I killed winter dead

It’s 50 degrees and sunny today.  I’m declaring winter dead.  Officially.  My name rhymes with weather, so my word actually holds some weight.  To celebrate the non-depressingness of today, I got a great massage for $15 this morning, had a Bloody Mary with a friend, ran 3.1 miles, raked a portion of the yard, and took a shower.  After planning the meals for the week (Slow Cooked Chicken Adobo, Beef & Cabbage Stir Fry, Salmon, Spaghetti Squash Crusted Quiche, Swedish Meatballs, and Amaretti Thins (for dessert)), I started this blog post, wrestled with whether or not to buy running tights from REI (said no for now – super proud of myself), and then went to the store.  And that’s my March 29th so far.

Last week I made a couple of tried and true recipes and one newbie.

1.  Oven-Baked Paleo Pork Ribs.  I put the spice rub on these ribs the night before, and then put them in the Nesco on 200 for about 6 hours.  While I was at work, Tim kept a close eye on them and took them out right when they were fall-off-the-bone tender.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve tried the bbq sauce mentioned in the recipe, and it did not turn out AT ALL for me, so I didn’t make it again.  We saved the juice that cooked out the ribs, however.  It mixes with all the spices and makes a super tasty sauce for the meat.

2.  To accompany the ribs, I tried a new recipe, the tantalizingly named, Broccoli Salad.  The mix of bacon, raisins, sunflower seeds and bacon sounded very interesting.  I sauteed the sunflower seeds in the bacon grease and added some salt to them. I left out the onions, as Timmy Tee is not a fan of raw onions.  This turned out amazingly delicious.  Tim and I both loved it, even though I typically do not like raw broccoli.  Here’s a pic of the ribs, broccoli salad, and the kimchi Tim made.

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This morning I prepared supper for tonight – pork chops and sweet potato salad.  I’m using a garlic ginger marinade I found in an Allrecipes magazine, so I can’t link to it, but I sure can show you a picture of it!  Tim is grilling these babies up as I type.

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Here is the recipe for the potato salad.  It seems as if whenever I make paleo mayo, I can never use it all before it supposedly goes bad (3 days).  I had some leftover mayo from the broccoli salad that I made last week.  It still smelled totally fine, but I was wary of using week-old mayo.  Instead, I added some rice wine vinegar, olive oil, and mustard to the potatoes and accouterments.  It turned out really good, and you can’t even tell it doesn’t have real mayo in it!  I think I’ll continue to use this shortcut in the future and save myself the expense of wasting 1/2 a cup of premium quality California olive oil.

And that’s it for today!  Tomorrow is supposed to be even more beautiful, so we are planning a 30 mile bike ride.  I’m going to be falling asleep at my desk on Monday…  I need to find a job where I can cook, eat, run, and bike for a living!

Hope you have a great Saturday!

Paleo Meal Planning

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I have a method to my madness – at least as far as meal planning goes.  I know this is a tough area for a lot of people, so I thought I would share my process.  Please forgive the lackluster photos; I’m afraid that if I wait for good lighting and good photos, I will keep putting off writing this post as I have already done for the past 18 months.

Every Saturday or Sunday I stand at our kitchen table (my brother made us a beautiful kitchen table that we set up at bar height) and flip through my huge binder of recipes.

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I follow about 7 paleo bogs (via Feedly/RSS), which is where I get most of my recipes.  I get a ton from Chris Kresser, Paleomg, and Mark Sisson.  I print out the recipes (usually choosing ones with common ingredients and spices.  I try to not buy anything special for just 1 recipe) and file them in one of 7 tabs: Misc., Beef, Chicken, Pork, Fish, Veggies, Desserts.  If a recipe calls for two kinds of meat (beef and pork, for example), I’m in quite a quandary as to where to file it.  I just have to make a snap judgement and live with it.  It’s pretty intense.

I usually scan the freezer, see what kinds of meat I already have, and then flip through the binder to find some tasty-sounding recipes.  I pull them out and start to write out my menu for the week.

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Wow. That picture is really bad.  But you get the idea – I list out the dish, along with the major ingredients.  I put this on the fridge so I can easily tell if I can eat that red pepper in my lunch-time salad, or if I need to save it for a specific recipe.

I use this plan to make up my grocery list.

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I usually review the Wednesday HyVee ad as well and add anything that is on sale or that looks exceptionally tasty.

Tim and I then head out to the grocery store, load up on food stuffs, come home and try to find a place for everything in our tiny fridge.  If I’m feeling especially ambitious, I will cut up veggies and rinse and salad-spin our greens.

The whole process of finding recipes, writing out the meal plan, and then making the grocery list takes probably 1/2 an hour.  It’s pretty painless and helps keep us from eating out too much.

I’m sure there are better ways to do this whole process, but this has worked well for me for the past  2 years.

Hope you found that helpful, and thank you for putting up with the bad photography.  🙂

Devils on Horseback and Other Random Shiz

My good friend, Michael, hosted a Drink & Draw at his place on Saturday.  Well, ostensibly it was a Drink & Draw.  In reality it was a Drink & Eat & Play Dirty Cards.  No drawing was to be had.  We did TALK about drawing, at least, so that’s something.  We also did drink.  A lot. We definitely had the drinking part of the Drink & Draw covered.  We also ate a lot of tasty food – nice cheeses, gluten-free crackers, grapes, corned beef & cabbage, lots of dark chocolate, etc.  It was all very tasty.  What was my contribution to the festivities, you may ask?  Any guesses?  I’ll just tell you – Devils on Horseback (aka the boringly named “bacon wrapped dates”).

This was my first attempt at making these tasty treats, but not my first attempt at eating them.  I generally love dates, so when I saw them on the Biaggi’s New Years menu in 2013, I had to try them.  They                 BLEW                    MY                      MIND.  They were so delicious.  So I finally got around to trying them on Saturday.

They are incredibly easy to make – you just cut bacon in half, wrap it around dates, stick them in the oven to cook, and then hit them with the broiler.  They turned out pretty damn tasty too. However, next time I make these I will broil them for about 3 minutes and then flip them and broil them on the other side for 3 minutes.  My dates got a little too toasty on the top when I broiled them on one side for 5 minutes.  I would also like to try the modification mentioned in the recipe and stuff the dates with goat cheese before wrapping them in bacon.  I think that would be amazing.

This is not a cheap treat, what with the cost of dates and pork these days, and with the high carb content of dates, this is not something you should be eating a ton of anyway.  I think I ate 3 of them at least.  They are dangerous.

Now on the “Other Random Shiz.”

My skin, which always does poorly in the winter, was finally starting to clear up and look semi-good, only to regress back to annoyingness.  I tried to pin-point the cause of the relapse.  All I can think of is that for awhile I was drinking about 1 cup of bone broth a day, but then I ran out, so I stopped.  To rectify this situation I journeyed to the Farmers Market on Saturday to pick up some soup bones.  I got a few packages of chicken bones for $10, but then.  Then, I hit the mother load.  I went to the Sawyer Beef guy, and he sold me this for $16:

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That is 16 pounds of grass fed marrow bones.  I was in heaven.  I eagerly carted them home with the intention of separating the bones into more reasonably-sized packages.  When I opened the box, I realized that the bones were hopelessly frozen together.  After pounding  away at them for a few minutes and ruining a perfectly good Pampered Chef wooden spoon, I  gave up and just left the bones out to defrost until I could pry them apart.

Once I could break off a few bones, I combined them with apple cider vinegar, a frozen bag of veggie clippings, a chopped onion, a bay leaf, garlic, and filtered water.  I set the Nesco on low and let it cook away.  I bagged up the rest of the bones into more reasonably-sized packages, but them in our freezer, and headed off to run errands.

When we returned home, we were assaulted by the odor of marrow being forcefully sucked from the insides of large cow bones.  I promptly set up a table in the back porch and took the broth out there to cook down in peace.

About 24 hours later, I drained the chunks out of the broth, let the bones cool, and then took a knife to the inside of the bones, pulling out all the marrow that was still remaining.  I dumped the chunky marrow into the broth, and then poured the broth in batches into our Vitamix, blending the broth until it was a nice, foamy caramel brown, which I then poured into jars for freezing.

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The broth turned out really well, IMHO.  I had some yesterday and today and will continue to drink it until my stupid skin starts to behave again.

And that was our weekend!  Hope you enjoyed your Saint Patrick’s Day in a healthy, responsible matter.  🙂

Smokey Roast Yay! Liver Nay!

As we all know, liver is insanely good for you and should be consumed regularly.  However, as we all also know, its texture and flavor can be, well, troublesome.  I generally like liver, but I’m on a constant quest for a better recipe – a recipe where I make it and say, “Oh.    My.     Goodness.  This liver is awesome, and I’m going to eat this whole 1/2 pound.”  I ran across this recipe and was intrigued by the idea of marinating the liver.  I thought maybe it would make it more tender and less liverish. Unfortunately, it didn’t.  It was still very livery, and I still had unpleasant liver burbs all day long after eating it.  Tim also was not a fan of the flavor of this dish.    So far the best way I’ve found to sneakily incorporate liver is to add some (1/4 a pound) to meatballs or meatloaf.  I’ve read you can also liquify it and add it to soups, but for some reason the thought of liquified liver just really grosses me out.

On a positive note, I tried a new recipe which I absolutely love:  Smokey Roast.  For this recipe you apply a spice rub of ground coffee, chipotle, cocoa powder, cinnamon, garlic, oregano, cumin and salt to a nice chuck roast. Really rub it in!  Then you heat up a skillet with some fat (the recipe calls for coconut oil, but I used bacon grease) and sear all sides of the meat.  Then you toss it in the crockpot on top of a sliced red onion, add some water, and let it slow cook.  Tim is home during the middle of the day, so he kept a watchful eye on the roast (I have a tendency to overcook roasts and dry them out), and took it out right when the meat was ready to fall off the bone.

It was PERFECT.  The meat was seared on the edges, but still a little pink in the middle.  It was ultra tender, and the the juice from the meat/spices/onions, was a tasty meat-bath of subtle deliciousness.  We ate it with Tim’s home-made sauerkraut for 2 meals.  The only regret I have about this roast is that after heating some of it up for breakfast, I acccidently left the pot out all day and had to toss the remainder of the leftovers.  Such a shame.

So try this recipe ASAP!

Sunday Recap

Wow. What a week.  I thought the week before last was busy, but this week put it to shame.  First of all, an update on the topics discussed last week:

  • Meals
    • I DID make the Crockpot Coffee Ancho Chile Short Ribs.  I think they turned out fine, but I wasn’t blown away by them, which was really too bad because Tim has been knocked out by a severe stomach issue for the past 7-10 days, so I had to eat all 4 pounds of this by myself.  It was tasty at first, but after about the 5th meal of ribs and sauerkraut (which Tim made and which turned out SUPER awesome), I was very much over it.
    • I made Heavenly Paleo Meatloaf, leaving out the onions, red pepper, and cayenne to protect Teeeeeeem’s tummy.  It still turned out really good.  It seemed to sit well with Tim, too, who got all creative and made meatloaf and sauerkraut soup with some homemade chicken broth (recipe from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman).  The meatloaf recipe can no longer be found online, but if you want a copy, let me know in the comments.
    • Paleo Fudgy Brownies.  A large portion of my favorite recipes are from Health-Bent; however, this one did not turn out well for me.  I baked the brownies for 18 minutes as indicated in the recipe.  They still looked very under-done when I took them out, but I didn’t take the time to really test them.  I waited for them to cool and realized that they were still completely doughy in the middle.  I refrigerated them and was then able to scoop out bars and microwave them for about a minute (they burn something fierce if you microwave them for 2 minutes, fyi).  They get a little more cooked that way.  The flavor is pretty good – but very nutty.  These won’t stay in my dessert rotation, especially since they call for 1 cup of almond butter.  These are some EXPENSIVE brownies.  In fact, after failing this recipe, I went through my recipe binder and tore out all the recipes calling for full cups of nut butter.  I’m trying to be more thrifty with my cooking.  More on that in a later blog post.
    • I didn’t get around to making the Cowboy Breakfast Skillet, but that’s on the docket for this week.  Since I’m trying to be more frugal, I didn’t plan many official meals this week; we are just going to scrounge around and eat what’s here.  That means we’ll have a lot of scrambles, stir fries, and tomato soup.  If I can get our monthly food spend below $700, I’ll be happy!

And to tie up some more loose ends from last week:

  • My water kefir turned out!!!  YAY!!!  I’m so excited.  I did a double ferment which means I fermented the water for 2 days, then transferred it to a flip-top bottle, added 1/4 cup of organic cherry juice, and let it sit for 6 days.  When I opened it up on Thursday, it shot carbonated water 6 inches into the air! Out came fizzy pink, delicious water kefir.  The flavor was great.  The only disappointment is that the kefir didn’t stay very carbonated after I transferred it to a regular mason jar.  Maybe I have to keep it in the flip-top bottle for it to stay carbonated.  I need to get some more of those bottles.  The single-fermented water kefir is way too sweet for me, so I’m going to have to double ferment everything.  I’m so excited that this turned out.
  • Yoga – We didn’t go on Monday, but we did make it on Wednesday.  There was a different teacher this time, and instead of telling you exactly what to do, she allowed you to make it “your workout.”  That meant that she described several variations of what you could be doing at any point in time.  It was very confusing to me.  I just want to be told to do one thing, so I can look at the teacher or the other students and figure out exactly what I should be doing.  We are trying a different class with a different teacher on Tuesday to see if we can find something more our style.
  • Swimming – We actually made it to the pool yesterday!  We went to the Y at 9AM, and had no trouble finding a lane.  The water was tortuously cold though!
  • CBRC Chili Chase – The 4 mile run last Sunday was an adventure!  The sun was out, but the temp was only about 20 degrees.  The course was damn hilly too!  The finish line is at the TOP of a hill, which is just so painful and cruel. I probably would have stopped and walked if there wouldn’t have been so many people watching the finish line.  As it was, out of 123 female runners, I came in 39th, which means I got a free CBRC coffee mug! It’s the first time I’ve won any award for a race, so that kind of made up for being extremely cold while simultaneously hot and sweaty and generally miserable.   This was our first CBRC run, and it was actually, all told, a really fun time.  The crowd was in good spirits, very supportive, and they gave us beer afterwards.  🙂

So there’s my update!  This week looks to be another busy week – yoga on Tuesday, drinks with coworkers on Wednesday, Wine & Art at the Figge on Thursday with my Mammacita, and then a trip to Monticello to visit the folks.  HOW do people regularly exercise and/or take exercise classes in the evening??  It seems impossible to get anything else done (like making supper).  I can’t wait until the weather warms up so I can start running in the AM again.  It makes me feel so much better all day, and then my evening is free.

Wow, this is kind of a long post.  Maybe I should start writing more than once/week.

I want to thank the new subscribers to my blog – thank you for reading!  I’m used to my blog only being read by my Mom, husband, best friend, and occasionally one or two of my brothers.  While I’m sure they are always RIVETED by the content, I realize they are bound by love and duty to read this; whereas, you are not.  So thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the posts and find them useful.

Have a great week!