Carnitas, green salsa, avocado, fresh cilantro
Nitrite/nitrate-free ham, sauteed collard greens, balsamic/garlic-braised Brussels sprouts/beets with pine nuts
Balsamic/garlic-braised Brussels sprouts/beets with pine nuts and shrimp
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.
Fried rockfish, browned/sauteed Brussels sprouts, sauteed (until crisp) baby greens, butter
Baked meatballs (grass-fed beef and ground turkey), steamed green beans, sweet potato hash, butter
Sauteed cinnamon butternut squash, browned garlic Brussels sprouts, bacon pieces, butter
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.
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)
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
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
chili paste or hot sauce or sriracha, though I’ve never tried it*
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!
Did you know you can make a whole pie — crust, filling, and topping — out of coconut? To heck with those wussy diner “coconut” cream pies that are basically sugar pies with a little coconut flavor (maybe) and shredded coconut sprinkled on top. This dessert lives up to its name and leaves you satisfied. That’s the only kind of treat worth indulging in, in my opinion.
Check out the ingredients — healthy too! My hubby likes his (real) coconut cream pies extra sweet, so this recipe calls for more coconut sugar than I think is necessary. I use real whipped cream because we prefer it, but you can substitute whipped coconut cream just as easily.
This pie is not too complicated if you have the right appliances. It does require forethought for the separate baking and chilling times, however. The coconut flavor here isn’t like what you smell in shampoos and candles; it’s warmer and toastier with smooth vanilla notes. The filling makes a great coconut pudding on its own, cold or warm. But if you hate the texture of coconut, move on to a different dessert recipe.
True Coconut Cream Pie (serves 8+)
Coconut Flour Pie Crust
1/2 C melted unsalted butter, coconut oil, or a combination of both
3/4 C coconut flour
1 Tbsp coconut sugar
1/2 tsp unrefined salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9″ pie dish with butter or coconut oil.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or food processor (a stand mixer is easiest). Press evenly into bottom and all the way up the sides of the greased dish. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Crust is finished when toasty brown along the edges and middle is stiff (though it will remain slightly soft). Cool on countertop and store in the fridge.
Sorry I don’t have pictures of this. Scroll down for how it should look when pouring the filling in.
True Coconut Cream Pie Filling
Two 14.5oz cans full-fat coconut milk (just under 4 C)
1 C coconut sugar
3 large eggs
5 Tbsp arrowroot starch
1/4 tsp unrefined salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 C unsweetened finely shredded dried coconut
Combine coconut milk, sugar, eggs, arrowroot, and salt in your blender or food processor and blend it all up real nice. It should look like a thick, foamy latte. Have your butter, vanilla, and shredded coconut ready to go nearby, for you’ll be standing at the stove for a while. Pour the coconut milk mixture into a large saucepan and whisk constantly over medium heat.
Do NOT leave it sitting for more than 10-15 seconds without whisking, especially as it warms up and gets hotter. The eggs will scramble and you’ll have nasty runny-but-lumpy pie filling. My old recipe called for a complicated series of steps to make a traditional custard by tempering the eggs and everything, but this way is so much easier.
Before long, the foam will suddenly disappear and your custard will thicken considerably. It should be bubbling and steaming. Keep stirring and turn off the heat. Add your butter and gently mix it around as it melts.
Then stir in the vanilla and shredded coconut until it is all incorporated.
Pour the filling into the prepared coconut crust.
Then stick it in the fridge uncovered to chill for a few hours. When ready to serve, prepare the topping.
Coconut Cream Pie Topping
1 C heavy whipping cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
1 Tbsp coconut sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 C unsweetened finely shredded dried coconut, toasted
2 Tbsp sliced almonds, toasted
Combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Spread all over the completely chilled pie. Sprinkle the toasted coconut and then the almonds all over the surface. It’s ready!
Here is a slice. The filling is a thick, caramelly, delicious coconut pudding. Between the layers of a coconut cookie-like crust and sweet, foamy whipped cream with crunchy morsels on top, this pie makes a great special-occasion treat for health nuts like me.
I once used a natural coconut extract in the filling when I could find it, but it didn’t really add much more flavor than the pie already had. I’ve never tried fake coconut flavor, but feel free to try if you’re comfortable with those kinds of things.
I will admit I have wondered what it would be like to coat the inside of the baked pie shell with a thin layer of dark chocolate or chocolate ganache. The filling would have to be chilled before scooping out into the crust (an extra step), but how delicious does that sound?
The second winter hubby and I were married, he started requesting hot chocolate each evening for something warm and sweet after dinner. We lived in Las Vegas at the time, which, contrary to its (accurate) summer reputation as the armpit of hell, certainly gets chilly and windy in the wintertime. It’s a dry cold. We even received a dusting of snow when the stars aligned one January afternoon.
Those of you in truly frigid places? Yeah, hi. I can hear your eyes rolling from here.
Anyway, we had some leftover packaged hot cocoa mix that had been loitering unloved in our pantry for months. Hubby helped himself to those packets until they ran out, which led to my trying hot chocolate made from scratch. For a couple weeks, each batch was a new experiment. I was a budding health nut with a recently-developed adult palate, so the effort was worth never again resorting to sort-of-chocolate-flavored hot water.
The recipe was eventually perfected, and this seasonal habit lasted two years before we were both hot-chocolated out. Now it’s an occasional winter treat, and a good one if you’re avoiding gluten/grains, refined sugar, and dairy if you skip the whipped cream. My original recipe called for whole cow’s milk and maple syrup. But I have come to prefer canned coconut milk because it is thicker, more satisfying, easier on digestion (if you use homemade or a brand without dodgy “gums”) and blood sugar, and is inherently sweet.
This recipe as written is healthy enough to drink with breakfast, preferably a protein-rich breakfast like eggs. Obviously, it’s sweet enough for after dinner too, or after lunch, or after you shower or check your email. If you have a “real” winter, meaning you don’t live in Southern California where I am (or Southern Nevada, for that matter), I’m sure this would be a comforting antidote to the dark days of snow, ice, and rain.
I had the chance to serve this to friends for the first time recently. One is dairy-intolerant, thus probably accustomed to alternative dessert foods, and absolutely loved the decadence of this recipe. The other two friends couldn’t even make it through their cups, commenting on how rich and thick it was. This is not a sissy hot chocolate.
Basic Homemade Hot Chocolate (serves 2)
1/4 C coconut sugar
3 Tbsp cocoa or cacao powder
pinch of salt
3-4 Tbsp filtered water
one 13.5-oz. can coconut milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C heavy cream
1 Tbsp coconut sugar
splash of vanilla extract
In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk the coconut sugar, cocoa, salt, and water together until blended. Bring to a simmer. Whisk in the coconut milk and bring to just below a simmer, stirring occasionally.
In the meantime, whip the cream with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. I usually whip small batches like this with one beater in a 2-cup Pyrex glass measuring cup.
Remove the hot cocoa from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into a beautiful, colorful mug and carefully spoon the whipped cream on top. Start sipping after the cream starts melting into a heavenly, chocolate-laced foam. I like to reserve half the cream for when I’m halfway through the drink and I need more foam on top. I’m all about maximizing the experience.
*If you are avoiding dairy, obviously skip this or use whipped coconut cream instead. I’ve never made it, so I’m sorry that I do not have a recipe for it. Consult Mr. Google or Mrs. Pinterest.
Play around with the measurements if you don’t like what’s going on. Replace part of the vanilla with different extracts like peppermint, almond, or orange. Peppermint’s our family’s Christmastime favorite. Pictured is my “Almond Joy” hot chocolate, which is vanilla and almond extracts with toasted coconut on top. Super delicious.
Add whatever you want for flavor — coffee, nut butters, fall spices, ethnic spices, liquor. (At this point I wash my hands of any ill effects on your health.) Mix the spices or extracts into the whipped cream. Be a hipster and experiment with things like savory herbs or bacon. Just kidding — don’t fix what ain’t broke.