Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pie for Dinner

It even looks cuddly.

This meal is comfort.  It's your favorite hoodie, your fuzziest socks, your most comfy quilt.  It's been a couple of weeks since I made this and just thinking about it I have the urge to snuggle down with a hot cup of tea and lots of blankets and books.

Well Fed by Melissa Joulwan is a great cookbook.  I love that she is all about buying and prepping food ahead, and that she thinks a lot like I do when it comes to food combining.  I squealed with excitement when I saw that there is a section in the book that's just ideas for combining veggies and protein!  I day dream about different combinations, and this book came at a time when I was ready for some new thoughts and inspiration.  She also loves Eastern European food.  In my opinion, that's the most comforting cuisine and is closest to how I define the food I grew up eating.  I heart cabbage.
And, she's a huge fan of Penzey's Spices.
I do believe Ms. Joulwan and I could be friends.  
Her book also has pretty pictures and places for you to take your own notes! And I love the paper it's printed on.  You should buy it.  I bought it when Amazon sucked me into their free shipping with $35 (although that used to be $25, didn't it?) and so I had to buy something else to get the free shipping.  Silly, but you've all done it too, right?

Shepard's Pie is a recipe from Well Fed.  She uses ground lamb, but I went with beef, making this Cottage Pie instead.  I followed her directions for the most part, adding more of this, less of that, making it work for us, but the base of this is not my recipe, however, it's so good that it needs to be shared in as many mediums as possible.

First of all, the mashed cauliflower is like... I really, I don't have words.  It's the mashed cauliflower recipe you only wished existed.  And it's forgiving.  I've made it a few times now, and I don't measure anything, and it always works.  You'll need one batch of this for the pie, so once it's made, just set it aside until needed.

1 large bag of frozen cauliflower
1 garlic clove, crushed (I use more)
1 1/2 TBSP coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
chives if you wish

Cook the cauliflower according to the package- I chose to steam/saute it with some chicken stock- until it's soft, but not overly cooked.  Drain any extra liquid and transfer to a food processor.  In a small pot, combine the oil, milk, garlic, salt and pepper, and heat it through a bit before adding it to the cauliflower and processing it all together until smooth.  Add in chives and give a bit of a pulse to combine, or just use them as a garnish. 

You can get the rest of the dish moving while your cauliflower is cooking.

1 heaping TBSP of coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced- I just used a handful of shredded carrots
2 cloves of garlic (I used more)
2 pounds of grass fed ground beef
1 TBSP tomato paste- I think I used just a little more
1 cup beef or chicken stock
1 tsp coconut aminos (I'd say I went 2 tsp, you could use Tamari or even soy sauce if you wish)
1 tsp dried rosemary (I definitely used more)
1/2 tsp dried thyme (I used a bit more)
3 egg whites
paprika to garnish- I omitted this as I'd already thrown in a bit of nightshade action with the tomato paste.

Oven will need to be preheated to 400 degrees.

Heat a large skillet and add the coconut oil.  Once it's melted, add the onion and carrot, salt and pepper, cover and allow to get soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the beef (or lamb if you choose) and break it up into small pieces and cook until thoroughly done and browned.
Melissa doesn't suggest doing this, and maybe with lamb it's not needed, but I found it necessary to drain off the excess grease.  I used 85% lean, so I had some fat needing drained.  I use the method my dad always used... you lean the pan and push the food to the upper side allowing the grease to fall, then spoon it out.
Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Add tomato paste, stock, coconut aminos, rosemary, and thyme to the pan.  Stir to combine and allow it some time to cook down until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Set the pan aside and allow to cool a little, around 10 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
Beat the 3 egg whites until frothy and stir into the meat mixture.


You'll need a large casserole.  Spread the meat mixture evenly, and then pour out the mashed cauliflower on top.  Carefully.  Then spread it with a very light hand evenly on top of the meat.  Then, gently drag the tongs of a fork across to make criss crosses so it looks all pretty.  Sprinkle with paprika if you like.  Bake for 30 minutes or so, and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.  Kale on the side was perfect. 

So, that's it.  The ultimate comfort food.  When you're feeling all nesting like, make this.  And even though it's really quite easy, it tastes complicated and special enough that I'd make it for guests too- as long as they don't mind if it's a yoga pants and fuzzy socks kind of get together.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

A week of food.

For a really long time now, Sundays have been my cooking day.  Until recently, I would just make something to eat on Sunday that could become leftovers later in the week.  I might prep some veggies for the week, or perhaps bake some chicken.  It stopped there.

Shit has gotten serious now, though.  I am trying to make sure we have dinners, breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for the week.  I don't want to depend on Lara ALT bars or some of the other filler snacks, like popcorn or hummus that are not autoimmune friendly. 

This is what I did last Sunday: 

Cooked a pound of chicken breasts for salads and post-gym snacks
Cooked a pound of bacon (Whole Foods thick cut dry rubbed) for the soup I was making, salads for the week, and for the bacon fat. 
Steamed a head of cauliflower and tons of broccoli (and used most for making a soup and put aside the rest for salads and snacks)
Roasted a butternut squash (to be put together with other friends to create a meal)
Steamed 2 heads of kale (soon to become besties w/ the butternut squash)
Chopped an onion, parsnips, and Japanese sweet potatoes... Seared 2 large bone in pork chops and baked them with the veggies.  (This will be 2 dinners for us and a lunch for one of us)

Let's Break it Down.

I buy chicken (both breasts and thighs) at Whole Foods, in their 3+ pound family packages.  When I get home, I break it down into 3 portions.  I cut each breast in half and butterfly them, then freeze.  Once thawed, I saute the chicken in coconut oil and spices.  It goes into a container and into the fridge until it's needed.  When I use the chicken for salads, I cut it into bite size pieces and saute the pieces in coconut oil until they get a little brown on all the edges.  Just adds a little more flavor for the salads.  As a snack, I just wrap a piece in foil and eat cold as is. 

For the bacon.  I put the oven on 425 and cover a cookie sheet with foil.  I lay out each slice and put it right in the oven for about 25 minutes until it's crispy.  I lay it out on paper towel and reserve the grease in a ramekin and reserve for later recipes.   I am sure to cover the ramekin with foil since Henry got up on the counter overnight one time when I didn't and well... that was the ONLY time in recent memory that he didn't whine for food all. day. long.  I've started giving him a few drops on his food when I have it around.  He's 12.  It makes him happy.  Once the bacon is cooled, I chop it into little pieces for the soup and for salads and a tiny piece or two for Simcoe's kong. 

High quality bacon is a must.  No nitrates.  Buy the best you can get your hands on.  Worth it. 
Once I roasted the butternut squash (I use coconut oil to roast) and steamed the kale, I chopped up some leftover chicken sausage and added it all to a large saute pan along with some chopped garlic and a little chopped bacon.  Once it came together, it went into a pyrex and into the fridge. 

Oh, and I added some bacon to this too.  When I commit to making a pound of bacon, it goes in almost everything.  How can you argue with that logic? 
The above meal is what I'm really about for breakfast/lunch.  1 starchy veg, 1 green veg, 1 protein, fat and flavor.  Each week I base this on what is on sale, what I have in the fridge/freezer, or I just start with something I am hungry for and go from there.  

The next 2 recipes come from/are inspired by Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo.
If you are considering cleaning up your diet, this book is pretty awesome.  I don't like going around saying I am Paleo because I'm really not.  I am certainly moving in that direction for my autoimmunity and for performance and for my overall feeling awesome, but I'm not comfortable with the label.  (For some reason, I see a bunch of people at a Cross Fit gym sitting around drinking bone broth and degrading others for eating an occasional cracker?? Not a fair assessment, I'm sure... but that's the internet for you.) Not only does she provide an entire education on digestion and such, she has sections for whatever your health issues/goals may be and directs you in eating appropriately.  Her recipes are also fantastic.  Like with most recipes, I alter them a bit to make them my own and to make them work for me, but she has killer ideas. 

The soup. 

Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup
Honestly, this could not be easier and it is crazy delicious and filling for how little it is.  I steamed the broccoli and cauliflower together with salt and pepper in a large soup pot with some chicken stock on the bottom.  When it was soft, I blended it in batches with chicken stock until it had the consistency I wanted.  Oh- I did roast some garlic (several cloves, EVOO, wrapped in foil, baked for about 20 minutes on 400 or so) to one of the batches.  When it was all smooth I allowed it time in the soup pot to come together and to add in some additional salt and pepper.  Into a pyrex and into the fridge.  I will garnish all servings with some bacon crumbles.  

Last is dinner.

Spiced Pork Chops with Root Vegetables 

3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 large onion, quartered, then halved will do
3 Japanese sweet potatoes, cut into pieces- can be a bit larger than parsnips- the parsnips are the slowest cookers in this party.
** Japanese sweet potatoes are pretty small, like a tiny regular variety sweet potato. You can easily omit them (Original recipe doesn't include them at all) or you could use 1 large regular variety sweet potato.  I actually decided I wanted to add Brussels sprouts to this recipe, but it was the weekend after Thanksgiving and there were none to be found at Whole Foods or Kroger.  But, I found the pretty blue sweet potatoes instead.**
1 orange, peeled and cut into segments
Bacon fat or coconut oil

2 large bone in pork chops (Original recipe calls for a loin)
Dry Rub made from:
1 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP corriander
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 tsp salt
Bacon fat or coconut oil

Oven to 375- or to 400 if you have mine.  Put your chopped veggies and orange into large bowl and warm up a little bacon fat or coconut oil.  Pour enough fat over the veg and mix well so they get all glisteny and happy and evenly coated.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour into a large roasting pan and get those into the oven for a 20 minute head start.

Once the vegetables are going for about 15 minutes, dry off your pork chops with a paper towel and coat with the dry rub.  Heat up a little more bacon fat in a saute pan over medium heat and when it's hot, place the chops down for about 2 minutes- don't touch!  Give them a check- do you have you have a nice golden sear?  You should.  If not, go another minute, and then do the same thing on the other side.

Nicely seared.
After searing, pull out the vegetables and place the pork chops on top- and back into the oven.  You want to go until the pork reaches a temp of 145.  Don't have a meat thermometer?  Me either.  Mine died.  I've asked Mr. Nourishment Unadulterated if he could remedy this at Christmas.  I'm feeling hopeful. 
Instead, I went 30 minutes and gave them a check.  They were good to go.  You want them juicy and if it's a tiny bit pink, it's ok.  If you're not cool with that, cook them a little longer.  When you pull them out, they need to rest before you cut into them, so transfer them to a plate, and put your veg back in for about 5-10 minutes if they could use more time.  It's always the damn parsnips.  If all is well, let everything sit while you pour a glass of wine or pull up Real Housewives on the DVR.   Go ahead, you know you want to.  No judgement here since I'm likely watching too. 

The chops I got were quite large, so we shared one for dinner that night and saved the other one.  The next time we had it for dinner, I took all the meat off, cut it into bite size pieces and heated it up, along with the veg, in a non-stick with a little chicken stock.  It ended up being enough for Mr. NU to take for lunch one day.  5 meals out of this.  Nice. 
In a Day...

Here's how a typical day went for me after that huge Sunday prep...

I am at the gym by 5:20am or so.  Although I get up about 4:00am, I don't eat before I work out.  I discovered the power of this about a year ago.  For me- and that is FOR ME- I'm not saying this is the right thing for everyone- my workouts are better on an empty stomach.  I have more energy and push in me.  I do have my coffee, and a change I have made is using coconut milk instead of dairy half and half.  Baby steps. 

I usually don't eat until I get to school- I heat up breakfast around 7:45am before the students walk in.  This week, most days I had the butternut squash/kale/chicken sausage combo.  5th graders smelling garlic first thing in the morning is funny- most of them are intrigued by the food I eat- asking questions, sharing their culinary adventures... I'm hopeful for the next generation and find it so awesome that my kids are open to foods outside of McDonalds and Poptarts.  We talk about food and fitness a lot in Room 20.  Sometimes we do pushups too. 

Snack time in Room 20 is around 9:30-10:00.  We usually have a working snack, so it depends what we've got going on.  This week I was about some celery and olives.  Have you had this combination?  It is super good.  I'd also have about 2-3 ounces of chicken breast cold.  

We eat at 12:41pm.  Yes, 12:41.  I do my best to judge the between recess and lunch read aloud chapters appropriately.  That was easy with our last two read alouds- Wonder by RJ Palacio (one of the best books you will ever read) and Granny Torelli Makes Soup by the most amazing author ever, Sharon Creech.  It's harder to judge the time now, though. We're reading Tangerine by Edward Bloor and those chapters are crazy long.  Those 15 minutes of read aloud each day might be my favorite, and I think my kids would agree. 
For my lunches this week, I went for the soup.  It's always freezing in my room by mid-day, and usually in the teacher's lounge as well, so soup is nice.  I'd follow with an apple or any of my celery or olives leftover from snack.  On harder work out days, I'd also have a packet of tuna packed in olive oil. 

We did have the leftover pork, but we also did salads with the chicken a couple times this week.  Just like the ones in my Autoimmune Blows post.  No egg this week, but bacon sprinkles instead.  And chicken breast instead of thighs.  Salads are a twice a week dinner in our house.  It ensures we get some raw veg and it also makes planning fairly simple.  I've also discovered that even when we think we're not in the mood for salads, as soon as they are made and we have a bite, we realize we are. 

And now it's Sunday again... stay tuned for my next post, I got some good stuff cooking up today!