Tag Archives: date night

Whole 30 – A Realistic Meal Plan – Week 4

I forgot to post this when I actually finished but I did the entire Whole 30! By the end of it I felt really good, lost 8 pounds, and changed my relationship with food. I was SO tired of cooking that I honestly didn’t eat as much just because the thought of cooking yet another meal was enough to keep me from eating. I will definitely keep a lot of these habits moving forward though. Following the whole 30 shopping guidelines and meal plans at home for the most part but being able to eat out occasionally would be sustainable for a long time. Overall, I would recommend this plan, definitely one of the best cleanses or detoxes that I have done over the years!

Day 22:
Breakfast – Pork Hash and blueberries
Lunch – Red Curry with Chicken (leftover)
Dinner – Tarragon Cream Chicken with sautéed broccolini

Day 23:
Breakfast – Apple with Almond Butter
Lunch – Tarragon Cream Chicken (leftover)
Dinner – Chili over a baked yukon gold potato

Day 24:
Breakfast –Pork Hash
Lunch – Italian Chicken Stew (made night before)
Dinner – Chili over a baked yukon gold potato

Day 25:
Breakfast – Pork Hash
Lunch –Italian Chicken Stew (leftover)
Dinner – Steak with Roasted Purple Potatoes and sautéed broccolini

Day 26:
Breakfast – BLAT “Benedict”… without the egg
Lunch – Italian Chicken Stew (leftover)
Dinner – Ate out – side salad with grilled chicken, no dressing

Day 27:
Breakfast – BLAT “Benedict”… without the egg
Lunch – Apple with Almond Butter
Dinner – Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Roasted Broccolini

Day 28:
Breakfast – Banana
Lunch – Ate out at a Paleo Bistro
Dinner – Roasted Brussel Sprouts & Purple Potatoes

Day 29:
Breakfast – Pork Hash with mushrooms
Lunch – Apple with Almond Butter
Dinner – Pot Roast Stew

Day 30:
Breakfast – Pork Hash with mushrooms
Lunch – Pot Roast Stew
Dinner – Steak with Roasted Purple Potatoes and sautéed broccolini

Paleo Pot Roast

Pot Roast reminds me of Sunday lunches after church with my family when I was growing up in Texas, serious comfort food. It still one of my favorite meals, this is serious comfort food!! I have adapted this recipe by borrowing ideas from quite a few sources and combining them all to make a gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, Whole30 compliant, etc. version of this traditional dish, and it’s still really delicious! Ina Garten’s Company Pot Roast is my primary source of inspiration for this, her technique is really great for thickening the sauce even without the flour, butter, and wine that she uses.

This recipe takes some time, but you won’t need to be in the kitchen the entire time. You’ll need about an hour for chopping, searing, and stirring during the afternoon and then it needs to cook for 2.5 hours after that. You’ll then need about 15 minutes to finish the sauce and serve. So if you want to serve dinner at 7, get started around 3:15.

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Ingredients:
3-4 lb. grass-fed chuck roast, tied
2 yellow onions, chopped

1 leek, chopped (white and light green parts)
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups small yellow potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
4 cups organic beef broth
28 oz plum tomatoes in pureé
sea salt & freshly cracked pepper
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees fahrenheit and begin chopping all of your veggies, I chopped mine a few hours ahead to speed up cooking time.

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Pat the beef dry with a paper towel. Season the roast all over with salt and pepper. In a large, oven-safe Dutch oven pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the roast and sear for 4 to 5 minutes on each side as well as the ends, until nicely browned all over. Remove the roast from the pan.

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Add about 2 more tablespoons olive oil to the Dutch oven. Add the carrots, onions, mushrooms, leeks, garlic, more salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all of the veggies are tender but not brown, like the picture below.

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Add the beef broth and deglaze the pan (scrape all of the brown bits off of the bottom) then bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the potatoes and then put the roast back into the pot, try to make sure the liquid is covering almost all of the roast and veggies. Bring to a boil once again, cover, and place the covered pot in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is fork tender.

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Remove the roast to a cutting board. Skim off as much fat as possible from the sauce. This is really important part: transfer quite a bit of the sauce and vegetables to a blender (enough to fill up a fairly large blender) or a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pureé until smooth. Pour the pureé back into the pot, place on the stovetop over low heat, and return the sauce to a simmer. Taste for seasonings and let the sauce continue to simmer. Meanwhile, remove the strings from the roast, and slice the meat. Serve warm with the sauce spooned over it. The sauce is so good that my husband was literally drinking the extra sauce off of his plate!

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For leftovers, I cut the rest of the meat into bite size pieces and add them back into the sauce and serve it as a stew, seriously tasty! Hope you enjoy this one as much as we do!

Roasted Vegetables

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I eat this side dish at LEAST 3 times a week. I always change out the veggies, the recipe is pretty much identical for asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, whole green beans, mushrooms, and any combination of those that you desire. Most of my pictures seem to be of broccoli but I would say that I actually eat asparagus the most often.

Ingredients:
Veggie of choice – enough for 2 people
1-2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 425F. Wash and chop veggies to desired size:
Asparagus – trim the ends off but leave each one in one long piece
Broccoli – florets ( I prefer pretty small ones)
Cauliflower – florets ( I prefer pretty small ones)
Green Beans – trim the ends but leave whole
Mushrooms – whole or halved

Toss veggies in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. (You can also do a sprinkle of garlic salt if desired.)

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Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook for 12-15 minutes until starting to get crispy and a little brown in some spots and serve immediately with your entree, they will get cool really quickly. Enjoy!

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Roasted Potatoes

This is one of most go-to side dishes, especially when we aren’t eating grains and my husband needs a little more substance to a meal than just veggies. You can use Russet, Gold, Red, Purple, Fingerling, whatever kind of potatoes you like and have on hand. My personal favorites are Purple, Fingerling, and Russet.

Ingredients (makes 2 servings):
1 large potato or 2 small ones
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch each of:
garlic salt
onion powder
parsley
salt
pepper

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Preheat the oven to 400F and slice the potato into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices or cubes, whichever you prefer. (The picture above is of a small cutting board, not the largest potato known to man!)

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In a bowl, toss sliced or cubed potatoes and all other ingredients. Make sure each and every slice is coated in olive oil or it will stick to the pan.

Spread the potatoes out in a single layer on a baking sheet and put into the oven for 12 minutes.

After 12 minutes, flip each slice over or, for cubes, toss to stir and make sure nothing is sticking. Put the potatoes back in the oven for another 10-12 minutes until they are just turning golden brown. For a taste a little more like homemade chips, cook thin sliced ones until they just start to get crispy.

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Serve with your favorite main dish and enjoy!

Rare Beef Pho (Vietnamese Soup….with an Americanized shortcut)

I love pho.  I mean, I’m a little obsessed with it.  There haven’t been many weeks this year that I haven’t gone out for pho at LEAST once.  I have to admit though, that I am a little intimidated by Asian food when I cook at home.  It is one of the very best cuisines for my allergies, and the type of food I choose almost every time I go out, but somehow I have only ventured to try really basic stir fry at home.  I think it’s that everything is different, the spices, the techniques, the ingredients, and maybe just the fact that I didn’t grow up around anyone that knew how to make it, but I have always been a little afraid to try.

Recently I decided to give it a shot, to try to make pho at home, so I started researching pho recipes and almost gave up on the spot.  To make it authentically takes 1-2 DAYS, involves bone marrow and all kinds of strange ingredients (I refuse to touch bones or eat meat that wasn’t removed from the bone before I laid eyes on it….one of my little quirks), not happening.  So my experiment with an extreme shortcut to pho began and I have to say, it’s pretty darn good.  It has passed the test with a few pho-obsessed friends and I think I’m ready to share.

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Ingredients, for approx. 3 people:
– 20 oz Organic Gluten-Free Beef Broth
– 32 oz carton of Pacific Brand Organic Beef Pho Broth Soup Starter
– 1/2 tbsp chopped ginger
– 1/2 tbsp chopped garlic
– 8 oz grass-fed organic round steak sliced as thin as possible (I ask the butcher at the store to do this for me)
– 3 whole cloves garlic
– 1-2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
– 4 oz rice noodles (either pad thai style or vermicelli style)
– 3 tbsp fish sauce (get an authentic brand (one you can’t read the label of) not Thai Kitchen)
– 1-2 cups fresh spinach
– sriracha sauce to taste

About an hour before you want to eat dinner, put the steak strips, soy sauce and smashed but intact whole garlic cloves in a ziploc bag to marinate.  Every recipe I found had you put the steak in with no seasoning, which is how it is traditionally made.  However, when you aren’t making the authentic broth, the beef is very bland and I have found that this really simple marinade makes a huge difference.

About 30 minutes before dinner, put both types of broth, the chopped ginger, chopped garlic, and fish sauce in a large pot with a lid and bring to a boil.  Boil at a low boil / rolling simmer for about 25 minutes, covered.  Keep an eye on it, it sometimes has a tendency to boil over.  Side note – the reason for the two different broths is this: most recipes for pho call for cinnamon and anise to infuse the broth as well.  I have tried and tried but the flavor of these two is always overwhelming when I use an actual cinnamon stick.  The Pacific pho soup starter has both of these ingredients already in it so that guesswork is taken care of and I mix it with the regular broth so that I can still infuse it with ginger and garlic to my liking.

While the broth is simmering, prepare rice noodles according to package directions.  Once cooked, place the noodles in the bottom of the serving bowls.  Place fresh spinach on top of the noodles and place the raw steak (just the steak, not the garlic or soy sauce) evenly spread out over the bowl.  Try not to overlap the steak very much since the broth will actually cook the steak to rare in the bowl and if it is stacked on top of each other, it won’t cook properly.  See picture below.

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After simmering 20 minutes, strain the broth to remove the ginger and garlic pieces and immediately pour the broth in the waiting serving bowls, be sure the broth covers the meat so that it will cook it.  I like to add a little sriracha for some spice, that’s completely up to you though.

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Is it easier than going out for pho?  No.  Is it cheaper?  Honestly, probably not.  But it’s a fun, unique dish to make on your own and the best part is that when I make it at home, I can fully control the ingredients and knowing I’m eating all organic food and that I am not allergic to any ingredients is certainly worth it.  An added bonus: it’s delicious.  Hope you enjoy it too!

Mushroom Risotto

Cooking can be therapeutic and this dish is a great one for a cold fall or winter day when you have a lot on your mind.  Just grab some wine and a wooden spoon and stir for 45 minutes or so and you will have a rich, comforting meal to warm you up.  It’s also a very impressive dish to serve at a dinner party, if you have the time and energy to make it for guests.  Risottos can be intimidating to prepare but as long you as you follow the steps in order, you will be fine.  I found them to be much easier than I expected originally and that’s from a girl whose cooking nemesis is, and always will be, rice.

Allergy info: This recipe is gluten free.  I do use Sheep’s milk cheese but it is just as good without it, so for a truly dairy free dish omit the Pecorino Romano.  For a vegan version, omit pancetta & pecorino and use mushroom broth instead of chicken.  Also, this dish can be a bit pricy so I have put less expensive substitutes in parentheses by ingredients that can be changed.  This meal will still be delicious!

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This picture has a few extra ingredients in it since the last time I made this was for Christmas dinner with my family.  Anyone who gives me a Le Creuset pot for Christmas has earned themselves a homemade risotto!  To make risotto you will need:

1/2 pound of baby portobello mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (don’t use white button!)
4 cups of organic chicken stock, I use low sodium and stock really is better than broth
2 cups of water 
6 tbsp vegan butter (I use Earth Balance sticks)
2 oz diced pancetta (can substitute bacon for a more economical meal)
1/2 cup chopped shallots (can substitute 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions and 2 minced garlic cloves)
1 1/2 cups arborio rice (no substitutes, use arborio)
1/2 cup dry white wine (plus a glass to sip while you stir!)
1/2 tsp saffron threads (can omit if you are on a tight budget)
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and water and bring to a simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the pancetta and shallots (or bacon & onion & garlic) over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stir occasionally.

Add the mushrooms and sauté another 5 minutes, stir occasionally.

Add the rice and stir to coat all of the grains of rice with butter.  Add the wine and cook 2 minutes.

Now the fun part, you are going to be stirring for awhile but it’s fun to watch it come together and even better if you have some company in the kitchen.  Add 2 ladles of chicken stock mixture to the rice and the saffron, salt, and pepper.  Stir and simmer over LOW heat until the stock is absorbed, about 5-10 minutes.

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Once it is absorbed, add 2 more ladles of stock and stir every minute or so.  Cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then repeat this step until all of the stock has been incorporated.  This should take about 25-30 minutes total.  When you are finished the risotto will be thick and creamy and won’t seem dry.

Take the risotto off the heat and stir in about 1/2 cup of pecorino (if you are using cheese).

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Serve immediately with pecorino as a garnish.  Enjoy!

I have a simple, delicious recipe for any risotto leftovers that I will post soon as well.

 

 

Jalapeño Poppers

This is one of my favorite recipes.  I love jalapeño poppers but they are so unhealthy and full of cheese and gluten that I really thought I would just give them up completely when my diet changed.  After having success with baked, unbattered chile rellenos though, I decided to try making a version of jalapeños that I can eat and I honestly like them a lot better than the original.  These jalapeño poppers have become a party staple and they freeze really well so I make a big batch and keep them on hand in the freezer for get togethers or as a side with a good steak.  They are a little labor intensive but they are so worth it!  Bonus: they are a lot healthier!  They aren’t fried, there’s no bacon, and I use sheep & goat milk for easier digestion.

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3 oz Sliced Prosciutto (Nitrate free if you can find it)
4 oz Dill & Garlic Goat Cheese (If your store only has regular goat cheese you can make your own.  Let the cheese come to room temperature in a bowl then add some garlic powder and dried dill and mix it well with a fork)
3 oz Manchego Cheese (Spanish sheep’s milk cheese)
10-14 fresh jalapeños

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First, you need to clean your jalapeños (if you are wearing contacts I strongly suggest you take them out for the day before starting this, or wear gloves).  Slice each jalapeño in half lengthwise, it will look like the pepper on the right in the picture above, your goal is to make it look like the pepper on the left.  Use your knife to separate the stem at the top from the seeds and membrane inside and along the edges of the pepper.  I find it easiest to use my fingers to pull the seeds and everything out but you can continue using your knife and spoon if you want to avoid the peppers as much as possible.  The more white membrane you leave, the hotter the pepper will be so if you are looking for a milder flavor you may want to clean it out even more than I did above.

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Once you have cleaned all of your peppers, lay them out on your cutting board or the cookie sheet you will use to bake them.  Slice the manchego cheese into small long blocks, about the size of the bottom of a hollowed out jalapeño and place them in each pepper.

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Now stuff the remaining space in each pepper with goat cheese.  Again, while it’s very messy, I find this easiest to do with my hands but 2 spoons can work if you don’t want to touch the peppers.  As an alternative, you can use only manchego or goat cheese.  The reason I use the 2 cheeses together is I like the creaminess of the goat cheese but it’s a stronger flavor so the 2 balance each other out really well.

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Take each slice of prosciutto and slice into 3 pieces lengthwise, then wrap each strip around one jalapeño half.  Start at the top and wrap around the pepper until you run out of prosciutto.  Push each end of the prosciutto into the goat cheese lightly and it will hold itself in place.

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This is the point at which you separate the peppers you are going to freeze from those you are going to cook.  Place the peppers in the bottom of a tupperware container then place plastic wrap over the first layer and you can stack more on top.  Place plastic wrap between each layer to keep them from freezing together.

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When ready to cook, place the peppers on aluminum foil in a pan or cookie sheet and put in the oven preheated to 375.  If room temperature, cook 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and prosciutto is beginning to get crispy.  If frozen, cook about 20 minutes until you get the same result.

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Enjoy!  One last tip: if you plan to take these poppers to a party, make quite a few.  They tend to go really fast!