Sprouts and Cookie Bars

Today was spent prepping dinner, which was sausage, steak and chicken kabob. They were speared with onions, green peppers and carrots. On the side, I had Brussel sprouts and bacon sticks and a salad heavy with mixed greens, cucumber, onion, carrot, celery and hard-boiled egg. Oil and vinegar for the dressing and I was full before my plate was empty. Therefore, my lunch is already packed for tomorrow: leftover kabob emptied out onto a bed of mixed greens.

Sprouts and bacon. Always good. I found this idea on Pinterest.

Sprouts and bacon. Always good. I found and re-pinned this idea on Pinterest. Click the photo for original publication.

I know I’ve mentioned my love of Brussel sprouts and I’m sure you’re all sick of reading about it, but they are my favorite. I love how they grow and every time I pick up a stalk at the grocery, I inevitably have 1 or more strangers ask what it is. Great conversation starter, who knew?! I think I planted brussels last summer just to see that gorgeous stalk in my own back yard. Of course, homegrown taste EVEN MORE delicious. I hope to have success again this summer.

brussel-sprout-540x380

I’m currently awaiting the finished product of a little snack we like to refer to as “Cookie Bars”. It’s like a grainless granola bar without weird ingredients, but more of a protein bar, if you ask me! Plain and simple, it’s a recipe that can be varied in so many ways. Once you make them, it’ll be a go-to treat for the kiddos, if not for yourself.
Cookie Bars

In a food processor add

  • 5-7 Medjool pitted dates and handful of other dried fruit of choice (we used banana tonight)

Process till the dates start breaking down then add

  • handful of pecans
  • handful of whole almonds

Process till the really big chunks are gone then add

  • handful of crushed walnut
  • handful of coconut powder
  • a big squeeze of honey (probably 1/4 cup)

Pulse till mixed around a bit and add 1/4 cup or less of maple syrup, grade B preferably. Pulse till mixed. Must be sticky enough to lump together, if not add a bit of honey and syrup till satisfied.

Once the mixture is fully combined – sometimes, I put it in a larger bowl and use a spatula to smash it around some more, but did fine with just the processor tonight – line a baking sheet with parchment paper and flatten the mixture to an even thickness of about 1/4 an inch or your likeness. I then sprinkle it with cinnamon.

Bake at 325 for approx 20 minutes. I check on mine every 10. Timing depends on the thickness and for thicker bars, I usually flip the entire thing after 20 minutes and bake it off for 10-20 more.

Once the bar is browned, I add some sort of chocolate to the top. Sometimes a high cacao dark chip, melted in the microwave and spread on but tonight I used Enjoy brand chocolate chips because that is what I had. I sprinkled them lightly across the bar, placed it back in the oven for 1 minute then removed, spread the chocolate in a very thin layer then removed the parchment paper, with the cookie bar on top, from the sheet to cool on a rack.

As it cools, it will harden. Once cooled, I break it apart by attempting to cut it into rectangles. Sometimes it cuts well and other times, it’s more of a break line that I create.

If you use the same recipe, slightly less honey and syrup, you can toss the mixture while roasting and create a delicious cereal to be enjoyed with some milk of you choice. Warm it for an oatmeal like sensation.

They were so eager to eat tonight's bars that the chocolate isn't even dry in these photos!

They were so eager to eat tonight’s bars that the chocolate isn’t even hardened in these photos!

My husband couldn’t wait to get his hands on one of these. While I was getting the girls dressed after bath, and before they were cooled entirely, he went ahead and cut them. Warm and delicious! A comfort treat. The girls had one before bedtime tonight. Yet, they are entirely acceptable for breakfast.

Once cool, I store them in Tupperware, with parchment or wax paper between layers in the fridge and the girls help themselves when they wake up or feel a little hungry. I’ll also grab a few and toss into a ziplock bag when we’ll be running around all day. Easy pick-me-up and a delicious treat.

Savings note: Use the ‘candy bins’ at the grocery store to bag your own nuts. It ends up to be more like $2 or less for more than enough compared to $6 for the prepackaged nuts. This is why we always have a variety in our house.

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A Cheap & Healthy Perspective – Week 1

I hear it all the time, “I’m on a tight budget, I can’t afford to eat like you.” Well, I too am on a tight budget. $100/week for food, in fact. I have a family of 4 and this budget also includes non-paleo foods for my (amazing) husband because again, this is my journey and I won’t pressure him into it, nor will I sabotage myself because of his preferences.

A few things:

  • Is grass fed meat better? YES. Does that mean it’s all I eat? NO. I buy meat that is on sale. Some of it is grass fed (YUM) and some of it is not. From the sale meat, I create my weekly dinner plan.
  • When not fresh, frozen or canned veggies? FROZEN. Freezing vegetables will help lock in the nutrients but also doesn’t allow it to sit and soak in sodium until consumed.
  • Cooking serum? Coconut oil or butter. Real, unsalted, raw butter – THE best. Although I’m attempting a Whole30 right now so I’m sticking with coconut oil or bacon fat. Butter is a dairy.
  • Fast & easy? Sure, there are lots of fast and easy ideas I can and will share, but eating plants & proteins does require preparation and forethought. It’s a lifestyle CHANGE, so all you fast paced, eat-on-the-fly, no time for prep folks, take a deep breath and reevaluate your priorities. Is health one of them?  …Always make leftovers so you have them for breakfast and lunch options …bake some eggs in muffin tins and freeze for easy access …soups and stews in the crock pot are a lifesaver! …whole fruit and veggies are a sweet and crunchy snack option. SIMPLICITY in food brings forth a simpler life.

paleo-food-pyramid

With that being said, I’ve decided to share my shopping list and meal plan to help folks get started. Also because I’m a simple girl with simple tastes and my recipes/meals are far from fancy. I think most of you can relate to having small children or spouses who aren’t always adventurous with their palates. Also, they are not on a Whole30, I am, so I will post my variations to anything for my own plate. Here we go:

Sunday: Leftover Stew – In a crock pot on low, I tossed leftover roast and meatloaf, frozen veggies of our liking, and broth together. After seasoning to taste, I checked back at dinner time! To serve, I added a dollop of pre-prepared mashed cauliflower to a soup bowl and scooped some soup on top. One of my daughters enjoys soup in a bowl, the other enjoys soup on a plate sans liquid. Wa-la.

Monday: BBQ – 1lb ground beef and a can of Manwich. I had my husband dish out my portion of beef first, before adding the Manwich. The family had it with fries and apples, I enjoyed it on top a bed of greens and carrots.

Tuesday: Pork & Kraut (OF COURSE!) – In a crock pot on low, I added a layer of sliced onion, a layer of sauerkraut, pork loin, and a final layer of kraut. Checked back at dinner time and added some pre-prepared mashed sweet potatoes and apple sauce to my plate. MY FAVORITE MEAL.

Wednesday: Chicken with Onions & Peppers – My husband pan cooks the chicken and sautes onions and bell peppers. I enjoyed that atop a bed of greens, carrots, cucumbers, radishes and celery. The rest of the bunch had some noodles with their chicken.

Thursday: Leftovers for the family – There wasn’t anything ‘clean’ leftover so I enjoyed some frozen Tilapia, sweet mash and crunched bacon sprinkled on top. I keep a stash of frozen fish, shrimp and scallops for myself to enjoy on nights the family decides on pizza, spaghetti or other grain based choices.

Friday: $5 Pizza night for the fam ala Little Caesars. I will be enjoying a Large salad (1, because I don’t want the greens to go bad before eaten and 2, because I’m craving a big salad) with roasted chicken on top.

Saturday: Bacon wrapped turkey with roasted vegetables and salad.

For those of you who love a grocery bill, here is this week's bill, keeping with our goal of $100/week and including $29ish of non-paleo food.

For those of you who love a grocery bill, here is this week’s bill, keeping with our goal of $100/week and including $29ish of non-paleo food for the Mr.

My method of shopping and meal planning is to create the first few meals of the week from items we HAVE in the fridge, then write a list of items we would like in the house (veggies and fruit, etc). Once I am at the store, I keep a running calculator of each item I put in the cart, remaining super selective on the items I choose, even if on my list. For instance, this week I knew we still had 6 eggs so I passed on another dozen because I didn’t have an egg heavy menu planned. I complete all non-meat shopping first, THEN I go to the meat department and check out what they have for sale, spending the rest of the budget on protein that will pair with any/all of the produce we have in the cart.

Easy peasy.

I don’t enjoy sharing my entire menu (I find it quite boring) but if you find it valuable please let me know by commenting here or on our Facebook page. Thanks for reading!

To view more $100/week budget Menu & Receipt posts click below.


Busy as Hell

I’m a member of a group of women who like to gather and ‘Lunch’ occasionally, which basically means drink wine, eat delicious food and chat each other up till the clock strikes and we all run back to our real lives. Today a member of the Ladies Who Lunch, who also happens to be a sister of mine, asked if we’ll be getting together in March. I quickly checked my calendar (thank you iPhone for organizing my life) and realized there is not one free moment this month. BUSY AS HELL! I kindly declined and then got thinking about preparing a few items for the kids, who have reverted to Cheerios 6 days a week for breakfast, much to my dismay, and for myself as far as breakfast and snack options during these hectic days running to and from schools and work and appointments. Today is the only day I have nothing scheduled. It’s been a real treat with no sense of urgency weighing on my back.

Currently, we have a new version of our infamous Paleo Muffin in the oven. This time I went with the basic ingredients and added a chopped, organic apple to the mix after reviewing Sarah Fragoso’s Paleo Apple Muffin recipe in my recently returned hardcopy of “Everyday Paleo” – Thanks Katie. The recipe looks something like this:

  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grade b maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • pinch of baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • bigger pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 chopped apple
  • 375, 25(ish) minutes until tops begin to brown
Another delicious treat I’ve been slacking on is mashed sweet potatoes, which take too long to make on the fly. I picked up a few, along with other essentials, while the kids played in the grocery store childcare this afternoon. That’s right folks, our grocery ‘giant’ has a childcare room that allows for 1.5 hours of grocery shopping bliss. Although sometimes I spend that time in the cafe reading, blogging, or working. It’s quite the commodity. Okay, back to topic: I have the potatoes peeled, sliced and boiling as we speak. Remember, after mashing, sweet pots only need a bit of coconut oil or butter added, too much and you’ll have a soupy mess. I store the end result in glass tupperware and refrigerate, portioning out at dinnertime and often baking it off in the oven while the meal is prepared. Butter and salt on top is total YUM. Incidentally, my girls saw me slicing ‘those orange taters’ and got very excited, looks like we’ll be adding some to the side of tonight’s dinner as well.

So… in the time I’ve been preparing the muffins and potatoes and attempting to write this blog, the first batch has finished and are a HUGE HIT with myself and my girls. We even made a mini batch and cooked them off in the Easy Bake oven. My soon-to-be 4-year-old, Roe, just gobbled up 5 mini muffins and my newly 5-year-old ate 4 before being cut off, as dinner is looming. Roe made me promise to include a muffin on her dinner plate – OKAY by me. These muffins will make a great treat for breakfast and will also be good to travel with as I have a trip looming, but don’t worry, I’ll blog about that soon enough! (HINT: I am a certifiable Paleo Geek)

I was truly disappointed when I went for a stem of Brussel sprouts and they were out of stock at the grocery today. I’m not sure what else I will be preparing, but thinking ahead for this week, and keeping in mind my stock of frozen meats, the crock pot looks like a million bucks right about now. What have you made recently that is non-grain, gluten-free and super delicious? I need ideas, help a girl out!

P.S. Nature’s Promise Uncured Bacon is on sale this week. I always stock up when this sale occurs – $2 off – and their stock often runs out, so get it while you can!


Coconut Flour & Bacon Candy

My level of “busy” has increased dramatically over the last month and yet, I’ve still managed to discover a few new recipes that my girls and I enjoy. First let’s start out with a warning, as my girlfriend put it “Cooking is chemistry and substitutes are not created equal.” In my lapse of judgement, I took a recipe for banana bread that my sister always has great success with and subbed almond flour and syrup/honey for the regular flour and sugar portions. I should have stuck with what I know because these banana muffins turned into a hard, yet gooey, contraption…which, incidentally, my 3-year-old gobbled up. But she would.

For Valentine’s Day (Love you!) my 3-year-old was scheduled for class snack and my 4-year-old had a class party. When I saw the sign-up sheet for snacks and paper products hanging in the hallway the week before, I quickly added my name to the “Cupcake” slot. This was my (neurotic) way of not only controlling some of the sugar/gluten intake of my own child, but that of the whole class. After writing in my name, I thought “I better come up with something good.” My 4-year-old prefers vanilla and my 3-year-old prefers whatever her sister says, so I began a search for a cupcake worthy recipe for both girls to share with their friends. It wasn’t long before I found a Paleo appropriate cupcake. I tested the recipe in a half portion, which also worked very well. The only change I made to it was grade b maple syrup in place of cane sugar. It turned out to be a light, fluffy cupcake, similar to angel food. DELISH. I then whipped up an icing of almond butter, dark cocoa, butter, and a dash of coconut milk to my preferred consistency, topped with Enjoy chocolate chips and ate entirely too many chocolate/vanilla delights!

Of course, then I remembered the “no nut” rule (almond butter in the icing) and my daughters’ protest of the chocolate topping instead of vanilla, so I began on a new adventure looking for vanilla icing. This journey was not as successful and I was running low on time. I decided to cut my loses and use a Betty Crocker Butter Cream topping (just enough to cover the top) which is gluten-free and allowed the girls to decorate their class’ cupcakes how they saw fit. Everyone was happy in the end.

This morning, I tried a new pancake recipe which turned out to be another success! While the 3-year-old was eating the awkward banana muffins from last night, she helped me mix and stir the ingredients to a fluffy, coconut pancake I found while searching for vanilla cupcakes. The batter was the most like a regular pancake of any Paleo recipe I’ve found. I sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on a couple and left the others plain. My 4-year-old gobbled up a few herself, while I enjoyed a few (more) myself with a side of maple syrup, in addition to some fresh-cut pineapple which are on sale this week and super juicy.

Speaking of Valentine’s Day, friends of ours invited a few families over for brunch the sunday prior in celebration. Of course everyone offered to bring something delicious to eat, so I decided to make bacon-wrapped, almond-stuffed dates. When I reached for my newly purchases container of dates, it was nowhere to be found, so I had to improvise fast. I cut the bacon into portion sizes, about 3 or 4 inches in length, laid them out on parchment paper atop a baking sheet, then drizzled just a tiny bit of grade b maple syrup over them. I baked them at 350 for about 45 minutes. The syrup didn’t allow them to curl upon heating and created a delicious bacon-candy. For the 2nd batch, I baked the bacon plain, then added chopped dark chocolate bits for the last few minutes (until melted) after which I sprinkled with crushed walnuts. SO YUM. I forgot to take a picture, but I’m sure you can imagine the heaven I created, and of course a piece or two will do you.

My bacon candy wasn't on a skewer or dipped in chocolate, but sprinkled with it. I still found this to be a great visual.

Disclaimer: I have no idea where I bought my Coconut Flour, I thought it was from GIANT in their Healthy Foods Aisle, but my sister said there was no such thing and found it at the Healthy Grocer. I will buy it online in the future, as it tends to be cheaper if you find a site with free shipping.


Sundays are Cookdays

I love Sundays!

First thing this morning, I emptied a large package of chicken legs into the crock pot, poured a smaller bottle of Franks Hot Sauce over, turned on high and then made a cup of coffee. While I made the girls breakfast, emptied the dishwasher, caught up on world events, social media and then took a shower, I planned my attack for the day. We hit the grocery store and wah-lah! 5 hours later, the chicken was off the bone and ready to separate. From the drumsticks (which are a super cheap meat option) I will make Buffalo Chicken, as well as a not-so-paleo BUT as-okay-as-I-can-make-it Buffalo Chicken Dip for my husband’s football watching enjoyment (Go Niners?).

Buffalo Chicken Dip

After removing the bones and sifting through for skin, I made 2 containers of chicken. The first, I added a bit more hot sauce to and after cooling, put into the fridge. I will use this to top salads and celery as needed for meal or snack options. I love a spicy chicken salad!

The other dish is reserved for the dip. Instead of following the recipes I’ve seen involving LOADS of cheese and dressing, I decided to see how little I could get away with, as I typically steer clear of dairy but love this dip. In a small pot on the stove top (low heat), I put a quarter block of cream cheese and a small handful of crumbled blue cheese, whisking occasionally. When melted, I let the mixture sit till the oil collected on the surface then poured off into the sink. I added the mixture to the shredded chicken, along with a load of hot sauce and stirred. I had my husband taste test to make sure the consistency was satisfactory for his non-Paleo palate because the lack of cheese was OKAY by me! It was perfect. Enjoy with cut celery.

While I sorted the chicken, I made a dozen Hardboiled Eggs to be used for salads, snacks and, if I find the time today, deviled eggs! (I didn’t find the time before cookday burnout set in and two little girls needed more direct attention.)

Next up: APPLE SAUCE! We love applesauce. I like to dip my meat in it (you read me!) pork, chicken, jerky, WHATEVER. Core, slice, dice and add to the crock pot on low with about a half cup of water for 3lbs of apples, then sprinkled cinnamon on top. I am loosely following a recipe for Homemade Applesauce that has recommendations on the types of apples to use for sauce. Our market had bags of Granny Smith and so it was decided. I stirred every 10-15 minutes until soft enough to throw in the blender, about an hour and a half today.

Homemade Apple Sauce

In the meantime, I dumped a pound of ground beef into a bowl, followed by salt, black pepper, pressed garlic, diced onions and celery along with a snip of countertop chives for good measure. Mixed, smooshed and mashed into Sliders for my husband, and (even mini’er) Mini Sliders for my girls. I packaged them in twos and threw them in the freezer. I have sliders scheduled for dinner on Wednesday. Incidentally, ground beef is another cheap, and filling, meat option.

Now for the luxury item, Almond Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon. This is an amazing hors d’oeuvre, side or snack and one that I haven’t made since 2003, until recently. Let’s just say, the last time I attempted these delicious little buggers the fire department showed up. I apparently gained some sort of culinary sense over the last 8 year, though, since there were no flames when I made them last week, or today. Just keep an eye on them at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until the bacon looks done, flipping once. Use pitted dates and stuff as many almonds as you can in them, typically 1 or 2 depending on the size of the date.

Almond Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon

 

Somewhere along the way, I also put together a few Chicken Kabobs. I used tenders (another cheap option) and sewed them on the skewers (remember to soak in water for fire prevention, see, I’m learning) surrounding them with onions and green peppers. I salt and peppered them, added some Wildtree garlic seasoning and wrapped them up for dinner this week. The remaining tenders were tossed in a freezer storage bag with some herbs and spices and thrown in the freezer for another easy option.

My week’s dinners look like this:

  • Sunday – Buffalo Chicken Dip & Celery, Almond Stuffed Dates/Bacon (what, it’s Football season!)
  • Monday – Steaks and salads (already marinating in the fridge)
  • Tuesday – Chicken Kabobs and baked sweet potatoes
  • Wednesday – Sliders with sweet potato fries and salad, or just salad, we’ll see what I’m feeling
  • Thursday – Pork loin and steamed veggies
  • Friday – Leftovers!
  • Saturday – Chicken Salads

What’s on your menu?