Category Archives: Food

Paleo Meal Inspo #1

Standard

Since meal planning is a perpetual source of frustration in my house — and I know I’m not alone — I figured I’d help others out with some of the meals we end up eating. There is no distinction between breakfast, lunch, or dinner when you eat nothing but meat/fish, vegetables, some fruit/nuts, and healthy fats.

The purpose of this is also so when (not if) I’m in another meal-planning rut, I can look back on this food journal of sorts and get some ideas… and get hungry.

 

img_3852

Fried rockfish, browned/sauteed Brussels sprouts, sauteed (until crisp) baby greens, butter

img_3856

Baked meatballs (grass-fed beef and ground turkey), steamed green beans, sweet potato hash, butter

img_3857

Sauteed cinnamon butternut squash, browned garlic Brussels sprouts, bacon pieces, butter

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Standard

Maybe I’m the minority here, but honestly what is up with summer vacations these days? They barely last six weeks! Mid June to mid August is nonsense. Summer should be a full three months, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. School is not everything.

Of course, I envision a life where everyone spends the summer season growing food, working the land, taking it slow, and being outside. With plants, with animals, with each other. None of this “constant TV and boredom inside air-conditioned houses where the kids drive both working parents crazy (and vice versa) and maybe they go on a couple expensive vacations”-type summer. I firmly believe each season should have its own specific activities, its own mood, its own flavor that is savored as much as possible while it lasts.

City life has dulled my senses and stolen, I think, much of life’s quality. I crave a life that is slightly less predictable but also less stressful. I know it exists. Right now we do the same tiring things every day, every week, every month no matter what time of year it is. There is no variation. Do everything every single day because rest is bad, bad, bad! We are busy or busier — nothing less. We work on computers in offices and make just enough money to pay for the homes we stay cooped up in. That’s no way to live your whole life.

There are lots of good things and comforts that come with living in a city or suburb. I appreciate the fact that probably more than half the world thrives on the hustle and bustle of densely populated areas.

But not me. I am too sensitive to the noise, the motion, the demands. I dream of a simpler life out in the country where it is quiet and slow.

Anyway, the summer weather is not over even though kids are going back to school/sports and parents are going back to work. Therefore, you may not be craving hot meals like soup (unless you’re a regular bone broth drinker and you naturally crave soup no matter what time of year). However, this soup recipe has lots of fresh, cooling flavors if the right toppings are used and you don’t serve it too hot. I found it to be a great meal to prepare after a busy day because it is minimal effort. And it’s light and delicious.

There are a million chicken tortilla soup recipes out there, and I’m not saying this is anything special. Add beans or corn or more tomatoes if that’s what does it for you. I try to emphasize the meat and vegetables in all my meals, limiting the grains and nightshades.

chxtortillasoup

Chicken Tortilla Soup (serves 2)

2 C chicken or beef stock

2 C favorite red enchilada sauce (I use a brand with real, healthy ingredients and no preservatives)

2 corn tortillas, cut into strips (optional)

salt and pepper, to taste

1 C chicken, cooked and shredded

cheddar cheese, shredded

sour cream

avocado, sliced

cilantro, chopped

green onions, chopped

Bring the stock and enchilada sauce to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add the tortilla strips, if using, and cook until softened. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste (and why not throw in a little ground cumin, garlic powder, and/or onion powder if you have them?).

Divide chicken into two bowls and pour hot soup mixture into both (keeping your meat separate from the soup until serving is a good way to make sure it doesn’t get overcooked and dry). Top with cheese, sour cream, and green things. The sour cream will slowly mix in to the broth and make it creamy as you eat. So good.

Chicken Groodle Soup

Standard

chxgroodlesoup

I don’t know why it took me this long to discover that green beans make a great substitution for noodles in chicken noodle soup. I highly recommend trying it out if you are sticking to a grain-free, gluten-free, or paleo diet.

This soup is incredibly comforting. Be sure to squeeze a lemon wedge into your bowl before you slurp it up. No matter how you eat your chicken soup, you are eating it incorrectly without the lemon. Trust me.

Chicken Groodle Soup (serves 4)

1 qt (4 C) homemade chicken stock

1 qt (4 C) filtered water

1 onion, finely diced

3-4 carrots, washed and chopped

2 stalks of celery, washed and chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb fresh or frozen trimmed green beans

unrefined salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 C cooked, shredded or chopped chicken

lemon wedges (don’t skip these!)

Dump chicken stock, water, onion, carrots, and celery into large stock pot and cover. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling; bring heat to low and simmer, covered, until vegetables are softened (check every 20 minutes). Add green beans and garlic to pot; bring back up to a simmer and cook until green beans are very soft like noodles. Remove from heat. Taste soup and add salt and pepper as needed.

When ready to serve, divvy up chicken into individual bowls and then ladle the soup over it. You can just throw the chicken in the pot too, but that dries it out pretty quickly. Keep them separate if you won’t eat all the soup at once. Squeeze a lemon wedge into your bowl to taste, and enjoy.

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Soup)

Standard

Now that the weather has finally cooled off, we’ve been hungry for hot, comforting meals. Our daughter caught a nasty cold a couple weeks ago, which the hubby and I never caught, thankfully, but I guess it didn’t take long for the diseases to start spreading with the change of seasons. Caught something too? Sorry. Need a soup that basically heals souls and raises the dead? Look no further.

tomkhagai

Packed with many of the most powerful superfoods out there, this soup is not only soothing and nourishing, but is also incredibly delicious, “going down easy,” as my mother-in-law would say. It is as cheap or expensive as you’d like it to be. The only problem is it’s not very filling — good for those who are sick or who have tender or healing guts, but a little hard on, say, hungry grown men who prefer meat and potatoes. I know someone like that. He nonetheless savors this soup when I make it, having a palate for more exotic flavors every now and then. The solution for extra-hungry family members: ramen or rice noodles thrown in.

My “recipe” is more like a soup base with a list of optional things that, in any combination, will make a great meal depending on your family’s tastes. I don’t really buy many cuisine-specific ingredients because of budgetary reasons, so if this isn’t authentic enough, too bad. You can change it.

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Soup) (serves 4-6)

Basic Soup:

2 quarts homemade chicken, beef, or fish stock

8oz ramen or rice noodles (optional) plus an additional 2 C water

8oz button mushrooms, sliced

several handfuls of baby spinach, washed and roughly chopped

2 cans additive-free, full-fat organic coconut milk (or 1 quart homemade coconut milk)

several cloves of garlic, minced

2 C pre-cooked chicken or shrimp

unrefined salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste

fresh lemons or limes

Optional Add-Ins:

fresh cilantro, chopped

turmeric, fresh or powdered (be sure to pair with black pepper to get the full benefits)

1 sheet of toasted nori (seaweed), broken into pieces

fresh ginger, minced

coconut oil

lemongrass

chili paste or hot sauce or sriracha, though I’ve never tried it*

fish sauce*

Bring stock to a gentle boil; add the mushrooms and spinach, boiling until tender (if using noodles, add them and the water here too, cooking until slightly underdone). Stir in the coconut milk and garlic and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and add salt, pepper, chicken/shrimp, and fresh-squeezed lemon/lime juice to taste. Add in your favorite extras to send the soup over the top. My favorites are cilantro, turmeric, and lots of fresh ginger.

*Check ingredients carefully if being healthy is your goal!

Lazy Cook’s Spaghetti Squash

Standard

I balk at every Pinterest pin that touts the “easiest” way to cook a spaghetti squash, because it usually involves cutting the uncooked squash. Have you ever taken a knife to an uncooked winter squash? It’s straight-up dangerous (that is, if you, like me, don’t really ever sharpen your knives). I’ve let squashes sit in my pantry for weeks only because I didn’t want to commit the effort — unfortunate, really, because squash is delicious.

The first time I tried a spaghetti squash was about five years ago when I had a slight obsession with what remains my favorite food blog to this day, Smitten Kitchen. I wanted to try every recipe I could within my budget, and the author, Deb, had shared a very tasty spaghetti squash dish that I have since made several times. Her cooking method, cooking and then cutting, was my only frame of reference for dealing with spaghetti squash.

Let me tell you, having tried both ways, my way is easier. You’re going to be scooping out of a hot, steaming squash at the end regardless of which method you use, so why not put off cutting it open until it’s soft?

First preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Prick your squash all over with a sharp knife so steam can be released as it cooks.

Set your squash in any oven-proof dish or pan with sides. Sometimes liquid drips out of the punctured parts.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Jab with a knife or fork to test doneness. It’s done when the knife makes it to the middle with little resistance. The outside may be lightly browned.

Turn off heat and, using hot pads or thick towels, set squash out on a heat-proof cutting board. Slice it in half lengthwise and let cool for 15-20 minutes.

spagsquash1

It will still be pretty warm, so be careful when handling. Use a spoon to scoop out the guts in the middle, but don’t fuss over that too much. You won’t be able to tell the difference between the flesh and any stringies later. You just don’t want any surprise seeds in your meal.

Discard the guts unless you think of a better use for them.

spagsquash2

Then use a fork to break up and shred the yummy part. Serve in your favorite recipe, as a pasta substitute, or store it for several days in the fridge to dish out when needed. I like to add at least butter and salt while it’s still warm.

P.S. Deb’s delicious recipe is here if you need a more original way to serve this delicious vegetable. So yummy with poached eggs on top… but then, again, I eat poached eggs on lots of things.