Paleo cranberry sauce

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Cranberries really freaked me out as a kid. Sort of like brussel sprouts. You always hear how horrible they are and the only reason they even have a spot at the table on Thanksgiving is purely for tradition’s sake. That being said, I’m not sure where the tradition began to turn it into jelly in a can, but, I’m getting off track.

I finally worked up the courage to try my grandmother’s cranberry sauce one Thanksgiving in my teen years. Um, yum! I had been skipping this jello, sugar, pineapple, orange and pecan wonderment all of these years?! It is fantastic and like a dessert instead of a side. Well, duh, look at the ingredients above. But, it was better than the can version and soon became my requisite contribution to my in-laws feasts.

That was until this year when I wanted to see what I could do to Paleo-fy the dish so that I could eat it as well as my kids. In my fridge I happened to have some organic apple cider. I also keep raw local honey on hand. So I combined about 2 cups of cider with. 3/4 of a bag of cranberries and 1/2 cup of honey in a saucepan on the stove. I brought the mixture to a boil, lowered to a simmer and listened to those little bits of goodness ‘pop’! I kept an eye on them for about 15 minutes or so, cajoling the last couple of cranberries to burst. Then I simply let the mixture cool and thicken, added a little cinnamon because I love it and threw it in the fridge .

Well, my daughter asked if she could lick her plate after her first serving. My Paleo-eating coworkers also appreciated my creation. Non-Paleo people found it tart, but your taste for sweetness certainly changes when you aren’t constantly bombarded with sugar. Try it and see if this becomes your go to dish for next fall’s feast!!

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Mmmmm…Chili!

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It’s winter in most parts of the US, even though it’s oddly warm here in Texas. During this time of year, I crave warm one-pot dishes that incorporate meat, veggies and makes my house smell warm and cozy. What fits that description better than chili!

Real Food chili is so savory and delicious, not to mention bowl cleaning worthy by my children. We mix up the add-ins depending on the seasonal veggies available and what I have on hand. Since we’ve gone hard core paleo/primal, beans have gone by the wayside. The phytic acid on the outside of beans requires the nutrients in your body to beak it down. As such, it actually takes nutrients OUT of our body in order to digest. Yikes!

So, when it came time to determine the holiday pot luck theme for my new staff, I was excited to share my chili with them. Much to my pleasant surprise, 2 of my nurses eat paleo as well, so I knew I had at least them on board. My latest twist is to incorporate butternut squash into the chili and sometimes kale if I have it. Both add a great texture and sneak in some extra oomph to your diet. Here we go!

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Today I have fire roasted tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. I’m working my way towards organic non-irradiated spices, but the last time I bought chili powder I got the BIG bottle! I did incorporate red and black beans this time as I’m trying to feed 10 people with this. Next, I added a diced onion (as I learned on YouTube…

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I also diced carrots and red pepper, browned 2 #ground beef with another diced onion and added it all to the pot. As there wasn’t much juice due to the lack of beans, I added 1.5 cups organic beef broth and 1 cup organic red wine (one of our favorites!). It smells so good, hope they love it!!

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Real Food Supplements, Part 1

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Gummy vitamins are all the rage, but do the best supplements really come from a test tube? By eating Real Food, we’ve been able to find many ‘supplements’ to incorporate into our eating routine. I actually only consider them supplements since they are not a dish in and of itself. I will explore each of the main ‘supplements’ in a 3 part series.

There are 3 basic ‘supplements’: fermented cod liver oil, greens and bone broth. The first one we’ll cover is the one we consume daily and is the most important one, fermented cod liver oil.

Scandinavian warriors kept fermented cod livers in barrels outside their huts because they knew of its superpowers. While that could not be feasibly done today (unless you wanted every cat within a 25 mile radius hanging out at your house), it certainly has been proven to have such superpowers.

You’ve heard of the benefits of omega-3 fats and fish oil such as brain boosting, vitamins A and D for hormone production, muscle tone, weight loss, skin improvement, etc. Fermented cod liver oil can be thought of as a suped up fish oil. We purchase ours online from Green Pasture (www.greenpasture.org). It comes in cinnamon tingle and arctic mint flavors. Our kids, who take a teaspoon a day, prefer cinnamon tingle. The hubs and I take a tablespoon a day and like both flavors. We purchase ours in bulk and store in a cool, dark coat closet. Why a coat closet? Why not?!

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Real Food Supplements, Part 2

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In the first post of this series, we discussed the benefits of fermented cod liver oil. That was a supplement we take every day. We will next visit greens, something we take often!!

Amazing Grass (www.amazinggrass.com) is our go to greens company.

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Greens are freeze-dried extracts from organic fruits, vegetables and other super foods. It easily gives you the antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals in case you cannot eat 10-12 servings of fruits and veggies a day. It comes in both capsule and powdered forms. Capsules are great for when you’re traveling. The powdered version mixes easily into our breakfast smoothies. We do not utilize this everyday, but at least two-three times a week or as needed depending how ‘clean’ our diet has been. The powder comes in a variety of flavors: berry, chocolate and acai. They provide a link to more recipes on their container, so the sky is the limit!!

Time to Meal Plan!!

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It’s that time of the week…to plan your meals for the next week! I know, I know, it requires an exclamation point to create some true excitement. But, I do promise that taking 20 minutes tonight or first thing Saturday night to meal plan saves time, money and sheer panic. You know, that feeling that sneaks up on you around 4:30 every afternoon of ‘What am I going to make tonight for dinner?’ Or ‘Do they really HAVE to eat again?’

This last minute meal scramble often results in either a fast food run, a pricey dinner out or cereal for dinner. Does that provide an opportunity to nourish your family and have a meaningful conversation with your family? Not every meal has to entail a 4 course gourmet meal to fit the bill. Read on to learn my tricks…

First, I get my dry erase calendar out to see what activities we have going on…

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This can give you a great framework with which to start. Nights that include an after work activity (i.e. gymnastics, spelling bee, soccer practice) are made even easier when a crock pot meal is ready and waiting when you come home.

Working a little late and need a meal that can come together quickly? I incorporate meals such as sausage and broccoli in the wok, hamburgers, fish, stir fry, etc.

Is there a sale on a large piece of meat? Plan two meals in a row that can incorporate the same protein. Cook a large pork roast and have either leftovers or use on a salad or throw into an egg bake.

Next, I get out my dry erase meal planner, Well-Fed cookbook by Melissa Joulwan and Pinterest to fill in the framework.

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For vegetables, I figure out how many dishes require sides. Then when I hit the farmer’s market and Whole Foods, I get what I can find. That way we can get whatever is fresh and in season.

It took a while to get the system figured out, and each family has their own needs and rhythm to figure out. But, being able to come home and know what the plan is takes the pressure off of coming up with a meal on the fly and minimizes the stress of each evening.

What tips work for you??

Cooking

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In a land of too many activities, convenience foods and never being ‘off’ from work thanks to our devices (or vices), cooking has fallen by the wayside. It takes too long, requires skills we only see on tv and requires thought and planning. I will say, one of the most enjoyable side effects to our conversion to a Real Food/ancestral/paleo diet has been learning to be the queen of my domain in the kitchen. 

First, I’m not afraid to fail (just listen to my kids detailing the time I made mashed cauliflower completely inedible by adding to much garlic). I also like to learn and expand my culinary skills, whether by trial and error or sitting at the kitchen in a restaurant. Third, it is difficult to eat out and still follow this way of eating. Learning to cook became a necessity, but it also became my therapy. It gave me some level of control over how adventurous we ate since it wasn’t really my decision to eat this way. Taking our food into my own hands gave me desire to push my boundaries.

I really was able to put words to my feelings after listening to Michael Pollan’s audiobook Cooked. Becoming aware of how your food was prepared, taking the time to understand what goes into that whole hog barbecue or fermentation of vegetables adds a level of appreciation and willingness to try new things. There is pure artistry in the creation of a braised one-pot dish or a block of cheese. When you can look at food as a way to nourish your family, pass along your heritage, keep them healthy and create not only an openness to new flavors, but also new conversations, a fast food meal seems to cheapen the experience.

I was fortunate to start my children young before they had too many bad habits and their minds were pliable to learning (my 4 year old son came home today counting to 10 in French, their brains are amazing!). So, yes, they cannot stand macaroni and cheese or chicken fingers. As a side dish to their hamburger, they selected brussels sprouts over french fries. But they are learning to appreciate genuine flavor that is not created in a lab. They see what goes into preparing a meal and appreciate (and eat) what we put in front of them. 

Go ahead and give cooking a try. Start small with a simple chili, crock pot meal or just roast some vegetables in the oven. With each attempt, you will become more confident, daring and perhaps even offer to bring more than a store bought pie to the next pot luck! You can do it!