Sunday Cookup 5: Epic Cheater’s Edition

Over the past few months I’ve learned that dairy and grains are not my friends.  But legumes and I can still hang.  I’m not about to go bury my face in a bowl of beans yet, but I seem to handle a shake of soy sauce or a handful of edamame just fine.

So, if you’re on a Whole30 journey to see how foods affect you, stop reading.  Now.  Come back next week.  You won’t hurt my feelings, it’s okay.

But if you are post Whole30 or are okay looking at mostly-compliant foods, keep reading.  This week the non-compliant foods I used include red wine, peanuts, soy sauce, and (GASP!) sugar.


Before I dive into my cookup, my Sweet Hubs took this candid of dog and I in the kitchen. I love it. I’ve felt scattered and off my game at work all week, and the focus I see in myself here reminds me that I mostly have my ducks in a row.

Breakfast: Apple Bumpkin Breakfast Bake

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I haven’t tried it yet, but how could this be bad?  It’s apple, banana, coconut milk and pumpkin.  I followed the recipe as written but omitted the maple syrup.  I also realized I left out the baking soda after I poured it in the pan, but I think it will be okay.

Lunches and dinners: Coconut Lime Chicken

2014-09-21 20.45.10I made the sauce as written, omitting the serrano pepper because I didn’t have one.  I also subbed olive for canola oil.  I may not be following W30 to the letter, but I have maintained my fear of processed oils.  Instead of grilling the chicken I threw it in the crockpot with the sauce.  The result is a delicious, curry-coconutty, stewy chicken that tastes a lot better than it looks.  I think it will also look better once it’s served over a bed of cauli rice and topped with chopped cilantro.  Right now it just looks kinda beige.

Zoodles and bolognese sauce

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I’m experimenting with spiralizing zucchini in advance and eating zoodles during the week.  I also made a pretty mean bolognese sauce.  I started with a dice of 1/2 white onion cooking low and slow in my cast iron skillet with Kerrygold butter.  About 20 minutes later I added a pound of lean ground beef and the zucchini ends leftover from spiralizing.  When the meat was no longer pink I added 1/2 jar of Aldi brand organic marinara sauce, a can of diced tomatoes, spoonful of arrowroot powder and a generous pour of cheap red wine leftover from a Saturday night gathering.  I added two bay leaves and let the sauce simmer for about an hour.

I zoodled 7 zucchinis because 8 won't fit in this container.
I zoodled 7 zucchinis because 8 won’t fit in this container.

Veg: Roasted Broccoli with Homemade Bacon and butternut squash.  I also made a big and uninteresting salad.

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Who gets excited about broccoli?  Me.  This roasted at 425 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring after 20.  Delish.  This won’t last long at our house this week.

2014-09-21 21.03.31I roasted the squash whole at 400 degrees for 90 minutes.  When it was cool enough to touch I remove the skin and seeds.  I added coconut milk, a banana and Kerrygold butter before mixing with my immersion blender.

Tonight’s Epic and Woefully Non-Compliant Dinner: Zoodles and Stir-Fry Veg With Peanut Sauce

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Damn this was good.  The woefully unhealthy sauce is 1/2 cup each of honey, creamy peanut butter and soy sauce.  To this I added 3 crushed cloves of garlic, a healthy squeeze of sriracha, a tbsp-ish of fish sauce, 2 tbsp-ish of sesame oil,  scant 1/4 cup of rice vinegar and a tsp-ish of arrowroot starch.

I stir-fried 3 carrots and 2 bell peppers with a little coconut oil, then added 1/2 bag frozen peas and 1/2 bag frozen green beans.  When those were cooked through I added about 2 generous handfuls of deveined and mostly thawed raw shrimp.  About 5 big handfuls of zoodles went on top and I let the whole thing steam under a lid for about 5 minutes.  I added the sauce at the very end and barely let it heat through.  For garnish I put out a plate of zoodled cucumber, cilantro and chopped unsalted peanuts.

Does eating a big plate of veg and just a few shrimp undo the damage of all that sugar?  Probably not.  But guess what, it was delicious.

I regret nothing, and I may or may not have licked the bowl when no one was looking.


Sunday Cookup #4: A Case of the Sickies

I have the Sunday Blues.

Not because I’m back to work tomorrow, but because I had the sniffles all weekend.  I wanted to make better use of my Saturday than sleeping and watching movies on the recliner.

But on the brighter side, I was feeling well enough today to prepare some healthy and appetizing meals.  I got rolling around 3:30 this afternoon and finished cleaning around 6:00.  Normally I would have wanted to finish sooner, but I allowed myself to move slower because I am still a little sniffly.

Grab and Go Breakfasts:

boiled eggs

Paleo Banana Bread

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This is NOT Whole30 approved, and you don’t have my permission to make this if you’re on a full-fledged Whole30.  I don’t normally make sweet baked goods, but I had some bananas in the freezer that needed to be used.  I made mine with 4 bananas instead of 3, cashew instead of almond flour.  I skipped the honey, almond and vanilla extracts.  Because I found previous batches of this his bread a little too wet, I added 1/4 cup coconut flour. Good call.


I have some kalua pig in the slow-cooker right now.  I used a pork loin because that’s what I found.  It will be ready when I wake up in the morning, so I’ll have to review it some other time.  I follow multiple Whole30 groups of Facebook, and people rave about this recipe almost daily.  I finally decided to give it a try.

Burgers per Hubs’ request.

Another recipe people rave about on FB is this Spaghetti Squash Pizza Casserole.

2014-09-14 18.47.43I did stray from the original recipe, so allow me to explain.  I started with two small spaghetti squashes.  I sliced them down the middle, removed the seeds and baked them cut-side down at 400 for 30 minutes.  While the squash was cooking, I chopped and sauteed 1/2 large onion, baby bella mushrooms and a green pepper.  I browned a pound of lean ground beef in another skillet.

I smeared a thin coat of coconut oil on the bottom of my baking dish and scooped the squash out of the shell.  I mixed together the meat, veggies, squash and 1/2 jar compliant marinara sauce.  Then I added the secret ingredient, 5 lightly beaten eggs.  Pour over the casserole and stir until they kind of disappear into the dish.  Result is a warm, gooey casserole that will take you back to childhood, but without any weird additives or dairy.


A big booty salad. (Not interesting or photo-worthy)

Mashed potatoes with chicken broth coconut milk.

Roasted radishes, carrots and onion.

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I wish I made more, since I hardly have any left after packing two lunches.  I roasted the veg this morning after frying bacon for our slow, sit-down breakfast.  I drained most of the fat and piled the chopped radishes, carrots and onions in the same skillet with a few shakes of thyme and kosher salt.  The veg roasted for 50 minutes at 400, stirring after 20 and after 40 minutes.  That was the first time I ever cooked radishes, and it did not disappoint.

What’s the sauce in my lunch containers?  Nope, it’s not mayo.  It’s my favorite new dressing, equal parts oil, vinegar, orange juice concentrate and tahini.  Mix it in a blender, or stick an immersion blender in a jar, like making mayo.  It’s amazing.  Don’t trust me on this, make it yourself.

So after a few hours effort we have tasty and healthy food already ready during a hectic work week.  I wish we had more opportunities during the week to sit down and slowly enjoy a meal together, but this is real life.

See you next week.

Sunday Cookup 3: Labor Day Edition

One full week of school, done.

It’s exhausting.

Last week’s prep provided me with some great meals, and it was a godsend being able to come home and plate a healthy meal with protein and veg before evening going back out to the gym.

With an extra day off this week, I got to spend more time in the kitchen.  I also spread my cookup over two days and didn’t time myself.  Here’s what will be available for us this during our 4-day work week.

Breakfast: Sweet potato, sausage and kale and egg muffins.

I love making egg or ground meat muffins for a grab and go breakfast.  Yeah, I know we’re supposed to sit down and eat three times a day, but I’m out the door at 6am.  I eat breakfast at my desk.

Two weeks ago I made egg and peach muffins.  Delicious, but my “non-stick” muffin pan soaked under soapy water for 2 days, ran through the dishwasher twice and I wore down a thumbnail before I scraped off most of the cooked eggy goop.  I’ve worn through two silicone muffin pans in the past few years.  I don’t want to buy another one, and I’m not a fan of those paper cupcake liners either.

Last week I made turkey, blueberry and kale muffins.  Those were great and required less cleanup.

Today I outdid myself.

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I started with cutting out squares of parchment paper.  It’s easier than it sounds, I tore off a big sheet, folded it in thirds one way, turned and folded the sheet in quarters in the other direction to make 12 squares.  Then I cut around the edges and pressed the sheets into the pan, making nice creases so the egg doesn’t seep into the folds.

Yesterday I peeled and shredded two sweet potatoes by pulsing them in the food processor.   It was a lot more than I needed, but we did have some wonderful sweet potato hash this morning.  When I got ready to make these muffins I popped the container of sweet potato shreds in the microwave for 6 minutes.  Then I gave each muffin cup a big steamy spoonful.

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The potatoes help weigh down the parchment squares.

Then I added some homemade pork sausage.  I started with a pound of ground pork, made 4 small patties for Hub’s and my breakfast, and then browned the rest as ground meat.  Each muffin got a big spoonful.

The next layer was a big spoonful of frozen kale, semi-thawed and strained.

Lastly I whisked 6 eggs with a generous pour or light coconut milk, salt and pepper.  I poured just enough in each muffin cup to allow it all to stick together.  The egg does puff up when baking, so it’s okay if the egg isn’t burying everything.  I did, however, smoosh down the other ingredients to help it all stay together.

Look Ma, no sticking!

These guys baked for 25 minutes at 250.

I’m a little too excited to take them to work tomorrow.

More breakfast: Pumpkin Spice Creamer

I refuse to feel left out of the PSL craze, so I made my own pumpkin spice creamer.  It tastes better than it looks, so I won’t share a picture.  I had some yesterday afternoon blended with leftover coffee and ice.  It was just as good this morning with hot coffee blended with coconut oil, my version of pumpkin spice bulletproof coffee.

I buy Trader Joe’s light coconut milk because it contains only coconut and water.  I’ve never found a full-fat version without fillers, so my curries are watery and my coffee with coconut milk is like 2% milk instead of cream.  Behold what I found at an Asian grocery store the other day.  Problem solved.

One ingredient: coconut.

Recipe for homemade pumpkin spice coffee creamer (approximate, because I don’t measure.)

1.5 cups light coconut milk.

1/4 cup creamed coconut

(or 1.75 cups full-fat coconut milk)

1/3 cup canned pumpkin

dash salt

cocoa powder, allspice, cinnamon and ginger to taste.

Blend it all together.  It’s better blended into hot or iced coffee because it’s thick.

I think it’s awesome, but I’ve been eating W30 for a few months now, and I’m used to foods not tasting sweet.  This.Is.Not.Sweet.

I know learning to drink black coffee is a big part of the W30. I like this better.

Protein: Lemon-Rosemary Chicken

The marinade for this recipe terrified me.  Half a cup of rosemary?!?  Don’t be scared.  The marinade smelled like lemony-earthy-heaven.  I made the marinade yesterday, let the chicken hang out in a freezer bag overnight and threw it on the grill today.

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I also have a freezer full of shrimp I can quickly steam, thanks to a buy 2 get 3 free sale at the fancy-schmancy grocery store.  I have some chicken apple sausages in the freezer too, so we’re set for protein.

Veg: Grilled cabbage

I sliced and salted these cabbage slices yesterday, rinsed and brushed with avocado oil and threw them on the grill today.  Fifteen-ish minutes per side and they looked like this fresh off the grill.

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More veg: Carrot Pineapple Cole Slaw

I shredded about 1/4 head cabbage and 4 carrots by pulsing them in the food processor.  Then I added avocado oil, vinegar, raisins, a drained can of crushed pineapple, salt and pepper.

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Even more veg: Mashed Sweet Potatoes

This is how I used up the leftover sweet potato shreds and remains of the can of pumpkin I used to make coffee creamer.  I used the stick blender to mix them up with creamed coconut, a ripe banana, dash of cayenne, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and salt.


That’s a lot of food for 4 days.  Lucky for me, Hubs seems interested in what I prepared.

I’m also going to say it here to keep myself accountable.  Today, September 1, I’m starting a Whole120.  I did great in July when I counted days, but did more off-roading than I care to do in August.  The worst was last Friday night. I was exhausted and out of pre-made food so we ordered in Chinese.  In addition to the sugary beef with cashews, I had rice and two stinking crab rangoons with sweet and sour sauce.

Big.  Huge.  Tremendous.  Not small.  Horrible. Mistake.

In addition to the belly ache, I have a sore neck and shoulders like I’ve been in a car accident.  Each time I’ve eaten gluten or dairy since finishing my July W30, something hurts.  The pain manifests in a different place and gets worse every time.

Suck it, dairy.

Suck it, rice.

Suck it, sugar.

Suck it, gluten.

We’re done.

Sunday Cookup 2: Alarm Clock Blues

My ‘practice’ week of going back to work is over and tomorrow is the first day of school.  The one part I’m not excited about is setting the alarm for dark o’clock.  Hopefully the breakfast I prepped is exciting enough to drag myself out of bed before dawn.

Breakfast: Turkey, Kale and Blueberry Muffins

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The recipe yields 12, but 8 fit quite nicely in this container.

I used this recipe, omitting the sage because I don’t have any and swapping coconut flour for arrowroot powder because that’s what I have.  I also added 1/2 bag of frozen kale to the mix.  Something about a veggie-packed breakfast sets the tone for the whole day.  The kale added a lot of wetness to the mix so I left out the coconut milk.

Lunches:  These Bento Beauties

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Green salad, coconut-pineapple coleslaw, shredded chicken and blueberries.  The coleslaw is leftover from a potluck I attended yesterday.  Because one doesn’t simply follow a recipe, I swapped spiralized carrots for broccoli slaw (couldn’t find it where I shopped Friday afternoon), skipped the celery (don’t like it), swapped chopped pecans for sliced almonds (it’s what I found at the store), orange juice instead of lime and homemade pineapple vinegar instead of ACV. I also didn’t measure anything but the dressing ingredients.  It’s amazeballs, the perfect mashup of carrot raisin salad and traditional coleslaw.  Most of it was gobbled up at the potluck, so it must’ve appealed to non-paleo tastebuds too.

The green salad is leftover from last week’s cookup, but everything is still fresh and looks like it will hold a few more days.  After taking the picture I realized my lunches are lacking in fat so I whipped up a batch of mayo and added it to the shredded chicken.  By ‘whipped up’ I mean I made a failed batch with the immersion blender and then switched to the slow drip method in the kitchen-aid.  It.  Took.  Forever.  The mayo still didn’t come out as thick as I wanted, but at least it’s not a yolky, oily mess.  It’ll work.

Dinners: Roasted Veg and Protein Bowls

Last Sunday at the farmers’ market I picked up a bag of less than perfect green beans for a dollar and then they sat in my fridge for a week.  I wouldn’t have wanted them steamed, but they turned out perfect in the oven.

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I roasted cauliflower too.  Purple cauliflower is trippy.

2014-08-24 19.10.36I faux-grilled burgers.

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And I have more shredded chicken; I didn’t take a picture of it.

And as a bonus veggie, I have one helping of zoodles leftover from tonight’s dinner.

2014-08-24 19.11.15These zoodles were so good I firmly believe that pasta made with wheat can suck it.  No formal recipe, but I can explain.  I got a tip from Paleo in Pumps.  Add a spoonful of arrowroot powder to sauce so there is no watery mess left at the end.  (The link goes to the blog.  They posted the tip on Facebook and it’s been on my mind to try it.  The blog is a good read.  Check it out)

I started with avocado oil and lemon juice on medium heat.  I picked a small handful of basil leaves and used scissors to slice them into thin strips.  I added the basil, two cloves of garlic pushed through a press and sprinkled in a spoonful of arrowroot powder.  When arrowroot powder got toasty and bready I added a few drops of hot sauce and a spoonful of ghee.  I prepped the zoodles ahead of time by gently massaging them in a colander with a palmful of salt and letting the zoodles sweat for about 30 minutes.  Right before adding them to the pan I rinsed off the salt and squeezed out the excess water.  I stirred the zoodles into the sauce, popped a lid on the pan, turned off the heat and let everything hang out for about 3 minutes before I put heaping piles on our plates.  Not too mushy, not too firm, and no puddle on my plate.

So this week for dinner I have 3 veggies and 2 proteins from which I can make a plate in under two minutes, including reheating time.  Let’s hope this week is better than the last.

Last week I struggled with my food and exercise.  I know this is no excuse, but I was really effing busy.  Tuesday night we had a home visit with our social worker, I completed a mountain of paperwork for her Wednesday night, did another mountain of paperwork for class Thursday night, and Friday night I had to prepare a dish for our foster parent class.  It’s really easy to snack and mindlessly eat while sitting in front of the computer for 4-5 hours after working all day.  I only squeezed in two visits to the gym and only did yoga, no cardio.  Then on Friday our school’s admin team catered in lunch from Subway.  I resisted the free food we were offered all week and then I finally caved on the last day.  I grabbed a sandwich, chucked the bread but ate the cheese, a bag of salt & vinegar chips and one two cookies.  Ugh.  I felt fine Friday afternoon but woke up on Saturday with achy joints and a bloated tummy.  Blech.  Resist the free food!  Walk away!

Since my challenge last week to stay away from snacking was a big fat fail, this week I’m challenging myself to four nights at the gym and no snacks.  Three meals on a plate and no snacks.

No.  Snacks.