Monday, April 29, 2013

Applesauce jello

I saw the blog post on Primally Inspired for a jello recipe and was super happy! A nice treat with a bit of protein and amino acids, yet not heavy on honey. I made it once with true cranberry juice (no sugar added = super tart), per the recipe (i.e. two cups of fruit juice, two tablespoons gelatin, one tablespoon honey), plus added a few cherries, and it was delicious!

However, I don't want to add honey to my foods, certainly not on a regular basis. So I decided to try the jello recipe with applesauce as the liquid, sans honey.

2 C applesauce, hot out of the crock pot, or out of a jar and warmed
2 tbsp beef gelatin
3-4 tbsp cold water

  1. Set out an 8x8 baking dish
  2. Mix gelatin in with the cold water, and mix with a fork until combined (it will be really thick)
  3. Scoop the hot applesauce into a mixing bowl and quickly add the gelatin/water mixture, mixing fervently to ensure that it dissolves evenly throughout
  4. Place in fridge for a few hours until it sets up
  5. Cut, serve and enjoy! It's delicious!
The texture is very homogenous - it's like a semi-solid bar of applesauce. I really love it!!
This is what it looks for going in to the fridge, and coming out when solid!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lazy-ass applesauce

I buy produce from door to door organics on a weekly basis, except in the summer when my garden is producing. One of my latest favorites is their ten-pound box of imperfect apples for $6.99 - what a steal! This week I bought two boxes (ahem, twenty pounds of apples)! I picked the worst twenty apples (which weren't really even that bad, perhaps one to two bruises each, and/or a mark or two) of the two boxes to use for applesauce. I have about forty apples remaining, and will make at least one more batch of applesauce, perhaps two.

I have two wee guys at home, and hence don't have time to hang out with a double broiler all day making applesauce. When I bought a ten pound box of apples a few weeks ago, I asked some ladies from a parenting forum to share the quickest way to make applesauce. One person replied with a crock pot recipe, and I was sold!

20 apples, minus bruises, cores and nibbles (be sure to remove all seeds)
1/2-1 C water
2 tbsp cinnamon

The carnage. I use that nifty little gadget there to core and slice the apples in one step. I leave the skins on, because it provides a nice color for the applesauce (pinkish). My mother-in-law strains her applesauce to remove the skins once it is finished cooking, but I don't mind the skins in my applesauce, and hence I leave them in. Feel free to strain as a last step if you wish, or peel prior to coring/slicing if you prefer.
  1. Add enough water to the crock pot that you have about a quarter-inch of water (to protect the apples from burning until they start to produce liquid)
  2. Add those apples (minus cores and bruises, of course)
  3. Add cinnamon (I used about 2 tablespoons - use as much or as little as you wish - you can always add more at serving time)
  4. Put the lid on, cook on low for 6-8 hours. I stir them periodically (once every hour or two, if I'm around)

The finished product
I keep some in a pint or quart sized canning jar in the fridge, and also freeze some (in individual six-ounce-glass containers). I pull the frozen ones into the fridge the night before consuming - the applesauce freezes wonderfully!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Greens nuts and ham

The crux of the Whole30 approach to Paleo eating is to balance each meal in terms of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. This balance constitutes one to two palm-sized portions of protein, one to two tablespoons of fat (depending on the fat source it could be more), and two-thirds of the plate occupied by vegetables. If having fruit, one closed-palm portion is the way to go.

In an effort to enjoy an all-inclusive easy-to-cook meal (that is, inclusive of all sources, but without having to make foods individually), I concocted this: greens, nuts, and ham.

Serves two!

1 thick slice of ham (3/4 to 1 pound), cubed
1-2 bunches of kale (or any greens)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 C cashews*, crushed (I crush them by clenching them tightly in my fist)
1-2 tbsp coconut oil (or other fat)
1 apple, cored and sliced

One bunch of kale (raw), de-stemmed and torn into pieces
3/4 pound of ham, cubed

  1. Heat coconut oil in wok or frying pan over medium-high heat
  2. Toss in the cubed ham. Cook for five minutes, then add garlic and stir. Let cook a few more minutes.
  3. Add the kale
  4. Stir occasionally until the kale wilts
  5. Add the nuts last, stir and cook for three to five more minutes

Ta-da!!!  I didn't cook the apples, but you could throw them in along with the nuts if you like. I just placed half an apple worth of slices on each plate next to main course.  (And as you may be able to infer, that seemingly huge pile of kale became rather small once wilted - this photo shows approximately half of what was shown in the picture of the raw kale).
*You can use any nut you wish - just remember that peanuts are NOT nuts, they are legumes. The last two times I made this, I used walnuts and they tasted great!

Vegan potential: Just replace the ham with cubed tofu. Main difference is that you'll have to cook the tofu much longer than the ham, if you like it prepared firmly. Of course, soy is a no-no in Paleo land, but if you're a non-Paleo vegan, this meal's for you!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Turkey loaf

I never really made meatloaf prior to our Paleo conversion. My husband thumbed through the newest cookbook gracing my shelf, "OMG. That's Paleo." a few weeks ago, and flagged the chicken basil meatloaf recipe. Since then I've concocted various versions of meatloaf or meatballs, inspired by the recipe he saw, but I have not following it exactly. My recipes have varied based on what I have in my fridge, or what I want to sneak into my two-year-old's tummy.

Today it was turkey loaf (or turkey meatloaf, or turkeyloaf - whatever you want to call it), with carrots, onion and chard!

1 pound ground turkey (or meat of choice)
1/4 cup steamed carrots, chopped
1 chard leaf, chopped or minced
1/3 of a small red onion, chopped
1 tbsp flax seed meal* + 3 tbsp water (OR 1 egg, whisked)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fat (coconut oil, bacon fat, etc.), melted + more for greasing the baking dish

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. If using flax meal in place of an egg, place 1 tbsp flax meal into 3 tbsp of water, mix and allow to set for 5 minutes
  3. Combine all ingredients except for turkey (meat)
  4. Add the meat, and mix thoroughly (wooden spoon or your hand)
  5. Grease a small baking dish - I used a Pyrex bread dish (see below)
  6. Place mixture into dish, cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or so. Remove foil, and bake until golden brown and cooked through (about 15 more minutes)
Chopped veggies
Flax meal setting in water
Turkey loaf prior to baking - sorry, I didn't get an after photo - we ate it all up!

*Depending on who's Paleo rules you may follow, flax seed meal is either OK or a no-no. According to the Whole30 program from "It Starts With Food," flax seed meal is permitted in small quantities on the Paleo diet. I use it once or twice per week at most.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cashew butter

Nut butters are a bit of a staple for our family these days. Michael is in LOVE with Sunbutter. I really like the Trader Joe's Almond butter, and can swallow the price. But I can't find a simple, affordable cashew butter (made with just cashews and salt). Hence, I made my own!

1 C cashews (whole, raw, unsalted or salted)
1 tbsp coconut oil (room temperature)
salt (to taste - i used 1/2 tsp)

  1. Place ingredients in food processor
  2. Grind or pulse for 5 minutes total. Stop to scrape if/when necessary (when you hear the motor revving higher, or notice that the contents within are no longer moving - I had to scrape 3-4 times). I wanted a super smooth texture - it was thinner than butter when I finished. 
  3. Store in a jar in the fridge. After refrigeration it hardened a bit, but is still spreadable (rather typical of refrigerated all natural nut butter texture).
It's delicious - I need to double the batch next time!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tomato soup

My two-year old has been on a bit of a vegetable strike (though he sometimes eats steamed carrots, AND willingly eats meatloaves, mini quiche and salmon cakes with greens incorporated). He loves soups, particularly those puréed. So I made a tomato soup this evening, specifically because I can't find a dairy-free version without added sugar.

2 cans tomato paste
1/2 roasted sweet potato, puréed
1 C canned coconut milk
2 1/2 C water
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt

1. Place small pot over medium heat
2. Add all ingredients and stir thoroughly and consistently until blended (10 minutes or so)
3. Serve (or store in fridge, or portion it out for freezing)

My son enjoys drinking his soup via straw - that's how he rolls! I guess it makes things more fun and that's fine by me! The soup is a nutritious addition to any meal (he even has soup with breakfast some days).

Turkey roll-ups and sandwiches

We have decided to go grain free in our household, my two-year old included. I expected a heck of a battle from the tiny guy who practically lives off of toast with butter or jam and peanut butter sandwiches. Much to my surprise, however, he has taken it quite well! He sometimes asks for bread and I reply, "we don't eat bread anymore." Then he'll ask for a sandwich, and I whip out turkey (deli slices) and make sandwiches for him.

Today I made two turkey roll-ups to take along to our lunch date at Panera (where I enjoyed the Power Mediterranean turkey salad from their secret menu). This may not be appetizing to the average individual, but my little guy loves these:

2 thick slices of turkey deli meat
2 tbsp Sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) - any nut butter will do
1/2 leaf of Swiss chard, minced (I use a Tupperware Smooth Chopper)

1. Lay turkey slices out flat
2. Spread one tablespoon of Sunbutter on each slice
3. Sprinkle the minced chard on top of the Sunbutter
4. Starting at one end if a slice, roll up tightly. Repeat with the other slice.

These puppies travel well, and are fast and easy to make. Adding more veggies could make a perfectly balanced meal. 
Today I took along a container of tomato soup to balance the meal. He ate everything and drank all of the soup as well.
Variation: some days I use a cookie cutter to cut shapes from. The deli meat (I eat the remnants). Then I slather nut butter on one shape and add another shape to make a "sandwich."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A little bit of progress

The boys and I spent part of the morning outside - what a gorgeous day!  I managed to clear weeds from a good portion of the garden in between keeping the baby out of the son and watching my toddler as he moseyed back and forth between his sandbox and my garden, often bringing dump trucks loaded with sand. He also kept demanding that I find more worms, as if that was going to be a problem!
Nearly half of the raised bed is now weed-free and prepped for planting. 
A view from the southeast side of the garden.

Simple breakfasts

Photos and descriptions of a few recent simple breakfasts:
This one was fast and simple. I fried some bacon, used the fat to cook swiss chard, cut up a bell pepper and threw on a slice of cantaloupe.  Perfect. Delicious. Healthy!

This morning's breakfasts for my son and I included a combination of my pork sausage, veggies, eggs, nuts and soup.
My plate: 1/2 of a red bell pepper, 1/4 C raw cashews, 4-6 ounces of my pork sausage, and a delicious sliced tomato with a bit of salt.
Breakfast for my two-year old: 1 egg scrambled in a bit of clarified butter, 1 piece of pork sausage, vegetable soup in a cup with straw (he had actual water for drinking, but enjoys consuming soup via straw), and about 1/2 an avocado.

Chard or Kale cooked in bacon fat


1 bunch chard (or kale), cleaned, de-stemmed
2-4 tbsp bacon fat*

*either fat that you saved after cooking bacon previously, or fresh from a new batch of cooked bacon. you could use any fat of choice - coconut oil, clarified butter, etc.

  1. Place bacon fat in a frying pan over medium-high heat (a bit more toward medium than high).
  2. Break/cut kale into pieces (2x2 inches or so) and place in pan
  3. Stir periodically until kale wilts (usually about 8 minutes)
  4. Serve and enjoy!

Pork sausage


1 pound bulk pork sausage
2 tbsp chopped carrots (i used steamed carrots for softer texture)
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
salt & pepper

for cooking
2-3 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 C water

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix sausage, carrots and spices together. Use hands or a wooden utensil to combine all ingredients well
  2. Pick up 1/4 C sized portions of the mixture and form into sausage shaped pieces
  3. In a large frying pan, melt coconut oil over medium-high heat
  4. Place all sausages in pan
  5. Brown on all sides
  6. Add 1/2 C water to the pan, continue to cook/turn sausages until water evaporates
These sausages are truly delicious. My 2-year-old son LOVES them!
They store well in the fridge for at least a few days. While I haven't frozen them yet, I'm sure they would freeze just fine.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Prepping the garden

2013 will be my third growing season. I don't know all that much about gardening, but there are two things I'm pretty sure are true:
weeds = bad
earthworms = good
I keep attempting to prep the soil for this year's planting, but doing so with a two-year old and four-month old yields minimal productivity. I snuck out to my garden during the boys' synchronized naps this afternoon - thought I was pretty slick bringing the baby monitor to listen in on the little guy. But after 10-15 minutes of pulling weeds and turning soil, the monitor crapped out. It's a good thing I went back inside, because baby guy was crying (he rarely cries, and I would never leave him alone to cry - we were both pretty sad over the whole thing).
Weeds removed. Soil broken up and turned. Feels awesome!
Tool of choice. No idea what it's called, but it's awesome!
I started at the top edge of the bed and pulled the tool toward me, ripping up weeds and organic matter. I sifted through the softened soil to pull up weeds, but left behind anything that appeared to be decaying or dried out (that stuff counts as fodder for compost, right?), and then continued on to the next section.
A lot of work, a little pile of weeds.
The garden is four railroad ties long, or thirty-two feet. I think I got through about 5 feet of it. Planning to plant chili peppers, bell peppers, chard, kale, spinach, and carrots.
The husband trenched water AND electricity (though it didn't seem to be working today, hence the crying baby incident) out to my garden (SWEET!), and he extended the fence enough to accommodate three eight-by-eight raised beds (to be integrated next year).  As for this growing season, I will use the open space to plant melons, cukes, and potted tomatoes. I'll plant beans and luffas along the perimeter, allowing them to climb the fence.