He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Friday, October 31, 2014

Cooking Adventures Part 2: What's working for us...

Well, I should have known better than to say "stay tuned" for anything when it comes to blogging.  I'm pretty sure I meant to do the next post about recipes/meals that are working for us the next day, and that was, well, almost 2 months ago....

Things are going really well!  I feel like, as a family, we are making a lot healthier eating choices and even the girls are seeing the benefits of how much better your body feels without (too much) extra junk!  We are however a family who loves to eat, and bake, so we will never be a household where those things completely disappear- that would be way too sad!

It helps that I am in the midst of a 40 Day Paleo Challenge at my Crossfit box (is that the right terminology? still learning all this...).  Wow, it's challenging but I feel good!  I don't think Paleo eating will be a long term thing for our family- just not very maintainable over here, but it is definitely causing me to rethink some choices and learn other ways of preparing food.  Mainly we're focusing on foods in their most natural forms- heavy on fruits and veggies and protein, light on sweets.

I'm working on a healthy eating chart for the fridge for my little girls but I'm kind of having to come up with one myself, because everything I find online says something like "this is my reward..." at the end of the week and that's not what I'm looking for.

As promised, here are some meals that I've found that really work well for us. A lot of these will be links to other blogs that I've found and really enjoyed, some will be good old fashioned recipes from my handwritten recipe box.  I have a long list of others that I'm wanting to try and just haven't yet so, (dare I say it?), stay tuned....

Moroccan mango fish  Leave off the couscous and serve with just lettuce or other veggies and it's paleo.  We also do a similar fish for fish tacos that can be paleo too if in lettuce wraps.  Super yummy also with avocado.  (this is a great website- she has some great ideas especially for kids lunches)

Thai chicken:  I got this recipe from this blog.  She has some great ideas for freezer to crockpot meals.  I bought her e-cookbook, and do recommend it although I've changed several of the recipes to better suite our tastes.  The idea of freezer to crockpot meals has been great for us.   Here's our version of thai chicken:

I kilo bone-in chicken thighs (in Jordan I buy the frozen packages of Sabra thighs)
26 ounces coconut milk
2 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 medium onions
4-6 garlic cloves
2 red bell peppers chopped
2 green bell peppers chopped
2-4 carrots chopped
2 TBSP curry
2 tsp giner
Combine all ingredients in 2 gallon sized freezer bags.  On day of cooking, put in crockpot on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 hours until chicken thoroughly cooked.  Remove chicken and shred with fork and stir back in to the liquid.  Garnish with scallions and chopped cilantro.  

(since you really can't go wrong with thai chicken anything, this is another coconut curry chicken recipe that we liked)

Since we're talking about freezer to crockpot meals, I liked this website also.  Especially the spicy vegetable beef soup.  It's easy and calls for stuff that I usually have on hand.  

 Marinated chicken or beef  I use this recipe tons and love it!  I usually slice my chicken or beef in strips, put it in the marinade and freeze it.  After thawing, I sauté it in the marinade and it's ready to go.  We use the chicken for "make your own salads"- a new family fave.  We make a big salad bar with chopped veggies, olives, avocados, hard boiled eggs, cheese etc.    Sometimes I'll just sauté the chicken along with some veggies and call it a meal.  Same with the beef.  The beef is also good for a black and blue salad with blue cheese, slivered almonds and either pears or apples.  

Speaking of salads, this is my current favorite salad dressing.  My girls also love it for dipping their zataar mannaeeshe in (I'm getting to what that is....).  

Balsamic Vinegar Dressing
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 TBSP honey (sometime I do less)
3 TBSP dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves 
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup olive oil

Combine all but olive oil and mix well.  Slowly whisk in oil until combined.

This lemony spinach recipe was a surprising hit with all of my family.  So much so that I have yet to be able to make enough of it...  This blog was also an instant hit with me considering the author is part Lebanese and you absolutely CANNOT go wrong with Lebanese food.  

This quinoa fried rice is also a new family favorite.  The quinoa means it's not paleo, but it is "clean" (WHO came up with all these terms anyway) and either way it's super good...  I changed it a bit and sautéed some chicken first that I stirred in at the end.  Also, we are not fans of green peas in our house so instead of green peas, I stirred in red cabbage- gave it more color anyway!

I really love using my crock pot.  Here are a some of our favorite crock pot recipes that taste yummy and make your house smell amazing all day.  

Crock pot greek chicken  (don't be intimidated by the cauliflower rice- another thing that my whole family has surprisingly enjoyed!)

Beef and broccoli  (not paleo but super yummy)

Thai beef stew  (also had this with cauliflower rice)

Thai chicken stuffed sweet potatoes  (yet another yummy surprise- sweet potatoes whether baked or oven fried have become a staple around here)

Moroccan chicken stew- this is Jason's moms recipe so I don't have a link, but it's too good not to share.  Can be made paleo by using almond flour or coconut flour and served over cauliflower rice or just by itself as a stew:

4 carrots, peeled & sliced
2 large onions, halved & thinly sliced
3 lb. meaty chicken pieces
½ cup raisins
½ cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1 14-oz can chicken broth
¼ cup tomato paste
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ tsp. ground cumin
1½ tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
   Hot cooked couscous
   Pine nuts or slivered almonds, toasted
   Fresh cilantro (optional)

In a 5-6 quart slow cooker place carrots and onions.  Sprinkle chicken with ½ tsp. salt.  Add to cooker; top chicken with raisins and apricots.  In bowl whisk broth, tomato paste, flour, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, ginger, cinnamon and ¾ tsp. ground black pepper.  Add to cooker.  Cover.  Cook on low-heat setting for 6½ to 7 hours or on high-heat setting for 3½ to 4 hours.  Serve in bowls with couscous.  Sprinkle with nuts.  Garnish with cilantro.

So, I'm not doing wheat of any kind on paleo, but my family is, and this is a great all-purpose recipe.   I use it for dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, pizza dough, and our fave- Lebanese manaeeshe..

Hot Roll Mix- No Rise
1 TBSP yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 TBSP sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 cups sour milk, yogurt or buttermilk
1/2 tsp soda
5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
5 cups (or more) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (or less) sugar- I usually don't put sugar

Dissolve yeast in warm water with 1 TBSP sugar.  Add remaining ingredients.  Mix and knead well.  Place in greased container.  Refrigerate.  The dough will keep a couple of weeks.  When needed, remove desired amount of dough.  NO NEED TO RISE!  Bake at 425.  

zataar (mix of thyme and other seasonings depending on the country)
salt (a little)
lemon juice (some)
olive oil (some)
Mozzarella or other local white cheeses
pizza dough rolled into mini pizzas (great for lunches!) or regular sized

Make dough.  Combine zataar and other seasonings to make a thick greenish paste.  Spread on dough and sprinkle with cheese if desired.  Bake 350 for 10-12 minutes until cheese is golden.  

If you know me, you know what a sweet tooth I have.  As I said before, we love baking!  Here are some recipes I've found to satisfy that while doing paleo:

paleo "brownies" with dates  (am NOT a fan of dates at all, but these were yummy!)

Cake in a cup (like she says, if you're trying to lose weight, this might not should be a frequent flyer on your menu JUST because it's paleo- but it's good!)

pumpkin smoothie (so yummy!  I lessen the ginger a bit...)

Here's a list of some other things I'm trying to keep on hand for snacks and quick side dishes/meals:

sweet potatoes ("bake" very quickly in microwave for an easy meal)
cucumbers and carrots watched, sliced and ready for snacking
blanched green beans (surprisingly another yummy snack!)
roasted almonds (also use to make almond butter)
apples with almond butter
hardboiled eggs

I'm sure there are others but I'm tired of talking about food and I have a 3 year old who's ready to make play dough.  Let me know favorite recipes or sites that you've found to make healthy eating easier for your family!  

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