Weeknight Rush

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I love preparing challenging dishes with layers of flavors now that I have some cooking experience under my belt. But let’s be honest, one of the reasons so many people DON’T cook anymore is time. The others are likely money and lack of skill.

Who has time now that there are baseball practices, PTA meetings, travel for work, cello lessons, etc.?? A whole other discussion is how busy and scheduled we are, but today we are focusing on how to feed your family for less time and cheaper than takeout! What?! And it’s not a frozen pizza or popcorn for dinner.

Yesterday’s meal (and one of my favorites of late), is one dish and goes in the oven. It doesn’t get much easier than that. Even better, with foil on the pan, there’s one less dish to wash! Here we go…

Preheat your oven to 350. Grab a package of smoked sausage. We prefer Pederson’s German sweet sausage. Chop it up, I do slices of semi circles. Chop up a bunch of vegetables (even easier if this was done on Sunday prep day). Throw a variety of veggies on a foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the sausage over the top (that way the fat leaks out of the sausage and covers the veggies as it cooks). Place in the oven for around 30 minutes and voila! This combo included yellow onions, green pepper and radishes. We love it with broccoli or sliced green cabbage, too!

The time in the oven allows us to walk the dog, work on homework, bathe the kids, or enjoy Wheel of Fortune.  Even better, the whole meal is under $10. You can’t hit the dollar menu with a family of four and beat $10, let alone feel energetic after! 

 

This even works to cook in larger batches and have on hand for lunch the next day. You can make it your own by sprinkling shredded cheese or a honey mustard over the top. 

My pretty pantry

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So, Pinterest got me again. I am not a ‘project’ person. If it requires work and transformation, I keep right on going when it comes to furniture. I’d rather spend that time cooking, training, playing with kids, basically anything else.

But, my house came with a beautiful chandelier in the pantry, but a monochrome cream motif. Bleh. With as much time we spend in our pantry, it deserves to be as pretty as the chandelier. Luckily, my hubby rolled with it.

I do recommend completely clearing out your pantry once in a while. You may find things that expired 3 years ago, or just be able to clean the surface your food sits on.

I painted the walls with the shelves a gray-blue, while the other walls got a light gray. I repainted the ceiling and shelves a bright white to clean up the look. I’m very excited with the results!





I moved my cook books to a more prominent position. I have great friends that support my healthy cookbook habit by giving them to me as gifts. We have started really enjoying mason jars for everything from shakes to salad dressing to marinara. You can get them for a steal if you hit a Hobby Lobby sale for 50% off. Above is my trusty new programmable crock pot. 



We go through a lot of olive oil and coconut oil. We love this olive oil because it comes with a spigot for easy pouring. You can catch it on sale and during a owner’s appreciation week for about $17/bottle. The coconut oil is from Costco and I stock up! $15/tub and I use it to cook, lotion, Chapstick, hair goo, you name it.



Above is my collection of herbs and spices. We are gradually shifting towards organic and non-irradiated versions. The chemicals they hide in a simple spice is astounding. The shelf avove my spices are for our supplements. I still shake my head that I’m taking organ pills, but it beats having to prepare liver and glands! The collagen and MCT oil (behind one of the Organ Delights bottles) go into our Bulletproof coffee. Yum and a brain boost!



I made a snack shelf for the kids, stocked with kale chips, Gather bars, Jilz crackers, Nick’s Sticks and Jackson’s Honest potato chips. There are nuts and raisins above those, keeping healthy options at eye level. Key to healthy snacking. 

Enjoy!

The remaining pics…will detail later!





4th of July real food style

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The 4th of July comes with a pretty straightforward menu…grilled items, mayo-laden salads and chips. In an effort to show a small bit of appreciation for my in-laws taking the kids for the weekend, I invited them to come eat lunch!

I fretted that morning as to what to prepare as I’m such a planner. Hence I took to Pinterest to peruse my Real Food board for inspiration. I found the best salad dressing and a pretty avocado, tomato and mozzarella salad. This would serve my salad staple without mayo to keep things light and not require a nap after. For our grill items, we included our fave Applegate hotdogs and Pederson’s kielbasa20140707-214352-78232578.jpg

Placing on our grill pan (it was too hot to actually grill), it was super easy. We did the sausage 30 mins in advance and placed on a foil-lined baking sheet in a 300 degree oven to keep warm while we grilled the hot dogs.

For our salad, we threw together some spinach, cucumber, cabbage (all prepped courtesy of the Whole Foods salad bar) and added golden beets and green pepper from our fridge. But you have to try this dressing. We don’t bother with sesame or poppy seeds, but the flavor cannot be beat!
http://www.anediblemosaic.com/?p=5856

Then we cut and prepped our other salad

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20140707-214753-78473238.jpgfull of fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, avocados, red onion and basil. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper! We served with some chips we found cooked in olive and avocado oils. Yum! Great as a dip or side, compliments from all!!! http://www.justaspoonfulof.com/2011/08/avocado-tomato-mozzarella-salad.html?m=1

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Eating for a cookout doesn’t have to derail your healthy eating plan. We rounded out our meal with Hat Creek sauerkraut and Bubbie’s pickles! All walked away pleasantly full, but with energy to play with kids for the rest of the day! Happy Fourth!

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Paleo ‘ice cream’

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I’m sure I’ve mentioned it, I have something of a sweet tooth. Put me on a ‘diet’ and I instantly crave every cake, muffin and shortbread cookie in sight. I have ridden a roller coaster of being more diligent at times than others to this way of eating. Each time I diverge, I’m quickly reminded of the adage floating around Pinterest “When you eat crap, you feel like crap.” There’s also, “You are what you eat” and the list goes on. These have staying power because they keep holding true.

People who aren’t Paleo or gluten-free don’t understand how those of us who are feel so bad after eating only a smidge of their everyday foods. Though hard to believe, but when you feel bad or hurt everyday, you can become used to it and ignore it. Once you’ve cleaned up your eating, you are more in tune with your body and can easily distinguish how foods make you feel. That awareness alone gives you pause when presented with food options. Where I was once weak or felt I deserved a sweet treat due to a hard day at work, I immediately think of how that food will make me feel. That makes those choices all the simpler.

As such, I also wanted to be sure that my kids could experience sweet treats and not feel deprived in this lifestyle. When I heard of frozen bananas being used to mimic ice cream, I was skeptical at best. Until I tried it…oh my.

Hopefully you are reading this before noon so you still have time to grab a bunch of bananas and freeze them for dessert tonight! Grab a large re sealable plastic bag, let’s do this.

Frozen banana ice cream

Bunch of bananas (4-5)
Can of organic coconut milk or 12 oz whole milk
Options: tsp of organic vanilla, cinnamon, 1/2 c almond butter, 2 T raw cacao powder

Peel and break up bananas. Place in a resealable plastic bag and into a freezer for at least 5 hours (it gets soupy otherwise). Dump frozen bananas into your blender, along with your choice of milk. If using regular milk, I add vanilla. If coconut milk, it has enough flavor.

Blend and pour into bowls. Should be the consistency of soft serve. I then sprinkle cinnamon on top. As an alternative, I’ve added in almond butter and cacao powder as a switch. Make it your own!! This makes enough for 4-5 people.

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The best side dish…really!

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It is Brussels sprouts! That’s why I didn’t put it in the title, otherwise you may not have gotten further into this post. Last year’s New Year’s resolution was to figure out how to prepare these veggies with the reputation of liver. There had to be something good about them. I set out to order them at every restaurant that served them, looked up Pinterest recipes and quartered many, many containers of the little buggers in my quest.

While there’s no beating a chef’s take on these member of the cabbage/sulfur vegetable family, I have found one method that takes the cake. Maple and balsamic Brussels sprouts with bacon and pecans. Even the name makes my mouth water. Mmmm…bacon.

First, quarter your Brussels sprouts and set aside.

Then,toast the pecans in a foil-lined baking sheet for about 5-7 mins. Remove, chop and set aside. In the same foil-lined pan (saves time, money and the environment!) bake your bacon for 15 mins at 350. When you remove from the oven, take the bacon off the pan and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Pour your quartered Brussels sprouts into the bacon grease and toss to coat. Add a little olive oil, salt and pepper and place back in the oven. Cook for 25-35 mins. Meanwhile, chop up the bacon into pieces. I use my kitchen shears as they are so much easier!

When you remove from the oven, top with the bacon and pecans. Drizzle balsamic vinegar and pure maple syrup and toss to coat. Eat!!!

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Making it work with no time or money

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Between prepping for a garage sale I’m hosting this weekend, my daughter’s first sleepover (also hosting) and aforementioned softball, we are in the throws of testing my meal planning prowess. An important second goal is keeping it manageable money-wise. This brings me to tonight’s meal. It’s quick, delicious, easy the kids love it and it’s CHEAP!

I will update and post with pictures, but we are mashing up hard boiled eggs with Whole Foods guacamole and placing on a bed of spinach from the farmers market. That part is so cheap ($5 eggs and $2 worth of spinach from farmers market with $5 of guac from WF). Could also make your own and save even more! Then, we even get to have dessert!

It’s the most amazing random creation! 4-5 frozen bananas in a blender with either a can of coconut milk or whole milk. Add a splash of vanilla and dash of cinnamon and blend! Delicious soft serve ice cream for under $3 for a family of 4, and there are even seconds served! You have to try it!

My mouth is watering already…

Grain Brain

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Watched an amazing PBS show (never thought I’d say that) by Dr. David Perlmutter. He is a board certified neurologist who wrote the NY Times best selling book, Grain Brain. I learned so many things including gluten’s effects on the brain.

Turns out that gluten has only been around for the last 10,000 years, about 1% of time. Humans survived and were developed to be hunters and gatherers, eating meat and whatever else the land provided. With the dawn of agriculture, wheat and all of its hybridization came into existence.

In fact, whole wheat has a higher glycemic index value than either white bread or even a snickers. This also means that no grain counts as ‘Real Food.’

Since that time, depression, Alzheimer’s and diabetes has plagued those people in developed countries. Dr. Perlmutter told stories of his own patients that improved movement disorders, improved their child’s ADHD symptoms and reversed the effects of Alzheimer’s. This is extremely profound and information that cannot be ignored.

His 3 strategies to improving brain health were to 1) remove sugar, 2) remove gluten and 3) eat good fats. While for most this is easier said than done, those that have dealt with a family member suffering from any of those maladies will know that the ‘sacrifice’ is more than worth it.

Food for thought until next time…