaining while doing Paleo, or even just for a great Paleo snack.  Here is what I did:

Coconut Fruit Dip
(makes about 2 cups)
  • 1 c coconut milk
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 t coconut flour
Preparation
Put all the ingredients into a food processor or blender, or use a handy immersion blender like I did! Blend until smooth.  Keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve- the longer you chill it, the thicker it will get.
 


I served this with fresh pineapple, melon, apples, and strawberries.  I loved it with all the fruit!  The original recipe also suggests adding cocoa powder, and I may try that some time for a chocolate dip.  Regardless, I would recommend it for sure.  Enjoy!

Grilled Steak Fajitas

Well today was an interesting day.  We found out that there was a major problem with a plumbing line in house, and long story short- we really can't use water until Monday.  So, I had to go with a meal that would require basically no clean-up and therefore little-to-no inside cooking.  I decided to make steak fajitas, pretty much all on the grill. We love fajitas, and we didn't need to Paleo-ize my go-to recipe at all!  The only change I made was using the Almond Flour Tortillas that I have made before.  At the end of the meal, all I had to clean were the bowls I used to mix some ingredients, and a cutting board.  Not bad!  I love this recipe, and I love the taste of grilled steak and peppers!  Here is what I did:

Grilled Steak Fajitas
(serves 3-4)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 c fresh lime juice
  • 1-1/2 t ground cumin
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 lb skirt steak (or flank steak), trimmed 
  • 2 bell peppers (various colors), sliced thin
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • Almond Flour Tortillas
  • Paleo Salsa & Guacamole
Preparation
In a large Ziploc, combine garlic, lime juice, cumin, and olive oil.  Seal the bag and shake it up to mix it all together.  Add the steak, onion, peppers, and cilantro, then seal and shake/turn the bag to get everything coated.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours to marinade.  When you are ready, heat the grill to medium-high.  Remove the steak from the bag, and transfer the peppers/onions to a large heavy duty piece of foil.  Fold up the foil to make a little pouch to cook on the grill.  (Alternatively, you can saute them in a skillet or grill pan).  Grill the steak for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Grill the vegetables for about 10-12 minutes.  Allow the steak to rest for a few minutes, and then slice it thinly against the grain to get thin strips.

To serve, place steak strips on top of tortillas, and top with peppers/onions, salsa, and guacamole.  Dig in!  Like I said, I have made this recipe before and it is always a hit!  Luckily, we have a fair amount to save as leftovers too.  Enjoy!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Grilled Shrimp & Sausage with Zucchini Noodles

I decided on this meal tonight because a) it was nice enough outside to grill and b) I randomly decided I wanted to eat these ingredients together.  This meal was kind of an invention of my own based on recipes I have seen/used in the past. It was a really nice spring/summer time meal, was pretty light, and the best part- there was NO indoor cooking of any kind!  Gotta love easy cleanup.  This was the first time I tried making zucchini noodles, and I would say it was a success!  They weren't the prettiest or all the same size/shape, but they tasted great and I really liked the texture and consistency.  So, here is what I did:

Grilled Shrimp & Sausage
(serves 2)
  • 1/2 lb uncooked shrimp, tail-on (defrosted or fresh)
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 or 3 mild Italian sausages
Preparation
In a bowl, combine lemon juice, oil, parsley, garlic, and salt & pepper.  Add the shrimp and allow to marinate for about 10 minutes.  Once marinated, grab some skewers and thread the shrimp onto the skewers. I like to make sure the skewer goes through 2 points on each shrimp to hold them on there firmly.  Heat the grill to medium.  Grill the shrimp skewers for about 3 minutes on each side, or until pink.  Grill the sausage until cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.  The sausage should take a bit longer than the shrimp.

Zucchini Noodles
(serves 2)
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • salt & pepper
Preparation
There are a few ways you can cut the zucchini into noodles. I used a vegetable peeler to cut thin strips and then sliced them into match-stick-like pieces. If you have a mandolin or a tool that can julienne, use that.  Otherwise, you can use a knife to cut super thin noodle-like strips.  Cut until you reach the seeds in the middle- the core isn't really usable for noodles.  Once they are cut, place them into a colander and season with salt.  Let them sit on the counter for about 15 minutes.  Then, squeeze out the liquid into a bowl/the sink. This is going to seem really weird because you are literally wringing out the zucchini noodles like they are a wet towel.  Try to get as much liquid out as possible.  Transfer them to a bowl, season with lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and you are ready to serve!

Like I said, this was fairly easy and required very little clean-up.  It may not be the most filling meal in the world, but it is Paleo-friendly and is great especially on a nice warm night!  I can't wait to try zucchini noodles with other meals, and I hope you try them out too!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies (Third Time's a Charm!)

My faithful readers will know that I have been trying to find a great Paleo chocolate chip cookie recipe, pretty much since we started this journey.  I have made them with almond flour, almond butter, etc, and they keep turning out too soft/sticky/flat.  They have tasted great, but they have not been the best consistency.  So then, you may know, that a week or so back I bought some coconut flour and found out the hard way that it is a LOT thicker than almond flour.  So, I figured if I am trying to get thicker cookies, it would only make sense to use the thicker flour, right?  Well, I found a bunch of recipes using coconut flour and I went for it.  This recipe guaranteed that the cookies would not suck, so how could I go wrong?  Well, she was right- these cookies are great!  It looks like the third time's a charm!  I didn't have shredded coconut on hand so I left it out, and still the consistency is wonderful and they taste super yummy.  I made mine really small so they are like little bite sized bits of happiness (and unfortunately the size made them easy for me to eat a lot in one sitting, oops...).  You should definitely try these out- best Paleo chocolate chip cookies I have made yet! 

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies
(makes about 1.5 dozen small cookies)
  • 1/2 c coconut flour
  • 1/4 c coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 T raw honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 t vanilla
  • 1/8 t sea salt
  • 1/2 c chocolate chips (I finally bought the Paleo-friendly Enjoy Life chips and they are great!)
Preparation
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Melt the honey and coconut oil together in a microwave-safe bowl for about 20-30 seconds. In a large bowl (or KitchenAid), mix together the coconut oil, raw honey, eggs, vanilla extract and sea salt.  Stir in the coconut flour and chocolate chips. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roll out little balls of cookie dough. Place on the baking sheet and gently press down to flatten them out a bit (they won't flatten while baking).  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown (you want them to stay soft!).

These definitely look the best out of all the attempts I have made, and they tasted the best too!  I am really happy with the result- the only problem is, it will be really hard to have portion control with these!

Paleo Orange Chicken & Cauliflower Rice

I think I decided on the idea for making orange chicken when I came across a recipe on Pinterest.  Or on another Paleo site.  Or I don't know, I spend too much time looking up recipes.  Regardless, I saw this recipe and it looked really good, so I went for it! (With a few modifications). We really love Chinese food, so I try to make my own homemade/Paleo versions pretty often.  This was a really delicious recipe and was also super simple and quick to make.  We had this with cauliflower rice, again, and we are really starting to grow fond of it.  My husband even admitted that he might like cauliflower even better than actual rice!  That's a big step.  We would both recommend that you try this out!

Paleo Orange Chicken and Cauliflower Rice
(serves 2 with leftovers)
  • juice of 2 oranges
  • zest from 1 orange
  • 1 t freshly grated ginger
  • 3 T tamari sauce
  • 1/2 t red chili flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into bite size pieces)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, grated
Preparation
In a medium sauce pot, combine the orange juice, zest, ginger, tamari, garlic, and chili flakes.  Cook over medium heat and let simmer to reduce and thicken. Once it is thickened to your liking, you can turn it down to low.  As the sauce is cooking, heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 T olive oil.  Once it is hot, add the chicken pieces and cook until all the pink is gone. Add the chicken to the sauce pot and stir to coat with the orange sauce.  As the chicken is cooking, start the rice.  Heat a skillet over medium-high and add 1 T oil until it is hot.  Add the cauliflower and cook for about 5 minutes, or until it starts to brown. 

To serve, scoop some "rice" onto the plate, add the chicken and sauce, and top with chopped green onions. There you have it- delicious homemade (and Paleo) chinese food!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Slow Cooked (and Grilled) Barbecue Ribs

Last summer I had a lot of time to test out new recipes, and one of the things I did was try out making ribs for the first time.  I never thought about making ribs at home- I always pictured it as something really complicated that you should only order at Chili's.  What I found was, they aren't the easiest things to make, but definitely doable and SO delicious.  In the summertime, I always cook these on the grill the whole time, which takes about 1-2 hours.  But, when it is warm outside, I don't mind being out there at the grill!  Well, this winter I discovered another method to get almost the same result (of course, grilling is always best!).  I started cooking them in the slow cooker for a few hours (instead of slow cooking them on the grill) and then finishing them off on the grill.  Luckily, daylight savings time just happened and it is still light out at 7 PM for grilling.  Also, I got home from work today fairly early and had plenty of time to get these going (FYI- these take some time, so it's not an everyday meal kind of thing).  So it was a perfect night for ribs!

You can see below how I made my ribs tonight, but you can use any method that works best- slow cooker or grill or a combination.  One thing that always stays consistent: the "dry" rub is fabulous.  I got the recipe here, but I made one change (honey instead of sugar) to make it Paleo.  Hope you love these as much as we do!  Here is what I did:

Slow Cooked (and Grilled) Barbecue Ribs
(serves about 3)
  • 1 T paprika
  • 1 t raw honey
  • 2 t orange zest
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 3/4 t cumin
  • 1/2 t ground black pepper
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper (or more if wanted)
  • 1 slab baby back ribs, cut into 4-rib portions (or whatever size you want)
  • homemade Paleo barbecue sauce
Preparation
Combine paprika, honey, orange zest, salt, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl. It will be a little sticky because of the honey.  Rub it all over both sides of the rib slabs until coated.  (You can let them marinade for a few hours if you have time, but it's not critical).  Place in the slow cooker on HIGH for 2-3 hours or LOW for 4-6 hours.  OR you can cook them on a grill over LOW heat for 1-2 hours, flipping every 20 minutes are so.  HINT: the longer and slower they cook, the better the flavor.  You do NOT want the ribs to char on the grill until the end so keep it low!  I like to put the ribs on the opposite side of the grill as the flame so you just get the heat without the charring.

Once the ribs are cooked (on the low-heat grill or in the slow cooker), turn the grill on to medium heat.  Brush the ribs on both sides with the barbecue sauce.  Place them on the grill curved-side up.  Try not to place them right over a flame or they may char too much.  Grill them for 5 minutes on each side, and baste them with more sauce each time you flip them.  I like to cook them two times on each side (20 min total).  If they start to char too much, turn down the heat or move them away from the flame.  You want some char but not too much!


Tonight I served these with Mashed Sweet Potatoes, but they are also amazing with corn on the cob (I know- not Paleo!) or a fresh tomato salad, especially in the summer time.  As I said, I love these in the summer on the grill for a few hours, but you can still enjoy them in the winter!  Hope you love the recipe too!

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

So I know that sweet potatoes are one of those "questionable" foods while living Paleo, but I have already decided they are okay for us.  They say that if you are trying to lose weight, then stay away, but if you are just trying to eat Paleo they are fine.  Plus, I had one in my kitchen that was probably about to go bad, so I had to use it.  Since I was making ribs for dinner and typically I would make corn on the cob as the main side (but corn is NOT Paleo), I had to find something else.  I've already made sweet potato fries, so this time I wanted to try them mashed.

These were SO easy to make.  I am sure I could have done something more exciting, but this was flavorful enough for us and still delicious.  And Paleo friendly!  Here is what I did:

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
(serves 2-3)
  • 1 large sweet potato (or 2 medium/small ones)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 t coconut oil
Preparation
Peel the potato(es) and cut into chunks.  Place them in a pot and cover with water.  Add some salt to the water.  Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the temperature to medium and allow the potatoes to simmer for about 10-15 minutes.  Once you can easily break a chunk apart with a spoon/fork, they are ready.  Drain the water but keep the potato chunks in the pot. Add the coconut oil and salt & pepper to taste, and mash them up with a spoon or a masher.  That's it!

You can add any other flavors you want, but this is a great basic recipe.  They are really moist and have great natural flavor.  This is a super simple recipe and is a great easy side.  Hope you try it out!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Paleo Barbecue Sauce

Tonight for dinner I made ribs, which has been one of our favorite meals since I started making them last summer.  For my ribs, I always make my own barbecue sauce for basting them.  Well, unfortunately the recipe I usually use is not 100% Paleo friendly (mainly that it is ketchup-based).  Now, I know I could just use ketchup since it's not SO bad, but I figured why not make my own Paleo version?  I couldn't really find a recipe online that looked amazing, so I did my best to Paleo-ize the recipe I usually make.  It was a bit of trial and error (especially since I don't often use tomato paste so I don't know the consistency very well), but I eventually came up with something delicious!  This is a pretty basic barbecue sauce- nothing too fancy- but is definitely great and tasted awesome with the ribs!  Here is what I did:


Paleo Barbecue Sauce
(makes about 1 cup)
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 c water
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T raw honey
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t onion powder
  • 1 t ground black pepper
  • 1 t dry mustard
  • 1 t lemon juice
In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients over medium heat.  Once everything is well combined, turn the heat down to low.  Let it simmer for as long as you want, but at least 20-30 minutes.  Use on ribs or whatever else you want to eat!  Enjoy!

Paleo "Spaghetti" and Italian Meatballs

I guess I have been on an Italian kick lately, since this was my 3rd Italian-inspired meal in the past few days.  And I won't apologize for it!  I decided to go with a classic, spaghetti and meatballs, but make it Paleo.  I also had bought a 5 lb spaghetti squash the other day at the grocery store (no joke, this thing is huge, but it was the smallest one they had!) so I needed to use some of that up for sure.  I cooked the entire spaghetti squash as usual, but only used about half of it for this meal.  If you are cooking for 2-3 people, you should definitely freeze half for future use! It makes it really quick and easy to defrost and use the next time.  For the meatballs, the only real change I had to make was again, essentially making my own Italian "bread crumbs" out of almond flour, like I did the other day with the Almond "Breaded" Chicken.  Other than that, they were the same Italian meatballs that I usually make.  Finally, I also made my own sauce as usual, which ensured that everything was non-processed and Paleo!  If you are looking for a good old Italian comfort food meal, this is definitely the way to go!  Here is what I did:

Paleo "Spaghetti" and Italian Meatballs
(makes about 3 servings)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 c onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 c almond flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t dried basil
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 1/2 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 T olive oil
  • homemade pasta sauce (I also added some diced tomatoes for texture)
  • 1/2 spaghetti squash (cook the whole thing but you should only need half so freeze the rest!)
Preparation
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the spaghetti squash in half (lengthwise) and place the boat-looking halves on a baking/roasting pan, cut-side up.  Season them with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes.  In the meantime, start on your homemade pasta sauce.  Make your own or use my pasta/pizza sauce recipe- I also added some diced tomatoes for extra chunkiness, but you can use just sauce if you like it thinner. 

To make the meatballs, combine beef, onion, flour, egg, and spices and mush them all together until well blended.  Form your meatballs (I make mine medium-sized).  Heat a skillet over medium-high and add some olive oil.  Once it is hot, place your meatballs in there to brown them.  You will likely need multiple batches- don't crowd them!  After a few minutes, turn them to brown as much of the meatball as you can, then remove them to a baking dish.  When they are all browned, pop the dish into the 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, and remove your spaghetti squash. 

Allow your squash to cool for a few minutes so you can touch it without burning yourself, and then use a fork (or 2) to shred the flesh into "spaghetti" strands.  Plate it by scooping a pile of squash onto a plate, followed by a scoop of sauce and a couple meatballs.  Time to dig in!


This meal was super delicious and was a great transformation of a favorite Italian meal!  I highly recommend you try it out!