Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

Our Christmas Eve tradition is to make an outrageously elaborate meal, just the two of us.  Something we have never made before and probably won't make again.

What is this one?

Now, before you roll your eyes and are like, "um, you've never made a lasanga before?" Let me elaborate.
We will be making our own pasta.  Our own cheese.  And our own tomato sauce.  There is some debate as to whether to use canned or fresh tomatoes for the tomato sauce, but I'm leaning towards canned because they are likely fresher than out of season imported tomatoes.  I'll report back how it went.

What are you doing?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Menu Plan

I thought I would share our menu plan for this week, since I know coming up with weekly meal plans is challenging for some folks and sometimes inspiration is nice.  This is actually just pulled from our "Menu Planning" master Google Doc, which is the best system we've come up with for sharing our menu plans and keeping recipes in one place.

This morning, I prepped all of the veggies, etc. for this week and it only took a couple of hours to prep everything and saute up the onions/peppers for the chili and for the enchilada filling.  I made the sweet potatoes in the crockpot while I did that, so all I'll need to do on Tuesday is put them in the oven or microwave to warm back up, and then top them with homemade cinnamon marshmallows.  Mostly, this week just required chopping onions and peppers (and I used frozen) and some garlic, but was pretty easy, so if you are wary of menu planning, I would recommend it.

Week of 11/17/13

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thanksgiving Awaits

Today I made marshmallows for Thanksgiving using this recipe.  I added two giant tablespoons of cinnamon and cut the vanilla in half, but they smelled really good and I'm going to test drive them on sweet potato casserole this week.

It seems like every year I go a little crazy and try to make something elaborate from scratch that I could just buy at the store.  One year I made my own stuffing bread, one year it was my own crescent roll dough.  I actually still make my own some of the time because it's much easier to work with.  This year I'm planning on making little brie-cranberry-crescent roll muffin cups, so I'll let you know how it goes.

Are you making anything from scratch? Is anyone having a very Pinterest Thanksgiving? I feel like soon I won't be able to log in without seeing a million pins of roasted turkeys wearing pilgrim hats on a bed of cranberries or something.


I'm making this crepes recipe right now and it's delicious.  These are my most successful crepes yet. I made them in the food processor and started by sifting the flour in the food processor.  They are lump free, spreading easily, and not sticking to my crepe pan.  Today's fillings are nutella, almond butter mixed with nutella, and goat cheese with Italian herbs and seasoning.   I wish I had apple and brie.

Other crepe filling ideas?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Half-30, Weeks 2 & 3

Oh dear. I started a blog post with my remaining menu plan, and totally failed to continue. This was for a few reasons, the first being I found out there is actually a whole vegetarian paleo forum and movement, with websites with meal plans and stuff, so I started to feel obsolete, and secondly, um, I'm busy.

-Sweet potato hash with fried eggs (I have made this 2-3 times a week and smoothies the other days)
-Paleo Oatmeal
-Oatmeal Minus the Oats

- Coconut Red Lentil Soup

- Sauteed Scallops over Spaghetti Squash - I did not use this recipe. I used this one, and it was gross, and worse reheated.

-Catfish sauteed with cajun spices

-Salmon patties with a big salad and homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing (Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustard)

- Chili Rubbed Salmon with coconut cauliflower rice

- Almond encrusted Tilapia 

-Black bean salad with avocado, tomato, and roasted peppers.

-Apples with almond butter

I'm on Week 4 now and this week I'm adding some grains back in.  This is partly because I just haven't been feeling as good this time as last time, and I realized that last time, I cheated way more. I had occasional potatoes or rice, and I felt much better. I had no energy through most of last week, and I was just really tired.

I also have concluded, that while a number of things on the Whole30 website talk about the importance of healing your relationships with food, and not "slipping up" or "cheating" and how horrible it is, I also decided that I'm sorry, but I do not want to look back on the awesome camping trip I took with my cousins and remember bitterly watching everybody else roast marshmallows around the campfire and feeling upset and like I missed out.  So I bought gluten free graham crackers and tried to make my own marshmallows but I failed at that so I bought some, and I bought really good dark chocolate, and I bought normal food for the other people, and I ate exactly two s'mores, which is less than usual, and I did not continue roasting marshmallows for the fun of it, which I hope indicates I'm working on my portion control.

I'm not sure what the next step is. I'm not sure whether I'm adding gluten back in. I think I will be, because I don't actually have a problem digesting it, but I think I will be limiting my intake of wheat to weekends/evenings so that I don't experience a carb crash during the day.  My new eating philosophy is to eat as little processed food as possible, and sleep as much as possible, and I think these two things combined will make me feel my best.  I think cutting sugar has been good for me, although I'm unable to kick my sweet tooth entirely, I'm very much so hoping to be able to kick soda for good one of these days. I also don't believe my body doesn't know the difference between raisins and chocolate, and I'm going to try to switch to healthy snacks instead of grabbing something toxic and candyfilled at the convenience store.

The biggest thing I got out of this was being totally convinced that the Once a Month Meals philosophy is a good one.  One big monthly cooking day to have most of my meals ready/prepped for the month is going to go a long way in the future, so now it's just a matter of clearing my freezer and making space one weekend a month.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Half-30 started Monday. Alternatively, we could call it Whole 15. Basically, we decided to start with 2 weeks rather than the full 30 days.  Which basically means I'm throwing all of the rules of Whole 30 except no dairy no grains to the wind.  I picked Half-30 because I think it's short for "Half A$$ed 30" rather than pretending I'm actually doing this diet the correct way.  Do I recommend doing it the correct way? Absolutely. I think it will have even more benefits.  But for us, we're going to do 2 weeks, and then spend the next two weeks focusing on a way to live sustainably.  Anyway, I thought I'd post our menu plan for this week and talk about prepping for Half-30.

Sunday, I went to the farmer's market, Costco, and the grocery store. I spent all day cooking. I made a sweet potato black bean chili, I made a sweet potato frittata, I roasted sweet potatoes for snacks, I hard boiled eggs, I chopped onions and green beans and zuchinni and squash and sauted those things so they would be ready for the week.  I bought salad and spinach and all kinds of nuts.  I made nut butter so that I can have it on apples for a snack.

Being prepared is half the battle, and I knew for the first week, having easy snacking items on hand if dinner took a little longer, and having dinner ready to go, was paramount.  After the first week last year, I noticed I no longer got ravenously hungry and therefore could handle actually cooking food, but the first week is all about making sure dinner is ready and you have enough snacks so you don't turn to bad choices in the meantime.  I've been taking a giant bag of food to work with me so that I have enough food.  The only problem is that I'm really sick of all of my breakfast options.

 So here is our menu plan:
-Sweet potato frittata
-Almond milk - banana - frozen berry smoothie
-Almond milk - spinach - banana smoothie

-Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili (recipe below)
-leftovers (I packed up the chili so that we would have lunches for the first day and then just in case we don't have leftovers from other stuff)

-Sweet Potato Cashew Chili with Cauliflower Rice
-Falafel with kale chips
-Grilled salmon salad with pecans, dried cranberries, homemade balsamic dressing
-Vegetable frittata (I pre sauted zuchinni and squash for this, I will just add eggs and omit the usual milk, yogurt and cheese)
-Seared scallops on spaghetti squash

-Hard boiled eggs
-Apples with almond butter or sunbutter
-Baked sweet potatoes
-Almond-date-cocoa balls  can also be made with

Sweet Potato Chili
1 Tbsp  oil
green pepper, sliced
red pepper, sliced
onion, sliced
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cans (15.5 oz each) black beans, undrained
1 can white beans
1 can (14.5 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 medium yam, peeled and diced 
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp cocoa 
2 Tbsp honey
3tbs  chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp  cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste 

  1. Heat basting oil in medium stockpot on MEDIUM-HIGH. Add peppers & onions. Cook, stirring, 3-4 min until soft, but not browned. Add stock, beans and liquid, tomatoes, yam, vinegar, garlic, cocoa powder, honey,chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon.
  2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on LOW, uncovered, 25-30 min. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Vegetarians and Whole 30

I've attempted Whole 30 twice and found it had great effects.  However, I've been reluctant to post about it because I'm a vegetarian, and therefore I'm not actually doing Whole 30 and the people who designed Whole 30 tend to be strict about what Whole 30 means, and the hardcorest fans tend to be really uptight about what Whole 30 means and I didn't want to get hate mail.

Whole 30 is pretty much impossible if you are a vegetarian - because it requires cutting out legumes and dairy.  If you are a pescatarian, this means you are surviving on nuts, eggs, and fish.  If you are a vegetarian, nuts and eggs for you (and not too many of either of those!)  While I think there is a good argument to be made for possibly cutting out soy, I'm not sure I buy this "beans are bad" argument.

So Whole 30 for me looks a lot more like my standard detox diet.  No gluten, no grains, no sugars, no processed food.  The reason I encourage people to try even my totally hacked, cheater version is because it works.  Both times I've done Whole 30, I've had races and I've had the best races I've ever had - feeling strong all the way to the finish line, and scoring a new PR.  I also notice that I'm not distracted by my hunger and I don't get hangry or ravenous.  I am probably missing out on 50% of the great benefits of Whole 30 by the brazen ways that I cheat, and I still find massive benefits to making this dietary shift.

I have not figured out how to switch from Fake Whole 30 to an actual Vegelo lifestyle - there's a lot of stuff out there about eating Paleo, but it focuses on meat.  I'd like to still be able to eat some grains and since I don't have any kind of gluten intolerance, it's unnecessary for me to cut out gluten, but cutting back or only making my own bread, etc. seems like it would have benefits.

We are in the process of moving right now, which means we are eating fast food and quick fix meals and big casseroles of pasta that I make on Sunday to last the week.  So I'm gearing up to do Whole 30 in September when we have finally moved and settled in a bit.  This will also get me through the Baltimore Marathon, for which I plan to run the relay, which is a short distance, and possibly through a yet-to-be-determined half.

The biggest problem with Whole 30 when you are a pescatarian is the amount of forethought required.  Since you aren't getting calories from carbs, you have to get them from vegetables and you have to cook a lot of vegetables.  They take awhile to prep and it can get exhausting.  So to gear up, I'm planning on assembling and freezing some crockpot meals with our summer garden produce, and creating a full menu plan for all 30 days so that thinking is not required and I can do as much prep work on the weekends as possible.

This is my spreadsheet from last time, with general meal plans and a few recipes.  I'm going to brush it up, find actual recipes, and make as much as I can in advance.

Week 1Sweet Potato & Cashew CurryVeggie FrittataGrilled Salmon SaladChiliStir Fry and RiceGrilled veggie kebabsSoup
Week 2Salmon and green beansFalafel and sweet potatoesShrimp sub for tofu
Barbecue Lentils with kaleShakshouka
Scallops and veggiesSoup
Week 3Grilled fish saladBarbecue Lentils, kale chipsChili Fish w/ VeggiesSquash and Bok ChoyGrilled vegetables and fishSoup - Black Bean
Week 4Bean chilliFish with vegetablesSalad with nuts and fruitChickpea curryVeggie fritata Stir Fry with shrimpSoup  http://paleodietlifestyle.com/leek-and-sweet-potato-soup/

I also need to assemble a list of snacks and prepare as much of those as possible in advance.  I buy big bags of nuts from costco and toast them in the toaster oven so they are ready to eat; I make homemade date balls with walnuts and dates; I roast sweet potatoes and have them as a snack.  I prep kale so that I can toss it in the oven to eat as kale chips as quickly as possible.  I might try making my own barbecue sauce.    I also need to prepare breakfasts in advance - stock up on eggs, make some hardboiled eggs, prepare some mini frittata type things for grab-and-go mornings.

I'm thinking to start September 15th, and go until October 15th.  But moving is stressful, so we'll see.  I realize there are people who probably think that gearing up this much in advance for Whole 30 is also cheating, but really, I'm cheating so much that there is no point in calling this Whole 30, so if you are going to comment to tell me I'm doing it wrong, how about instead you just suggest a different name for whatever this 30-day-detox-no-processed-food-no-carb plan is?  Because "this weird diet I'm doing" is what I've called it in the past.  

Is anyone interested in hearing more about this? Is it worth my time to put together a couple more posts on gearing up and menu planning?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Kale Chips

Kale chips are delicious, but they are often somehow too crispy on the outside and too mushy on the inside.  Sister-in-Law Barefoot was making them a few weeks ago and we learned the secret is to cook them low and slow on about 200 degrees.  This is problematic in the summer when you don't want to run the oven, and your toaster oven doesn't make more than a single serving.  But they do cook faster - about 30 minutes on 250 (lowest setting our toaster oven has that isn't keep warm).  But otherwise, let's talk flavoring.  I found this Carolina Mustard Barbecue sauce at Harris Teeter and it makes for some really good kale chips - just enough kick, just enough flavoring.  Ironically, I hate barbecue chips, but these are pretty much the best kale chips I've ever had.

-4-6 leaves of kale chips, rinsed, torn into bite sized pieces
-Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce or some other mustard based barbecue sauce.

1.) Preheat oven to 250.
2.) Toss 2-3 tsp of barbecue sauce with kale chips until all leaves are well coated.
3.) Spread kale leaves in a single layer on baking pan.
4.) Bake at 250 for 30 minutes.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies

The farmer's market is open and I finally got to go.  I bought rhubarb, strawberries, and asparagus.  I don't make pie for almost the entire rest of the year, but ever since I discovered strawberry rhubarb pie a few summers ago, I make at least 2-3 pies in a 1 month period. 
Last year, at the end of strawberry season, I saw a recipe for hand pies.  I didn't have time to make any more pies, so when I came home with two pints of strawberries and a batch of rhubarb yesterday, I got to work on these guys.
I didn't do the egg wash on top and I didn't have any orange zest.  I think they would be better if they had something on top of the pies, and I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that they were worth it, work-wise, but since I now have a tupperware of them in my office instead of having to go home to eat pie, they certainly win on transportability. 
Any other good hand pie recieps out there?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

English Lasagna (Freezer Meal)

I have gotten super-into freezer meals lately.  I'm dying to try Once a Month Mom, but I haven't had a chance yet to completely clear the freezer.  Once we have a house and a chest freezer though, oh man.

Anyway, when the Snowquester Storm hit, I hunkered down and spent the morning making freezer meals.  I did an enchilada casserole, which was mediocre, and I made an English Lasagna, which was spectacular.  I'm on the hunt for more good vegetarian ideas, if you have any to share.  I currently have a frozen baked ziti and a frozen fried rice meal all set to go, but I'm trying really hard to make sure we always have something to pull out and thaw when we don't have time to cook.

English Lasagna is made with a creamy bechamel sauce instead of ricotta cheese.  Or in addition to.  I didn't have any ricotta, and it was raining so I didn't go get any, so I improvised a bit.  It was so delicious that when we thawed it and cooked it, my husband ate my leftovers.

Ingredients (makes four servings in a loaf pan, double the cheese/milk if you want to use an 8x8):
-one package no-bake lasagna noodles
-one package veggie crumbles (or you can use real meat, but I don't know how to cook that, or how much to use - I guess half a pound?)
-two cups shredded cheddar cheese (plus more for topping)
-two cups milk
-2 tbsp butter
-2 tbsp flour
-half an onion, chopped
-a few cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 350 even if you are freezing this for later (it's best to cook the pasta before freezing).
1.) Saute onion and garlic together until translucent.  Add veggie crumbles and tomato sauce.
2.) Saute butter and flour together until flour is brown.  Add milk and stir frequently until sauce thickens.
3.) Add cheddar cheese and melt.
4.) Layer no bake noodles, "meat" and top with bechamel sauce.  Continue until you have reached the top of the pan (I like to use thin layers and a lot of noodles.)
5.) Top everything with cheddar cheese and some extra tomato sauce, if you have any.
6.) Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, covered with foil.  Then allow to cool, cover the foil with saran wrap, and freeze.
7.) To reheat, thaw for 24ish hours and heat in 350 degree oven for 1 hour.  (Keep foil on for first 45 minutes, then remove for the last 15 minutes.)

Any other freezer meal suggestions?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What I've Been Cooking

Some of the latest recipes I have tried and enjoyed include:

Slow Cooker Black Bean Enchiladas - we didn't have corn, so I subsituted green pepper.  It was still pretty tasty.  I also used whole wheat tortillas and you couldn't tell.  This would be a great recipe for a chicken/veggie household because you could divide your crock in half with foil to separate the two.

Pecan Encrusted Salmon - seriously amazing.  We've been using a lot more nuts in our cooking, and this is recipe that is going to become a regular.

Slow Cooker Indian Spiced Chickpea Quinoa Stew - this was just so easy to put together.  I didn't have turnips or celery so just used other veggies we had on hand, which included onions.  I also found that it was somewhat lacking in flavor, so I added more salt and a dash of heavy cream, which made it pretty delicious.

Pecan Quinoa Stuffing - our acorn squash went bad before I made this, so Mr. Barefoot roasted up some sweet potatos and we had it with that.  Like I said, we've been using more nuts.

I found pretty much all of these recipes on Pinterest, which I both like and dislike as a search engine.  I like it because it allows me to sidestep all the spammy responses I get from Google that take me to sites which then force me to search again and only have terrible recipes.  I dislike it because when you google an ingredient, sometimes you just get a pretty picture of brussels sprouts and sometimes you get 300 of the same brussels sprouts recipe.  Does anyone have any way around that?