Meal Plan for Success

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Eating a healthy diet can be a hassle. It tests your patience, commitment to eating well, and your ability to budget.

First, you have to find recipes that appeal to you. Then you have to make a grocery list of all the ingredients in the meals you plan to cook. After this, it’s off to the store to buy ingredients. Then you come home and spend up to a few hours cooking your food. Once your meals are prepared, you have to grab a sponge and clean up your mess.

Two days later, it’s time to begin this whole song and dance again. Sweet!

You might even end up scrapping the whole cooking idea and order your meals instead. This is not a budget friendly option.

Of course it would be easier and cheaper to hit up the dollar menu of different fast food restaurants all week. It’s quick and requires no planning or clean up on your part. But like spending all your free time sitting on the couch watching TV, this is not a sensible option.

Approach meal planning like your time at the gym. Commit, commit, commit.

Every week I look at my schedule and commit to five days that I plan on going to the gym. I give myself room to make one change in the event of an unforeseen event, but that’s it.

Do the same with your meal planning. Sit down on a day that works for you and plan out your meals for the week. Plan your meals for six days of the week, this gives you one wildcard day on the weekend to eat what and where you please. Break the week up into two, three-day chunks, with a trip to the grocery store in the middle. If two trips to the store isn’t an option for you, choose one day to head to the store to buy your food for the week.

Another option is to set yourself up on a meal plan like they offer at Origin Meals to get you through the week.

Keep it simple to set yourself up for success.

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Soup

sausage soup

Here is a delicious soup recipe; great for that first chilly night in Autumn.

I’ll be honest. I stole this recipe from my girlfriend, but I will take credit for it. This was the first meal she cooked for me, and I knew as soon as I tried it she was a keeper.

A helpful note: if you prepare the ingredients in advance, or use store-bought, pre-prepared ingredients, (buy organic if you choose this avenue), you will cut down on your time in the kitchen the day you plan to cook.

The recipe yields a boat load of soup. Seriously. Maybe ten generous portions. It also freezes well, so don’t panic if you have way more soup than you need.

Ingredients:
3 roasted red peppers (roast them yourself or buy them in a jar and drain them)
2 small pumpkins, enough to make about 6 cups (you could use canned pumpkin, too)
2 1/2 lb spicy pork sausage (we used 1/2 chorizo and 1/2 pork breakfast sausage, raw and removed from casings)
1 Yellow Onion, diced (white will also work)
4 tbsp Ghee (or grass-fed butter)
4 cups chicken stock
1 can coconut milk, organic full fat
1/2 cup honey, organic
1/3 tsp ground cloves
1/3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 tsp ground ginger
1/3 tsp crushed red peppers
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped green onions or fresh herbs, for garnish

Spice Notes: We eyeball everything. Use more of what you like, less of what you don’t like. Use caution when adding cloves, those babies are powerful. Some people are also sensitive to nutmeg, however, we love it.

Cooking Instructions:

Roasting the peppers: Preheat oven to 375

  1. Cut peppers in half, scoop out seeds and membrane.
  2. Place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. Place on middle rack of oven.
  4. Roast for thirty minutes.
  5. Remove the peppers from the oven and put them in a Ziplock bag for a few minutes until they start to cool (we used a glass bowl with cling wrap on top because we didn’t have big bags).
  6. Peel off the skins and dice.
  7. Set aside in a medium bowl. (You can roast them ahead of time. They’ll keep in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week).

Roasting the pumpkins: Preheat oven to 375

  1. Use a sharp, sturdy knife for this.
  2. Cut off the top of the pumpkins, by the stem, like you are making a jack-o-lantern.
  3. Cut the pumpkins in half.
  4. Scrape out the seeds and guts. It doesn’t have to be perfect (you can save the seeds for roasting later).
  5. Cut the halves in half again so you have quarters.
  6. Place skin side down on a foil-lined baking sheet (no need for oil).
  7. Roast for forty-five minutes or until tender.
  8. Remove and let cool.
  9. Peel off the skin. If it gives you trouble, slide a knife between the skin and the pumpkin “meat.”
  10. Dice the pumpkin into large chunks. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you will eventually blend it).

Putting it all together

  1. Heat up a large, heavy bottomed, stock pot over medium heat.
  2. Add sausage, until golden brown (if you are using two kinds of sausage, use a potato masher to blend them together).
  3. Add some crushed red peppers if you like extra spice, we do.
  4. Remove the sausage and set aside.
  5. Add the sausage to your bowl of red pepper, but remove the fat first.
  6. Add the onions and saute until golden (the longer you cook them, the sweeter they will get).
  7. Remove onions, set aside (add them to your sausage and pepper bowl).
  8. Add the ghee, stock, spices, and pumpkin.
  9. Stir together, (scraping the bottom of the pan to get all those crispy bits of flavor from cooking the sausage and onions).
  10. Bring to a boil and then drop to a simmer for five minutes.
  11. Use an immersion blender to create a smooth pumpkin sauce, this will take a few minutes (if you do not have an immersion blender, let the pumpkin mixture cool and transfer to your blender in batches. Make sure you put a kitchen towel over the blender and your lid is on tight so you do not splatter the hot soup. Trust me).
  12. Add the red peppers, sausage, and onions back into your smooth pumpkin sauce and stir.
  13. Bring the soup back to a boil, reduce to simmer for ten minutes.
  14. Add the coconut milk, honey, salt, pepper, and stir.
  15. Garnish with some chopped green onions, or fresh herbs, for a little something extra.

Enjoy!

How to Make the Paleo Diet Work for You

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It is no secret that fads in the diet world come and go on a regular basis. While the paleo diet has certainly been labeled as such, what provides faith that this movement is not just a flash in the pan is its continually updated recommendations based on the latest research findings.

In fact, many of the biggest names in the paleo world actually seem to be less concerned with us eating as our ancestors did, and more so with us following what is going to allow us to live the healthiest lives possible – even if it goes against what they’ve advised in the past.

Case in point, Your Personal Paleo Code by Chris Kresser. For a long time the “rules” of the diet were simple: to thrive, and live a life free of disease you should be eating a diet consisting of only vegetables, fruits, meat, and some nuts and seeds.

While the basic principals of the diet remain unchanged, as further studies have been completed, researchers have found that, in some cases, we’ve actually adapted to tolerating some of the foods that were originally thought to be unhealthy.

What complicates things is that it’s not the same for everyone, and you might not know that a specific food has a negative impact on your health if you’ve never tried going without it for a while.

Your Personal Paleo Code outlines not only a process for figuring out what foods best suit you, but also explains why.

Whether you’ve been on the fence about giving the paleo diet a shot, or you’ve been following it for a while, I guarantee you will find this book a helpful read.

Check out the Personal Paleo Code website for more info on the book. 

Eating a high-protein diet could lower your risk of having high blood pressure

Protein

An 11 year study conducted by the Boston University Medical Center, published on September 11, 2014, found that high protein diets lead to lower blood pressure.

Participants in the study who consumed an average of 100 grams of protein per day had a 40-60 percent lower risk of developing HBP compared to those with lowest intake levels.

The study found that adults who consumed more protein, whether from powders, plants, or animal sources, statistically had significantly lower systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure levels.

Often times high sodium intake leads to higher blood pressure and heart disease. To prevent this, look to substitute high-sodium options with a variety of spices that are low in sodium when seasoning your home cooked meals.

This link has options that you want to look out for, as well as seasonings that are lower in sodium.

If you exercise regularly, and remain active, you will need more protein. Most fitness gurus say you should aim for 0.8-1.0 grams per pound of bodyweight.

Here is an example: If you weigh 150 pounds you should aim for 120-150 grams of protein daily. Less if you are an endurance athlete.

Here are some simple examples of protein (in grams) you can include in your daily diet for meals and snacks:

-Chicken Breast (3.5oz)- 30g

-Chicken Thigh- 10g

-Drumstick- 11g

-Turkey Breast- 22.3g

-Fish- most cuts (4oz cooked)- 22g

-Canned Tuna Fish- 26.3g

-Steak (60z)- 42g

-Hamburger patty (4oz)- 28g

-Pork Chops- 22g

-Ham (3oz)- 19g

-Pork Sausages- 13.9g

-Ground Pork (3oz cooked)- 22g

-Bacon, 1 slice- 3g (But lets be honest who really eats just 1 slice)

-Canadian Bacon, 1 slice- 6g

-Egg- 6g

-Almonds (1/4 cup)- 8g

-Cashews (1/4 cup)- 5g

- Peanut Butter (2Tbsp)- 8g

-Pecans (1/4 cup)- 2.5g

-Goji Berries- 12.3g

-Broccoli- 4.2g

-Asparagus- 2.9g

-Spinach- 2.8g

-Avocad0- 1.9g

There are many other options available, and our friend Google makes accessing them easy.

To keep it simple I just eat 67 slices of bacon everyday. Just fooling.

Happy eating!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140911125920.htm

Paleo Freezer Meals

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If you are struggling to find the time to cook Paleo, Paleo freezer cooking may be a solution for you. Freezer cooking involves preparing a whole meal in a bag (usually uncooked), storing it in your freezer, pulling it out the day before you want to make it (to allow it to thaw), and popping it in your crock pot or your oven the day you want to enjoy it.

When our second child arrived, we didn’t have the time to prepare a Paleo meal each day, so my wife started looking for Paleo recipes that would work as freezer meals. Now she spends about thirty minutes a couple of times a month planning what meals to make, another sixty minutes to assemble the meals on a weekend, and then we have Paleo meals for two weeks (most recipes make enough for at least 2 dinners for our family).

This kind of cooking may be ideal for you if you have children and dread that busy time before dinner when everyone is fussy and you have to be in the kitchen preparing a meal. All you have to do is remember to take a freezer bag out of the fridge the night before, and then pop it in the crock pot in the morning (or, for some recipes, pop it in the oven in the afternoon). By the time dinner rolls around, you can just prep a veggie and put it all on the table.

This kind of cooking may also be ideal for you if you find yourself too tired at the end of the day to cook. It is wonderful to come home at the end of a long day to the delicious smell of a healthy meal in your home.

Below are links to a few of our “go-to” Paleo freezer meals. Some of the recipes are written as freezer meals, and some are not. For the recipes not written as freezer meals the method we use is just to place all the ingredients (raw) in a freezer bag. (Sometimes to save room in the freezer, we will leave out the broth or coconut milk called for in these recipes and just pour those in the crock pot the day of cooking along with the contents of the freezer bag). Here is a link to learn more about Paleo freezer cooking in general: http://www.eatlivegrowpaleo.com/2012/05/introduction-to-cook-ahead-freezer.html

Other tips: you can prepare and freeze cauliflower “rice” ahead of time to serve with any of these meals (just “rice” the cauliflower according to any recipe, freeze it, and cook it in a skillet the day you want to eat it). And you can prepare a new veggie each night, or roast a large amount of veggies on the weekend and have some of them each night with dinner.

Pork and Kale

http://www.thegraciouspantry.com/clean-eating-slow-cooker-pork-kale/

Curry Soup (this works best in a slow cooker with cut up chicken rather than ground beef)

http://everydaypaleo.com/quick-curry-soup/

Bacon Wrapped Chicken (we make this one in the oven)

http://www.allergyfreecooking.net/bacon-wrapped-chicken-with-rosemary/

Pork and Veggies

http://mixingwithmichelle.blogspot.com/2014/05/pork-and-veggies-crock-pot-thm-s.html

Butter Chicken (we replace the yogurt and cream with 2 cans of coconut milk):

http://dinnerwithjulie.com/2009/04/20/butter-chicken-crockpot/

Do you do freezer cooking? Please share your Paleo favorites!

Ay Breh, You Got Some Protein?

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What’s the deal with so many different snack foods now featuring protein? It’s certainly a selling point for the companies that are marketing it as something that is apparently otherwise hard to find, and maybe in the eyes of the food industry it’s a step towards making meals more balanced, but I just don’t get it.

If you are craving a bowl of cereal, go for it. If you really need to crush a candy bar, do your thing – but call it like it is. If you are trying to fix something that’s lacking in your diet by getting an important nutrient from an additive put into cereal and “nutrition” bars you’re missing the point.

Eat real food and your body will love you for it. Cut corners and you’ll get half-assed results.

Homemade Pineapple Salsa

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, so I thought this seasonally-appropriate salsa would make for a perfect comeback. I pulled it from the Nom Nom Paleo cookbook, which by the way, might be the most helpful cookbook I’ve ever got my hands on – if you’re in the market, I’d recommend this one. This specific recipe is great because making just one batch, generally provides enough fresh salsa for numerous days, and the sweet pineapple flavor makes it much easier to use with other dishes than a typical salsa. Since you are making it yourself, it is also free of any of the additives that commonly go into the store-bought variety.

Here’s how it’s done:

Finely dice 1 1/2 cups of fresh pineapple
Peel and dice a cucumber into 1/4″ cubes
Dice 1 jalapeño pepper (remove the seeds if you don’t want it to be too spicy)
Chop 1/4 cup of red onion
Mince 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro
Pour everything into one big bowl, then add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, juice from a small lime, a little salt and pepper, and you’re all ready to go!

I used this as a topping for a burger, but it would be perfect for adding to some grilled chicken or steak, or even using as an alternative to salad dressing. Give it a shot and let me know what you think!