Sunday, July 31, 2011

Meal plans and the week ahead

We don't really have too much going on again this week, which is nice. Today we're headed to church and possibly to the farmers' market afterwards. Tuesday morning, I am going to the dentist to get prepped for a new crown. Is it bad that I sort of hope I feel too crummy to go back to work afterwards? ;-p Too bad that probably won't happen.  Maybe we'll go to the ski show on Tuesday night - we haven't been since June.  We'll see what we feel like doing.  Thursday I have to drop the milk jars off to Dianne. Friday is my flex day. Carson and I are hanging out with Kati and Tony. I'm not sure what we're going to do yet. Saturday, we may end up making a day trip to Holland - to the Dutch Village and Holland State Park beach.  We need to check to see if Kevin's grandparents will be around so we can stop to see them quick on our way home, maybe.  We were supposed to go camping this weekend, but as of even 5 weeks ago, there were literally zero sites available at about 20 different state parks that I looked into. So we're not going camping.  We're thinking about maybe doing some backyard camping, though... just depends on whether we go to Holland or not.

Since I am roasting a chicken today, I'll be making some chicken stock tomorrow.  I'm also dehydrating some crispy pine nuts and crispy pecans right now.  I'm out of mayo and ranch dressing, so I'll be making some later today.  I think I'll probably make another batch of pesto to freeze, too.  And I'll be freezing more beans again this week.  I'm getting some orange and red bell peppers, so I'll probably chop some of those up to freeze, as well.  Not sure what else yet.  I may finally make some nut butter bread, but I'm not sure yet. 

Lunches & Snacks:
  • S: crockpot rotisserie chicken; roasted veggies (carrots, cauliflower, peppers, corn, summer squash)
  • M: zucchini parmesan with zucchini and summer squash; green beans; fresh fruit
  • T: modified chicken chili with pesto (no beans, extra veggies)
  • W: grilled chicken; caprese salad; summer squash sauteed in olive oil and garlic
  • Th: grilled beef kebabs with onions, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers; creamy cucumber salad
  • F: grilled salmon with pesto; summer squash, zucchini, and kale sauteed in olive oil and garlic; fresh fruit
  • Sa:  TBD... in Holland/GR?  or over a backyard campfire? 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Paleo Dolmades (a.k.a. grape leaves)

As I mentioned in my post for chicken souvlaki, we had a greek feast with some friends on Saturday.  I decided to make some dolmades/grape leaves to go along with our meal.  Some people think making dolmades is really labor intensive, but I don't think so.  Yes, they take some time to roll up each dolma, but it goes really quickly, in my opinion.  I prepped these the night before so they were ready to stick in the oven to cook before dinner on Saturday.  And I probably only spent about 20-30 minutes prepping them on Friday night... which I don't consider bad at all. 

I used my own pickled grape leaves for these, but you can pick up a jar at the store in the international section, also.  Normally, dolmades have rice in them, but since we are avoiding grains as much as possible, I decided to try making them without the rice.  They turned out great!  No one missed the rice at all and everyone commented about how delicious they were. 

Paleo Dolmades

1 jar grape leaves
2 pounds ground beef
1/2 onion, diced
3 Tablespoons dried dill
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 - 2 cups chicken broth

Take the grape leaves out of the jar, rinse, and drain. 

Mix the ground beef, onions, dill, mint, tomatoes, salt, and pepper in a medium-sized bowl. 

Place one grape leaf on a flat surface.  Place a small amount of the meat mixture (about 2-3 Tablespoons, maybe?) in the center of the bottom part of the leaf. 

Fold the bottom pieces of the grape leaf up over the meat. 

Then fold in each side of the grape leaf.  Once the sides are folded in, start to roll it up.  You'll want to roll it pretty tightly.

Then place the rolled dolma into a casserole dish.  You'll want to pack in the dolmades very tightly so that they are held in place during the cooking and don't risk opening up. 

Once you have all your dolmades in your casserole dish, pour the chicken broth over top, just enough to cover.  I actually ended up switching mine to a different casserole dish so that it wasn't filled to the top edge and wouldn't risk boiling over in the oven.  You can do all of this ahead of time.  If you are prepping ahead, cover the dish and stick it in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them. 

When you are ready to cook the dolmades, preheat your oven to 375.  Cover your casserole dish with its lid (or foil if you don't have a lid) and bake for an hour to an hour and a half.  I cooked mine for an hour and a half.  Remove from oven, let cool slightly, and serve!  I've had dolmades with a tomato based sauce over them, an egg based sauce, and tzatziki.  They are great with any of these!  I decided to serve mine on Saturday with tzatziki

This post is linked to:
Traditional Tuesdays @ Delicious Obsessions
Pennywise Platter Thursday @ The Nourishing Gourmet
Fight Back Friday @ Food Renegade
Simple Lives Thursday @ A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa
Primal Cave @ Primal Toad
Grain Free Real Food Carnival @ Real Food Forager

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chicken Souvlaki

We had some friends over yesterday and I prepared a Greek feast for dinner... chicken souvlaki, dolmades (post to come), tzatziki, greek salad, and fresh fruit.  It was soooo good!  Everyone loved it, even the kids ate really well. 

Souvlaki always goes over really well.  It's such a simple thing, yet full of delicious flavor.  It's one of my favorite things to make in the summer on the grill.  I've tried it indoors in the winter in a grill pan and it's great, too... but you really can't beat the grill.  :)  I posted the recipe for pork souvlaki a couple of years ago, but I most often make chicken souvlaki.  So I figured I'd post it for chicken... plus, I've changed a couple ingredients, which are reflected below. 

Chicken Souvlaki

2 pounds chicken breast, cut into chunks
1 medium onion
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 heaping teaspoon sea salt
1 heaping teaspoon black pepper
1/4 - 3/8 cup cold-pressed, unfiltered extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon dried Greek oregano
wooden skewers, soaked overnight

Cut the chicken breasts into uniform pieces/chunks.  Cut the ends off your onion and then slice into quarters.  Separate the layers into a large bowl.  Add your remaining ingredients.  Then add chicken and toss to coat.  Place in the fridge for at least 5 hours and for best results, overnight. 

Place your wooden skewers in a shallow baking dish that’s filled with water. Allow the wooden skewers to soak overnight.  This prevents them from disintegrating when grilling.

The next day, skewer your chicken.  I add some of the onions on the skewers, too. 

Pre-heat your grill.  When you have a medium-high heat, grill your souvlaki skewers for 3-4 minutes a side and then keep warm until all the souvlaki are cooked. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on your souvlaki, followed by a sprinkle of fine sea salt and dried Greek oregano.

This post is linked to:
Fight Back Friday @ Food Renegade
Weekend Gourmet Blog Carnival @ Hartke is Online
Monday Mania @ The Healthy Home Economist
Pennywise Platter Thursday @ The Nourishing Gourmet
Simple Lives Thursday @ A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa
Primal Cave @ Primal Toad

Meal plans and the week ahead

Is it really a new week already? Last week went by so fast. Work was really crazy and I expect this week to be more of the same. I'll be glad after August 1st when things slow down a little... at least I hope they do.  In theory, they should slow down at least a little... if we can close the deal by our deadline anyway. 

We don't have much going on this week at all, which will be nice since I'm sure I'll be working long days. Today we'll be going to church and the farmers' market. If I get out of work early enough on Wednesday, I'd like to take Carson blueberry picking at a local place. They have a special on Wednesdays for $1/pound, so I'd really like to go picking. Friday is my milk and CSA pickup day, so I'll take care of that after work. Saturday, we're going over to my Aunt Roberta's house for a going away party for my cousins Zach and Matt. They've both enlisted - one in the National Guard and one as a Ranger in the Army - and they leave for boot camp within the next week or so. That's about it for our plans this week! Hopefully we'll get some things accomplished around the house/yard. We have a lot of unfinished projects right now. We have others we want to start on, but really need to finish up the older ones first.

Assuming we go blueberry picking, I'll freeze more blueberries.  I'd also like to make some blueberry topping to freeze and maybe some blueberry-raspberry jam.  I'd also like to make some fermented/pickled beets and some fermented pickles.  And we'll be picking blackberries from our patch this week.  We're also starting to get zucchini and beans, so I may need to freeze some of each. 

So anyway, on to the meals..

  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Fried eggs with sausage links
  • Frittata muffins with leftover sausage
  • Smoothies
Lunches and Snacks:
  • Leftovers
  • Greek salad with leftover chicken souvlaki
  • Egg salad with avocado
  • Creamy cucumber salad
  • Cucumbers and bell peppers with pesto dip
  • Raisins
  • Fresh fruit
  • Strawberry fruit leather
  • S:  paleo stuffed zucchini; roasted beets and carrots; salad; fresh fruit
  • M:  leftover chicken souvlaki; leftover grape leaves; fruit salad
  • T:  grilled brat burgers; grilled zucchini; cucumber-tomato-onion salad with italian dressing
  • W:  chicken breasts stuffed with tomato-basil-garlic chevre and spinach; sauteed kale; cuc-tom-onion salad; fruit
  • Th:  roasted whitefish on peas; salad; fruit 
  • F:  crockpot split pea soup
  • Sa:  eating at the enlistment party... I'm bringing tomato avocado cucumber salad

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Honey and Vinegar Braised Short Ribs over Spinach

Last month, in preparation for getting this year's grass-fed beef order, I was trying to use up some of the last few remaining cuts of beef from last year. I had some short ribs left, so I went looking for a recipe. I came across this one on Epicurious that sounded pretty tasty.  I did make some changes to it, which are reflected in the recipe below. These turned out awesome. They had a wonderful flavor and we all loved them. They look and sound like a lot of work, but they actually weren't. I multi-tasked while they were browning and during the stovetop cook time, then the majority of the cook time is done in the oven. So they weren't really that labor intensive at all. 

Unfortunately, I didn't snap any final pictures, so you'll have to use your imagination, but they did look quite nice.  I did get a couple pictures of the stove top cooking, which are included below, at least.

Honey and Vinegar Braised Short Ribs over Spinach

2 tablespoons olive oil or lard
4 1/2 pounds beef short ribs (I'm not sure how many pounds I had... but these quantities still worked well)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onion
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
4 cups chicken broth
1-2 cups dry red wine
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1 pound baby spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat oil or lard in heavy large pot over high heat. I used my cast iron dutch oven. Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown ribs, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Return all ribs to pot. Add carrots, onion, and garlic to ribs; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add honey; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add vinegar and boil until most of liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Add broth, red wine, thyme and bay leaf and boil 5 minutes. Cover; transfer to oven. Bake until meat almost falls off bone, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.

Using tongs, transfer ribs to large bowl. Boil cooking liquid until slightly reduced, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix 1 tablespoon butter and arrowroot powder in small bowl. Add to sauce; whisk to blend. Boil until thickened, 3 minutes. Mix in ribs.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in another large pot over medium-high heat. Add spinach; cook until just wilted, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Divide spinach among plates. Top with ribs and sauce.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Meal plans and the week ahead

I'm a little late posting this, as we've been in Grand Rapids for the weekend. We went to an absolutely beautiful wedding last night for one of my college friends - it was so much fun! This morning we got up and headed out to my BIL's and SIL's church for my nephew's baptism. What a wonderful thing to witness. After church, we went over to their house to have lunch and visit. It was great!

Tomorrow, I will hopefully be going to the dentist at some point. I've got a bad toothache. I think one of my crowns is loose or something. At least I hope that's all it is and I won't end up needing a root canal or something. I need to get fitted for a bite splint finally, too. I grind my teeth while I'm sleeping something fierce and I think that is what is causing my crown issue right now. Or maybe its the jaw clenching, who knows. Life has been really stressful lately... which makes the grinding and clenching even worse.... between Kevin's hurt back and his not being able to contribute much at home, to work being really crazy. I need to just relax, I guess. Anyway, hopefully my dentist can squeeze me in on Monday, if not then Tuesday. I can't take this pain much longer. As much as I really hate taking any drugs, the only way I can function is to keep ibuprofen in my system constantly. Otherwise, the pain is too bad and I can't concentrate on anything.  Update:  I went to the dentist...  Good news is I don't need a root canal!  It turns out I grind/clench my teeth so badly that I've worn a small hole in my crown so I need a new one... and the severe pain was probably caused by a really bad night or two of grinding/clenching and inflaming my jaw tissue.  Bad news is I have to wait two weeks before I can get a new one.  Looks like I'll be living on ibuprofen for a bit longer.  At least the pain is decreasing a bit each day as the inflammation goes down. 

Anyway, we don't really have any plans till Thursday, when I'll be going to my friend Destiny's baby shower. I need to drop our milk jars off at Dianne's too. Friday is my flex day. I think we might hang out with Kati and Tony again. If our pool is up and running finally, they may come over and swim. We may also go raspberry or blueberry picking. Or we may have a peach canning party.  Scratch that, not sure what I was thinking... the canning peaches aren't ready yet... won't be for another month, probably.  We'll have to talk this week and figure things out. Saturday afternoon/evening, we might be are having our friends Paul, Justine and their kids over. We haven't seen them in about 3 years since they moved out of state. But they recently moved back to Michigan, so we're excited to hang out with them again. Saturday night, we're all planning on going to a wakeboard tournament at a local private lake.

Our blackberries should start ripening this week, so I'm hoping to get a few quarts, at least, in the freezer. We've got tons of them on the bushes, plenty for fresh eating and freezing. I finally was able to freeze a good amount of our raspberries last week.... Carson normally eats them up fresh before I have a chance to freeze any, but I was able to get a few quarts in the freezer finally. I should be able to get about the same this week.

This week, I'll be freezing lots of broccoli. I'm also going to make and freeze some garlic scape pesto. And I'll be freezing more cherries and will start freezing some blueberries. I might pick up a half-bushel of peaches to can, as well. And maybe I'll do a batch of raspberry jam, too. We'll see how the week goes. I'm sure I'll come up with more, but that's all I can think of right now.

So here's what I'm thinking for meals....

  • Scrambled eggs; sausage links
  • Smoothies
  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Omelets with veggies and cheese
Lunches and snacks:
  • Grilled pork chops; roasted beets; steamed broccoli; grilled peaches
  • Paleo tuna cakes; green beans sauteed with butter and garlic scapes; corn on the cob; raspberries, mulberries, and blueberries
  • Chicken fajitas on the grill; avocado; sour cream; tomato
  • Stuffed tomatoes; steamed broccoli and beans; applesauce
  • Leftovers for K&C; S eating at baby shower
  • Grilled burgers; grilled zucchini; roasted beets; grilled peaches
  • TBD.... possibly Greek food if Kozaks like Greek...  We're going Greek... Chicken souvlaki; grape leaves; tomato avocado cucumber salad; greek salad; fresh fruit salad; and Kozaks are bringing baklava... yum! 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Meal plans and the week ahead

I am feeling really burnt out today. Last week was a crazy week at work full of long days. I stayed at work till 7:00 two different nights - and considering I only worked 3 days last week with the holiday.... It felt like a lot. One of my late nights, I ended up having to work from 10-midnight once I got home, too. And I ended up being on a 3-hour conference call on my flex day. No fun! I have to say, I'm thankful that I enjoy my job. Else I'd really be miserable! :) But it does take its toll on me, mentally and emotionally. With Kevin having limited ability to do much with his back just adds to my feeling overwhelmed. Hopefully this week is a little better.

This afternoon, we are meeting my in-laws, SIL, BIL, niece, and nephews at Crossroads Village for a ride on the Genesee Belle riverboat. Tuesday I will be going to a WAPF meeting in the afternoon. Wednesday, Kevin is hanging out with some buddies after work. So Carson and I are going to meet up with my cousin for dinner and walking. Friday is milk and CSA pickup, and we're going to the Gaines Rodeo. I'm also kind of hoping I can take Friday off without using any vacation time and just use my comp time from last week. We'll see how the week goes, I guess. If I take the day off, I'm going to take Carson cherry picking at one of the local orchards. There is one orchard that is doing both rapsberry and cherry picking right now... So maybe we'll go there so we can maybe do both. Even though we are getting a ton of raspberries on our own bushes, they have all been eaten fresh. I want to get some to freeze and to make raspberry jam... So maybe we'll go picking. Saturday we are headed to Grand Rapids for my friend Katie's wedding. We're planning to head out there early in the afternoon so we can take Carson swimming at the hotel pool before we have to get ready for the wedding. We're looking forward to some fun! Kevin and I haven't been dancing together in a long time, so we're looking forward to it! Hopefully his back is feeling a little better by then.

I'm working on cherries this week. I dried some yesterday and am going to make a few trays of cherry fruit rolls today. Carson loves snacking on homemade fruit rolls.  I'm going to make some cherry mousse today... only with real whipped cream and sweetened with honey... I'll try to remember to update the recipe after I make it.  I'll probably make a cherry crisp this week, too. We're still getting a lot of lettuce from our garden, so we are eating salads nearly everyday. I'm going to try a new dressing again this week... though I'm not quite sure what yet. Probably some sort of balsamic vinaigrette, but we'll see. I need to look though my saved dressing recipes still. I've got some almonds soaking so I can make crispy almonds... and more almond butter. I ordered some baby carrots from the CSA so I can make some more spicy carrots, too. And who know what else. That's all I have planned so far.

So here are my thoughts on meals....

  • Fried eggs; bacon
  • Smoothies
  • Yogurt with fresh fruit
  • Veggie omelets
Lunches and Snacks:
  • Leftovers
  • Big ol' salads
  • Egg salad over lettuce
  • Apples with almond butter
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Fruit rolls
  • Fresh fruit
  • Raw veggies
  • Grilled chicken; side salads with dried cherries, raw feta, and cucumbers; artichoke gratin; fruit salad
  • Sloppy joes over veggies; side salads; fruit salad
  • Salads with leftover grilled chicken, lots of veggies, dried cherries, and hard-boiled eggs
  • Out to eat on Wednesday
  • Beefy vegetable soup; side salads
  • Leftovers on Friday
  • Wedding on Saturday

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I found this on The Primalist a while back and knew I wanted to try it. So I made it for dinner a few weeks ago. This was really tasty! We all thought it actually did serve as a good substitute for pizza. It's a versatile recipe, too. You can pretty much use whatever you like or have on hand. And its very easy and quick to throw together. If you don't mind your child touching raw meat (I don't... that's what hand-washing is for), its a lot of fun for the kids to help press out the meat layer. Carson loved helping with that, at least.

I made some subtle changes to the original recipe. Mostly, I just scaled it back for our small family of three (and still had plenty leftover for lunches). I'll post the recipe below as I made it.


Beef mixture:
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder

Use whatever you like. Here's what we used:
homemade pizza sauce
fresh basil leaves
sauteed mushrooms, onions, and bell pepper
shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 450°F. Prepare a baking dish or pan. I used a 12" x 9" jelly roll pan. You may wish to line the pan with parchment paper... I usually would, but didn't because I realized I was completely out of paper.

Combine all ingredients for beef mixture by hand. Mix well. Transfer the beef mixture to the pan and flatten out all the way to sides and corners of the pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until brown. Remove from oven. Pour out juices that have accumulated in the pan. The meat will shrink away from the sides some, but this is normal.

Set oven to broil. Place toppings on meatza. You can use whatever toppings you like. I had mushrooms, onions, and bell pepper on hand, so I sauteed those up in some olive oil and used those with some homemade pizza sauce, fresh basil leaves from the garden, and some shredded co-jack cheese. You can use whatever pizza toppings you normally like, though.

Place meatza in oven, broil for about 5 minutes, until cheese is melted and just starting to brown.

This post is linked to:
Traditional Tuesdays at Real Food Whole Health

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Meal plans and the week ahead

Our house is running a little slow this morning.  We all slept in... the heat wore Kevin and Carson out yesterday and I didn't get home from the bachelorette party until 1:30.  So it was nice to all sleep in.  The party was lots of fun yesterday.  We toured around to a couple wineries in Muskegon and then one in the north part of Grand Rapids... Robinette's.  That was the best one.  They have a big apple orchard, too.  I'd like to visit them again in the fall during apple season - it seemed like a very nice place.  Dinner at San Chez was amazingly delicious!  Yum!  I want to go back there for sure!  After dinner we went out to a few bars downtown.  We all had a great time until the very end when some conservative jerks had to say some crappy stuff to the bride's sister and her friend.  Why people can't just be nice and accepting of everyone is so frustrating.  But I'm not going to get going on this rant... :)

Today, we may make a trip to the farmers' market.  And we'll spend the rest of the day working in the house and yard. Trying to catch up still. Tomorrow is Independence Day. We may go out to the parade in Fenton in the morning. We're headed to my aunt's house on the lake for a family party at noon. And we may stay out in Fenton for the fireworks, we'll just see how the day goes and how spent we are. Wednesday I'll be stopping by the farmers' market in Lansing on my way home. Thursday I have to drop off the milk jars at Dianne's. Friday is my flex day. Kati, Tony, Carson, and I are going to hang out in the morning. We might go shopping. I have to find a dress for a wedding in two weeks, so we may go shopping to find one. Or we may take the boys cherry picking. We'll see what the weather is like. Saturday, Carson and I are headed out to Grand Rapids for a bridal shower for Kevin's cousin's fiance. I'll be stopping over at my SIL's afterwards to pick up the rest of our grassfed beef. Kevin will spend the day working on my car... I desperately need new brakes, so he'll be doing those, plus some other maintenance on my car.

Our raspberries started coming in last week. The ones we planted last year are so amazingly sweet! We all love them. The raspberry patch is now the first place Carson heads when we go outside. He loves picking berries - or anything really. He got to go strawberry picking last week with his Grandma, aunt, and cousins and just loved it! So now his first question when we are any where near the veggie garden or fruit patches is "what can we pick today, mama?"  He loves to work in the garden, helping me pull weeds, water, put compost on, and picking.  It's going to be a fun year in the garden! 

Ok, so here are my thoughts on meals this week...

  • Smoothies
  • Yogurt with fresh fruit
  • Fried eggs with bacon
  • Mini frittata cupcakes
Lunches and Snacks:
  • Leftovers
  • Big ol' salads
  • Deviled eggs
  • Apples with almond butter
  • Raw veggies with pesto or ranch dip
  • Crispy nuts
  • Burger lettuce wraps; asparagus; beets; raspberries and strawberries
  • Family party - burgers and hot dogs and the typical cookout food... I am going to make something, but haven't decided what quite yet
  • Grilled chicken; veggies from freezer - probably broccoli and carrots; roasted beets; applesauce
  • Salads with leftover grilled chicken, hard boiled eggs, bacon, cucumbers, peppers, beets, goat cheese, cherries, and cherry vinaigrette (made like the strawberry vinaigrette I posted last week)
  • Grilled salmon with pesto; roasted beets; green beans; peaches
  • Salads with leftover grilled salmon, hard boiled eggs, beets, cucumbers, peppers, peas, goat cheese, pesto dressing
  • Misc. leftovers