Defending the Caveman

Flirting with Paleo   

Image

The Hubs can attest to this:  I am a flirt.

I flirt all of the time — with various notions.

I flirt with the idea of exercising more.  I flirt with the idea of saving more money. I flirt with the idea of posting on this blog everyday. Fail. Fail. Fail.

And now I’m flirting with the idea of going caveman, and trying the Paleo Diet.

Sorry if this is TMI but I have a lot of friends who, like me, are becoming ‘women of a certain age.’  We all complain about the same things: weight issues & health issues.  My friends who have made the switch to Paleo swear it’s made differences in their lives.  Some post amazing pictures of their physical transformations all over Facebook.  Others talk about how it’s helped improve their overall health and well-being.  It’s pretty inspiring. 

Still, I can’t help but imagine how difficult it must be to change one’s diet so radically, especially when children are involved.

I haven’t posted in a few days because I haven’t had much to write about. My son turned 7 the other day, so there was a lot of celebratory eating going on during his week-long birthday bonanza:  pizza, chicken nuggets, ice cream cake.  You know the drill.  Not to mention the fact that we’ve been at the pool almost every night and taking a lot of fun day-trips, so we’ve had our fair share of (gasp!) fast-food.  (I know, I know… Bad Mommy. Slapping my wrist right now for you.)

But I’m intrigued. So I gave a Paleo-inspired meal a try. Not too bad: 

Paleo-Inspired Slow-Cooker Coconut Chicken

Image

  • Put a bag of baby carrots into slow cooker.
  • Put 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs on top. 
  • Cover with a can of coconut milk
  • Add 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Add any herbs you feel like and have on hand: I put some thyme, oregano, basil and garlic.  (in hindsight, I wish I had thrown in a pinch of garam masala instead and made a coconut curry.)
  • Cook on high for 4-5 hours until chicken is done.

I served it with fresh chopped tomatoes tossed with basil (Paleo) and brown rice (not Paleo, but keeps the kids happy.)  

My husband really enjoyed this and 2/3 of my three birds enjoyed it too.  The chicken was so moist and tender. The carrots were so sweet — almost like candy.  My now-7-year-old was the one who complained. But I think if I made it again, he’d enjoy it.  And I think he would have liked it with the curry seasoning.  

So what do you guys out there in blog-land think?  To Paleo or not to Paleo?  That is the question.  Would you do it?  Have you?  Any tips you can share on how to get started? Any websites you would recommend that wouldn’t require me selling my daughter in exchange for some recipes and advice? Reply if you can… and help a girlfriend out.  🙂 

In the meantime… happy eatings!  

Sharon

Advertisements

Make Ahead Meals: Part 4 — Low and Slow (but quick and easy!!)

Back to Basics

photo-66

Crock Pot BBQ Ribs & Spinach Salad with Brown Rice

OK — so cold soups aren’t your cup of tea?  Let’s get back to basic, old-school family dinners.  Let’s get back to Old Trusty – The Crock Pot.

I thought this recipe for BBQ Ribs would be just what my family craves as a break from the more unconventional meals we have had lately.  After all, I already know my family loves pulled pork. But I’ve never made ribs in my crock pot and wasn’t quite sure how it would work.

I usually post what ingredients I use and how I made the dish — but for this post, I followed the recipe step-by-step. Following directions is not easy for me (just ask any of my teachers over the years!) but I really felt like I had something to learn here.  So I’m linking to the recipe again to make sure my lovely co-blogger can get some well-deserved credit for her recipe.

It could not have been easier.  It, literally, took me 3 minutes to put this all into the crock pot and turn it on.  And the ribs were DELICIOUS!!!  No joke — everyone asked for 2nd helpings!  The ribs were moist and succulent and fell off the bone.

photo 1-2

The key was standing them on their end in the crock pot — like they’re a picket fence — and cooking them for 8 hours on low. Brushing them with some additional BBQ sauce before serving really added a little somthin’-somethin’.

Now, my main dish was all set. But I had NO idea what to make for a side.

So I hit the pantry — and here’s where I got a little more creative with some help from my friends on the internet.  A quick google search for “Rice + Spinach + Salad” came up with some nice options. So I took a couple of those recipes (including this one) and combined them and tweaked them to come up with this:

Spinach Salad with Brown Rice:

Spinach Salad with Brown Rice

Spinach Salad with Brown Rice

For the salad….

  • Boil-in-a-Bag Brown Rice
  • about 1/2 of a bag of fresh Spinach (chopped)
  • sprinkling of feta cheese
  • Handful of slivered almonds
  • Red Onion (about 1/4 of a large red onion)
  • Cilantro (handful)

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • fresh-ground pepper

To prepare:  Boil the rice according to the package directions.  While the rice is boiling, make your dressing in a jar or cruet so it emulsifies.  Then put the salad ingredients into a bowl.  When the rice is done cooking, run it under cold water. (I squeezed the bag of rice to remove any excess liquid.)  Toss the rice into the salad bowl and drizzle with the dressing (I only used about 1/3 of what I made.)

The results:  my entire family loved this recipe.  I was surprised that the Hubs liked it, because he notoriously dislikes brown rice.  But, he loved it!

Score!

This pairing of ribs and rice salad will definitely go into our rotation!

Crock Pot BBQ Ribs & Spinach Salad with Rice

Crock Pot BBQ Ribs & Spinach Salad with Rice

Guess what — I’m beat.  This has been a lot of cooking (and blogging!)  So I’m taking tomorrow night off to have dinner with friends!  The Hubs and kids can fend for themselves.  I’d say there are leftovers… but there aren’t!

Chicken Nuggets it is!  (yes… that happens in our house.  A. LOT.)

Happy Eatings!

Sharon

Make Ahead Meals: Part 3 — The Chill-Out, No-Cook Dinner

The 5pm Chill-Out

A Rare Occurrence: Blogging at 5pm

A Rare Occurrence: Relaxing at 5pm

It’s 5:05pm on a Tuesday night and — guess what! — I’m not cooking!!

It’s a beautiful evening here and my three birds and I would, ordinarily, be at our pool but it’s a little chilly.  So I’m sitting on my back deck enjoying the (rare) sounds of the kids playing nicely together and a glass of water after doing some gardening.  Now, I’m sitting down to write because tonight’s dinner has been done and ready for HOURS! (I’m starting to dig this whole ‘make-ahead’ thing!)

It took about 10 minutes to make the majority of the meal last night. This morning, I put on PBS Kids so I could take a few minutes more to add the finishing touches.

Done!

The rest of today was spent outside with the kids: preschool soccer practice, a picnic play date at the park, a quick trip to Target, more park time.

Pretty great day — aside from the fact that I almost set my house on fire while trying to steam an artichoke in a wooden steamer basket. But we won’t tell the Hubs about that.

I digress.

So now, it’s time to sit down and recount just how this glorious moment came to be!

(Moment of truth: no sooner did I get to this point in my writing, then the Hungry, Hungry Kiddos came screaming to me about their hunger!  My Moment of Zen is over.)

Chilled Cucumber Soup, Prosciutto and White Bean Spread on Crostini, with Tossed Salad

Chilled Cucumber Soup, Prosciutto & White Bean Spread on Toast, Tossed Salad

Chilled Cucumber Soup, Prosciutto & White Bean Spread on Toast, Tossed Salad

Tonight’s meal was ‘Summer on a Plate’ and may be one of the prettiest dinners I’ve ever made.  But, in all honesty, I didn’t think anyone in our house would like it, let alone eat it. Even me.  I mean, it’s not exactly the type of meal we have regularly.

But I loved how easy it was. And while I usually give mad props to my Crock Pot, my Cuisinart food processor was the real star of this no-cook meal. (great for those hot summer nights when you don’t want to heat things up!)

Chilled Cucumber Soup (I loosely based it on several recipes, including this Martha Stewart recipe)

  • 3 cucumbers chopped
  • 2 6oz containers plain Greek Yogurt
  • salt
  • white pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • parsley (I put this into the mixer and used some as garnish)
  • splash of lemon juice
  • cumin (about 1 tsp)
  • fresh mint leaves (about 1 tsp)

Put it all into the food processor and pulse until blended throughly. Chill.  Serve. (I chilled overnight, but I’d suggest waiting to add the lemon juice until shortly before serving.)

Prosciutto & White Bean Spread on Crostini:  (loosely based on this recipe

Prosciutto & White Bean Spread on Crostini

Prosciutto & White Bean Spread on Crostini

  • 2 cans cannellini beans (1 can drained, 1 can undrained)
  • 2 cloves garlic (to taste)
  • pinch of rosemary
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • drizzle of olive oil until you get the consistency you like

photo-63Put all of the ingredients into the food processor and blend.  Chill. (This took me about 5 minutes, and could stay a couple of days in the fridge if refrigerated.)

Other recipes tell you how to make Crostini, but I kept it simple by using Melba Toast instead. So I spread the white bean dip onto the Melba Toast, topped it with some thin-sliced prosciutto, and sprinkled some parsley on top.  I ‘plated’ this dish soon after blending the White Bean Spread, and refrigerated it until it was time for dinner.

photo 3-1

Tossed Salad: made with a variety of lettuces, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced radishes, bleu cheese, drizzle of olive oil and squirt of lemon juice.

The Results

  1. Cucumber Soup:  My kids love cucumbers, which is why I chose this chilled soup. So I should have known they would love it. But my husband really, REALLY didn’t like it.  He didn’t like the yogurt-texture of the ‘soup.’  And I think I’d pass on the lemon juice the next time.  It made the soup a bit too sour.
  2. Prosciutto & White Bean Spread on Crostini:  Everyone really liked this dish — even my 6yo who HATES white beans.  (I told him what he was eating after he gave me the thumbs up and said it was ‘delish!’)  But I personally think it was a bit too much like an appetizer.  So, the next time, I think I’d skip the salad and put the white bean spread onto some good bread with the prosciutto, some arugula, slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella.

***Note:  if you want to make this meal vegetarian and skip the prosciutto, I think the spread was really good and could stand on its own when paired with the Melba Toast or a good baguette or crostini.***

It was fun to make this meal – and even more fun to see what how the kids reacted to it. I think they liked how different it was from what we usually eat.  I liked how easy it was to prepare.photo-65

We ate it outside, which seemed appropriate on this beautiful night.  And, to add to the summery feel, we ate a bowl full of cherries for dessert.  A great way to end our ‘chill-out’ day.

Life is a bowl full of cherries...

Life is a bowl full of cherries…

Plans are already underway for another ‘make-ahead’ meal for tomorrow!

In the meantime, happy eatings!

Sharon

Make Ahead Meals – Part 2

Scent of a Home 

photo-60

There’s something about the smell of spaghetti sauce wafting through the house. It’s almost medicinal. One could even call it therapeutic. Homey. Anyone with an Italian mother will know this to be true.  I certainly do.

So when my husband caught wind of the smell of my latest ‘make-ahead’ meal tonight, his eyes perked up.

“Spaghetti and meatballs???” he asked hopefully.

“Nope,” I replied.  “I’m trying NEW meals for my blog!”

I’m not going to lie.  He looked a bit crest-fallen.  After all, spaghetti and meatballs is one of his favorites. Same goes for our kids. And since my family loves it, I make it.  A lot.

But tonight I went in a new direction and tried something I’ve never made before: linguine with red clam sauce. And, of course, I used “Old Trusty” so I could toss this meal together and go.  The Crock Pot.

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce & Steamed Green Beans

photo-61

Can I get a ‘Hollah!’ from all of you who love your Crock Pots?

I always turn to it for these types of comfort foods that work when you have places to go, people to see.  Typically, Red Clam Sauce is made on the stove top. So I was pretty stoked when I found this recipe on Taste Of Home. 

I threw it all together in the crock pot at 3pm for a 6pm dinner (although I think you could add some water to the recipe and cook it on ‘low’ for longer.)

I didn’t have an onion in the house (the horror!) so I used dried chopped onions. And I used garlic powder and dried herbs.

No matter.  I thought this was delicious.

Having grown up in New Jersey, where great Italian food is more prevalent than McDonald’s, clam sauce is my own personal litmus test.  (we all have one!)  I would always order white or red clam sauce to know if the restaurant was a place worthy of my patronage.

The sauce tonight was thick and rich and delicious. Full of clam flavor which didn’t overpower the tomatoes. Just enough garlic. Salty without making me pucker. Yum.

So I served it up with a side of green beans steamed in the bag (4 minutes while the pasta cooked.)  Linguine With Red Clam Sauce & Steamed Green Beans

Everyone devoured their dinners in minutes.

  • My 5 year old — who will eat just about anything I put in front of him — had THREE helpings!  (and then he asked for a FOURTH!!)
  • My 6 year old had 2 helpings.
  • My 3 year old had 2 helpings.
  • The Hubs had 2 helpings.

Pretty successful, right?

Nope.

“Z” — my 5yo — loved it and wants me to make it again.

Everyone else wants me to stick to Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Oh well.  Isn’t the point of this blog to expose us all to cooking and eating new meals?!?   YES!!!

We’ll try again tomorrow.

Oh… and tomorrow’s meal is already made!!   I had a few minutes today while putting the sauce together, that I prepped for tomorrow’s dinner and…. here it is!!!

Tomorrow's Dinner!

You’ll have to read the blog tomorrow to see what it is….

How’s that for a tease?

Happy eatings!!

Sharon

So Your Family Is On-The-Go?

Make-Ahead Meals for Post-Activity Feeding Frenzies

((Part One))

A week or so ago, a reader asked me if I could post some ‘make-ahead’ meals. She’s a busy mom of three active, athletic boys and she wanted to know if I had any ideas for dinners that could be made in advance of those late afternoon activities.

That got me to thinking. Right now, our evenings are only taken over by our 6-year-old’s activities. But our 5-year-old will be starting a similar schedule next year. And our 3-year-old daughter isn’t far behind. Soon enough, my evenings will no longer be blissfully filled with kids doing puzzles while I grill and sauté and mix away. Instead I’ll be on soccer fields and baseball diamonds until 6:30-7:30pm and my Three Little Birds will need dinner STAT.

We have had a taste of this already. This year, after CCD and baseball and soccer practices, I would walk in the door at 6pm and need dinner immediately ready in order to avoid meltdowns. I often turned to my beloved crock pot. What sanity-seeking mom wouldn’t? And we had some regular fare in our rotation:

  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Chili (turkey, beef, chicken — You name it. We had it.)
  • Corned beef and Cabbage (I posted my method for this not too long ago.) photo-20
  • Chicken and potato Sunday dinner
  • Pulled Pork (ad nauseum)
  • Various soups (mostly butternut squash) served with salads

But now it’s summer. And as delicious as all of these meals are, I want the tastes of summer.

So last night, I sat down with my grocery store circular, my shopping list, and my computer to find some good make-aheads meals. I’ve come up with several, and my hopes, dreams, and aspirations for the week include making all of them and posting them here.

First up — tonight’s meal:

Slow-Cooker ‘Fried’ Chicken, Potato Salad, & Steamed Broccoli

photo 2

‘Fried’ Chicken: I’ve ‘liked’ Skinny Slow Cooker on Facebook for a long time and am always ‘pinning’ and ‘liking’ their posts. Everything sounds so darn delicious! So when I was looking for a slow cooker recipe that wasn’t quite as heavy as the others in my repertoire, I naturally turned to this source first.

photo 1

Tonight was a great night to try this. We had a little league game and didn’t get home until close to 6pm. I had seen this Skinny ‘Fried’ Chicken a while ago, and it kept nagging at me. How can you ‘fry’ chicken in a crock pot? They seem to have the answer. Here’s the recipe I followed, although I didn’t have buttermilk on hand. So I made my own buttermilk by mixing a little less than a cup of milk with 1 Tbsp of lemon juice. (I’ve read that you can also use white vinegar in place of the lemon juice.)

I’m sure it was an error on my part (I think I’ve previously mentioned that I’m a bit of a monster in the kitchen) but the chicken emerged from the crock pot more mushy than fried. It was delicious and moist, but definitely not crunchy.

Also, I thought the spices could use a bit more something-something — a little pepper? A little garlic? Perhaps I didn’t add enough salt. I don’t know. I just needed a little more oomph.

I’m so sad, because I’m a cult fan of the Skinny Slow Cooker gals. But I’d definitely try making this again. The kids all ate it. So did the Hubs. But I could probably make it again with better results. Let me know if you try this and have a better outcome.

Steamed Broccoli: I made this in my favorite kitchen tool. Ever. It’s Pampered Chef’s Micro-Cooker. photo 3I bought it way-back-when in my single days and it’s been with me through 3 moves, the making of a family and countless dinners. You chop your broccoli, add about 1-inch water, cover and microwave for 1:30-2 minutes. Done. Steamed veggies. If you chop your veggies and have this ready in your fridge to just pop in the microwave, you’ll be done with dinner in no time. I use this ALOT and you’ll see if often this summer! Asparagus, green beans, snap peas. They all are awesome when steamed in this. And they’re done in seconds.

Potato Salad: Confession — (you’ll se a lot of ‘confessions.’ I’m Catholic, after all. We’re all about that!) — I didn’t make the potato salad. I was standing in line at the deli counter today and it looked good to me. So I picked some up. Sue me. It WAS good. You’ll notice I like to cook — but I’m relatively lazy. So if I need to supplement a meal with a store-bought side, so be it. (although my mom makes KILLER potato salad, which I really need to make and post here.)

I’m not going to tell you what’s planned for tomorrow because right now I’m debating between two different menus. But I will say they’re both good meals to come home to after an afternoon at the pool!

Who’s counting down to summer with me???

Happy eatings!!

Sharon