Friday, August 15, 2014


One of the staples in my little man's diet is yogurt.  He's not a huge fan of drinking milk.  We don't have any dairy allergies and we haven't noticed any negative side effects from having it, so we keep good quality, full fat dairy in the rotation. Also, I like the live cultures and probiotics that come wth the yogurt.

The only issue I've found, is that it's hard to find full fat, grass fed yogurt.  Most of the yogurts out there are made with milk from cows fed GMO corn, are low fat/calories (i.e. packed with chemicals) or are so full of sugar and artificial chemicals, that there is pretty much no nutritional value left.   I used to eat those Pina Colada flavored yogurts all the time, but when I realized that I couldn't pronounce half the ingredients, I cut that out!

So... I took to Pinterest and found a bunch of recipes for homemade yogurt! I was a little intimidated because I thought that you needed to buy a yogurt culture starter or something fancy, but this is super simple and the results are amazing!

All you need is milk and yogurt with live cultures already in it.  You can buy any yogurt with live cultures.  I've heard that you need plain yogurt with no flavors added.  I always try to save some of my own yogurt to use for the next batch.  It's sorta like that Amish friendship bread where you save a little bit and it's used pretty much forever. 

So first, I poured all of the milk into my crockpot and turned it on high.

Then I put the lid on and let it sit for a while.  The temperature needs to come up to 180, but not boiling.

Once it gets to 180, then you turn the crockpot off and let the milk go back down to 120.  If you have time, you can just let it sit and wait.  If it gets late (because I never remember to make it until later at night), you can take the "pot" out of the heating element of the crockpot.  That should help it cool down more. 

Once the milk came down to 120, I mixed in my "starter" yogurt.  I just dumped it in and mixed it around with a fork to get it all broken up and let the cultures spread out.

Then, I took the pot part out of the crockpot, wrapped it in a blanket, and set it on the counter for 24 hours.  Usually, I just put the whole thing in the oven (which is cold and turned off), but this time, I was using the oven, so I needed to improvise.  

This part kinda freaked me out a bit at the beginning... I thought that yogurt was supposed to be cold at all times.  Apparently, though, you want to create a warm environment for all the little cultures to grow and multiply.

After 24 hours, you take the lid off and stir everything up and voila! you have yogurt!  It's not your standard thick yogurt... it's kinda thin and clumpy.  It's kindalike the drinkable yogurt stuff.

If you'd like, you can add in some flavors or sweeteners or whatever you think.  I usually like my yogurt thicker, so I drain it which makes it thicker.

Basically, I get a big bowl and put a colander on top of it.  Then, I line the colander with paper towels and pour the yogurt mixture into the colander.  Then, I just put the whole thing in the fridge for a few hours (or a day, depending on how thick you want it).

I had trouble taking a good picture, but here's what it looks like once it's drained.

In the bowl under the colander, you'll see all the leftover whey that drains out.  Some people swear by it... apparently, you can drink it or add it to smoothies or do all sorts of things with it. 

So what you have left is this delicious, thick yogurt!  Now, you can add flavoring or keep it and use it as a substitute for mayo or sour cream.  I sometimes chop up fresh herbs and mix it with some other savory flavorings and use it as a veggie dip.

Most of the time, though, this little cutie prefers a fruity yogurt.  I'll mix in some homemade jam or maple syrup and vanilla.  If I don't have any available, I'm always a fan of some vanilla extract, almond extract, and a little bit of sugar. 

Chase definitely approves!  His favorite flavor, as of recently, has been yogurt mixed with some almond butter and maple syrup (pictured below).

Homemade yogurt

·       ½ gallon of whole milk (preferably grass fed and organic)
·       1 cup of a yogurt starter (any plain yogurt that has live cultures should work)

1.    Pour milk into a crockpot and turn on high.
2.    Wait for the milk to come to 180 degrees.
3.    Turn off crockpot and let milk come to 120 degrees. You can speed up the cool down process by taking the bowl out of the crockpot.
4.    Once the milk has cooled to 120, add in the yogurt starter and mix throughout the milk.
5.    “Incubate” the mixture either by wrapping the whole thing in a blanket or putting it in the oven (turned off and cold).
6.    Let the mixture sit for 12-24 hours to let the cultures multiply.
7.    If desired, drain the yogurt to make it thicker.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Potato Zucchini Pancakes

I think I'm pretty lucky to have a kid who eats a lot of different foods.  I don't know why he's a pretty good eater, but I'm going to blame it on the fact that I LOVE food and also that we exposed Chase to lots of different foods from a young age.  We did baby led weaning and Chase ate pretty much everything we did.  It makes life easier for me when I don't have to make a separate meal for Chase.  I've known parents who make 2-3 different meals just so everyone can have something to eat.  If that works for your family, then cool! I know that it just wouldn't work for me! 

Anyway, I'm always trying to find new recipes for veggies to make them more interesting.  A lot of people who hear that we eat mostly Paleo automatically think that all we eat are steaks and burgers for dinner every night.  Actually, veggies make up a large part of our diet.  With that being said, I get tired of the same old grilled asparagus or sauteed spinach.  Luckily, Pinterest has a billion different recipes to try!  Even if they aren't Paleo (this recipe wasn't originally) I can usually modify the recipe enough to have a new dish to try!  

Tonight, Curt, Chase, and I are sharing a big old T-bone steak with some creamed spinach (one of Chase's favorites) and these awesome potato zucchini pancakes.  Now, I know most people who do Paleo don't do potatoes... you can easily swap the potatoes for sweet potatoes, turnips, or just leave them out altogether and use all zucchini.

Potato Zucchini Pancakes

First, I minced garlic and onions and threw them in a pan with some olive oil and butter.  I sauteed them on medium low until they were soft.

 While the onions and garlic were getting soft, I shredded the zucchini and the potato.  I used a hand grater, but I definitely need to invest in a food processor!

After the zucchini and potato were shredded, I put everything on paper towels and squeezed out all of the extra water.  

Next, in a bowl, I stirred up the eggs, potato starch, salt, and baking powder.  The original recipe called for flour, but since we don't eat flour, I used potato starch.  You could probably use almond flour or tapioca starch, but I figured that since the recipe called for potatoes, then potato starch would work.

Once the egg mixture was combined, I added in the shredded zucchini, potatoes, and the onion/garlic mixture.

Next, I heated up some butter and olive oil in a skillet.  The hotter the pan, the crispier the pancakes. I like crispy pancakes, so I did it on Medium high.  I dropped a spoonful of the mixture into the hot fat and flattened them slightly with the back of a spoon.

Once the bottom was nice, brown, and crispy, I flipped them over to let the other side get crispy too.

So here's the finished product!  I thought these were really good!  They were crunchy, flavorful, and a nice variation on zucchini and a starch.  I'll definitely be making these again!

Paleo Potato Zucchini Pancakes
Adapted from:

·         2 cups shredded zucchini
·         2 cups shredded potato
·         2 eggs
·         1/3 cup potato starch
·         ¼ onion, minced
·         2 cloved garlic, minced
·         Fat of choice (I used a mix of butter and olive oil)
·         ½ tsp baking powder
·         ¼ tsp salt

1.       Shred zucchini and potato, then squeeze out extra water with a paper towel.
2.     In a sauté pan, cook onions and garlic with fat of choice until soft.
3.     In a separate bowl, whisk the egg. Mix in potato starch, baking powder and 1/4  teaspoon salt. Add zucchini and onion mixtures and stir until well combined.
4.     Heat some oil in a pan (medium-high heat) and drop the mixture in portions. I used a big tablespoon.  Then, flatten the pancakes a little bit with the back of a spoon.
5.      Fry until crispy on both sides, flipping them when edges turn brown.
6.     Serve immediately.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Meal Planning

It's been forever since I've posted anything.... over a year, actually!  Life with a 19 month old has been pretty hectic, in a good way.  We're actually expecting our 2nd little nugget in the end of August.  This pregnancy definitely has not been as easy as the first one.  I've had lots of headaches and morning sickness- something I never experienced with Chase.  I've been joking that if this little one is a girl (and we aren't finding out until the big day, so who knows!)  she's already making my life difficult!  Anyway, life's been pretty crazy, but I love every minute!  

I just wanted to take a minute to update the blog and re-commit to eating healthy again.  A few weeks ago, I started to document all my food on my facebook page (just look up The Cookin Cutie on Facebook and you'll see the page). It helps to keep me accountable and I always find it helpful to see what other people are eating!  Being preggers, I'm sticking with pretty much paleo, but I've been following Chris Kresser's recommendations from the The Healthy Baby Code   

Basically- it's paleo, but it adds in a few "safe" carbs and a lot of dairy.  So the dairy I'm eating is grass-fed and full fat.  It's hard to find grass-fed, full fat yogurt, so I've been making my own (future blog post to come).  

A lot of people ask me how I manage to continue with healthy eating while working full time and caring for a toddler.  At least 4 nights a week, there's a home cooked meal on the table.  There are always healthy packed lunches for me, Chase, and Curt.  Not because I'm a Martha Stewart wanna be.... and not because I'm killing myself to be the "perfect mom and wife"- heaven knows I'm nowhere close... but because to me, healthy eating is a priority.  I want Chase to grow up knowing what REAL food is.  I don't want him to be that kid in college who only eats Chipotle or hot dogs (I actually knew a guy who ate only that!).  I like that he eats what we eat and it definitely makes my life easier that I don't have to make 2 or 3 different meals each night. 

So, back to the point of how I find the time to cook at least 4 meals and 5 lunches each week... the key is PLANNING!  Here's what my planning consists of:

I come up with a few different ideas for meals: my inspiration comes from Pinterest, the Food Channel, the Cooking Channel, and my pregnancy hormones haha.  I just jot down what I want to make for the week.  Dinner plans are the main focus because lunches are either leftovers from the dinners or salads with a bunch of stuff on them (craisins/almonds/cheese/veggies/fruit).  I also check out the sales flyer at Whole Foods to see what's on sale.  If there's a good sale, I'll plan a meal around that.  

Then, I write down the "menu" for the week along with the sides I'll make to go with it.  I also like to write down the recipes- that way, I'm not searching for which recipe went with what.  I keep my weekly menus and the recipes all together in my little composition notebook.   It's also nice because I can keep track of what I made and when and which recipes I like.  

Then, I'll make a grocery list with EVERYTHING I need, sorted by grocery store section - all the produce together, all the dairy together, etc.... that way, I can get through the grocery store faster.  

I usually do my grocery shopping and prep work on Sundays.  Once I get home, I wash and prep all the food I can.  I wash and chop all the veggies and fruits.  If possible, I'll prep the meals too.  I'll marinate any meats and portion everything possible. For example, if I'm making a soup on Wednesday, I'll cut up all the veggies, so all I have to do is dump everything in the pot and turn on the heat.  Curt is amazing and takes Chase out to play when he gets home so I have some time to get dinner ready... but I definitely don't have hours to prep an entire meal from start to finish.  If I can minimize the process as much as possible, it makes everyone's lives easier!

So anyway, that's what I do.  Prep and plan as much as possible!  It takes a lot of time on the weekends, but it saves sooooo much time and effort during the week and is totally worth it! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Week 1 Recap!

It's now Monday night, and I am officially 1/3 of the way done with the 21 Day Sugar Detox.  I have to say that it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.  Don't get me wrong, it's not easy to say no to all of the junk food I am constantly surrounded by.  I do, however, feel pretty good when I am able to resist the temptation! Here's a recap of my week!

Last day of Junk- I went crazy... I ate so much stuff! I had pretty much any junk food that you could imagine.  I ate as if I would never eat anything else in the world.  Was it a good idea? no! Was it childish? yes! Was it worth it? no! Did I know that I would feel terrible after eating all of that junk? yes! Did I do it anyway? yes!  I felt sooo gross afterwards, that honestly, I didn't want to eat anything but healthy foods!  This is how I felt at the end of the night!

Via pinterest
Day 1- I skipped breakfast.  I know, I know, it was not a good way to set myself up for success.  Honestly, though, I felt so nauseous from the crap I ate on Monday that the thought of putting anything else in my stomach made it just churn.  I didn't have time to make anything super fancy for lunch, but I just had some tuna.  I managed to avoid any student birthday treats. By the end of the day, though, I really wanted a cookie or some little dessert to treat myself though.  I wanted to throw myself a little pity party to grieve all of the foods I'll never eat again... (again, the stupidity of addiction to stupid foods that I shouldn't like to begin with!!!)

via pinterest

Day 2- I've realized that I was mindlessly consuming a lot of calories throughout the day, mainly from sugar.  A few skittles here, a few pretzel sticks there, a little bit of popcorn after lunch, etc...  I've never been more aware of how much junk is around me!

Day 3- Telling everyone that I'm on a sugar detox helps!  It can be hard to resist sweets, but when you tell people that you are avoiding them, you are even less likely to cheat because you know that other people are watching!!!

Day 4- Some of my junk eating is so mindless, that I don't even realize I'm doing it.  I've had to stop myself   a few times because I didn't even think of the fact that I had a tootsie roll in my hand (I give a lot of candy as motivators at school haha)  I was proud of myself too because the principal was really sweet and bought all the teachers pizza, but I said no thanks and passed for the salad :)  I also made it through a meal out and stuck to the detox plan! I ordered a burger with no bun and had them switch the fries for sauteed mushrooms.  I even resisted the fried calamari that was ordered as an appetizer! Score a few points for me!

via Pinterest

Day 5- Went to a party with yummy temptations like chocolate covered strawberries, chips, spinach dip, meatballs, etc... I thought ahead and prepared by bringing my own food... kinda weird, I know, but I was ready and since I could eat my own yummy food, it was a little bit easier to resist!

Day 6- When you fall down, don't wallow, just get up and start again!  I cheated a bit... I work with a youth group called Job's Daughters  and I drove some of the girls to Fredericksburg for a meeting and a dinner.  Long story short, the girls hadn't eaten all day, we missed the dinner, and it had started to snow so we needed to get back on the road fast.  I also had Chase with me, making getting in and out of the car with a carseat and girls and snow etc... just a mess... so I broke down and we all went through some crappy seafood drive through.  I had some fried shrimp that was totally not good or satisfying.  It was a mistake, but I'm still proud of myself for getting right back on track rather than saying, whatever, I'll just eat anything I want now.... 

Day 7- I'm on spring break!  I was able to cook a leisurely breakfast, work out, and spend some much needed quality play time with Chase!  Despite the junk meal I had for dinner on Day 6, I got right back on track.  I even resisted some queso and tortilla chips that a friend had brought to our weekly small group Bible Study... that was really really really tough because I LOOOOVE chips and queso!

Overall- it's been tough at times, but I really am proud of the fact that, aside from that one meal, I have totally stuck to the plan.  I've realized that the few little cheats I've been sneaking have really added up over time and I need to cut it out!  Thank goodness for this detox.  I've been doing really well on the baby weight loss, but I need to get motivated again and remember:

Via Pinterest

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Just a few little caveats

So, I've just finished reading the whole 21 day sugar 
detox e-book.  I'm all in and totally on board for the concept and the plan!   I will say that starting on a Tuesday (when I didn't have time to plan and cook meals for the week) has been pretty tough.  I'm making in through though.

Via Pinterest

After reading the program, however, I do have some terms and conditions that I wanted to share with you all.  I do plan to share all of my meals and snacks on my facebook page, but there will be a few different things that I will be eating that aren't exactly on the plan.  I don't want anyone to be looking at what I'm eating and say... "Hey! You ate THAT?! That's not allowed!"  I'm also going to give you my rationale behind it. 

First, as I mentioned before, I'm a nursing mom, so the plan actually has modifications for pregnant and breastfeeding moms.  According to the plan, I need to eat a little bit of a nutrient dense carb at each meal.  This includes sweet potatoes, butternut squash, white potatoes, etc... So, I'll be eating some foods that others who are doing the 21 DSD shouldn't eat.  

via pinterest

Also, according to Chris Kresser's The Healthy Baby Code, I need to drink about a quart of full fat, grass-fed milk/dairy per day.  I'm eating as much dairy as possible to get to that goal, but I have never been a fan of milk.  I don't like it and never really  have.  The only time I ever really had milk was in a bowl of cereal or with some oreos, but since both of those are out of the question, I've had to find some way to stomach the taste of milk. Sooooo, I've been drinking chocolate milk. Now I know that this is definitely not on the detox, but I'm going to keep drinking about 1/4 cup of chocolate milk mixed into my whole milk.  I'll hopefully be able to get rid of the chocolate soon, but I just can't choke down plain milk. 

Also, peanut butter is definitely not on the detox, or on paleo.  I do, however, want to eat a little bit per day.  Since Chase is getting exposure to whatever I eat, I want him to have the exposure to peanuts.  I don't intend to eat peanuts or feed them to him when he's older, but I don't want him to have a peanut allergy.  I work in a school and I have seen some crazy allergies and definitely don't want him to go through that if he doesn't have to.  I know that Chase will be less susceptible to allergies because I'm infusing his gut with tons of good probiotics, nor do we have allergies in our family. I just don't want to push it, so I'm going to eat a little bit per day.  Don't worry, it's not that super processed, sugary stuff that hardly resembles a peanut.  

Other than that, I'm going to be gung ho!  Let the journey begin!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

21 day sugar detox's been FOREVER since I've made a posting!  As it turns out... I've been super busy training my new sous chef!

This little cutie is the reason that I've been somewhat MIA.  Having a baby seems to actually take up a lot of time!  Who would have thought?!  

Chase was born on October 9, 2012.  He's an incredibly healthy and happy little guy.  Curt and I are so blessed to have this little nugget with us!

All that being said, I've tried my best to be super mom and get home from work, cook a healthy Paleo meal, work out, do laundry, and spend some quality snuggle time with the hubs.  Some days, though, something had to get cut, so often, it was nutrition/exercise. 

I've fallen off the hard core paleo bandwagon and am now ready to jump back on!  

I've never questioned whether or not paleo was the way to go.  Besides just wanting to lose the baby weight (I gained 60 lbs with that little Peanut!!!), paleo is just so much better for you.  I'm a big follower when I understand why I am doing something.  

Knowing how bad grains (even oatmeal and whole grains) are for you, how could I, in good conscience, continue eating them?  I'm typically pretty good about avoiding grains, I can't even remember the last time that I had pasta.  Sugar and desserts.... THAT'S a different story.  I CRAVE sugar.  I love cookies and cakes and brownies and donuts... also, I'm a teacher, so there's always some opportunity to eat a tasty bit of a birthday treat or some banana bread left in the teacher's lounge.  Believe it or not, being a teacher is EXTREMELY stressful.  I keep chocolate (granted it is good quality dark chocolate) in my filing cabinet to "get me through the day."

The thing is...sugar is just as bad for you as grains!  I really need to kick this habit that I've gotten into.  This is especially important because I have diabetes all over both sides of my family tree.  Being a new mom, I want to set a good example for my little guy.  I don't want him to think that macaroni and cheese and doritos and lunchables (staples in a majority of student lunchboxes) are "quality food" to nourish him and help him grow. 

Anyhoo... I turned to pinterest to find some paleo detox tips and I found the 21 day sugar detox. It's called a sugar detox, but it helps you to kick the sugar and carb cravings.  Carbs just break down into sugar anyway.  The best part is that they have personalized plans for nursing moms!

Why do a detox? Why not just go back to hard core paleo?  Well... like I said, my sugar craving has gone out of control.  I wouldn't say that I am as bad as I was in college.  Back then, I would put 10 sugar packets in 1 single glass of iced tea!  But, I've started making excuses for myself to eat a little bit of sugar every once in a while, which turned into eating a little bit after each meal, which turned into eating a dessert of some sort because, hey... I'll start paleo tomorrow. 

So, long story short... I'm starting this detox plan!  I'm excited to start it.  I am sad that I won't be wanting an occasional cookie (see how messed up it is that I don't want to give up something that I KNOW is terrible for me?!), but that is exactly why I need to do this!  

I'll do my best to chronicle my experiences and hopefully even upload a recipe or two!  I figure that by publishing this, I'll be more accountable since people actually do read my blog! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Paleo Lamb Stew

With the weather getting colder, I'm always in the mood for soups and stews.  For me, it's just comfort food!  The other week, I was wanting to try a nice cold weather soup.  I had picked up some lamb from Whole Foods that week, intending to marinate and grill it... but with my penchant for soups, I decided to turn it into a lamb stew.  I hadn't made a lamb stew before, so I turned to pinterest.  There weren't any recipes that really caught my eye, so I decided to make up my own concoction.  So here's :
Paleo Lamb Stew
 * 1 1/2 lbs boneless lamb (I used butterflied leg of lamb)
* 1 qt beef stock
* 1 cup mushrooms
* 1 tbs thyme
* 1 small onion, diced
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/4 lb of bacon (3-4 strips)
* 1 cup of baby carrots- cut in half
* 1 cup white wine
* 4 cloves garlic, minced 

First, I cut the bacon into smallish chunks and threw them into the dutch oven to brown.  I had the heat on medium low so that it would cook slowly and not burn, but get nice and crispy. 

While the bacon was cooking, I cut up the lamb into bite sized pieces and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  Some people like big chunks of meat, so if you're one of those people, go ahead and make huge pieces.  I just typically take small bites and like small chunks of lamb.

After the bacon was nice and crispy, I took it out and set it aside, but left in the yummy bacon fat.  I added in the lamb and let it all brown up.  Also, I didn't trim any of the fat from the lamb because through the cooking process, it broke down and added delicious flavor to the meat.  Also, the fat is good for you since the lamb was grass fed. 

Once the meat was browned, I added in the onion and the garlic.  I just stirred everything up so that the onions and garlic were coated nicely with the bacon fat/lamb juices. I cooked it all until the onions were soft. 

Next, I added in the beef broth.  I used store bought broth because I didn't have any home made broth ready.  Anyway, I brought the whole thing to a boil, then, reduced the heat to medium low, covered it, and let it simmer for an hour and a half.

After the hour and a half, I added in the mushrooms, bay leaves, and carrots.  

I also added in the white wine and the reserved bacon.  Then, I covered it again and let it simmer for another half hour.  The veggies had a chance to soften up and soak up all the flavors from the stew.  

When it was all finished, the house smelled amazing.  The veggies were soft and the lamb was tender and delicious!

I loved this stew.  I'd never made lamb stew before, usually favoring the classic beef stew.  Next time, I might try adding in more veggies.  The stew was a little thin, which I like.  If you like a thicker soup, you can always thicken it up with a little bit of tapioca or potato flour.  Also, if you eat potatoes, you can serve the soup with a scoop of mashed potatoes to give it a bit more thickness. I hope you like it!!