Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup

Soup is wonderful for so many reasons.  It’s delicious, has so much nutritional value and it is the only way I can get my daughter to eat kale.  She’ll eat other veggies, no problem, but kale… not so much.  She practically inhaled this tonight.

Even my super picky husband will gobble it up and I am pretty sure some of the vegetables probably even made it into his mouth.  I usually make the carrots pretty small so that they areharder to pick out.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Italian sausage.  Make your own using this recipe.
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 pound potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Brown your sausage in a large stock pot.
  2. Once sausage has browned, remove it from the pan.  Use the grease left in the pan to saute your carrots, celery and onion.  When it becomes fragrant and onions become translucent, add garlic and saute for another 1-2 minutes.
  3. Return sausage to the pan along with the remaining ingredients.
  4. Bring to boil and then reduced to simmer for at least 20 minutes or until potatoes can be pierced with a fork.
  5. Remove from heat and serve hot (or, with ice cubes for your little one!).

Grandma’s Spanish Rice ~ Instant Pot Version (Not Paleo)

I hate to be a traitor to my Paleo peeps, but I think I am officially giving up on Cauliflower rice. It has three major problems:

  1. It’s not that easy to cook. I have the worlds tiniest food processor so I have to rice it in batches, causing cauliflower chunks to get all over my kitchen. Then, I usually over or under cook it.
  2. It doesn’t taste or smell great so B won’t eat it. She can identify it as cauliflower a mile away and she will not put it in her mouth. One time I did get her to try it and she put the equivalent of 1 grain in her mouth and proceeded to act like she’d been poisoned.
  3. White rice is actually easier for me to digest.  The whole reason I started to eat paleo was provide me some relief from my constant stomach issues, and cauliflower doesn’t settle well with me. Rice rice is fine.

So, this is the one grain I regularly consume in small amounts.

I used to eat a ton of Spanish Rice as a kid. My grandma made the absolute best rice. It was flavorful without being overpowering. I made it with her countless times as a kid, but I haven’t been able to recreate it with that same flavor (grandma magic?).

But this week I nailed that flavor in my instant pot.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp bacon grease or pork lard
  • 1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup organic diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken broth (add 1/4 cup if you prefer a wetter rice)
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 3/4 tsp salt (omit if your broth and tomatoes include salt- you can always add more later)

Instructions

  1. Mix chicken broth, diced tomatoes and salt in a blender and set aside.
  2. Set instant pot to sauté and add pork fat. One the fat has melted add the onions and sauté until fragrant. Add in garlic and stir continuously.
  3. Add dry rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes until it starts to brown, but be careful not to let it burn.
  4. Add the tomato and broth mixture.
  5. Push the cancel button on the instant pot. Then select manual and set the timer to 7 minutes. Put the lid on the pot and allow it to come up to pressure. This will take 5-10 minutes.
  6. The pressure cooker will begin counting down. When the timer is done, it will start to gradually release pressure. Do not open the lid until the pressure has been fully released.
  7. Stir rice and serve.

Worlds Best Mexican Grilled Chicken

I LOVE this grilled chicken.  It’s my go to chicken for salads, tacos and burrito bowls.  I served this last night at my daughter’s birthday party to be used for tacos and it went faster than the beef.  That is saying something.  I always make 3 pounds at a time because it never goes bad.

It is also SO FREAKING EASY.  I felt a little embarrassed by all of the compliments I got because this could not be easier.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp
  • 1 tbsp cumin (I use 1/2 ground cumin, 1/2 cumin seed)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • lime wedges and cilantro for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your grill.
  2. Remove chicken from its packaging. Allow any juices from the chicken to drip off before placing it in a large bowl
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix them together with the chicken.
  4. Grill the chicken for about 3 minutes on the preheated grill.  Rotate 90 degrees  to create a crosshatch pattern and grill for another 3 minutes.  Flip the chicken and grill for about 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness of the thighs.
  5. Allow chicken to rest, and then cut into strips or cubes.

 

Snack Week?!?!

Kindergarten has brought so many new challenges. One of them has been getting used to my roll as a parent rather than the teacher. There’s a whole new list of responsibilities, one of which is providing snack for her class for a week… and it’s my week.

I think most moms would pick up some snacks that their own kid enjoyed without much thought. Not me. I have been contemplating snack choices for weeks now. I am a chronic meal planner.  I hate not knowing what our next meal is going to be. That’s one of the reasons that I decided to start this blog… it’s a natural progression for this odd compulsion to plan, plan, plan.

Ideally, I’d provide minimally processed foods. Not necessarily Paleo, but something I wouldn’t hesitate to provide my daughter. However, there are several challenges that Inhave to keep in mind:

  1. We are not rich and providing snack for 28 kids for 5 days isn’t cheap.  Unfortunately, it seems that the more processed the food, the less expensive it is. 
  2. Most kids don’t eat like my kid. My kid would eat anything in a wrapper because we don’t usually have that stuff at home. It is a special treat to her.  But other kids… not so much. One time I brought snack to t-ball practice and two kids actually cried. CRIED!
  3. There isn’t refrigeration in the classroom and homemade foods are a no-no. 

I got word that there were no food allergies in class this year, so that helps but…..!!!!

Here is what I picked up along with my reasons:

  • Mandarin oranges (Halos) -They are fruit. They are easy to pass out and eat. Most kids seem to like them. I bring them for my high school students and they are gone in no time.
  • Applesauce pouches– I found some that contained only apple and apple juice concentrate. I know adding apple juice concentrate is a way of adding sugar without having to include sugar on the label. It’s not ideal, but they are easy to pass out and didn’t have a bunch of other stuff. I considered individual packs of sliced apples, but those weren’t in the budget. Also, they were on sale.
  • Chiobani Yogurt Tubes– They contain some protein and fat (although low fat was the only option 🙁). They can be frozen so that they can be left out. They do contain added sugar but at 6 grams of sugar per serving this was one of the lowest sugar snack options I found.
  • Annie’s Granola Bars – These were the lowest sugar granola bars I found and I looked at every single box. Many granola or cereal bars had well over 10 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Bananas – Easy to eat and most kids like them. 

Many of these aren’t ideal. I would love feedback and suggestions about what you do when it’s your turn to provide snack. 

Spaghetti Squash: Versatile and Kid Approved

On Saturday, I didn’t feel much like cooking. It was a long and exhausting week. The night before, my husband surprised me with an amazing Tomahawk Steak and asparagus for dinner. We had tons leftover, so I decided to reheat it for lunch on Saturday.  I wanted a few more carbs on my plate but also wanted to make something that B would enjoy.  And did I mention I didn’t feel like cooking.Spaghetti squash is often my solution.  My lazy prep method is to stab the heck out of it with a knife and throw it in the microwave for 10 minutes.  

This time, I added a bit of Kerrygold grassfed butter to B’s and served it with leftover steak and frozen veggies. (Her plate is on the right). You could easily sub olive or coconut oil if your kiddo doesn’t do well with butter. She said this meal was “awesome” and quickly finished off this whole plate.

For my spaghetti squash I like to spruce it up a little. Here are a few of my favorite ways to make an easy Spaghetti squash side dish:

  • Heat olive oil in a saucepan and throw in a minced garlic clove. Cook until fragrant then add spaghetti squash, salt and pepper. Stir to evenly mix.
  • Add capers or parsley or both.
  • Add cumin, coriander and cilantro.
  • Mix and match the suggestion above!

It’s simple and delicious. What are your favorite things to do with spaghetti squash?

Mommy’s Weekly Wrap Up: January 15-21

Whew!  What a week!

As a teacher, work is very cyclical and challenging in different ways throughout the semester.  For the first two weeks of the semester, I got to spend more time lesson planning and reconnecting with students.  Now that we are three weeks in, I have all that AND mounds of grading that needs to be done.  The beginning of the semester honeymoon is over.

Also, this week we experienced some pretty severe weather.  This year we are having the repeating and continuous threat of flooding in the area, especially in the area where I work.  To top it off, the school where I work lost power on Wednesday evening and didn’t return until almost 2 on Thursday.  The powers that be decided that school shouldn’t be canceled, so we spent the day teaching in dark, cold classrooms without working bathrooms or running water.  Ugh! We did have port-a-potties, but if you can imagine sharing a port-a-potty with middle and high school students you can probably also imagine the horrors that go along with that.  I am so exhausted and made some not-so-great choices this week.

Still, I can’t help but put a positive spin on the week.  To start, the challenges that I am facing at work have reinforced the fact that I am unhappy at work and it is time to move on.  This has prompted me to re-write my resume so that I am ready when the time comes to apply for jobs for next school year.

And my questionable food choices are so much better than they were before.  I ate out a couple of time this week, but I didn’t spend the weekend in a face full of nachos.  Its all relatives.

So, here is what we ate this week:

Breakfasts (on repeat): 

  • Italian Sausage or Chorizo with Easy Weekday Potatoes
  • Eggs and Bacon with Fruit
  • Lots of Kale for me! (Not B)

Lunches:

  • Lots of leftovers for both B and I

Dinners:

  • Monday: Mongolian Beef ~ Fed and Fit Website
  • Tuesday:Creole Jambalaya ~ Fed and Fit Cookbook page 248
  • Wednesday: Tandori Chicken Nuggets ~ Fed and Fit Cookbook  258
    • Served with white rice (not paleo) and roasted purple cauliflower
  • Chipotle  on Thursday because there was no was I was cooking
  • Friday: Grilled Steak and Asparagus
  • Saturday: Taqueria Carne asada, spanish rice (not paleo), fajita veggies and avocado.

Weekly Workouts:

  • Crossfit Monday and Tuesday (and I am REALLY needed to squeeze in one more day)
  • Yoga: Saturday

 

 

Seeking Support From Your Significant Other

I have heard this topic discussed quite a bit in recent weeks and want to share my story because I think it might be a familiar one.

I had been doing Crossfit for about 6 months when I decided to eliminate gluten from my diet.  I quickly saw the benefits to my digestion, but my husband saw it as a major annoyance.  He didn’t really even know what gluten was.  He only knew that it meant that it was much more difficult for us to chose a restaurant or agree on groceries.

When I made my shift to a full paleo diet, I made a lot of the mistakes that many paleo newbies make. I ate too low carb and I frequently skipped meals because I couldn’t find a paleo option. One night I even ate only bacon for dinner because I didn’t plan ahead and it was what we had.  Then I’d binge eat nachos on the weekend because I was basically starving myself during the week.

I provided our daughter with paleo food, that was fine with him.  However, he certainly wasn’t going to do the same.  We had major fights about his food choices  (and consequently hers and we both dug in hard.  His argument was that she ate better than most of the kids he saw at school.  Mine argument was that the Standard American Diet (SAD) wasn’t much of a comparison.  I think the low point was when he took her to the “Pancake Store” (McDonald’s) and told her not to tell me.

We were dietary adversaries instead of a team.

Things have gotten significantly better over time.  He doesn’t eat a paleo diet, but he is supportive of mine.  I know that we could have gotten to this point more quickly, and changing my approach could have made all of the difference.

Here are a few things I wish I would have done when I started:

  1. Set priorities and be willing to make compromises.  Now that I have been doing this for awhile, I know that gluten is a never food for me.  It is sometimes easier for us to find a gluten free option than it is to find a paleo option at a restaurant.  For example, my husband loves pizza, but he can handle only eating it every other month.  Gluten free pizza is far from a top pick of mine, but it saves him an extra trip to another restaurant if I am willing to make this compromise.  In turn, he has been much more willing to compromise on his end.  I have recently added things like white rice and potatoes into the rotation.  For some, this is a paleo no-no.  For us, it make this a sustainable lifestyle.
  2. Don’t be in a rush.  A 30 day strict, squeaky clean paleo diet isn’t going to completely change your health.  And while the occasional gluten free waffle might slow down your progress a tad (but probably not), if you are able to find a more balanced approach you are more likely to stick to this lifestyle.  It shouldn’t feel like torture, and you should learn to eat well without feeling deprived.  If you take this approach, you will be less likely to freak out when your husband surprises you with tacos when you were planning on sitting down to a strict paleo meal.
  3. Make it easy.  If your significant other didn’t choose this lifestyle AND it comes with a bunch of extra work, it is more likely to cause resentment. We now have a handful of restaurants locally where I can find choices I feel great about.  My husband now knows what I would likely order at each place.  I could have made it easier for him at the beginning by doing my research before I started mandating paleo only meals.  Even better, I could have made a list of places and options for my husband when he wanted to surprise me by picking up dinner.  Also, I have taken on almost all of the meal planning and prep for the family.  As he has figured out the types of things I like to make, he slowly started to take some of that back on.
  4.  Consider their likes.  My husband will probably  never eat broccoli.  Putting it into a stir fry means there is no way in hell he will eat it.  If I stir fry some broccoli on the side, we can both happily eat an almost identical meal.  Additionally, I strongly suggest getting Cassy Joy Garcia’s Fed and Fit book.  She has developed many of the recipes with her husband in mind.  My husband has loved everything that I have made from this book.    

I think this would have helped make this transition so much easier for us.  What are some things that helped you maintain a paleo lifestyle with a non-paleo significant other?

Weekly Wrap Up ~ January 9th – 15th

Last week, we had a pretty successful week. B returned to school and I returned to work after 3 weeks off. I know, feel bad for me.

You would think that those I could have used some of those three weeks off to do a little extra meal prep for those three days off, but unfortunately our fridge said it’s final farewell, taking with it everything in our fridge and all of the premise meals I had been saving for future go to meals.  We without a fridge for 8 days and Our new one didn’t come until the Friday before I returned to work.

Most of last weekend was spent prepping and restocking the fridge.  I did another prep day on Wednesday to help get us through the week.

Here’s what we ate last week:

Breakfasts:

Lunch:

  • Me:Leftovers on repeat
  • B: lunchmeat, frozen veggies, a clementine and lemony blueberry muffins from Practical Paleo 2nd Edition or leftovers

Dinners:

I did all of my cooking in 2 evenings with minimal prep and cooking on a third night. I also managed to go to Crossfit 2 times and went back to Yoga on Saturday after a month-long hiatus.

Italian Sausage

My daughter will not eat eggs. If she can see them, they won’t go into her mouth.  As I have said before, I love them.  That makes breakfast a bit of a challenge, especially when I am scrambling to get to work by 7:30 am.

I like to have these sausages on hand to give to her for breakfast, but it is also great in a sausage potato soup.

Ingredients:

  • 20 oz ground pork
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp sage
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1-2 tsp cooking oil of choice (bacon fat is my favorite!)

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  I find that combining these with my hands works best.
  2. Melt your fat of choice over medium heat in a large skillet.
  3. Portion out your sausages to the desired size.  I use an ice cream scoop to get consistent sized portions and then pat them down into patties.
  4. Cook In small batches for 3-4 minutes per side until they are cooked through.

This makes about 12-14 sausages.

 

Easy Weekday Homefries

We just got home from our family Crossfit night.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my daughter B goes to a Crossfit Kids class.  Our box also offers an outdoor WOD at the same time.  Going to that class is a no brainer because my kiddo is occupied and happy while I am getting my workout in.

The only downside is that we don’t get home until about 6:15.   During the winter, when it is dark so early, my daughter is usually tucked in bed by 7:30.  That doesn’t leave a lot of time for dinner prep.  Also, I still have quizzes to print for my classes tomorrow.

Tonight, we had my Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings  that I prepped last night.  After a WOD, I also like something a little more carb heavy on my plate, so I decided to make these super easy homefries.  They shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes from start to finish.

Also, if you aren’t sure if potatoes are considered paleo or not… it depends on who you ask.  And if you ask me…. We eat them.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cubed red potatoes, cut to your desired size*
  • 1-2 tbsp bacon grease (sub butter or coconut oil if you don’t have any)
  • 3 green onions

Instructions

  1. Put cubed potatoes in a microwave safe bowl. I usually cut them and place them directly into my 4-cup measuring cup like this one.
  2. Microwave on high for 6 minutes.
  3. When the microwave has about a minute left, add your bacon grease to a large pan and melt on medium heat.  When the potatoes are done, add them to the melted grease.  (Be careful, the moisture can cause some splattering!)
  4. Cook the potatoes for 10 minutes on medium to medium high heat, stirring occasionally making sure not to let them burn.  When you have about 2 minutes left, chop your green onions and add them to the potatoes.
  5. Serve hot.  These make an excellent side for any meal.

* Smaller potatoes will cook faster and be crispier.