menu plan monday: gf/paleo freezer cooking

Monday

I don’t have a meal plan for this week. We’ve got dinner at a friend’s tonight and then the kids and I will be visiting Grandma, Grandpa and the cousins for the whole weekend.

Instead, I’m sharing the gluten-free and paleo friendly menu plan I put together and prepped last week using Once a Month Meals. I wrote last week about how this site and it’s tools have saved my brain in a season that’s a little crazier than normal. That’s not an overstatement at all.

I was able to prep twelve dinners for four (two of each) and several lunches in single servings, plus four side dishes we’ll be able to eat twice. And because I have the Pro Membership, I was able to swap some meals out for ones I know my family will love and still print out the shopping list, prep plan, cooking day plan and everything else customized exactly how I needed it.

Total cost: about $220, but that included some breakfast items and snacks and special requests from the kids.

10728514_10204888279632598_1766033601_n

Here are the dinners I made:

  • Paleo Crockpot Meatballs – we’ll be serving with gluten free pasta or spaghetti squash and a salad for a dinner that’s less than 15 minutes hands on.
  • Artichoke Chicken Thighs – throw it all in a baking sheet and add an easy veggies. Sweet.
  • Bacon Wrapped Coconut Chicken Nuggets – confession: I left out the coconut. My people will like it better that way.
  • Spiced Chicken, Kale and Roasted Squash – 10 minutes or so hands on. We had this for dinner Friday night and it was amazing. Next time, I’ll double the squash
  • Spicy Beef and Broccoli – I’ll serve this with white rice cooked with bone broth.
  • Pulled Pork Shoulder Roast – I totally botched this recipe and turned it into bbq pulled pork. Just throw the roast in the slow cooker with salt, pepper, garlic, a diced onion and several tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and cook for about 8 hours. We pulled the pork, added a a paleo friendly bbq sauce. Serve it on slider rolls or on top of shredded cabbage to keep it paleo.

Lunches:

  • Chicken and Zucchini Poppers – I made these into mini patties to ensure they cooked all the way through. A minute in the microwave or in a frying pan to reheat and they’re to throw on a salad or in a lettuce wrap. Next time, I’ll add more seasoning – maybe some pepper sauce or vaudovon or chili paste.
  • Curried Coconut Cauliflower Soup – really good, especially make with bone broth, but also something I will play with the spices with when I make it again. And I will make it again!

Side Dishes:

  • Garlic and Bacon Green Beans – because all veggies are better when roasted with bacon. I used frozen organic green beans instead of fresh.
  • Maple Bacon Acorn Squash – this is sooo good. So good. Perfect with a roast.
  • Roasted Butternut Squash with Rosemary and Balsamic – can’t wait to pair this with some steaks
  • Smashed Loaded Red Potatoes – another recipe I sort of flopped because I wasn’t paying attention. I mashed the potoates, added raw shredded cheese, organic cream, scallions, mashed it all together and froze in an 8×8 baking pan. It’s not paleo, but it’s wholefoods and the family is very excited about it.

 

Shared at Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday and the Real Food Roundup with Musings of  a Housewife and Sassy Moms in the City.

swappable-300x250-logoDisclosure: I am an affiliate of Once A Month Meals and will receive a commission if you sign up through my link. I would have not become an affiliate without 100% belief that this service is worth every penny of the fee and more in making wholesome, healthy dinners easy and doable for everyone.

 

Advertisements

adventures in once a month cooking

10660197_10204840680682654_8114049015095911218_n

I mentioned earlier this week that my main plan for food is simple. I’ve been stuck in a rut of too tired, too stressed and too unplanned to get very far with it. I know that turning that around starts with food, but it just hasn’t happened. We’ve had a lot of “whatever you can find” dinners and nachos.

Enter Once A Month Meals.

I’ve been following them since the beginning, but never took the plunge. I know my people don’t like casseroles and I don’t like can of whatever soups,  and that’s what a majority of freezer or once a month meals have been in the past.  And seriously, it’s a pain to make the shopping list and try to coordinate everything.

Once A Month Meals takes care of all of that. They have an incredible selection of different menu plans – paleo, diet, whole foods, traditional, even vegetarian – and the ability to switch meals out for an extra few dollars a month. That few extra dollars is totally worth it. And really, if it saves us from eating out once a month and helps me avoid eating foods I know I shouldn’t, the monthly fee will more than pay for itself.

I was able to print out my shopping list (organized by category), a prep list, cooking day instructions. labels and even a thaw sheet. That part of me that obsessively makes lists just squealed.

Wednesday, I went shopping, came home and started cooking.

That’s exactly what they tell you not to do.

I had only a few items that required baking, so it wasn’t too bad. I left for shopping at 9 am and was done by 5:30 pm. For fourteen dinners, eight sides and six lunch servings each of soup and chicken nuggets, that’s not bad at all. They’re all whole foods based, with no preservatives, no junky oils and no pseudo-foods.

I also didn’t do any prep work. I didn’t even clear off the counter. I just went at it. There were dishes in the sink.

Also not recommended.

Next time will be different.

And there will definitely be a next time. I’ve already got it planned with a couple of slow cooker and soup mini menus to do in the next week or so. Our schedules seem to be growing continually busier, and any help I can get is welcome.

A few thoughts I want to remember for next time:

  • Don’t be afraid to up the spices. I’ve found that quite a few recipes, especially in the paleo realm, are a little under-spiced for our taste.
  • Take the prep day. Next time, I’ll shop and prep one day, and assemble and cook the next.
  • Utilize the pressure cooker. I have one – I don’t know why I didn’t use it.
  • Clean off the counters. And the table. And make sure all of the dishes are done.
  • Print out the labels. I thought it wouldn’t be too much trouble to make notes on the bags with a Sharpie. I was wrong. And my main issue with printing out many of the labels I find online is that they suck my color ink. I love that the Once  A Month Meals are either black and white or gray scale-ish (somebody was really thinking there!)

Do you do any kind of freezer cooking or once a month meals? What are your favorite recipes?

21 day sugar detox: halfway

21 DSD

I spent about an hour yesterday typing up a lovely post about the 21 Day Sugar Detox and my experiences so far on it.

And then WordPress ate not only the post, but all of the saved drafts.

Let’s try it again.

I knew – after a Thanksgiving weekend that left me looking like I was in my third trimester of pregnancy and my failed attempt at “clean eating”. I did do a mini Whole30 in November, but it wasn’t enough.

I remembered the 21 Day Sugar Detox ebook I’ve had sitting on my computer for probably a year and a half now.

I pulled it up, read it through and decided to go for it.

I’m so glad I did.

I’ve done three Whole30’s. It’s an incredible program that serves it’s purpose so very well. If you’re looking for something to really shake you up and help you figure out food sensitivies, it’s absolutely 100% the way to go.

But here’s why I’m really liking the 21 DSD so far:

  • There are different levels.
    A newbie to eating well? Level 1 is the least restrictive and a good starting point. Already solid with your nutrition but need a jump start or detox? Level 3. Somewhere in between? Level 2. And you can easily repeat the 21 days, moving up a level each time or as you’re ready.
    And that all makes it much less intimidating than many of the paleo/anti-inflammatory ways of eating.
  • It’s a little less restrictive. 
    Sort of.
    At level 3, there’s no grains, no sugar, no dairy and no fruits other than green apples or green tipped bananas. That’s tough, but unlike the Whole30, I can bake or cook anything I want within the parameters of the challenge.
    For me, that’s a big deal.
    We had a big holiday gathering this past weekend and I was able to enjoy macaroons sweetened with green apples. It felt like a treat and that I wasn’t miss out. That’s important.
    21 DSD 2
    And while my meals are generally pretty simple, I can make 21 DSD pancakes if I want them.
    Usually around this time on a Whole30, I’m bored with food in general. On the 21 DSD, that hasn’t been the case at all.
  • It’s less guilt and more grace.
    I slipped up a little last weekend. I had some whole cream in my coffee and sushi at a family luncheon.
    Both times, my body let me know rather quickly that it had been a bad idea.
    But I didn’t feel like I had to start over or that I had ruined everything. I just moved on and was happy to see that beyond the immediate stomach issues, I had no crazy carb cravings like I normally would.
  • It’s enjoyable.
    Again, I know the Whole30 has a specific purpose and it serves it well.
    But it sort of turns into an exercise in self-flagellation for me. By day 10, I’m counting down to the end in spite of good I feel and my life has become food focused. By day 15, I’m planning what my first non-Whole30 meal will be. By day 25, it’s a contest of wills with myself and all I can think about is what I’m going to eat next and how long until I can eat what I want.
    And I struggle immensely afterward to turn the way I know I need to eat into something sustainable.
    Right now…this…it’s sustainable. I’m not dreading food, but I’m also not consumed by it. Emotionally, it’s a much better place to be. Because it allows for more freedom in the kitchen (though I do miss fruit and would probably find it more difficult in summer when peaches and apricots abound), I can already see how it will be more sustainable in the long run.

How do I know this 21 Day Sugar Detox is doing what it’s supposed to? I’ve made three big batches of sugar cookies in the past few days for different events, and I haven’t been tempted in the least. That’s impressive.

And – for me – unheard of!

My 21 days ends just before Christmas. I’m going to give myself a little extra grace as we travel and celebrate time with family, but I’m planning to start another one on January second (there’s also going to be a big group through the official Facebook page starting on the sixth…I think).  I’d like to lose about 10 more pounds from where I am now and I think the rest of this one plus another round will get me there.

After that, there are a few modifications I’ll make for the long term. More fruit variety will be the first thing I do (though I don’t miss it nearly as much as I thought I would), and a bit of unrefined sugars like raw honey, pure maple syrup and palm sugar for baking.

Want to join me in January? There’s a new 21 Day Sugar Detox book in print, along with a companion cookbook. I haven’t gotten my hands on either yet, but they’re on my Christmas list and I know anything by Diane Sanfilippo is top notch.

Paleo Basics: Where to Begin

99571841730901099_Ydudl0sR_c

I get asked quite a bit where to begin with paleo.

It can be hard to figure out where to start sometimes.

There’s so much information out there, a ton of books, so many different blogs and articles, and a lot of controversy. I also believe paleo to be a highly personalized form of eating, and that can take a little work to figure out.

I try to keep it to the basics.

Paleo Diet Infograph.
source unknown

The yes foods:
Good protein. Lots of vegetable. Some fruits. The right fats, and a fair amount of them. A little bit of nuts. And for me, health boosting ancestral probiotic foods like kombucha and sauerkraut.

The no foods:
Little to no dairy (and whole fat and at least organic on what I do eat. No funky oils (vegetable oils). No legumes. No grains. No refined sugar.

The best places to go for general information and recipes?

There are a lot of places out there, but for the two years that I’ve followed a paleo diet, these have consistently been the best and most trust-worth. Most of those authors have books available also and they’re all solid.

If you’re just starting out, I cannot recommend doing a Whole30 highly enough, and be sure to include the reintroduction phase the first time. A completed Whole30 gives you a perfect platform to begin to experiment from and learn what your personal version of paleo is.

When you’re starting out, it’s important to stay consistent. It takes at least two weeks to clear the gluten from your body if you’ve been eating it. And even though paleo doesn’t have to be low carb, it’s most likely going to be lower than pretty much any style of diet you’ve been eating except for maybe Atkins or South Beach. There’s a transition that your body goes through from being a carb burner to a fat burner, and it can lead to some headaches, exhaustion and crankiness that you just have to get through.

After that don’t hold yourself to a standard of perfection (unless you’re doing that Whole30). You’re going to mess up and burn yourself out. It’s okay, as long as you learn from it and move on. I shoot for the 80/20% paradigm – if I’m solid 80% of the time, I can do some paleo baked goods or other “treat” foods 20% of the time.

One more tip when you’re making the change to paleo: plan it out. Plan your meals, plan your snacks, plan your groceries and plan to have something on hand like coconut butter if you’re having cravings.  There’s a reason they say failure to plan is the same as planning to fail! I’ve written a lot about planning in the past, and here are a few of my favorites. They’re mostly written about the Whole30, but they work for just about any dietary changes:

And if you’re looking for recipes or meal plans:

Any questions? Any other resources you think are great for beginners?

Kale Citrus Salad

Kale Salad Pin

I’m late to the kale salad bandwagon.

I eat cooked kale because I know it’s good for me.

But it’s not my favorite.

Which made me a little bit hesitant to try it raw.

And I wish I hadn’t waited so long because, seriously, it’s sooo much better.

There are a lot of massaged kale salad out there and I’m sure they’re all good, but here’s the thing – some of these salads out there are getting kind of ridiculous with the pricey ingredients. Even if my budget could handle it, I’m not dropping $20 for ingredients for one salad.

Am I the only one that feels this way?

I didn’t think so.

Enter my kale citrus salad. I wanted to keet it to ingredients I generally have on hand. I wanted it to be simple. I wanted it to be yummy. And I wanted it to be something that I could make a big batch of and keep in the fridge to throw on my lunch plate for a few days.

It ticks all those boxes, as they’d say on House Hunters International.

1460067_625716820824664_896368130_n

Kale Citrus Salad
Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 Tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 2 Tablespoons light olive oil (or extra virgin – it will just have a stronger flavor)
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon or a pinch of granulated garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine and set aside.

  • 6 cups raw kale, any variety
  • 1/4 cup red or yellow onion, sliced very thin and cut into 1-2″ strips
  • 1 to 2 cups of orange, tangerine or Cuties segments

Thoroughly wash and clean the kale. Remove the center stalk and cut into a chiffonade (small strips).

Place kale in a large bowl and add half the dressing.

Using your hands, begin to massage the dressing into the kale.

Add the rest of the dressing.
Or have someone else do it – your hands will be a little slippery!

Finish massaging the kale. It will slightly darken in color and take on a nice sheen.

Add the citrus segments and onion and gently toss.

Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Enjoy!

Kale Salad 2

Shared at:

menu plan monday: 11.18.13

MPM LogoHow is it already Monday already?

I seriously need it to slow down just a little bit.

I’m still eating Whole30 style, though I did blow it last week. I’m okay with it – I’ve done three perfect ones and I’ve approached this one as more of a reset. And it’s working that way. After having sushi on a date with my son, I didn’t crave more sweet or refined foods. That’s a huge success.

This week’s menu plan is a mish-mash of things that haven’t gotten eaten over the past few weeks. We’re heading to Grandma and Grandpa’s house next Monday for Thanksgiving, so it’s eat up what’s in the freezer and fridge week.

And while I’m eating mostly Whole30, my family isn’t. I substitute sweet potatoes for white and just skip anything like rice or gluten-free pasta.

  • Monday
    Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas (layer onions, bell pepper and chicken breasts in the slow cooker with this seasoning from the Southwest fajita steak for 4 to 6 hours)
    Corn tortillas
    Salad
    Guacamole
  • Tuesday
    Pork Chops (fried up in coconut oil with salt, pepper and garlic)
    Mashed Potatoes (mashed sweet potatoes for me)
    Broccoli
  • Wednesday
    Slammin’ Chicken
    Pilaf
    Whatever veg needs to be cooked
  • Thursday
    Grilled Flat Iron Steaks
    Baked Potatoes (or sweet potatoes)
  • Friday
    Roast Chicken (seriously, the bomb. And the bones make the best stock ever)
    Roast Root Vegetables (carrots, parsnips, red potatoes
  • Saturday
    Brinner – Paleo Swedish Pancakes maybe? (and no, they’re not Whole30, but I’m starting to work on what regular life eating needs to be)
    Bacon (no sugar, no junk)
  • Sunday
    Leftovers/Fend for yourselves!

Shared at Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday and Musings of a Housewife’s Gluten Free Weekly Meal Plan.

Need ideas for dinner? They’ve got them!

Mango Chicken Meatballs

Mango Chicken Meatballs PinConfession: growing up, I didn’t eat very much ground meat other than tacos. I think I’ve shared that before, but I really didn’t. Burgers, meatloaf, meatballs…it didn’t matter what it was or who made it, I wouldn’t touch it.

At Burger King, I ordered the ham and cheese sandwich that used to be part of their menu.

I miss that sandwich.

It’s still not my favorite, but it’s hard to beat for convenience sake. I’ve shared some of my favorite quick and easy ground beef lunches here, but I’ve recently been obsessed with chicken mango meatballs. They used to have some at Costco that I adored and kept in the freezer to throw on top of a salad or leftover vegetables for a quick lunch.  For some reason, they’ve disappeared.

These aren’t exactly the same, but I’m really pleased with them. The mango really comes through, the seasonings aren’t overpowering and they reheat well.

Mango Chicken Meatballs 1

Mango Chicken Meatballs
Makes about 3 dozen small meatballs

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup green onions
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup mango, diced small
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon red chili paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • coconut oil (for greasing the baking sheet and hands)

Mango Chicken Meatballs 2

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease baking sheet with melted coconut oil

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.
I generally have to get in there with my hands, which seriously grosses me out.

Allow to rest 5 to 10 minutes.
This gives the coconut flour the chance to absorb some of the moisture.

Using a tablespoon size cookie scoop, place meatballs on the baking sheet.
I go back and  and roll them with coconut oil greased hands to make them a little more round – totally optional)

Place in the preheated oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.

Enjoy!

I’m working on a dipping sauce that I’ll add as soon as I get it where I want it because I think they’d make a great appetizer for parties, but need a little something extra to make them fancy. I do sometimes drizzle with a tiny bit more coconut aminos.

Mango Chicken Meatballs 3

Shared at:

menu plan monday: 11.11.13

MPM Logo

On to week two of this Whole24.

I have to say, it’s going really, really well. I had some insane fatigue days 3 to 5, but that’s starting to lift. The bloating in my stomach has gone down quite a bit, I’m sleeping better and that weird little rash I get on my face when I eat things I shouldn’t has pretty much disappeared.

And The Boy is still valiantly working on eating fully gluten free. He had one or two small slip-ups, but nothing major. I’m hoping to get a post up later this week with some pictures, but even after only a week his eczema is looking so much better.

I spent Saturday morning filling the freezer with gluten-free and paleo muffins, and finally was able to get my chicken mango meatball recipe where I wanted it (and I’ll post it tomorrow). While I can’t enjoy the muffins (4 kinds, including a gluten-free cran apple oatmeal muffin that is coming soon), it makes it a heck of a lot easier to have some treats and snacks on hand.

This week’s dinner plan:

  • Monday
    7 Bone Roast (minus the wine)
    Baked Potatoes
    Broccoli
  • Tuesday
    Well Fed Chocolate Chili (double batch for leftovers and some to freeze)
    Sweet Potatoes
    Salad
  • Wednesday
    Just the boy and I, so we’re going out.
    Not sure how that’s going to work with the Whole30
  • Thursday
    Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas (this method, but with the seasonings from this recipe in my freezer marinating post)
    Corn Tortillas or Salad
    Guacamole
    Carrot Stickes
  • Friday
    Pork Stir Fry (with a coconut aminos, ginger and garlic sauce and whatever veggies need to be cooked)
    White Rice
  • Saturday
    Grilled Steaks
    Roasted Sweet Potatoes
    Kale and Citrus Salad (will share once I get the measurements figured out)
  • Sunday
    Leftovers

Shared at Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday and Musings of a Housewife’s Gluten Free Weekly Meal Plan.

Need ideas for dinner? They’ve got them!

menu plan monday: 11.04.13

MPM Logo

It’s been too long without a menu plan! Between that and 3 weeks of passing a cold around, our budget is in seriously sad shape (as are our waists!).

Time to buckle down.

I’m starting a Whole24 today – similar to a Whole30, but only lasting until Thanksgiving. You can find more info on that here. I think The Girl is going to be joining me on that journey, while The Pastor and The Boy go gluten-free . The boy is focusing on eating more “real food” and less…whatever it is that he eats. I’m never really sure.

All I know for sure is that by Wednesday or Thursday, we’re probably going to be really, really cranky!

I’m doing a bit of baking today for those who aren’t going super strict:

This week’s dinner plan:

  • Monday 
    Shredded Beef Taco Roast (slow or pressure cooker)
    Salad
    Corn Tortillas (for the gluten-free’ers)
    Guacamole
  • Tuesday
    Chicken and Vegetable Lo Mein
    White Rice (for the GF’ers)
  • Wednesday
    Slow Cooker Chicken (slow or pressure cooker)
    Baked Sweet or Russet Potatoes
    Roasted Cauliflower
  • Thursday
    Grilled Steaks and Veggies
  • Friday
    Sausage Bake (similar to this, with locally made sausage and homemade stock)
  • Saturday
    Well Fed Chocolate Chili (double batch for leftovers and some to freeze)
    Sweet Potatoes
    Salad
  • Sunday
    Leftovers

Shared at Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday and Musings of a Housewife’s Gluten Free Weekly Meal Plan.

Need ideas for dinner? They’ve got them!

planning my Whole30…umm…Whole24

Having three full and successful Whole30’s under my belt, I feel pretty qualified to make the following statement:

your success depends on your planning.

For reals.

This isn’t something where good intentions count.

Good intentions end you up at McDonald’s because the meat for dinner didn’t thaw and you don’t have a backup.

I really focus on planning dinners during a Whole30. A well planned dinner can give you not only that meal, but a lunch or two (or sometimes three).  It’s easy to turn leftover chicken into chicken zucchini fritters or avocado chicken salad. If I’m cooking a pound of ground beef for one meal, I cook two and separate out half before adding seasoning other than salt and pepper – these three lunches are quick and easy and taste totally different (so they don’t necessarily feel like leftovers!). I do the same thing with vegetables – by having a menu in place, I can see that I’m going to need carrots chopped for the next two dinners and do them all on the first night. Cooked veggies can be added to omelettes or used as the base for the next days lunch (assuming you’re careful not to overcook the first time…shudder).

I’ve been stocking up on bone broth. One $7 package of chicken thighs gave me about 16 cups of broth in the freezer. It’s great for soups, steaming cauliflower for rice, simple sauces or just drinking from a mug – especially this time of year.

I’m also planning some freezer meals this time. We’ve been busier than ever in the evenings and that’s lead to a lot of less than great dinners. Shredded beef taco roast is something our entire family loves that reheats really, really well and my pressure cooker is big enough to cook two roasts at once. When I make chicken soup (super simple – chicken, celery, carrots, and onion), I double it and pour half into Mason jars to freeze and defrost later. I’m definitely planning to try a few of the recipes from this blog post.

One way I simplify my Whole30 is that I don’t plan breakfast. I eat eggs scrambled in clarified butter and either mashed butternut squash or mashed sweet potatoes for breakfast pretty much every day. It doesn’t take a lot of thought. It keeps me full and productive until lunch. And oddly enough, I don’t ever seem to get sick of it.

I’ll post my two week menu plan next Monday and pictures as I can.

I’ve written quite a bit more about my planning in the past: