Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Food Prep {ground meat}

A key part of following a real-food diet is food prep. Always having healthy, good-for you, and tasty food on hand is essential to avoid eating junk food.

Whether it's for a fast breakfast because you're running late, a quick lunch between meetings or a late dinner after a long day you didn't plan for, having ready-to-go food in the fridge will save you time, money and a stomach ache later on!

On of my favorite things to prep is ground meat.

The meat can be beef, lamb, pork, or chicken - or any combination of the four! This already-browned-protein can be added to baked dishes, sprinkled on veggie noodles, served in lettuce cups, stirred into soups... the possibilities are endless!

My favorite way to prep ground meat is super simple, giving it just enough flavor to be eaten as is, but not too much so you can change it up during the week with other sauces and spices.

  • Step 1: Brown about a pound of ground meat (500 grams) in a frying pan over medium heat.
  • Step 2: When meat is cooked through, add 1 tbsp of your favorite spice mix, a bit of sea salt and 1/2 cup of homemade bone broth.
  • Step 3: Increase heat to med-high and simmer until the liquid has evaporated.
  • Step 4: Use immediately or store covered in the fridge for up to one week.

My favorite spice mixes to use are my All-Purpose Spice Mix, my Italian Seasoning, my Gyros Meat spices, and the Cavegirl Rib Rub. Feel free to substitute your favorite mix.

When reheating this, simply add a splash of homemade bone broth or your favorite sauce to add a bit of moisture, then use as desired. And enjoy the ease of using prepped ground meat throughout the week!

Need some ideas? Check out this great post by Nerd Fitness for ways to use ground beef throughout the week!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

AIP Whole30 Check-In {Week 1}

Well, today is day 7 of my AIP Whole30. The goal I set for myself at the start of this "reset" was to learn even more about AIP and to read everything I could get my Internet hands on. I did just that and was really fascinated by all I read. The way our bodied function is really amazing and it's crazy to think about how much is affected by our food choices.

By far, the most informative website I found was The Paleo Mom. There is even an entire section devoted to Autoimmunity, which I highly recommend to anyone who is curious to learn more about AIP Paleo.

So, goal achieved - but how am I feeling?

As a reminder, I am committing to 30 days of AIP Whole30 Paleo, plus the reintroduction period, in an effort to clear up a few lingering problems I have been experiencing, notably gas {flatulence and eructation}, IBS {Irritable Bowel Syndrome} and insomnia.

First, I'm sleeping much better and finally waking up refreshed once again! I set my alarm for the same hour each and every day, but for the last couple of days I have been waking up before my alarm goes off. Before, I used to wake up every single night when the hubster would come to bed, but that's happening less and less often. I'm also falling asleep faster which is a major plus!

My IBS has improved drastically! This may be a bit TMI, but I have been having normal bowel movements since day two! Something I as eating was really messing my with digestion down there, and boy am I ever happy to have removed it from my diet! Now, I just have to pinpoint what it was during the reintroduction phase...

Lastly, the gas. I hardly ever eructate anymore. I used to burp after every meal, and between each meal as well. To give you a bit TMI again, they would sometimes be pretty acidic, or even have a taste {either of the meal I just ate, or of bile}. It wasn't usually noticeable to others, but it was bothersome to me {and not to mention pretty disgusting}.

As for the flatulence, it has diminished, but is still present. To venture once again into the realm of TMI, they used to be really smelly before - each and every time. And oftentimes, they were loud. Now, they are mostly discrete and usually odorless. This remains bothersome nonetheless, so I have decided to reduce the amount of fruit I eat, just in case that's the cause.

Edited to add: After a discussion with the hubster, I have also decided to give up bacon. Bacon has been my one exception to eating clean - the only bacon I have yet found here in Belgium is full of nasties, but I always figured that it wouldn't make that big of a difference since 100% of the rest of my food was squeaky clean. Hmm... after a fruit-free breakfast, I was still gassy... was it the bacon? We'll see...

So, my goals for week two are:

Eat smaller portions of fruit.
Eat a larger variety of veggies.
Edited to add: No more bacon {unless I find a clean one}.

Is anyone else doing a Whole30, AIP or not? How are things going so far? Remember, you can follow along with my AIP Whole30 meals by watching the hashtag #Whole30andThriving. Be sure to tag your own Whole30 compliant meals with that tag as well so I can find them!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Don't throw out the tops! {Strawberry Tea}

The hubster and I both love strawberries. I prefer to eat mine plain and he likes them dipped in a bit of sugar or whipped cream, but we both agree they are super tasty. They are actually one of the few fruits we both really enjoy eating.

Because of this, when we stumbled upon a good deal, we take advantage of it. We recently bought just over a pound of strawberries for 2€ - score! We didn't feel like eating a pound of strawberries in one day though, so I did what I usually do: I washed them, cut off the tops and any bruised parts, and put them out to dry. I always let my strawberries dry completely before storing them uncovered in the fridge. They usually stay nice for about four or five days - leaving us plenty of time to devour them!

After laying them out to dry {my inner OCD requires me to stand them all up on end} I looked at my pile of "trash". Since adopting a paleo lifestyle, I try very hard to reduce my food waste. I always throw any veggie scraps into the freezer for my bone broths {I have a special bag just for collecting bones and scraps in my freezer at all times} but I just didn't think strawberry tops would go well with beef bones.

I turned to my trusty search engine and Google informed me that the tops can be dried out and used to make tea! The resulting infusion is reputed for easing the digestive tract and helping things work the way they should, as well as for being anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal. Alright then - let's get to drying!

I separated the greens from the bit of fruit because the drying times were different, but I think next time I clean strawberries I'll try to just remove the greens - I hadn't realized how much fruit I was cutting away!

You can make the tea using just the greens, or you can dry bits of fruit as well which will naturally sweeten the tea as well as add more flavor. If you have access to the whole plant, parts of the stem and stem leaves can also be dried and steeped.

A note of caution though - make sure you dry the greens out thoroughly. As strawberry leaves begin to decay, they release hydrogen cyanide gas which could be dangerous to us in large doses. Better safe than sorry and make sure those bad boys are dry!

Strawberry Tea

  • Strawberry tops, greens separated from fruit
  • Boiling water
  1. Lay the greens and fruit bits out in a single layer on an oven safe tray. Bake at 150°C until dried. (The greens will dry out faster than the fruit. Time will vary depending on ovens, so check semi-frequently.)
  2. Pour boiling water over about 2 tbsp of dried strawberry greens and fruit, allow to steep for five to ten minutes. Enjoy!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Eating Clean {Homemade Deli-Style Ham}

I have many food allergies and sensitivities, notably to gluten and dairy products. This rules out many foods, such as the obvious bread and cheese, but also some less obvious foods, such as sandwich meats.

At least here in Belgium, I have yet to find a commercially-sold deli-style meat that is just meat

So, I have to make my own.

This ham tastes delicious, but looks a tad, eh, not so delicious. It's gray on the outside. That's because I don't use saltpeter, which is what gives ham its traditional pink color. Feel free to add saltpeter to the brine mix if color is an issue for you.

Also, I used half Guerande salt {what we commonly call "fleur de sel"} and half Himalaya salt, just because. Feel free to use whatever salt you have on hand. For the spices, I chose 2 cloves of garlic, a couple Juniper berries, one whole clove as well as fresh sprigs of bay, thyme and sage. You could really add any spices you like though, and even no spices as well.

Also, play with the salt levels. I like a fairly salty ham so this is the amount I use. If you prefer a less salty taste, use a bit less, if you like a really salty ham, use a bit more

Homemade Deli-Style Ham
{Brine Cured}

  • 1 ham, about 1 kg or 2 lbs
  • 1 liter water, boiled (more or less to cover the ham)
  • 1/2 cup salt of choice
  • Various spices
  1. Place ham and spices in a dish.
  2. Dissolve the salt in the warm but not boiling water. Allow to cool to about 40°C/100°F, then pour over the ham (the ham must be fully submerged).
  3. Cover the dish and refrigerate for 3 to 5 days {I prefer 5 days}.
  4. Drain water and remove spices. Bake covered for about 45 minutes {150°C/300°F} or until a meat thermometer reads 75°C/160°F.
  5. Refrigerate for 24 hours before slicing.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dining Out, Paleo-Style {Colmar, France - La Musardière & La Sorbetière d'Isabelle}

This was the restaurant we chose for our last restaurant meal while on vacation in France. You can read about the rest of that day's activities here.

The city of Colmar was extremely picturesque, but a tad too touristy for us. We looked around for a restuarant with home-style cooking, but the only one we found had a price range that was just a bit out of reach of our small pocketbooks. We finally settled on La Musardière, not only because the price was right but also because there were several meals I could eat without modification {which is always a plus in this sort of situation}.

We settled into our chairs in the shade and ordered our meal. I wasn't disappointed at all by this meal, I actually found it quite delicious! {It didn't surpass my meal at either Kastelberg or Les Grands Près, but then, nothing does!}

I ordered the pork knuckle with sauerkraut, and I was glad I did! The sauerkraut wasn't the best I had ever eaten, but it was still lots better than anything I'd ever bought in a store. The mustard, on the other hand, was clearly industrial as it was served to us in small packets. The ingredients were listed however, which was nice for me.

The pork though. Oh yum. Still way below the standards set by the fermes-auberges, but tasty nonetheless. It was perfectly crispy on the outside with a deliciously flavorful fatty layer. The meat itself was tender and moist, and had really good flavor. All in all, it was a great deal at only 9,90€ - and the hubster had to help me finish my dish! {He ordered the sauerkraut at 9,50€ with five meats and agreed with me - good, great deal, but doesn't beat the home cooking we experienced in the Vosges.}

Dessert was taken at a little sorbet shop, La Sorbetière d'Isabelle. This little shop boasts numerous different flavors of both sorbets and ice creams, so everyone can find something delicious! The hubster took a scoop of Passion Fruit and another of Thyme Mango. He loved both flavors. I choose the Flavor of the Day {Raspberry Cranberry Hibiscus} and Blueberry. The Flavor of the Day definitely won in my opinion, as I found the Blueberry sorbet at the Hohneck was far superior. {But this one was still über delish!}

All in all, if you find yourself wandering the streets of Colmar, looking for somewhere to eat, this restaurant, La Musardière, is sure to give you a great tasting meal for a bargain price. And if you need a dairy-free and gluten-free dessert option, give La Sorbetière d'Isabelle a try!

This has nothing, yet everything, to do with France {Cauliflower Cheese}

Hayley Ziegler agrees with me: three of the biggest pleasures in life seem to be cheese, wine and chocolate. At least, they are to most people.

Neither of us can have cheese - unless we are willing to sacrifice our tummy comfort {if not something worse!} in order to indulge.

Neither of us can have alcohol - personally, it makes my joints swell up painfully, leaving me with a hangover that lingers for days, if not weeks.

Neither of us can have chocolate - okay, I'm still testing this one to be sure, but a lot of signs are sadly pointing me in that direction.

We don't let this get us down though, of course, as we both know there are many other pleasures in life, food-related or not. One of these pleasures for me is hiking, and the hubster and I recently went on a hiking trip to France {you can read about how I stayed mostly paleo during the trip here}. I loved everything about France - the architecture, the country, the people... and the food.

The food, what little I could eat of it, was absolutely delicious. I truly savored every bite... but still. I was surrounded by cheese and wine. I was in the country of cheese and wine. I did venture one sip of what the hubster deemed to be a "very good" wine {and it was very good} but I didn't care to taste even a bit of cheese because I knew what the consequences would be. I simply watched as others enjoyed their cheese. Plugged my nose as the hubster bought cheese. Pulled my hard boiled eggs out of the cooler from under the cheese. It was hard, but I did it.

On the way home from France, I thought back to this Instagram post:

Then I saw that all the cool kids were doing it, too:

Then it clicked - I could have cheese.

I read through the list of ingredients - I didn't have half of them. Being the seasoned, self-taught chef that I am {read: I really wanted cheese}, I decided to use what I had and see what I could come up with.

What I came up with was cheese. It's kind of hard to describe the texture, but I'd say it falls somewhere between Kraft Singles and goat cheese, as weird as that may sound. The taste is surprisingly neutral, and I really can't wait to make another batch and start playing with the flavors! It doesn't get all melty though, which would have been just amazing, but hey - who cares? I have cheese!

If you want the original, gelatin version {this version melts!}, check out Hayley's IG feed or the Gutsy By Nature blog, where Jaime kindly did up a blog post on the magical stuff. 

If you don't have gelatin or need a gelatin-free version, read on. And have fun adding this dairy free, nut free, seed free, soy free, gluten free, sugar free {really, free from EVERYTHING!} "cheese" to all your dishes! The version below is even vegan - everyone should be happy here!

Cauliflower Cheese
Hayley Ziegler's Zucchini Cheese

  • 7.5 ounces (212 grams) cauliflower, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp agar agar powder
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • Sea salt to taste
  1. Line a baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Dissolve the agar agar powder into the water in a small sauce pan.
  3. Add the cauliflower, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook the cauliflower until soft (all this took me about 6 minutes).
  4. Blend the water and cauliflower together using an immersion blender.
  5. Add the coconut oil, vinegar and salt, blend again.
  6. Pour into the parchment paper lined baking dish and smooth evenly.
  7. Refrigerate for at least an hour before cutting and using.

Eating Paleo on Vacation {The Vosges, France ~ Day 3}

Okay, so the title isn't quite correct for Day 3. Day 1 and Day 2 were spent exploring the French region called Les Vosges, but for Day 3 we ventured into the region referred to as Alsace. But just to keep the trip posts united, we'll keep the title the same. {By the way, you can read about the first part of our trip my clicking on the links above.}

Anyway, back to Day 3. We woke up fairly early and showered {we wanted hot water this time!} then had pretty much the same breakfast as the day before: hard boiled eggs, sliced chorizo and half a peach. I also added my last banana bread bar to the mix {you can get that recipe here}.

Once we had finished, we packed up our room, turned in the key and hopped in the car - we were going to Colmar! Colmar is a historically preserved town well known for its black stork population. Our first stop in this little town was a local market. 

This particular market is open every day, all day. I would really love to see this sort of thing replace our modern-day grocery stores. Every stand was full of ugly, dirty produce - produce that was organically grown in local dirt. There were homemade breads, cookies, treats... galore. There were more types of honey than I could count. There were even ethnic stands, serving homemade Greek, Italian and Asian food. Fresh meat and fish were also available - I even saw a guy buy a "bucket of meat".

The hubster and I settled down for an espresso {he ate both the cookies, though I was tempted to try the Amaretti as "real" ones are paleo-friendly}. We soaked in the ambient noises, enjoying the hubbub of a busting market. I only ended up buying a pack of macaroons, even though I would have gladly taken half the market home with me!

We then strolled the streets of Colmar, enjoying everything we saw! The buildings were typical Medieval-style homes, complete with over-hanging second and third floors and wooden crossbeams in every which direction. The colors were also typical of France - yellows, greens, reds and blues adorned the facades of every building making everything clash yet match at the same time. It was truly like taking a trip back in time.

Even though the sights were so beautiful, the sounds of the multiple tourists starting getting ruining it a bit. Don't get me wrong, we are tourists ourselves, but we tend to prefer the less touristy areas when we visit new places. Though its beauty is worth seeing, Colmar was just invaded by tourists. 

After we had walked around the entire town twice, we decided to find a cafe and sit for a drink before finding a place to eat lunch. We happened to stumble upon a cafe whose name was Brasserie Jupiler - Jupiler being a popular Belgian beer, the hubster needed to have a drink there. We sat down and were both happy upon looking at the menu - he had several Belgian specialty beers to choose from and I had a selection of a few natural juices.

If ever you're in France, or any other country that sells these juices, you need to try them. I ordered the Pear-Rhubarb-Cinnamon drink by Borderline. They boast they're all natural, and the ingredients list is pretty impressive. And the taste. Oh man. I am for sure going to be preparing some sort of dessert using this flavor combo again - it was out of this world!

We had a good time munching on my macaroons {disclaimer: not paleo}, sipping on our drinks, and watching the storks fly by. But then we got hungry and went looking for food. We ended up eating at La Musardière and getting sorbets as dessert at La Sorbetière d'Isabelle. You can read my review of both those places here.

Then began our long drive home. Quick fact: Did you know the man who made and gifted the Statue of Liberty to the United States lived in Colmar? There is a miniature version of Lady Liberty on the outskirts of town, and we happened to drive past her back side on the way home.

Please don't mind the incredibly dirty windshield. I'm a compulsive washer when I drive, the hubster, not so much so. 

That sums up our trip to France, and how I managed to stay {mostly} paleo during it all. The bottom line is, be prepared, look around and don't be afraid to ask questions or modify your meal if need be! Most of all - enjoy your trip!