Paleo Prep Shortcuts

This weekend marks the beginning of the Fall busy season for E.J. and I.  We have some kind of activity or even scheduled every weekend from now through mid-December, which means it’s going to be tough to find time to do full-on meal prep Sundays.  For E.J and I, meal prepping weekends have been crucial to our success, so how do we find the time to squeeze in 3 or 4 dishes of cooking with all of the other weekend work?   Here are some of my meal prep shortcuts:

  • Instant Pot – If you haven’t yet jumped on the Instant Pot craze, you should definitely look into it.  I use mine every weekend, mostly for making quick vegetable sides (sweet potatoes, beets, etc), but I’ve also cooked a whole chicken and done some stews in it. In less than an hour – this one is a huge time saver and doesn’t use the oven or stove, so it’s great for multitasking.
  • Slow Cooker – If you’re going to be out all day (sporting events, fairs, band performances) the Crock Pot is the way to go.  Chili, pot roast, chicken, pulled pork, lasagna, etc. – this one is great for starting it in the morning (or load the insert the night before and put it in the fridge before starting the cook in the morning) and letting it do the work for you all day.
  • Electric Smoker – Like the slow cooker, low and slow 225 degree smoking is really easy and can be left going all day while you’re out and about.  Brisket, Ribs, and Pork shoulder all need more than 7 hours of smoking time, which is good for set and forget cooking.  Of course, it’s better if you can put a little more wood on it throughout the smoking process, but it still works even if it’s unattended.  Just make sure it’s nice an low heat for safety.
  • Frozen Meals – Sometimes there’s just no time to cook at all, and this is when it’s great to have some frozen meals ready to just thaw, heat and eat.  Soup, chili, sausage, fish, and shrimp are great for this approach, and are also a great way to add some variety in the middle of the week if some of your weekend prep meals are starting to bore you.
  • Ultimate Cheat: Buy it Cooked – this weekend we headed out to Luling, TX for an Intro to Hang Gliding class (it was a blast, I highly recommend it) and decided to just stay the night in San Antonio rather than drive back to Houston.  We knew it would likely be 5 or 6pm by the time we got home, and since we stayed the night, there wasn’t an opportunity to start something in a smoker or slow cooker.  So what’s a Paleo food prepper to do?  BBQ for the win!  Most of the BBQ houses that you buy from out in the country make and season their own meats and don’t put in all of the additives that you get in the grocery store.  Many times just a quick ask of their ingredients in sausage and rubs will tell you if they add sugar or not, and if not, you’re golden.  Make sure you have cash in hand for the best deal, but if you can buy 4-8 lbs of meat and then Instant Pot & oven roast some veggies to go with it, you’re good to go for your whole week.

Achievement Unlocked: Paleo Tortillas

Hello Paleo Peeps!  It’s the first day of fall, and it’s still 90 degrees outside… what gives?  We’ve got football, pumpkin spice, apples, and Christmas stuff hitting the stores already…and the weather is just not cooperating.  Hopefully all that rain their forecasting for this weekend will finally bring that first cool front through, because I’ve got some cute new boots that I’m dying to wear.

Anywho, this past weekend, I decided to make yet another try at Paleo tortillas to go with some marinated skirt steak and nopales (cactus) that E.J. was jonesing for.  Every prior attempt at tortillas has been highly disappointing – too crumbly, messy, or pancaky – and I just need a go-to option here.  Finally, I think I have it, and it’s simpler than I thought.  Enter Paleo Tortilla recipe from Paleo Porn.  Ok, first, is that not the greatest website name, or what?  Second, these tortillas were the bomb.  They were chewy and bendy, yet strong enough to wrap around a hunk of meat, veggies and sauce, and still hold for a burrito-like bite.   Obviously with the copious amounts of tapioca flour, they can’t be a regular thing, but for the occasional Mexican food fix, they’re perfect.  I used the cast iron skillet as recommended and was rewarded with perfectly sized and flippable portions.

Some other successes for the week included Salisbury Steak and this amazing Cinnamon Butternut Squash and Plantain with Apples.  My grocery store didn’t have green plantains, so I left them out, but there’s something about cinnamon apples & anything that just gives me the warm-fuzzies of fall… even when someone forgot to tell mother nature what season it is.

Pumpkin-palooza Sunday

I don’t know about you, but I love Fall.  With the return of reasonable temperatures, Fall is always a busy time in the Houston area, and this year will be no exception.  We have something fun planned almost every weekend from mid-September to early December and I am truly looking forward to all of the adventures.  But last year in our dedication to Whole 30 and our early Paleo effort, we missed out on one of the best flavors of the season – Pumpkin Spice.  So this year, I decided to dedicate this week to all things pumpkin and find some new healthier ways to get my fix.

We started off Sunday with an easy new favorite, Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes from Practical Paleo (say that 5 times fast).  These were really yummy, and showed off that lovely cinnamon & pumpkin flavor as a great starter for the day.  I cooked them a little longer than I probably should have, but they are very likely to make a return visit for weekend breakfasts this fall.

img_1923Then, I started on some savory lunches for the week.  Pureed pumpkin lends itself very well to soups and stews, so I ended up doing a soup and a chili in the crock pot.  The Paleo Pork and Pumpkin Chili from Primally Inspired, has some real kick to it with the chipotle peppers and canned green chiles, and really you can’t tell that its made with pumpkin.  The flavors all meld into a nice even chili flavor, and the pork roast meat is an interesting departure from our classic Texas chili which always uses beef.

For the classic creamy Pumpkin soup, I tried Pumpkin and Chorizo Soup from Primal Palate.  This one really turned interesting.  I kept waffling between bacon and chorizo in this dish, and went with the chorizo only because I thought it might be an interesting flavor combination. IMG_1918.JPG I liked it more than I thought I would, but because I unintentionally ended up using a Hatch Chile chorizo, it had quite a spicy kick to it.  I don’t know that I would use that kind of meat again in the future, but E.J. loved the spicy twist.

Next I tried this Paleo Pumkin Cream Chicken Casserole from PaleOMG.  It was actually pretty simple to put together, and I really enjoyed the bit I tried when it first came out of the oven.  I’m looking forward to enjoying this one for lunches during the week.

I also made this Sweet Potato Pumpkin Shepherd’s Pie from WhitneyBond.com.  I’d not seen a shepherd’s pie made with a topping like this, but it looked awesome.  I used ground beef instead of turkey , but otherwise followed the recipe exactly.  I have this for lunch today and can’t wait to dig in!img_1922

And for the finale, I made Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies from Paleo Running Momma.  Oh man, these things are TO DIE FOR.  Brendon tried one last night and said they were probably the best brownies he’s ever had.  They’re very dark, with 85% chocolate chunks and the raw cacao that I used instead of cocoa.  Pure awesome.  Definitely making these again!

Happy Pumpkin Season!

 

 

Party Foods!

This weekend we had some friends over to say img_1905goodbye to the summer with a good old fashioned Labor Day weekend pool party.  Most of our friends are now down with the Paleo thing, so I got to flex my kitchen muscles a little bit and try some new baked goods and dips.

I have to say it all turned out pretty yummy, so I’ll be adding these to my recommended recipes page shortly:

  • Lemon, Coconut & Blueberry Muffins – I followed the recipe here as written, except for adding about 1 cup of fresh blueberries to the mix before baking… Yum!!
  • Paleo Sour Cream & Onion Dip – This one is made with cashew cheese – I’m still working on how to get the really creamy texture, but the flavor was really great.
  • Rosemary Crackers – I am addicted to these things.  They are light and crisp and nutty, and a perfect companion to the Roasted Beet Dip.
  • Paleo Carrot Cake – So this very tasty, but quite different from regular carrot cake in texture and flavor.  You can really taste the orange peel in it, for starters, and mine came out a lot more like a torte, rather than a cake – very dense.   But all in all, I think it was pretty good.
  • Paleo Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip – OMG, this stuff is crack.  Granted, there’s a ton of coconut sugar in it, so it’s very sweet, but wow is it yummy.  If you’re a pumpkin spice junky, this is a great fix.  Especially with…
  • Paleo Apple Chips – this week there were honeycrisp apples featured and on sale in the grocery store, and honestly I think they make the best chips

And then there was the coup de grace, the Crusty Paleo Bread loaf.  Oh, where have you been for the last year of my life?  This yeasty bread came out perfectly golden and delicious – sliced well and held it’s shape to be slathered with butter, pate, pumpkin dip, or whatever I had lying around.   I know this recipe is going to be pulled out for every holiday from now on – it’s that good…

Of course, after gorging myself on all of this stuff, brisket, sausage, paleo cole slaw, sweet potatoes, and balsamic brussels sprouts, the scale is not my friend.  Ah well, it was another lovely diversion, but now it’s back to the daily routine.