Thursday, February 24, 2011

Strange strange weather....

I woke this morning to a sinus headache and overcast skies - a sure sign that a nasty storm is heading into our area.  (I have barometric sinuses - I can tell from the headache how bad the storm is going to be.)  So, I jump onto to find out the weather...and what do I see but this:

Let me reiterate - I live in San Jose, California, about an hour south of San Francisco.  We're pretty much at sea level - one well-place tsunami or flood and we'll all need scuba gear.

So, would someone like to tell me why the heck they're forecasting SNOW for my area on Saturday??? 

Strange strange weather....

I see a lot of soup and stews in our near future, don't you?  ;-)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Kids and Dinner

Dinner in my house is a quiet affair.  There's no food struggles - I put the food in front of them and leave them alone.  Most nights, their plates are returned empty, while some nights, the protein comes back barely touched.  I try not to stress about it.  If they eat, they eat - if they don't, they don't.  They're the ones going to bed hungry, not me, right?

Of course, we all know I don't like wasted food.  So, I did some experimenting and found out a few things about my kids and dinner:
  1. Late dinners = peaceful nights - I've been slowly moving their dinnertime later and later as an experiment to see if a late dinner would make bedtime easier.  Well, it didn't quite fix our bedtime issues..but they are better behaved during that chaotic time after dinner when everyone's tired.  
  2. My kids would be happy if I made hamburger patties every night for them.  Those plates always come back clean as a whistle. (That's not going to happen anytime soon but they can dream!)
  3. They don't like anything mixed in with their protein.  If I'm fixing chicken and cabbage with butter sauce for dinner, I make the chicken and sauce first and then pull their chicken out of the pan before I add my cabbage.
  4. Broccoli goes down my kids' throats easier with lots of butter and pepper.  Yum!
  5. Fried potatoes are the elixir of happiness for my kids.  Though they're not "paleo", we still eat potatoes every once in a while, fried hard in a lot of saturated fats so they're like little cubed french fries.  Yeah, I spoil them...
So, moms and dads out there - don't be afraid to experiment!  You have your own likes and dislikes and so do your kids.  With some experimentation, you might find a way to get them to eat their meat and vegetables too!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Eat what you like

I recently had a friend ask me for advice on following the Paleo Diet.  I told her, "Buy more whole foods like meats, vegetables, fruit, fats, and dairy, and less processed foods.  Listen to your body and eat what you want to eat.  And most importantly, fill your fridge with stuff you like."

I know too many dieters who buy fruits and vegetables that they don't like just because they're supposed to be "healthy".   Of course, the hated veggies and fruit rot away becuase, surprise surprise, no one wants eats them!  The dieter ends up tossing the rotting produce, which to me is a mortal sin.  (I don't like to see people waste food - if you're not going to eat it, then don't buy it!)

Let me repeat this one more time for those that didn't get it:  Eat what you like!  If you like broccoli but don't like carrots, that's some broccoli and enjoy it!  Don't feel like you HAVE to buy those carrots for the vitamins and minerals in them - you'll get them elsewhere in your diet.  If you don't like oranges, don't buy then!  Find another way to get your vitamin C in.  It's not rocket science!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Recipe Weds - Anne's Garlicky-Chicken-Lemon Soup

Small storms have been rolling through our area for the last couple of days, spitting on us as they pass overhead.  It's strange weather - moments of sunshine followed by a five minute torrential downpour, to only be replaced by sun a moment later.  On our way to my kids' dentist appointment this morning, I drove through a section of Santa Clara where it was sunny AND raining at the same time.  Freaky weather...

After battling the dentist, the strange weather, and a wickedly cold wind, I was more than happy to come home and hide in my little apartment.  As I stared into the depths of my freezer, looking for some dinner inspiration, the image of homemade soup suddenly started dancing in my head.  And not just any soup but my favorite Garlicky-Chicken-Lemon Soup.  MMmmmm....


Anne's Garlicky-Chicken-Lemon Soup

((This meal is my 'cure for what ails you' meal.  I make it when I need something to help heal my soul and/or body.  There's enough garlic in here to make any bacteria in your body run and hide and the chicken broth is wonderful for colds.))

  • 20 cloves of garlic
  • oil and butter - your choice of what kind
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 celery ribs, sliced thin
  • 3 carrots, sliced thin
  • 12+ oz cooked chicken 
  • 6 cups chicken broth (homemade prefered - if not homemade, then use the "low sodium" stuff from the can)
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Add enough oil/butter to cover the bottom of a large stew pot.(I use a mix of lard and butter - the lard heightens the smoke point of the mixture so I don't have to babysit it as much.)
  2. Toss in the 20 cloves of garlic.
  3. Cover and cook on low heat, mixing periodically, until the garlic is soft.
  4. Carefully smash/mash the garlic cloves with a potato masher or the bottom of a glass/coffee cup.  
  5. Add onion, put top back on and let it cook until the onions are translucent and soft.
  6. Add the rest of the ingredients except the salt and pepper, put top back on, and let it come to a simmer.  
  7. Let this simmer until the carrots are cooked through.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Watch out when cooking the garlic.  Stir often and adjust the heat so it doesn't burn.  If the garlic burns, your house will smell of burnt italian food for days. 
  • This makes enough soup to feed my family of three for a couple dinners and maybe a lunch.  I always make a big pot - I love eating this stuff!
  • I will warn you - this is a LOT of garlic.  If your system isn't used to eating a lot of garlic, you might want to reel the amount of cloves back a bit.  Also, you WILL smell like garlic for a day or so but really, when you're sick, who cares?  ;-)
  • You're welcome to add in other veggies  as you see fit.  This is my basic recipe which I then change around depending on what's on hand and my mood.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Inexpensive Paleo-friendly Kid Snacks

Kid: "Mama?  I'm hungry!"

Mama: "Well, what do you want?"

Kid: "I don't know.  What is there?"

I'm sure that conversation plays out at least once a week in every household in America.  And I'm sure every mother or father reacts the same way I do - sighs and tries not to beat their head against the kitchen cabinet.

Both my ex-husband and I are trying to not feed the kids a lot of junk food / processed food.  Considering how limited my food budget is these days, I'm even more diligent about snacks - I want them healthy but also something that the kids will eat.  Wasted food drives me insane!

Here is what I currently offer as "snacks" in my house:
  • Fruit - Considering that I have two lean, mean, growing machines in my house, I'm not worried about them getting "too much" fruit.  I try to have a few options in the house, even if it means a lot of the basics : apples, pears, and bananas.
  • Vegetables- My friends consider my kids "strange" because they'll gladly eat raw cut vegetables, and if you add a little Ranch dressing on the side, you become their favoritest bestest friend in the world. ;-)
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs - Best snack in the world - fat and protein all wrapped up in a portable container.  And yes, my two even eat the yolks!
  • Pepperoni - My daughter LOVES this stuff and in the last month or so she finally talked her brother into trying it...and he loves it too! Though I'm sure it's not really Paleo, it's protein and it's on the cheap side (I buy the monster bags at Smart and Final for around $10 and freeze it in 1 lb increments for later use).
  • Nuts/Raisins - My son has been on a raisins kick for the last couple of months, but just recently has he been requesting "nuts and raisins" for his afternoon snack.  Though I've sworn off nuts, I do have some trail mix left over, so I mix them with a handful of raisins.  That makes him one happy kid.
  • Homemade Gluten-Free Baked Goods - I try not to eat these - they start up my sugar cravings - but I do periodically make some for my kids, which they enjoy while they last.  These aren't Paleo but I don't mind my kids eating a little oatmeal or almond flour now and again.  It's a heck of a lot better than the prepackaged stuff that's out there! 
I know I've probably missed some good snack ideas somewhere.  What are your favorite snacks these days?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Things to do with cooked chicken

As many of my regular readers know, I have a freezer full of cooked chicken.  (Okay, maybe not a freezer full but there is a good amount of the stuff in there.)  Why?  Two words - quick meals. Proteins always seem to take the longest to cook and after a long day of chasing kids, placating clients, and trying to keep up with the mess around here, I usually don't have the time to wait for chicken to cook.  Also, cooking it ahead allows me to make chicken broth from the bones...but that's another blog entry.  ;-)

So, what do I do with my plethora of cooked chicken?  Here are a few ideas:

Chicken Taco Salad

Buy one of those "taco dry mixes" from the store and follow the instructions on the back, using the chicken in the place of ground beef.  Let cool a bit and toss with salad greens and vegetables.
Chicken Sauteed with Onion and Butter
Heat up a tablespoon or two of butter in your frying pan over medium-low heat.  When it gets good and hot, toss in an onion and a touch of garlic and let it cook until the delicious smells take over your kitchen.  Then add the chicken, stir and cover.  Cook until everything is piping hot.  I eat this by itself or over a bed of well-drained greens or broccoli.
Instant Chicken Soup

Saute onion and garlic in a stew pot.  Once they're cooked, toss in the chicken, a couple cans of low-sodium chicken broth, and your favorite soup veggies (I know someone who just tosses in a while bag of frozen veggies).  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat.  Cook until everything is done. 
Poor Man's Antibiotics
This is the variation of soup I cook when I'm sick or feeling a cold coming on.  Cover the bottom of a stew pot with oil, toss in a lot of garlic (I've used full cloves and chopped - doesn't matter) and heat on low for 20 minutes or so.  You want the garlic to sweat, not fry, so be careful.  Once the garlic is done, use something flat, like a glass or coffee cup, to smush the garlic.  Add onion, carrot, and celery and let everything cook until the onions are almost translucent.  Then add the chicken, chicken broth, and any other veggies, cover and let cook until everything is done.
Stir-fried meals are a quick option when your protein is already cooked.
Instant Meat for Casseroles
Just defrost and you have chicken to sprinkle in your favorite Paleo-friendly casserole.
Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink Spanish Tortilla:
Elise over at Simple Recipes introduced me to Spanish Tortilla.  Of course, her version has a lot of potato in it, which is super yummy if you're eating potato, but since they're not considered "Paleo Friendly", I modified her method to suit my needs.  These are great to make when you need to clean out your crisper drawer - just dice and saute your vegetables until they're cooked, pour on the egg mixture, and toss it under the broiler until it's cooked all the way through.  I sometimes add cooked chicken when I want some extra protein in my meal.  Yum!
 Now it's your turn.  Do you have any good uses for cooked chicken?  Please comment below!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Update - Yes, I'm alive!

Hi guys!  Yes, it's been another quiet week on the home front here.  Between potty training the four year old (yes, he was FINALLY ready), checkups, work, and the usual chaos around here, I barely had time to eat and sleep, never mind find the brain cells to write here.  So, I'm here to catching things up!  Sorry for the silence.

One surprising thing that happened last week - I decided Weds morning that I didn't want my usual 6-cup pot of coffee.  Instead, I made myself a pot of chai tea, which yes, still has caffeine in it but not as much as my "stand up and whistle" coffee, and was quite happy.   I've been coffee-free ever since. That will surprise my family to no end, I'm sure!  I've been addicted to coffee ever since my daughter was born (she's turning 6 in a couple months) so this is a major change!

Also, I stepped on the scale this last week for my monthly weight-in to find myself at 53 lbs lost.  I blew past the 50 lbs point without even knowing it!  Woot!

Even more surprising - this last week I've been craving exercise.  How strange is that?  With two young kids, it's hard to get out and exercise often.  I'm walking every weekend, usually around 3 to 4 miles at a time around my neighborhood.  (Thank god for my itouch - I can listen to my podcasts while I walk, which keeps me entertained.) 

My problem is during the week when I have the kids.  I'm trying to get on the Wii Fit every other night (I have a few exercises programs for it) but it's hard to find the time - I can't exercise when the kid are up (they get in the way a lot) and by the time they go to bed, I'm exhausted.  I'll have to find some time somewhere....

Anyway, that's my life these days.  Expect more from me this week....I cross-my-little-Paleo-heart promise.  ;-)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reader Poll - Pots and Pans

Okay, everyone - it's time for another reader participation post.

Today's question is - what do you cook with and why? 

If you had peeked into my pots and pans cupboard a couple years ago, you would have seen a stack of teflon frying pans and sauce pans of all sizes.  I loved those things...

But about two years ago, I transitioned to cast iron pans.  Yes, you read that right - cast iron.  I have two cast iron frying pans that literally live on the top of my stove - a small 5" pan (pictured here) that's perfect for frying eggs in the morning and a 12" frying pan I use to fry just about anything else. 

I love how versatile they are.  I can turn the heat up really high under those pans and really sear meat before moving the whole thing straight into a hot oven - no dirtying up an extra roasting pan just because the wimpy Teflon pan isn't "oven safe".  Coast iron is also broil-safe - so when I want to really crank up the heat in the oven, I'll use one of cast irons.

Now, don't get me wrong - I still have a few old teflon-lined saucepans that I use to boil eggs or make soup in, but the stack of telfon frying pans are long gone, and I couldn't be happier.

So, what do you use when you cook?  Any one else out there using cast iron or am I just weird?  ;-)