Friday, March 13, 2015

Trying New Things...

I've found that what I eat ebbs and flows with what is in the kitchen, which changes with how I feel when I'm at the store.  Generally it's been working if I buy whatever meat sounds good, a few veggies and fresh fruit.  So far, I've been able to come up with something.  
Every now and then though, I get a hankering to try something new and that was the case last week.  
Last week I tried a dried seaweed salad and kelp noodles.  Neither were "keepers". 

I was hoping the seaweed salad would taste like the fresh green asian noodle-like salad that you can find at some restaurants.  Unfortunately it was nothing like that.  When reconstituted with water I found myself with a pile of tri-colored, multi textured, fishy, seaweed.  And I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was.  I made a homemade rice wine vinegar sauce to go over the salad, still with hopes that it would taste the same, if not feel the same, as the restaurant version.  Nope, next.

I had no idea what I was going to get with the kelp noodles.  They came packaged like soba noodles, which raised hopes that they had other similiarities with real noodles. The noodles come ready to eat and look like bean thread that has been cooked. Unfortunately there is nothing else going for the noodles.  They are oddly crunchy.  Odd in that they are more firm that you'd expect, and they don't  get softer as you chew. I did figure that I'd have some fishy taste to deal with, but that wasn't the case, they generally had no taste.  Even with rice wine vinegar dressing added to them. If there was a taste at all, it was a very slight, chalk like taste and accompanying "film".  So, two thumbs down for both products.

On the plus side, I did get my noodles in the form of "zoodles". I finally tried out my new kitchen gadget that makes noodles out of zucchini, or carrots, or....what else??  Why did I wait so long to try this?! I've seen these little gadgets at TJ Maxx for $2.99 recently.  I was very pleased with how this turned out, and made a nice zucchini caprese salad, sans cheese.
 Trader Joes made this salad so easy with these small zucchini, that end up being about 1 serving per squash.  Add TJ's happy little grape tomatoes, a light EVOO dressing and basil...easy peasy.  Next time I will saute the zucchini prior to eating it.

 The basil comes frozen in tiny cubes that equal approx. 1 tsp.  These little cubes are the prefect rescuer when I need to add some freshness to a recipe.  Luckily I had them on hand when this salad came together.  
I did buy this product prior to changing my eating style and now that I look at the ingredient list, there are ingredients I'd like avoid.  I will plant my own basil this spring and find a way to make my own version this summer.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Beef Broth, for what ails you...

Or so they say.  I've always made chicken bone broth because I eat a lot of chicken.  I decided to mix it up and hunt down some beef bones to give beef broth a try.  Happily I ran into packages of various sizes at my local alternative food Co-Op, and they were "grass-fed".

This morning I Googled around for a recipe and chose to base my broth off a recipe from this site:

I varied the recipe to fit what I can eat and what I had at home at the time I decide to start the process.  Here's what I did:
Placed approx 2 qt of filtered water in the crockpot and turned the heat onto high.  
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Place beef on a shallow baking sheet, on parchment paper.
While preheating the oven I charred a poblano pepper on the stove, then steamed in a paper bag.  This was to remove the skin, but the pepper was old enough there wasn't enough moisture in it for this technique to work.   I cut it into 3 large chunks, removed the stems and seeds and tossed it in the pot.
Added these other ingredients:
chunked frozen fennel, saved specifically for soup or broth.
Continued the cleaning out process by adding whole scallions.
Smashed 5 cloves of garlic and removed the papers.
Chunked up a jicama, and added it to the roasting beef for a few minutes.  Not sure what roasted jicama would be like, but thought it might be good that way.  It didn't really get much more than warm by the time the beef was done.
Lastly, a splash of apple cider vinegar.

Once the beef looked browned, I added it to the crockpot and drained the fat off the parchment paper into the pot as well.  
The house smells delicious and the just the beef and fennel together remind me of a beef pho soup.  I'm really excited to see how this turns out.  The plan now is to bring to a boil, then simmer for 24 or more hours.  After which the ingredients will be strained out and lovely, healthy and healing beef broth will be left.

Roasting beef bones on parchment paper.

All the ingredients in the pot, ready to do their thing for the next 24+ hours.

Note: This broth came out a little weird.  I think I put too much of the kitchen sink in it and not enough beef.  Next time, more bones and less other non traditional things (ie fennel and pepper).  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Spring = BBQ!

The weather here in Oregon has been so mild of late.  I joke with my east coast friends that we've had a week and a half of winter, and spring is here now.  Hard to argue that with temps in the mid 60's and the sun shining down.  I was tempted to put out my hammock, but there's still a little breeze that keeps it chillier than the actual temperature, and you better be in the sun to be warm.
Because it's been so nice I got excited to get the Traeger grill out.  We bought our Traeger towards the end of last summer and used the heck out of it.  I was so excited about it because it was easy to start and everything I put on it tasted good.  Even meat!  I don't like to cook meat without a meat thermometer because I always ruin it.  So this hot, black, smoking box was just magical for me because everything comes out tasting good.  I'm more than ready to get it fired up again and that's what we did last night.  If you haven't had a Traegered corned beef, well then you are in for a real treat, and that's where I started this year.  I can't even describe how a Traegered corned beef tastes different that normal corned beef, it just does.  The more fat on your beef the better too.  I once bought a slab that was light on fat and it did not taste as good.

Other than the Traegered beef, I have struggled with my food intake, nothing sounds good.  When I go to the store I end up wandering around looking for something that sounds good.  Tomorrow is Sunday and I'm going to use the day to find a couple of recipes to try. Hopefully reviewing the blog with remind me of things I was excited to eat.
I had a few major slip ups to eating gluten free.  We went to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner and I thought I could get just plain wings, with the sauce on the side.  Unfortunately, I ordered the boneless wings and they came with a very chunky breaded coating, with the sauce on them.  I was so disappointed.  I ate them anyway and they were terribly disgusting.  Next time I'll go with the naked burger.
Last night we were short on time due to OSU evening games and my husband brought home a ready to cook meatloaf.  I didn't have the heart to tell him that I'm sure it was a gluten bomb.  It just makes me realize how much more attention I need to give to controlling all our meals.  We need meals that are quick to make when time is limited.  Again, planning will probably be key there.

On the plus side, my refined eating habits are making a dent in my health.  I am down 10 pounds, have more energy in general and most importantly, I am see results in the gym.   My endurance has improved, my strength has improved noticeably and I don't have the joint aches like I used to.  If I hurt now, it's from working out, in a good way.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Oops, it's Valentines Day!

I forgot that both my husband and I would be home on Valentines Day, I should have planned better.  I wanted to throw a corned beef brisket on the traeger, that would have been special.  Too bad we didn't have one.  So late in the afternoon I punted with ground beef.  For him it was a win, for me it was cooking two meals and experimenting for a couple of hours in the kitchen.  See below for what I came up with.  You'll notice still too much chicken and not enough other meat variety.

Recent good meals:

Trader Joes Red Lentils with crumbled chicken sausage.
Spaghetti Squash with chicken sausage

Yummy products:
Chia Bars
Trader Joes Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Trader Joes Freeze Dried Mangos

TJ's Red Lentils
I followed the direction on the back of the lentils package, but decreased the red pepper flakes to 1/2 tsp (next time will make it 1/4 tsp) and used Leprechaun Golden Cider instead of wine, it turned out delicious.  I had just made a fresh batch of chicken bone broth and that helped develop a nice deep flavor.  The recipe used half the package of lentils and was enough for me to have 3-4 meals with it.  A couple of times I topped the lentils with my chicken sausage crumbles.  If the red pepper flakes hadn't been so strong, I would have added a couple dabs of Sriracha sauce on top.

Spaghetti Squash with Chicken Sausage:
The husband and I ended up at home on Valentines day with nothing planned for dinner.  We were both tired, had only a few ingredients in the cupboard, and ground beef in the freezer. He is a happy camper with Hamburger Helper Beef Stroganoff, I obviously can't eat that.  I decided to make him the HH and use spaghetti squash for me with some GB and a homemade paleo sauce.  Last night I reflected on how I've gone from rarely cooking, to making two meals at a time, crazy!  I also end up running the dishwasher every other day since I've adopted this new way of eating. Ok, back to the meal...
I like to roast my spaghetti squash at 375 for 30-40 mins, or until fork tender.  After it's cut in half and cleaned out, I slather it in TJ's garlic EVOO and season with whatever spices float my boat that day, then put it in the oven cut side up.
  I looked up a recipe for Paleo Beef Stroganoff, but it made way more than I needed so I just wrote down the ingredients and guessed on the amounts for what I needed.  I started by sauteeing onions in ghee.  Then added full fat coconut milk, chicken bone broth, Leprechaun Golden Cider (all sauces are delicious when cooked with alcohol.  Cider is my gluten free answer), dried parsely, salt and pepper.  Unfortunately after adding the coconut milk, I added too much bone broth and cider which thinned the sauce down too much.  I was never able to boil off enough liquid to get much thickness to the sauce.  I had used leftover coconut milk and didn't have any extra to add back in. I think if I had considered that to begin with, it might have been wonderful.  I was just too excited to get all those flavors in there, however it did taste good. From the Googling I did, it sounds like making a roux with coconut flour doesn't work out well either, but that is something I'd like to try for myself.
To put it all together I ended up using sliced chicken sausage on top of the squash and spooned the sauce on top.  It was good, but next time I'll do a better job keeping the sauce thick.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Happiness Bites

Alright, so I'm eating pretty clean and I've given up many foods that I like, and I've done so for the benefit of my health. I'm surprisingly, mostly ok with that. But sometimes I need a little something special, something I enjoy but still is pretty ok for me.  I think I found that item at Trader Joes (yea TJ's!), and here it is...

Over the course of the last 2-3 weeks I've been on the hunt for a dark chocolate bar that is 85% or higher in cacao, and has relatively few ingredients. I'm looking to avoid nuts, bad oils, dairy, and soy. I think the sugar content of this bar is reasonable, and I don't have huge sugar cravings after eating a couple of squares.

This bar is my winner. It meets the above criteria and is made the winner over other bars for the following reasons:
Value: this bar comes packaged as 2 individually wrapped bars in a re-closeable box for under $3. I can't recall the price, it might be $2.49, but it's definitely under $3. Other bars left me no way to close the package after I had opened it.
Format: both of those bars are divided into smaller grids for you to break off pieces. Many other bars had larger squares and I felt like I couldn't eat the right portion.  It also made those bars disappear faster, which was a huge negative. With the smaller squares and two bars, I always have some chocolate in my pantry.

Taste: this bar had just the right amount of sweetness with a smooth fruity under tone.
I'm so thankful for Trader Joes!

Monday, February 9, 2015

How Much Protein is Enough?

That's the question I'm struggling with now.  So far I have been able to eat enough food, but I lack energy in the afternoon, which is possibly from not eating enough protein.  The effect is magnified even more after a 10 am WOD.  
I am not a big meat eater. 3-4 oz at every meal is enough for me, mentally.  But perhaps it's not giving me energy long enough to make it to the next meal. In the past I have used more plant based protein. My CrossFit coach suggested eating more meat based protein by eating some with my snacks.  I am having a hard time with this.  I don't want to see meat more times during the day.  I suppose I can get used to it, if I try.  

Recent meals:
I used the pulled pork leftovers for several days.  It was easy to top with salsa and the other goodies I had on hand.  That will be a repeat meal, and it's pork based too, bonus.

Trader Joe's All Beef Hotdogs are delicious and easy to make.  I cook them, cut them up and top them with my probiotic sauerkraut, onions, drizzled with some homemade ketchup from "Well Fed 2".  Quick and easy.  This will be a good meal to take to home baseball games.

BLTA lettuce boats: Romaine lettuce leaf topped with bacon, tomato and avocado, then topped with another lettuce leaf to make a "sandwich.  Need to find a non-egg containing mayo.

Bone broth was a nice way to add a healthy snack.  Need to make more.

Ideas to Try:
Need to make a lentil soup and freeze some.

Super Bowl Food

Still working on finding good food options.  Luckily chicken is my best friend and nothing goes better wiith football than chicken wings!

Today I pulled a recipe off of for "Amazing and Easy Chicken Wings", and they didn't not disappoint.  I think they could easily be renamed "Honey Mustard Chicken Wings", as that is what they tasted like.  When I have more time I will rework this recipe to use honey instead of the brown sugar, and decrease the amount used.  I did substitute coconut aminos in place of the soy sauce.

Along with the chicken wings I baked some sweet potato waffle fries prior to putting the chicken in the oven.  Other snacks included a very dark chocolate bar by NibMor and figs from Trader Joes.  My drink of choice was a delicious hard apple cider that tastes slightly like a dry champagne, by Leprechaun .  Mmmmm delicious and gluten free.

For "dinner" I've had a pork shoulder in the CrockPot and will have ingredients out for shredded pork nachos.  These can be made whenever the eater is ready for food and can include whatever ingredients the composes chooses.  For my husband he's got regular tortilla chips and cheese.  Mine will have a small base of sweet potato tortilla chips.  Other toppings include salsa, guacamole, cilantro and black olives.

All my food choices were winners, even if the Seahawks weren't.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Recent Good Eats...

Alright, still trying some of the Costco finds.   Last night I opened the Mediterranian Chicken Skewers.  They were very good.  I microwaved two at a time and it took about 30 sec's to get warm.  The meat is still on charred skewers, which gives them an authentic, appealing appearance.  The chicken was pretty good, with no real stand out flavor.  These would do well with any seasoning/sauce you preferred to put with them.  I was afraid they would have "greek" flavoring, but that wasn't the case.  They are bare canvas for your culinary flavors.  
I froze the packages as I need to not eat so much chicken all at once.  Being frozen didn't seem to hurt the product at all.  The only negative was an rare/occasional "spongy" feel or fat grissle to the meat.  While I noticed it, it didn't happen enough for me to dismiss this product.  I still like it and will buy it again.  Winner!

The other new item I tried was the Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips.  These were good, a tortilla chip with a slightly sweet taste.  I liked them, but didn't check the label before buying and the product still has corn as a major ingredient.  I am supposed to avoid corn.  Too bad for me as they rocked salsa.

Tonight I came up with a polish sausage, pepper, onion, summer squash and garlic skilllet.  Easy peasy and delicious.  
Kielbasa polish sausage sliced in 1/2" rounds, browned in coconut oil.  Add sliced onions and peppers.  Towards the very end add the sliced summer squash and some pressed garlic.  
I scooped out a bunch out of the pan for me, then tossed some cooked linguine in the pan and coated the noodles with the coconut oil and pan grease.  Tossed a few times to intergrate the pasta, meat and vegetable, then served that to my husband.  He liked it and the noodles are a good filler for him.  I enjoyed it without noodles, but you could add whatever you use as a regular pasta substitute.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ginger Coconut Whip with Pomegranate Seeds....

Just saw a recipe from the blog at Wholelifefullsoul that looks delicious, a "Ginger Coconut Whip with pomegranate seeds.  Hop on over and take a look, it looks delightful!

This recipe is dairy and egg free.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sweet Potatoes are my new BFF.

A year ago I never would have believed that I would be eating sweet potatoes as much as I am, and I'm loving them!  Me and sweet potatoes have gotten close.  

So far, everything I've done with them requires that they are peeled first.  I haven't tried any recipe where it says to leave the skin on. Anyone know if it works to leave the skin on?  

I like to thinly slice them, toss with coconut oil, season to taste and bake, in a single layer, at 375 until they are firm and starting to turn brown.  They require turning at about 13 mins, and again a couple more times until brown (about every 13 mins, but decreasing the time the longer they have been in the oven).  It's not a fast process and some get done faster than others, depending on their thickness.  But it's worth it.  These golden disks are great as a cracker or chip substitute when looking for a way to move dip into your mouth. I think they would make a good nachos base. They did soften when stored over night in a ziplock bag, but crisped right up when heated and turned in a warm frying pan on the stove.

My lastest trick with sweet potatoes is hash browns.  I was looking for something to join bacon or sausage as a way to make my morning meal more like breakfast, these worked great.  I used Google to check out a couple of recipes and blend techiques to get a good result for me.

First I peel them and shred them with a box grater, then coat them lightly in coconut oil.  Place in a bowl and parboil them in the microwave for a few minutes.  Others suggested water instead of the oil, but I don't have a cast iron pan.  I knew I was going to use a metal pan that could go to the oven when I was done with them on the stove top.  I was hoping that by having the oil well incorporated that they wouldn't stick terribly to the pan.  It worked pretty well.  But getting the amount of time in microwave just right is the first trick.  Not too soft to lose the form of the shredded potato, but cooked enough that they don't take forever to brown up.  You may have to play with that a bit to get your technique down.  
After the microwave I put them in the pan with a bit of melted ghee, just to make sure I didn't get sticking.  Let them cook on one side until brown or you can't stand it any longer and you have to look. Pre-heat your broiler now. Repeat the "wait and look" process until they are starting to brown.  I found that while some parts where browning, the middles seemed to be too moist still.  This is where the broiler comes in.  Place your pan under the broiler and let it do it's thing.  You should see the potatotes start to dry out and turn crispy.  Remove from the oven and mix/flip as need to get the texture you like. Mine came out crispy and delicious.  I served mine with cooked chicken italian sausage and onions.   You can add chopped onions from the very beginning too.

I will make these again, hope you enjoy them too.

Today at Trader Joe's I found two kinds of sweet potato chips.  With the Super Bowl coming up I thought it was important to see how I can use these products to keep me in the party that day.


These ridged potato chips are delicious and would work well for dip, if i can find one that doesn't include dairy.  The only thing I don't like about them is the canola/safflower oil.  I wish they had used coconut oil.  I think these chip could also be good broken up and used as a crunchy topping on salads.  I'll test that tomorrow.  
They were delicious with fresh blackberries however.

The other chip I bought was a sweet potato "tortilla chip', I haven't tried that one yet.  Stay tuned, I think they will meet the avocado I have in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Should I start a new blog..."It's About Food"?!

It's about what food I can eat and how to cook so that I can enjoy life.  In December I did a blood test for food antigens, to learn what my body was unhappy about me eating.  I actually did this in two parts.  The first test came back and the results suggested that I should be gluten free.  That wasn't too bad.  I don't normally eat bread products (unless we go out), and have totally abstained from pasta.  I have been living out of my copy of "Practical Paleo", by Diane Sanfillipo, and really enjoying it.  I thought that making the transition wouldn't be that bad. Then 3 weeks later I received the full food panel results and that caused my life to be turned upside down.  Prior to getting the results, I said "please, just don't let me be sensitive to eggs"!  Egg were my go to food.  You can do a million things with eggs and I'd be happy.  I have two neighbors with backyard chickens, I have an unlimited supply of eggs. Well, unfortunately, eggs of all types were on the no eat list.  And there's more.  Blueberries!  Pineapple!  Peanuts. Almonds?!  But all my nut butters, I love them!!!! Dairy.  Wow, this is getting serious.  How am I going to do this?  I want to be healthy, have energy and feel good.  If I want that, then I need to do my part with food. This is huge for me.  I'm thinking if I blog what works, I can build a list of things that I like.  I haven't been good at blogging in the past, but I need a way to store my successes and failures for future reference.  I'm going to give this a try and see how it works out.

Here's a list of food that I have to give up forever:
Dairy, eggs, gluten, peanuts, sesame seeds, pineapple, broccoli, lemon, radish, almonds, crab, clams, cranberries, banana, lemon, beans, soy, corn, oat, spelt, walnut, rice, mushroom

Here's a list of foods that I have to give up for now, and can add back in later, at the rate of once every 3-4 days:
Blueberries, coffee, sunflower seeds, carrot

Here's some ways I've been dealing with this new way of eating:
I cook a protein and find a way to throw vegetables with it. 
I like to have a cooked meat in the refrigerator to throw onto lettuce for a salad.  
Basalmic vinegar and EVOO have been my best friends.  
Morning smoothie with spinach and whatever I have in the refrigerator, including fruit, canned pumpkin, coconut manna, chia seed, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, pecans, coconut milk.  Love my magic bullet!
Snacking on apples and pecans.  Also dairy free chocolate chips, but I need to stop that.  Same with the dark chocolate covered pomegranite seeds from Trader Joes.  I don't think they are dairy free.  I need to learn to make my own.

Yesterday I went to Costco to see what I could do there and came home with a pile of food to try, including: 
*  Fresh raspberries and blackberries
*  Pre-cut organic apples (I'm eating them a lot for snacks on the go).
*  Pre-cooked chicken skewers
*  Rotisserie chicken 
*  Frozen strawberries
*  Romaine hearts
*  Bag of pecans
*  Pre-cooked, sliced beef

Next time I'm going to try the tilapia fillets, salmon, and the organic ground beef.  If anyone else has suggestions, feel free to let me know.  I need to expand my food horizons!

One key point the Dr. made was that I need to vary what I eat, don't make the same thing day after day.  I find that a challenge because I like to cook once and eat on it for 2-3 days.  So to vary, I'll have to watch my protein carefully.  I would probably eat chicken and ground beef only, if given the chance.  Gonna have to learn to eat other meats, and add in fish.