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!