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!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Paleo Roasted Tomato Soup

The weather is starting to change.  I absolutely LOVE it.  Fall is, by far, my favorite season.  I love when the leaves start to change colors and the air becomes cool and crisp.  I also love the food that comes with fall. It's time to make the roasted pork loin, dishes with apples, anything with cinnamon, and soups!  I'm not a huge fan of tomatoes.  Actually, I'm not a fan of tomatoes at all.... but, I wanted to try making a roasted tomato soup.  I did some research and found a recipe from Tyler Florence.

I've talked before about how amazing local farmers markets are.  On Friday, I stopped by the farmer's market and picked up some good stuff, including all the ingredients to make this:

Paleo Roasted Tomato Soup

* 2 1/2 lbs mixed tomatoes - I used grape, heirloom, and some sort of orangey yellow thing
* 8 cloves of garlic
* 1/2 cup fresh basil
* 1 small yellow onion
* 1 qt chicken broth (that's why there's a frozen chicken in the background)
* 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 1 tbs dried oregano
* salt and pepper

First, I made some chicken broth.  You definitely don't have to make it from scratch, but I think it's healthier and tastier if you do.  I didn't have a ton of extra veggies floating around, so I just threw the frozen stewing hen, a few black peppercorns, and a bay leaf into the pot with a bunch of water.  The stewing hen was frozen solid, so it didn't quite fit in the pot, but that's ok.  I turned the heat on high and brought the whole thing to a boil, then turned down the heat to medium low.  I let it simmer for a few hours.

Here's what it looked like after a few hours.  You can see how yellow the broth is from all the flavor.  Can you say "yum!"?   

I took the chicken out and shredded it to use in a different meal.  I also strained the broth and froze some of it since it made about 2-3 quarts. I put 1 quart back into the pot. 

Meanwhile, I cut up the tomatoes and onion into big chunks.  I also peeled and crushed the garlic and put it on a foil lined pan.  I tossed everything in the olive oil and sprinkled some salt and pepper over the whole thing. Then, I thew it in the oven at 450 for about 15-20 minutes, or until everything looked like it was starting to caramelize.  

  Here's how great the tomatoes and the onions and garlic looked after roasting.  It just brings out this delicious flavor! 

Next, I threw all of the roasted veggies in the pot with the chicken broth and the basil leaves.  I turned the heat to medium high and let everything simmer/boil until the liquid was reduced to about 1/3 of what it was. 

So here is what it looks like when it had reduced a bit.  When you reduce a soup, you're basically letting a lot of the water evaporate out.  This leaves all of the flavor in the soup and just makes a more concentrated flavor.   

At this point, I used an immersion blender and pureed everything up.  I'm sure it would have been good if all the tomatoes were cut into bite sized chunks, but, again, I'm not a fan of tomatoes and wanted it all to be pureed.  You could always throw everything into a blender if you don't have an immersion blender. 

After pureeing, I added in the heavy cream (which is totally optional if you don't like/can't handle dairy).  The original recipe didn't call for oregano, but when I tasted it, I thought it needed a bit more flavor, so I added in some dried oregano.  Next time, I'll add in the oregano when I add in the basil.   

So here's the finished product.  I added a little bit of parmesan cheese to the top, which just made it taste that much better.  The final result?  Curt LOVED it.  He's not a huge soup fan, but he definitely had a few bowls of it.  I loved it too.  It had the flavors of a yummy pasta sauce, but it was a soup.  I think it's a big success if you don't like tomatoes, but like this soup. It's just perfect for a crisp fall day!  It's also a great way to use up some of those summer tomatoes that you might have left over.



Sunday, September 23, 2012

Paleo Beef and Lamb Meatballs with goat cheese

My hubby is Italian, meaning that before we went paleo, he LOVED eating a big bowl of pasta with meat sauce, lasagna, ravioli, or any other form of pasta.  I loved it too, but we made a choice to change our eating habits.  One of the good things, though, is that meatballs are still a delicious paleo treat!  I just decided to get a bit creative.  Instead of serving the meatballs over spaghetti squash (which is definitely a yummy alternative), I served these over a bed of sauteed spinach.  I also made a cream sauce rather than a marinara sauce.  My little baby is still growing and needs the grass fed, full fat dairy, so I added a bit with the goat cheese and the cream sauce.  To make these "true paleo," just make a different sauce and don't add in the goat cheese.

Paleo Beef and Lamb Meatballs
 with Goat Cheese

* 1 lb ground beef
* 1 lb ground lamb
* 1 cup minced onions
* 2 egg whites
* 3 tbs minced garlic
* 1 tbs parsley flakes
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp pepper
* 1 tbs garlic powder
* 1 tbs onion powder
* 8 oz goat cheese (optional)

For the sauce
* 1 pint heavy cream
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp pepper
* 1 tbs garlic powder
* 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (grated)

First, I mixed pretty much everything up in a big glass bowl.  I mixed the ground beef, lamb (I like the taste of both mixed together, but you can certainly change it up with pork or just using all lamb or all beef... whatever you like). I also added in the onions, garlic, spices, and egg whites.  You could also use a whole egg, but I had egg whites that I needed to use. I just used my hands and mixed everything up.  Make sure not to work the mixture too much because the last thing you want is the meat turning rubbery and tough.

Most people add some sort of breadcrumb, white bread soaked in milk, or some other jazz... I've made several batches of meatballs without them and really haven't missed them.  These are moist enough without having to add bread to make them soft.

Once everything was thoroughly mixed, I took the goat cheese and put it into a small dish, getting it ready to stuff these bad little meatballs!  Like I said before, if you don't do well with dairy or don't like it, then just leave this part out.  The meatballs will still be delicious without the goat cheese.  You could probably use a different type of cheese here too.  Those little buccatini (mozzarella balls) would be perfect for this! I don't know why I didn't think of it before, but now I want to try it... I'll save that for another post, though!

Next, I took a small bit of goat cheese and rolled it into a little ball. 

Then, I took a pretty good amount of the meat mixture, rolled it into a ball, then flattened it so the goat cheese ball would fit in the middle.  

 Next, I put the goat cheese ball in the middle of the meat mixture.  I then wrapped the meat mixture around the goat cheese.  You have to make sure that there is enough meat to cover the whole thing because you don't want the goat cheese to melt and leak out of the meatball when you cook it.

I just repeated this process until I was out of goat cheese and meat mixture.  I lined them all up on a foil lined cookie sheet to get all situated.   

These meatballs turned out to be HUGE, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. 

You can bake these in the oven, but I like mine browned on the stove.  I didn't even need to add any butter or oil to the pan because the meat had enough.  I just turned the stove to Medium High and threw in a few meatballs at a time.  I let them brown and kept moving them so they would cook evenly and not burn.

 So here are the yummy little meatballs, just waiting to be eaten.

As I mentioned before, I served these over a bed of sauteed spinach.  I just threw the fresh spinach in the same pan that I cooked the meatballs.  That way, it didn't need any oil or butter.  It just cooked in the leftover juices from the meatballs.... talk about delicious flavor!

Here's what they look like with the cream sauce.  If you want to make the sauce, it's super easy.  Basically, you put the heavy cream, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a small saucepan and heat everything on Medium heat.  Keep stirring it all so that the sauce won't burn on the bottom (which can happen quickly if you aren't careful).  Eventually, the cheese melts and you have a yummy alfredo sauce that is amazing with the spinach and the meatballs.

I loved this dish.  It was delicious and it was relatively simple.  The best thing about this is that you can double or triple the batch of meatballs and freeze them before you cook them.  Our little Peanut is due to arrive in two weeks (so any time now).  I'm planning to make a batch of these suckers and freeze them so we'll have some food during those first few hectic weeks.