Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pecan Stuffed Chicken Thighs

I got all fancy with my pictures tonight, adding parsley and whatnot.
Look at me go!
Anyone who knows me, knows I don't like chicken.  I still make it because chicken is good for you and my family likes it.  Blah blah blah...  Occasionally, just occasionally, I find a chicken meal that I like.  This was one of them.

I will stipulate this.  I had a terrible time actually putting together this meal.  Making the stuffing was easy - chop some vegetables, add pecans then cook in some oil.  It was the making of the "rolls" that was a pain.

This is another recipe that I adapted from Make Ahead Paleo and I was able to almost make it exactly as instructed.  The recipe called to cook the stuffing mix in coconut oil and to baste the finished chicken rolls in coconut oil, which I didn't do.  Instead I gave this meal a little more flavor by using some bacon grease in place of the coconut oil.  Mmmm... Bacon...

Cook the stuffing ingredients until the veggies are tender, let cool for a minute or two and you're ready to stuff your thighs.

Spread your thighs out and evenly distribute your stuffing.  The stuffing made way too much so I put the remaining stuffing mix into a pan and baked it with the chicken to serve.  Now here's the fun part.  Have your butchers twine already cut.  The picture in the cookbook showed one nice little string around each chicken roll.  Um... nope.  I cut one string for each of the 7 rolls that my 2 pounds of chicken thighs provided.  After I used those 7 strings on the first 2 pieces of chicken, I stopped and cut more.  2-3 strings per piece was more accurate.  Of course, once you start tying the chicken rolls, the stuffing starts coming out of the other end, so you have to be quick tying the string off.

Once you finish playing Houdini with the chicken, put it in a pan lightly sprayed with EVOO and then baste the chicken in melted bacon fat.  Mmmm... bacon...  Bake it for 25 minutes, then broil it for 5.  Broiling it gives it the nice brown color.

Verdict:  This is one chicken meal that I will gladly eat again.  Everyone in the family loved it.  I don't know if it was the bacon grease (which is totally Paleo, BTW), or the yummy stuffing ingredients, but the meal was a win.  This recipe is a keeper.

Serves 4

1 TBSP bacon fat
¾ cup chopped raw pecans
2 stalks celery, diced (about ½ cup)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
3 medium carrots, diced (about ¾ cup)
¾ cup diced white or yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper (I skipped this)
Pinch of poultry seasoning

2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
Butcher’s twine

¼ cup bacon fat
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 TBSP bacon fat.  Add the remaining stuffing ingredients and stir to combine.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes.  Set the skillet aside, and let the stuffing cool.
On a large plate (or cutting board), lay the chicken thighs flat.  Spoon about ¼ cup of the stuffing (more or less depending on the size of your thighs) into each chicken thigh.  Roll the thighs snugly over the stuffing and tie them with butcher’s twine.
Place the tied chicken thighs into 1-gallon freezer bags or a freezer container, being careful not to lose any of the filling, and freeze until needed.  SKIP THIS STEP IF BAKING IMMEDIATELY.

Thaw the chicken in the refrigerator overnight.
When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Place the chicken thighs in a greased 9”x13” baking dish.
Melt ¼ cup bacon fat and pour it evenly over the chicken thighs.
Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
Bake the chicken for 25-35 minutes or until cooked through.  If desired, you can broil the chicken for the last 5 minutes to brown the tops further.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mushroom Meatballs

As I said in my post earlier today, I used the wrong meat last night and had to go get the correct meat for this meal. Well, I sent my hubby out for it, he's such a great guy!  I made these Mushroom Meatballs with the help of my young man this afternoon since my girl was getting ready for ballet and couldn't help by the time the meat arrived. Dinner was served a little later this evening, but it was worth the wait!

This was a simple recipe to throw together.  Throw the meatball ingredients in a big bowl, mix it up, then form into meatballs (the medium Pampered Chef scoop worked well.)  Heat some EVOO in a skillet, add the meatballs and turn to brown each side.  I needed to get my meal going since it was running a bit late due to having to buy more meat so I already had my crock pot turned on to high.  As each meatball finished browning, I added it to the crock pot.  By the time all of the meatballs are finished cooking, there is a good bit of yummy brown stuff on the bottom of the pan.  Add some chicken (or beef) broth, stir it up, add some Worcestershire sauce, stir a little more, then pour over your meatballs in the crock.  Add a bay leaf and the mushrooms to your crock then stir gently as the meatballs aren't thoroughly cooked and may fall apart a little.  Cook the meatballs for about 4 hours on high.

Here's where I changed the recipe -- and my first noticeable difference in a recipe.  45 minutes prior to the end of cooking, add 2 cups of coconut milk mixed with 1 tablespoon of arrowroot starch.  Well, as per the theme of this blog, no coconut milk here.  I used 2 cups of almond milk and my "sauce" wasn't very thick.  Even with the arrowroot starch in the sauce ingredients, it didn't thicken at all.  I may up the amount next time around.  

Verdict:  This was so very good!  Everyone loved the meatballs.  3 of us loved the sauce.  The little lady still has an anti-mushroom agenda so she skipped the sauce.  It was delicious though.  I served these with a baked sweet potato and 4 or 5 meatballs were quite filling.  

MUSHROOM MEATBALLS                                    adapted from Make Ahead Paleo
Makes Approximately 22 Meatballs

Meatball Ingredients:
½ pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork
½ cup diced yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg
2 TBSP arrowroot starch
¾ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp allspice

Sauce Ingredients:
2 cups chicken or beef broth
2 cups sliced white button mushrooms
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
2 cups almond milk
1 TBSP arrowroot starch (May want to up the amount to make thicker)

Garnish if desired:
½ cup chopped fresh parsley

Sausage Stuffed Portobellos

I did my first Paleo cooking day yesterday.  We're going away for a little surprise reintegration vacation and the place we are staying at has a full kitchen.  Instead of getting down there and shopping at unknown grocery stores, I decided to make our dinners in advance and take a cooler of frozen meals down.  They'll defrost on the way (but still stay cold enough on the drive) and we will have healthy meals to eat on vacation.  Win - win for our diet!  Will we eat the best all week?  Heck no!  We already know that we will be eating horrible lunches in the theme park that we will be at almost every day of our trip.  But at least breakfast and dinner will be covered.

One of the meals that I scheduled to eat this week was easily doubled and we will be having it next week as well. The recipe for Sausage Stuffed Portobellos was found in the Make Ahead Paleo cookbook that my hubby recently bought me.  This was a simple meal to put together.

I started by throwing my meat into the skillet with 1 tablespoon of EVOO.  The recipe called for coconut oil, which I didn't use, of course.  You can use 1 pound of Italian sausage, or 1/2 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound sausage.  I used the 1/2 lb of each because I screwed up and didn't realize I bought the sausage for this meal and the 1/2 lb of each for a different meal.  Whoops!  Since the store I bought them from only had 1 lb sizes, I doubled the meal for next week and froze the other half.  It was still a win and tasted good.  But I have to go buy more meat for tonight's dinner - quick.

I chopped my green pepper, green onions, and garlic and threw them in the skillet after the meat was cooked.  I cooked them together until the onions went clear, then added my tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and sea salt.  You can see from the ingredients below, I omitted the green olives and pepper.  We aren't big fans of either one.

I stirred that all together and let it simmer for a few minutes.  At this point, half of my mix went into a Ziploc bag for the freezer that had been labeled with the name, and rest of the instructions on how to cook it on serving day.  What we were going to eat I divided between 6 prepared Portobello mushroom caps.  My hubby removed the stems and gills and cleaned them out while I was cooking.  Hey - he started us on this Paleo Adventure, he can help with the meals.

Oven was preheated to 400 and in goes all the caps.  Cook them for about 20-25 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and the filling is browned.

Verdict:  This meal was a win.  Everyone loved it.  Well, the girl wasn't thrilled with the mushroom, but she hasn't started liking mushrooms yet.  This meal makes 6 mushrooms, and I will say they are on the smaller side.  I probably would have eaten two if I wasn't eating mine at 9:30 last night.  (I had a meeting at church then had to go shopping.  I didn't want to eat heavy that late.)  My hubby ate two and was still hungry.  I told him to cook an extra vegetable with them before I left for my meeting!  I think baked sweet potatoes, squash, zucchini spears, or even asparagus would work.  Something hearty.  But, overall it was sooo tasty and I can't wait to eat it again next week.

Makes 6 Mushrooms
Prep time: 5-10 mins  Cook time: 40-45 mins combined

1 pound Italian sausage (or ½ lb ground beef and ½ lb sausage)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
½ cup sliced, stuffed green olives
6-7 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup tomato sauce
1 TBSP tomato paste
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 large Portobello mushrooms – FOR SERVING DAY

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the EVOO.  Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through.
Add the bell pepper, stir, and cook for 2 minutes more.
Add the green olives, green onions, garlic, tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, sea salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove the skillet from heat, let cool for 15 minutes.
Place the cooked filling in an airtight container and freeze it until needed – or continue to Serving Day.

Thaw the filling in the refrigerator overnight.
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Gently wipe away any dirt from the mushrooms with a damp towel.  Gently remove the stems and gills with a spoon.  Discard or save them for another use in another dish, (like in an egg scrambler.)
Spoon the filling into each mushroom cap, packing it firmly with the spoon.
Place the mushrooms in a glass baking dish, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and the top of the filling is browned.

Monday, September 16, 2013

What to Drink?

I was asked tonight about what I drink.  I admit, I don't drink nearly enough water.  I mainly drink hot tea but my hot tea intake has decreased since starting this diet.  Why?  Because I'm not thrilled with the almond milk in my tea.  More on that in a bit.  I drink a cup of hot tea when I wake up and take my meds, a cup of hot tea before bed, an occasional cup of hot coffee in the afternoon, and water sporadically.  In the summer I'll have a glass of iced tea with my dinner, but maybe 2-3 times a week.

I was reading tonight about coffee being Paleo and yes, it surely is.  You want to know the details about it, go here.  What makes coffee not Paleo friendly is all the junk we put in it.  Once you add white refined sugar, it's no longer Paleo.  If it is flavored coffee, has bad creamer, whatever, you've sunk the Paleo ship.  So yeah, I'm guilty.  Need to work on that one.

For my hot tea, so far everything I have found has said it is Paleo friendly.  Yay!  However, again, what you put in it makes it not Paleo friendly.  I've switched out my 2% milk for almond milk but I haven't switched out my refined white sugar yet.  I need to do that.  But like other things in the house, I need to get rid of it because I just don't want to throw away money/food.

I'm drinking less hot tea because I personally haven't found a type of almond milk that I really like.  I am a creature of habit and hot tea is one thing I just don't mess with.  I have tried Silk original and Blue Diamond original.  Today several people suggested I try both their vanilla unsweetened flavors, and I'm going to try them.  Thankfully my kids have had no problems with either brands of almond milk and I hope to keep it that way.  But if we have to buy me one flavor and them another, well, that's no different than our old milk situation: I was drinking 2% while they were drinking whole.

As for my water intake, well, that could be way better.  I don't drink nearly enough.  I've never liked plain water, and I don't like it cold at all.  I'm also really picky and don't like how my tap water tastes and there are few bottled waters that I like.  I can tolerate the water from my refrigerator, but it's cold, so it's a no-go for me. I know, I'm way too picky.  I grew up on well water and it was super tasty, I don't think I'll ever drink water that tastes that good again.  As for not liking plain water?  I can't just add flavor packets or go squirt some flavor in.  Have you looked at what's in those packets?  Not exactly Paleo friendly.  Check the sugars, check the carbs.  Not happening.

So where does that leave me?  It leaves me with the decision to make better choices.  I need to just suck it up and drink more water.  I need to change my sugar intake and figure out what I should be using.  Here is a good site that breaks down different sweeteners.

If I find a sweetener that I like, I'll be sure to post on here.  If you have a Paleo friendly sweetener that you prefer, please let me know!

Treat Day

Yesterday was Cheat Day.  It started out as a normal Sunday, we got ready for church, I left with the girl to pick up our two friends and met my hubby and boy at church where he had stopped at Starbucks to get our coffee.  Our plan for cheat day was to go to lunch at Olive Garden and have dinner at Taco Bell, but after church things turned fun.  The boy was asked to go home with a friend from church and we said ok.  On my way to take our two friends home, they asked if the girl could come over for the day as well.  I said sure! Cheat day turned into Treat Day for me and my hubby.  I got home with no kids and he and I went out for a date!

We got to Olive Garden and I ordered something new.  Strike One.  I ordered an appetizer sampler as my meal instead of my favorite mushroom stuffed ravioli.  The appetizers were fried zucchini, fried ravioli, and stuffed mushrooms.  Lots of breaded, fried food, stuffed with cheeses, and there was even clams in the mushrooms (I don't eat clams).  Strike Two.  Then we split a tiramisu for dessert.  Strike Three.  I'm lactose intolerant.  Going all week long with almond milk and no dairy has been wonderful for the little lady and I because our tummy's have felt wonderful!  Add on to the invasion of lactose the amount of fried food I ingested and you've got a full blown war raging in my belly.  

I only ate about half of my meal, and like any good customer, I had it boxed up and I brought it home.  Fast Forward.  I pick up the boy and it's time for dinner.  I decide to be good and I only order myself one Doritos Locos Taco Supreme and order food for hubby and the boy, pick up the girl who ate dinner at her friend's house, then we come home to eat our dinner.  I eat my taco, then finish off my lunch leftovers.  Because in my mind, if I eat them now, I won't cheat on the bad food during the week.  

PAIN!!!  Earlier this year we checked to see if I had a gluten intolerance but the blood test came up negative. It's not a great test, almost everyone comes up negative.  To test for sure, you really need a biopsy.  After eating all that breading again and the taco, I had to undo the belt I had been wearing all day because my stomach expanded that much.  It had been loose that morning.  Seriously, it looked like I was a few months pregnant.  After a horrid night (I'm not sharing the details here) my stomach is finally back to normal.

This morning once I'm finally feeling better I ask my husband about "cheat day."  He said this is how he feels every Monday after cheat day.  I said, "THEN WHY ON EARTH DO YOU DO THIS ONCE A WEEK?"  He said, "I don't know?  Maybe we need to have only one meal on Sunday that is a cheat meal?"  Well, that's a no brainer.  Only two weeks of doing this and I'm done!  

I'm still not totally on board with eating full Paleo all the time.  I'm having a hard time with the almond milk in my hot tea, and giving up potato chips and popcorn.  But I'm not going to lie and say that I'll never eat those again.  I'm just not going to stuff myself on Sundays and be insane anymore.  (No milk for me though, I have to just get used to the almond milk and try different brands to see which one I like more.)  Not realizing how bad I have felt normally, is just plain wild.  But how good I have felt during the rest of the week while I am on Paleo is amazing.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Crock Pot Sweet Potato and Basil Soup

This was fun.  And by fun I mean I had a whopping great time making this meal.  Let's start at the beginning, shall we?  I didn't pick the meals this week, my hubby did.  I'll be doing more in the future, but as we get started with this Paleo Adventure, he's picking the meals since I don't have a clue as to what I'm doing.  So he found this yummy looking recipe over at PaleOMG and thought I could handle it.  I purposely picked this meal to be on Wednesday because it is a crock pot meal.  Wednesday nights include ballet and jazz for the youngest girl and boy scouts for the boy.  With everyone running in every other direction, this is why Wednesday is crock pot night.

I was most thankful that when I saw my hubby's meal list he had picked one meal to be a crock pot meal. So without looking closely, I saw the words crock pot in the title and decided it was Wednesday's meal. Strike one for me.  I waited until Wednesday to read the instructions -- strike two.  So Wednesday morning I read the instructions and #1 - it only cooks for 3 hours on high.  Well, that's not so bad, I can just cook it in the afternoon, leaving my morning open to make the youth snacks (which were loved by all.)  #2 - After the 3 hours of cooking, take the entire meal and pour into a food processor or use a hand blender to mix the entire thing into the consistency of soup. WHAAA? Um, husband dearest?  We don't have a food processor, nor a hand blender.  Our actual blender DIED this year so I don't even have one of those! Strike three!  Hubby was in Philly yesterday at a conference and guess what he bought me on the way home?  A hand blender.  I've always wanted one of those.

*Take note that I doubled the original recipe.  We are *ahem* healthy eaters and the original recipe said it was for 3-4 servings.  Yeah, that wasn't going to cut it for us so I doubled it.  Nothing wrong with having leftovers either.  Recipe at the bottom is for 3-4 servings, I doubled what I have listed below.*

I start making the meal by peeling 4 sweet potatoes.  Me -- peeling potatoes.  Let's just say I would never survive in prison or in the Navy.  There were sweet potato peels all over my stinking kitchen.  I have no idea how people can peel a potato in under a minute.  It took me like 10 to peel those 4 potatoes.  I hate peeling potatoes and sweet potatoes were no different.  In fact, they were harder because they were all odd shaped and what not.  UGH!  Stupid sweet potato shapes.  Then I got to dice them!  Yippee!  Have you ever diced raw sweet potatoes?  4 of them?  My right arm is feeling rather muscular today.  5 minute prep time my foot, thanks for those instructions.  After beating the crap out of those potatoes with my big ol' knife (same kind that my kids are scared that I'll get more stitches from) for another 10 minutes, I finally had diced sweet potatoes.  Dump the rest of the ingredients into the crock pot, and cook on high for 3 hours.  I did make a substitution in the recipe here.  Welcome to my allergy world.  The recipe calls for a 14 oz can of coconut milk and I used 14 oz of almond milk.  Don't want to have an allergic reaction to add to my night!

I plug my crock pot in and off I go to dance class with the girls.  I don't bother turning it to high because it's just on high.  The switch is broken off and I just leave it on high and plug it in and unplug it when I'm done. This crock pot is awesome.  I got it for my bridal shower from one of my bridesmaids way back when, so it's lasted over 13 years and it's a huge thing.  I've glued the handle back together a couple of times and the switch melted into a funky shape before it actually broke in half.  But it still works.

Fast forward.  It's now almost 3 hours later and I'm home.  Hubby isn't home yet with my new toy but dinner should be just about ready for the next step.  I walk in and I don't smell anything.  Huh.  Maybe it's because it's just sweet potato soup?  I go into the kitchen and the crock pot isn't hot.  It's warm.  I try to turn the handle and sure enough, it's set to "Keep Warm" instead of "High."  I have no idea how that happened since I've just been unplugging it,  but my dinner is no way close to being ready to eat.  The potato chunks are still rock hard.  Are you kidding me?  Bump the crock up to high and let it cook for 3 hours.  Dinner will now be ready about 10:30 pm.  I didn't know it wasn't on high because the knob is broken.  grrrr!

Serve whatever is in the fridge.  Kids ate pizza leftover from cheat day lunch, I had kabobs, hubby had chicken.  Fast forward again to 11:30 pm, soup is now ready (doubling it took a little more time to cook.)  I break open my toy, scan over the instructions, and get to work.  I stick it in and start blending.  I pull it up and it spits a little soup at me.  Ok... go grab an apron.  Back to blending I go.  You know what?  When you blend something that is in a hot crock pot and it spits up at you, it kind of burns.  Yup, that's right, it burns. But darn it, I was getting this meal done and taking pictures.

Soup when finished cooking, prior to blending.
Finished soup.  Looks tasty!
Verdict:  I think 2 TBSP of basil is a little much for doubling this recipe, but hey, that may just be me.  It was just ehhh.  I found myself majorly wanting some crackers to crumble in the soup.  But since I haven't messed with making bread or anything like that Paleo yet, I was disappointed.  Both kids took one look, called it gruel, and made little effort to eat it.  The girl had about three bites, the boy maybe 7.  Hubby ate the whole bowl I gave him and he loved it.

Crock Pot Sweet Potato Basil Soup
Prep time: 5 mins  Cook time: 3 hours
Serves: 3-4
2 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and diced
½ yellow onion, sliced
14 oz almond milk
1 cup vegetable broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBSP dried basil
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Place all ingredients in the crock pot.
2. Mix around.
3. Cook for 3 hours on high.
4. Use a hand blender, blender, or food processor and puree mixture until smooth.  **If using a hand blender, I highly recommend waiting until it cools or it might spit up on you and BURN YOU!
5. Eat it!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Flourless Fudge Cookies

Today's post isn't Paleo friendly, but it is Gluten free.  Once a month I make the snacks for our Youth Group at church and today was my day.  We now have a student attending who is a Celiac so no wheat can come in the snacks.  I happen to be friends with this girl and her family, so I've been making gluten free food for her for about a year now, but I needed something new and fun for snacks.  I try to out-do myself each month as the youth group year goes along, so I had to start with something simple, like cookies.

I found these cookies when I did an easy search for gluten free desserts on Google, or Pinterest, I don't remember.  The recipe is originally from King Arthur Flour, I do know that much, and I found it over at Life and Kitchen.  These cookies are amazing, they don't taste like plain cookies, they taste like fudge heaven.  The youth said they were really good, and if they liked them, then you know they were good.

I started making these and it took me all of 10 minutes to prepare them, and that included prepping the pans and preheating the oven.  These are the simplest cookies I have ever made.  Turn on your oven and prep your pans first.  Mix the powdered sugar (10x, confectioners sugar, whatever you personally call it -- it's all the same thing), the vanilla, egg whites, salt, and cocoa powder all in a bowl.  Once it's smooth, you scrape down the bowl and mix again to make sure you didn't miss anything.  Add in a cup of chocolate chips and mix gently.

Put the soft dough onto your pans, it will only make about 16 cookies if you use a medium scoop from Pampered Chef (got my PC love in tonight.)  They will spread out so leave room between them.  Bake for 8 minutes then move the pan to a cooling rack and let the cookies cool right on the pan.  The cookies will have a cracked but shiny look to them.

So simple, so tasty.  I had to take the bowl and fill it with water in the sink because it tasted just like fudge and I wanted to lick the bowl after I had put the cookies on the pan.  Then I had to be careful not to eat all the cookies because they were promised to the youth tonight and I'm not supposed to be eating them because they aren't exactly Paleo friendly.  But of course I had to try one before I could send them out the door.  I couldn't send something that tasted bad to the youth, and the stigma of gluten free forced me to try one of these... and feed one to each of the kids.  Thankfully, I made a double batch so there were plenty for the youth tonight.  These came out to be a good size, about 3-4 inches across, if you wanted more from each batch you could just use the smaller scoop and make smaller cookies, but these were perfect to me.

Needless to say, there won't be a Paleo post tonight - more on that tomorrow when I do post about tonight's Sweet Potato and Basil Soup in my broken crock pot.  Fun story to share!  Not exactly tonight's soup, we'll be eating it tomorrow since it won't be done cooking until 10:30 tonight and I'll finish it up for tomorrow night's dinner.  Yeah...  For now, enjoy these cookies.  I wish I had another one to eat but hubby is home and there is no way I could get away with making another batch.

Flourless Fudge Cookies
2 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-process preferred
3 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease two baking sheets.  Or line with parchment paper, and grease the parchment.
Stir together all ingredients (except chocolate chips) until smooth.  Scrape the bottom of the bowl, and stir again until smooth.  Add the chocolate chips and stir gently until just combined.
Drop the soft, batter-like dough onto the prepared baking sheets in 1 ½” circles; a tablespoon cookie scoop works well, the medium Pampered Chef scoop is what I used.
Bake the cookies for 8 minutes; they will spread, become somewhat shiny, and develop faintly crackly tops.  Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool right on the pan.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Turkey Basil Artichoke Meatballs

My hubby preordered a book for me that arrived today, Make Ahead Paleo by Tammy Credicott.  I'm so excited to get into this book.  I've been doing once-a-month cooking for almost 8 years but I haven't been doing it very well for the last few months.  Partly because the kids and I haven't eaten too well while Seth was deployed, and partly because with learning about Paleo with my hubby home, I have no idea how to make those meals and freeze them.

Tonight's dinner was a super simple meal that could easily be adapted into a freezer meal.  My hubby found this one over at PaleOMG and I made it for him.  I changed it ever so slightly, because he neglected to tell me the "fresh" part when we were buying basil at the store so we purchased a new container of dried basil. Believe me, it made a difference.  I think I would have liked the meal better with fresh - more on that down in my verdict.

Start this meal off by prepping your artichoke hearts and onion.  Chop them up nicely and put into a skillet that has 1 teaspoon of fat warmed up over medium heat.  I used bacon fat.  Bacon fat is Paleo friendly (think of it as using all parts of the animal) and we've started keeping a little jar of bacon fat to use in meals.  

Cook the artichoke hearts and onions just till the onions are translucent then let them cool slightly.  In a mixing bowl mix your ground turkey, artichoke and onion mix, and all the rest of your ingredients.  Mix it all up really well then shape into meatballs.  I'm not one for getting meatballs all up in my fingers so my love for The Pampered Chef comes to the rescue again.  I recently got all of their scoops so I used the Medium Scoop to form the meatballs and put them onto the pan.  

The meatballs needed to be slightly reshaped after being put onto my pan, but one or two fingers getting icky was better than my whole hand.  15 minutes in the oven and they were done.  I cooked up some broccoli and some marinara sauce to serve with it.

Verdict:  As I said earlier, I used dried basil instead of fresh.  The dried basil had a stronger flavor and I think I could have toned it down a bit.  I liked them, but would like to try this meal again with fresh basil.  The boy was less than thrilled with this meal, however, the girl went back for thirds.  Hubby liked the meal and finished off all the remaining meatballs.  This meal will go into the mix again, but with fresh basil, or a little less dried basil.

Turkey Basil Artichoke Meatballs
Prep time: 10 mins    Cook time: 20 mins   Total time: 30 mins
1 lb ground turkey
1 (14 ounce) can of artichoke hearts, diced
¼ yellow onion, finely dice
4-5 TBSP fresh basil, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp fat of choice (I used bacon fat)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place skillet over medium heat, add fat of choice, then add diced onions and artichoke hearts.
3. Move artichoke hearts and onions around in the pan and cook until onions are translucent.  Remove from heat and let cool.
4. Once cooled, in a large bowl, mix together ground turkey, artichoke hearts and onions, and the rest of ingredients. Mix well.
5. Make 18-20 same sized meatballs.  I used the medium Pampered Chef scoop then slightly reshaped when on the pan.
6. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. *I didn’t do this, I just put it on a stoneware pan and they baked fine.*
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.
8. Eat up with veggies.  I served with marinara sauce.  Use meat sauce, dipping sauce, anything that is Paleo friendly, or don’t tell me if it’s not.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Microwave Roast Chicken and Vegetables

Tonight's dinner was fairly simple, and I did it all on my own without my Paleo hubby even home.  I cooked a whole chicken with vegetables in the microwave and it was ready in 40 minutes.  That's right, just 40 minutes.

If you've read this blog at all, or know me at all, you know I have a slight love affair with The Pampered Chef. This meal proved no different.  Using the Deep Covered Baker, I was able to cook an entire chicken with vegetables in 30 minutes.  In the Deep Covered Baker I had prepared the chicken, some sliced carrots, sliced green onions, and sliced yellow onions.  I covered the chicken in Smoky Applewood Rub, our favorite chicken seasoning by The Pampered Chef.

Chicken prior to being cooked.
I covered the pan with the lid, and "baked" it in the microwave for 30 minutes on high.  I then took it out and let it stand for an additional 10 minutes. During that time I prepared some steam in the bag asparagus to serve with the chicken.

Finished "baked" chicken.
This chicken tastes delicious.  The skin is not quite as crisp as chicken that is cooked on the grill, but it is still tasty to eat.  The vegetables cook nicely in the pan and were incredibly tender and flavorful.

Finished plate.
Verdict: Our dinner tonight was very happy.  The kids weren't thrilled with the asparagus, but they'll learn to love like it.  This meal is a simple one that does not take long to prepare and can even be done in a make-ahead way by having the carrots and onions pre-chopped and ready to just pour in with the chicken.  I have made this meal with potatoes before, and if you do that (not Paleo friendly) you'll want to up your cooking time.  This is a meal worth repeating.

Sunday is Cheat Day

Sundays are a little different around here.  It's what my husband calls "cheat day."  You get to eat anything and everything you want.  There are no restrictions other than obviously I can't eat coconut since I'm allergic to it.  The idea behind this is if we know we have one day a week to satisfy our cravings for the non-Paleo stuff, we can hold out for the rest of the week and eat healthy, Paleo meals and snacks.

Our day started with the kids eating cereal for breakfast (with almond milk because that's all we had), the hubby had his normal eggs and bacon - a very happy Paleo breakfast, and I skipped because I don't eat before church due to my medication schedule.  We got our Starbucks fix before church, which is loaded with regular milk and whipped cream, very non-Paleo friendly.

For lunch we had pizza from Papa John's.  Papa John's is one of my husband's favorite pizza places and we finally had one open up close enough to deliver to us right after he left for his deployment to Kuwait.  So this was a real treat to get pizza from them for lunch.  We ended up with 3 pizzas, bacon on one, pepperoni and mushrooms on another, and the third had Roma tomatoes, and two types of sausage.  They were all mediums and we had less than 1 medium left over.  What can I say?  We love pizza.

Dinner was even worse than lunch.  We went out to Chili's.  A friend of mine went there this week and posted a picture of this amazing dessert and it has been on our minds all week.  Hubby had shrimp tacos with flour tortillas, I had the fajitas with steak, shrimp, and chicken -- more flour tortillas, the girl had quesadillas (I sense a theme with the tortillas), and the boy bucked the system and got chicken but it was breaded.  Still we were all bad.  And that was BEFORE dessert.  The kids split the molten lava peanut butter cup thing that they have going that we saw earlier in the week.  I had a bite, it was amazing!  Hubby and I split a skillet chocolate chip cookie with ice cream.  Yum!

Here we are Monday morning.  The girl woke up with a stomach ache, boy woke up grumpy.  I confess I have a bit of a stomach ache as well.  Don't know about my hubby, he had to go to a conference in Philly today so he left by 5:30 and I haven't talked to him.  I can honestly say that eating all that junk made the girl and I feel sick.  But really, eating all that dessert would have made me feel icky anyway.  One week of Paleo isn't a full test, I'll see how I do after this week and see how the upcoming "cheat day" treats us.  Hubby has already said that he wants to go to Olive Garden.  Oh, Olive Garden, how I love your mushroom ravioli and bread sticks!  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Grilling Paleo Style

Who says you can't grill burgers and enjoy a cook-out when eating grain free?  It's just a matter of figuring out what you can and can't eat and making it tasty.

Tonight we had burgers on the grill.  Instead of buns we grilled portobello mushroom caps and used them.  My son said his burger tasted better than he ever had.  That's because buns don't have a flavor and the portobello mushrooms bring a lot of flavor to the burger.

We washed the portobello mushroom caps (cutting off the stems), patted them dry, then brushed a little balsamic vinaigrette on each one.  Don't let the vinaigrette (or olive oil) soak in too long, the mushrooms will get wet.  Patting them dry is an essential step as well.  We then grilled them for around 5-10 minutes per side.

While those were cooking, we also prepared baked sweet potatoes.  We didn't bake them in the oven though, these were baked on the grill.  First I microwaved them for 3 minutes, flipped them and poked holes in them, then microwaved them for three more minutes.  I then wrapped them in heavy duty aluminum foil and my hubby put them on the grill for 15-25 minutes.  If you want them to be a little crispy on the outside, take the aluminum foil off and cook for 1-2 minutes more.

Here's a look at our tasty dinner:

We added tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, and onions to our burgers along with our condiments.  Ghee butter with cinnamon is Paleo friendly, but as I said a few days ago, we don't have Ghee butter yet, so a little bit of butter and cinnamon tasted yummy on our sweet potatoes.  

Verdict:  While the youngest didn't even try the portobello bun (she's still young enough to think mushrooms are just plain icky), everyone else liked this meal.  The sweet potatoes tasted just like they had been baked for an hour in the oven but at half the time.  Definitely an easy meal worth repeating.