Monday, August 29, 2011

Delivering Moral Support Meals: Real Food for Really Intense Times

Folks in our lives need help. It just happens as a matter of course. Your friend just had a baby. Your family member just had major surgery and is recovering on the couch at home. An acquaintance you know through a group you've joined is going through a tough time.

Bring them a meal.

It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't even (gasp) have to be "perfect paleo".

Just bring them a meal! Make it mostly nourishing, make it today, bring it to them. Take one more thing off of their to-do list and make them dinner.

Here are some practical ideas for making them dinner:

  • Ask in advance about allergies/dietary restrictions and the size of the crowd you're feeding. These are practical ways that you can make sure that the meal you prepare is appropriate to those consuming it.

  • Bake and/or serve the items in disposable dishware. I get foil serving trays at Sam's Club for this purpose, and at about $0.30/each they really fill the gap. After baking something, all I have to do is pop a sheet of aluminum foil on top and it's ready to go. But though it's convenient for me - it's even more convenient for the recipient, who doesn't have to worry about washing or returning dishes to you.

    Avoid using plastic as a disposable option, unless you're using it to contain cold foods like hard boiled eggs, clementines, etc. that don't have an acidic sauce. (Acids in sauces and dressings can cause plastic to leach, especially if they're left in a plastic container for several hours.)

  • Add any necessary instructions. Even a strip of masking tape on top of your pan of lasagna with: "30 minutes covered at 350F" can help later on when the family is figuring out how to reboot dinner.

  • Serve it as fresh as possible. If your meal recipient is in your neck of the woods, making and serving foods the same day works for the best-possible taste. Most meals that were made a couple of days or more before might not be at their best.

  • The slow cooker is your friend. I love slow-cooking meals I bring because it's the same amount of work to create a meal for my family and for the recipient family - I just double the quantities in my massive crock pot and divide once it's done cooking! You can also cook a large cut of meat with some veggies in the oven at low heat over the course of a day - this option being best left for cooler weather temps, of course. The doubling convenience works here as well - just double your ingredients and you've covered dinner for your family and theirs!

  • Don't be afraid to stretch a nutritious meal budget-wise. Purists may disagree with me, but I don't think that there's anything wrong with bringing a family (especially one that you know isn't paleo / primal anyway) a side of white rice with their meat-and-veggie chili, or some organic corn tortillas along with their soft taco fixings. Also, when I deliver meals to others, conventionally sourced items often work just fine.

    There are three reasons why using budget-friendly meal stretchers can work for you if you're faced with a host of potential meal recipients:

    ~First, now is not the time that anyone would or should be convincing a worn-out family of the merits of going paleo.

    ~Secondly - most families receiving our meals already eat grains and conventionally sourced items on a regular basis; upping the sourcing standard for one meal isn't going to make any kind of practical impact.

    ~Thirdly - and this for me is the biggest factor - for the price of a single meal produced entirely out of organic pastured animal products and organic fruits and veggies - I could deliver three or four - or more! - meals that rely more on conventionally sourced products and maybe a bit of non-gluten grains added in. Ask me what I'd rather do in a given month with our extra resources: a) deliver to one large family a singularly perfectly-sourced meal, or b) deliver multiple homecooked often-conventionally-sourced non-industrial-oil-containing gluten-free meals to several families? In our current budget, we are fortunate and blessed to be able to chose option b) many months out of the year.

  • Make them breakfast if they have their other meals being covered. Sometimes, breakfast isn't the most important meal of the day, it's the hardest to get off the ground, especially for a family with other concerns dominating. Bring a crustless quiche or two, maybe a bag of apples, a box of Larabars, or some fresh strawberries, or even a Chebe (taipioca-based gluten-free) batch of cinnamon rolls. A to-go box of coffee accessorized by a half-pint of half'n'half or (for the dairy-free) coconut milk creamer would have your recipients perking up in no time.

  • Cover them with a freezer meal for "who knows when". You could make any of the following, and deliver it ready to be popped in their freezer (don't forget to label and add instructions!):

    Eggplant lasagna. I cook up the slices in single-serve squares (about 3"x3"), and stack them 3 or 4 high layered with cheese and sauce (you could make it a meat sauce). This way, if the recipient needs only one serving, they can "break off" one serving of eggplant lasagna and warm it in the microwave without having to defrost/oven warm the whole thing.

    Twice-baked potatoes. This make-and-freeze recipe from Joyful Abode lends itself well to a kitchen with a vacuum sealer.

    Shepherd's pie, with either cauliflower faux mashed potatoes, mashed white potatoes, or mashed sweet potatoes. Mashed white potatoes are the most budget-friendly (even organic white potatoes are still fairly inexpensive) and the traditionally used item here.

  • Here, Primal Palate's Dark Chocolate Coconut Cake,
    as made for my husband's birthday a while back.
  • Add a sweet touch. It could be as simple as a bar of Green & Black's 85% dark chocolate to round out their meal, a drool-worthy fruit salad, or a batch of home-churned sorbet. Adding something dessert-y isn't always necessary, but I think that as the capstone to a warm, lovingly-prepared meal, a sweet finishing touch can help a frazzled family to feel a little more human again. Seek paleo and primal blogs with naturally, minimally sweetened recipes - by trying to keep refined sugars minimized or (better yet) out of the equation entirely, you'll ensure that you're not setting up your recipients for a sugar-crash.

  • Offer other ways to help. As you deliver the meal, be sure to ask if there are other ways the family is needing help. Maybe an able-bodied adult could stop by one weekend afternoon and mow the lawn - or perhaps for their kids to come hang out at your place for a while one afternoon so that the grownups can rest. The meal delivery is multipurpose - you get to bring them needed food, but you also get to touch base and offer them some human contact.

  • Make your delivery efficient. Though it's tempting to hang out and catch up for a spell, delivering your meal, offering to help in other ways, and letting them know with a hug that they are in your thoughts and/or prayers is probably the best way to go. A hungry family already worn thin by life's demands will be grateful for your quick visit, but even more grateful to then dig in to the meal you've prepared!

What tips and tricks do you have for delivering "Moral Support Meals"? Do you have any freezer-meal-friendly recipe links to share? Do tell! :o)


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Menu Plan, and Crossfit Thwarted by Irene

My Crossfit intro class was cancelled - it was supposed to take place Saturday, but Irene had other plans. :-\ I may not make it to a ramp up until the October one, since I'll be out of town during the weekend of the September rampup. Since the intro class is (quite reasonably!) a prerequisite to being able to join any Crossfit workout slot, it could therefore be several weeks before I get to take the intro and thus start Crossfitting. Bummer! I was getting so stoked. Now the wait begins again.

Ah, welcome back to what was once known as the "menu plan". :) Hopefully I can get more into a groove of doing this again since it saves me money and stress over the course of the week.

Breakfast - Boiled eggs, mashed with Kerrygold, peaches and bananas for the girls
Lunch - Roast beef, leftover from the weekend, with stewed tomatoes
Dinner - Dinosaur Chicken Salad, using leftover roast chicken and fresh kale

Breakfast - Chicken cabbage soup (with bone broth made overnight from the leftover roast chicken)
Lunch - Leftover dino chicken salad, sliced peaches, whole fat plain organic yoghurt with honey
Dinner - Bacon and eggs, hash browns

Breakfast - Omelette with gorgonzola and mango salsa
Lunch - Liverwurst, baby carrots, cheese, other finger foods
Dinner - Slow cooked pork, baked sweet potatoes

Breakfast - Leftover baked sweet potatoes, scrambled eggs
Lunch - Huge salad with leftover pork to top, mango salsa
Dinner - More huge salad topped with steak and some version of MDA's homemade ranch

Breakfast - Egg salad, Kerrygold sauteed plantains
Lunch - Leftover steak on greens, fresh fruit (whatever's on sale)
Dinner - Fish of some kind (whatever's on sale), with a lemon butter cream reduction, and a pile of roasted veggies accessorizing it :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

End of Summer Catchup

Caught my 20 month old red-handed - she climbed up on a chair in order to grab a little of the the Kerrygold in the middle of the kitchen table. Can't say that I blame her, though. :-p
Things are cooking up, as it were.

  • Preschool's kickoff is coming up very soon - you saw the week's worth of day camp lunches I packed for my preschooler earlier this month, and that's a little sampling of the lunches that will be captured in the weeks and months to come.

    Related: Just for fun, I'm planning on branching out a little bento-art-wise bit by bit, so my practice efforts will probably show up in my preschooler's lunches.

  • I've signed up for Crossfit, as I mentioned. My intro class is around the corner and I still almost pass out from nervousness at the prospect. I still haven't figured out - if I sign up for an early morning workout-of-the-day slot - how I'm going to sneak out of the house without waking my daughters.

     I need to get back into my menu-planning groove. Even though it's a little taxing dreaming it all up in one go, having it "done" (and my grocery shopping "done") later in the week will make things a lot easier for me when I'm trying to adjust to the new schedule.

    Related: I need to get to bed earlier, because once the o'dark-thirty WODs begin, my 11 p.m. bedtimes aren't going to cut it anymore.

  • I've signed up to manage my MOPS group's meal delivery for postpartum moms for this coming year. I had meals delivered to our house - several dinners' worth - both times I delivered my daughters and it. was. AWESOME. I loved having that backup so much that I am now a regular meal-bringer for postpartum moms, ergo volunteering to help get the meals delivered made sense.

    What does that have to do with paleo eating? I'm planning a series in the coming weeks on what to do on the delivery end and what to do on the receiving end of moral-support meals.

So, that's what's happening in my neck of the woods. What are you preparing for as the school year is gearing up?

Lunchbox #111

Today, my husband's lunch featured (left to right):

  • Slow cooked beef short ribs
  • Slow cooked carrots
  • A couple of slow cooked whole red potatoes
  • A banana


Friday, August 19, 2011

Planning Way Ahead for Fun Paleo, Primal, and Crossfit Christmas Gift Ideas

I know; you're thinking, C'mon, Family Grok, it's not even the end of August. Well, in the 4.5 years since I've become a parent, I've found that planning ahead for Christmas is critical if I'm to make it through the holiday season with my sanity (mostly) intact.

Also, even though my extended family isn't primal, I still enjoy creating nourishing treats for them - or giving them gifts oriented toward an active naturally-grounded lifestyle. The paleo-leaning gifts that I'd usually like to give often require either a significant chunk of time to create, or a significant amount of money to buy a quality product - so planning ahead is even more crucial.

Here's why I start the Christmas ideas so early on my mental back burner:
  • I can brainstorm - collect a whole host of different projects and products on my growing Pinterest board, and from there I can figure out which ones work for any particular recipient in terms of their preferences, my budget, and my available time.

  • I can map out my resources time-wise. One project this year that will be part of my Christmas gifts - see AndreAnna's homemade vanilla tutorial on the board - may take up to 8 weeks to steep - 8 weeks before Christmas is October 30 - so I basically have a couple of months now to track down all of my supplies.

  • I can map out resources money-wise. If I have some ideas about what I'd like to get or create for folks, then I can be on the lookout over the next few months in terms of savings. One example is for barefoot shoes - they are normally very pricey at retail, but odds are good that if I keep an eye out I could manage to snag a discount of 20% or more off of barefoot shoes before Christmas is here.

    Or say that I'd like to make a homemade plyo box for boxjumps; I could be on the lookout for some free or deeply discounted materials for that box on Craigslist, or I could find a home improvement store coupon in the interrim.

    Additionally, keeping my Pinterest gift idea board populated with a wide range of gifts that have varying costs (down to pennies for, say, some homemade fruit leather) means that I have the flexibility to scale gifts according to budget and what I've managed to save coupon-wise or freebie-wise, as well.

  • I can get most of my gifts finished and wrapped before December is here, leaving time for other important things. Taking the long road to Christmas gift prep now means that I have more time in December to focus on other things: spending time with my family and friends, trying some new special occasion recipes for holiday gatherings, and focusing on why we as a family celebrate the birth of Christ.
Have you started to percolate some Christmas 2011 gift ideas? What possibilities are you dreaming up? Have you started a Pinterest board or other resource to keep track of them? Link up your ideas!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Finding My Game Face

I am now signed up for my local Crossfit's intro class, due to take place at the end of the month, and let me tell you: I. am. TERRIFIED. The night that I wrote an email to claim my spot, I sat there with my cursor over the send button, completely psyching out. (My husband was greatly humored by this.)

The reply email the next morning was very encouraging, and since I had asked about how to prepare for the intro class the instructor wrote that I should come with my game face on.

My game face.

Do I even have a game face?

Here's what I think of when I think of a good game face:

And yes, my aggregate definition of "game face" is a bunch of closely-shaven or bald male action heroes, a coupla Starbucks, Sarah Connor, and a Picard and a Gandalf for good measure.

I was your typical tries-hard-and-shows-up second string athlete from childhood through college. Lotsa participation trophies along the way. I've never been strong enough, fast enough, or coordinated enough to meet the varsity cut. What on earth has made me think that I can hack it next to seasoned Crossfitters RXing their workouts?

This time, I hope that a couple of things might be different.
  1. I've got some solid nutrition on my side. No processed foods or junk foods. My diet is no longer anchored by empty calories in the form of grains and sugar. Quality, nutrient-dense fuel has to count for something, right?
  2. I'm paying them to oversee the remaking of me as better, faster, stronger. Crossfit's core is helping people to improve in all aspects of fitness, and they do so by recording how fast you can complete a set of exercises well, or how much weight you can lift in a particular lift while maintaining good form. In other words, unlike many a varsity coach whose only goal is improving the talents of his varsity athletes in order to win a championship, Crossfit meets you where you are and demands a bit more from you every day. How do I know this? Just ask amazing AndreAnna.
I'm kind of in the middle of personal bucket list development, but one of the main things on my bucket list is: Do a genuine pull-up. Yup, never done a pull-up before. And guess what? If I'm ever going to do one, I've got to get leaner and stronger.

So, in sum, I'm not a badass, but I want to be. Crossfit, here I come!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lunchbox #110

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):
  • A salsa and cheese omelet (this takes less time to make than the time necessary to make a sandwich)
  • Leftover slow roasted cubed beet (I was surprised that she was cool with it - she had asked to taste the beet, which she hadn't had for a long time, and decided that she'd like some with her lunch)
  • A honey straw (far right, by the fork) with about 1 tsp. honey
  • Tex-Mex potato salad - cubes of soft-baked potato tossed in full fat sour cream and salsa verde
  • Sliced white nectarine



Lunchbox #109

Today, my husband's lunch featured: (clockwise):

  • Shredded seasoned roasted chicken - a little chili powder, garlic, and paprika
  • Salsa verde, full fat sour cream, and red salsa. (And yes, that is a Mexican flag. And yes, this only serves to confirm my nerd-dom.)
  • An avocado - would have photographed prettier if I'd cut it open, but my husband's going to slice it up fresh at work
  • A plum
  • A bag of baby carrots

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Whole30 Recap

You'll recall that after an unforeseen interruption, I rekicked off my whole30 on July 10. My last day was August 9 (July having 31 days and all).
On the whole, I'm glad to have done the experience. Here are some notes:
  • I was good. In my 30 day stretch, the only potential issues were the trace amount of sugar in my uncured bacon and my liverwurst (still amounted to 0 g sugar per serving, and these both made whole30 doable for me), me cooking potatoes in the same pot as a beef pot roast (though my family ate them, not me except in negligible trace amounts from the broth), and me using an organic chicken broth that had potato starch in it (but still 0g carbs). I did very decently according to the rules.

  • A few times I had neolithic analogues. Pancakes, my "Unbanana bread", and yes, sorbet. All technically whole30 legal ingredients, but they still violated the spirit of the whole30 injunction to avoid anything resembling neolithic foods.

  • Without quality pastured dairy fats, I had a hard time eating enough fat to feel satisfied. Since quality pastured animal fats from other sources (tallow, derived from pastured meat, etc.) aren't a part of our lives yet, the whole30 made me realize how much I relied on pastured butter to keep me covered fat wise. Yes, I still consumed a lot of coconut oil and coconut milk during the whole30, but it's easy to get tired of the taste of coconut. That said, I found a dairy-free whole30 compliant coffee creamer that was a very workable substitute for heavy cream.

  • I ate way more fruit than was necessary. Fruit was always readily available, technically legal, and as I said above, I was unusually hungry. (I'm still nursing, too, so that adds a whole 'nother level of hunger.) That said, too much fruit (lots of watermelon, raisins, and/or several pieces of other fruits per day, especially when staying with my parents on vacation) left my digestion out of whack and me feeling bloated. Ick.

  • I did lose weight. I was down 3.8 lb. the morning of August 10. Not bad.

  • My skin's state of nirvana did not last.  In my halfway-through post I mentioned that my skin was looking better than ever. Well, the last half of the challenge it did not do so well. There's a lot that plays into this: hormones, makeup, etc. But I guess that dairy-free didn't prove to be a cure-all.
So, what now? I'm not sure. In the few days since I've eaten a whole lot less fruit. I've added back in some dairy as well. My digestive issues are getting back on track, and while I don't know whether it was less fruit plus more dairy or both, I'll take the back on track!

Overall, I'm glad to have completed the whole30 - simply from the experience I've learned that yes, I can go 40 days without chocolate (eep!), and cheese (eep!), though I don't know if I ever will again! And yes, I do feel a whole lot better energy-wise without added sugar(s), natural or otherwise, in my diet.

Lunchbox #108

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):

  • Kerrygold Dubliner cheese
  • An egg poached in Kerrygold butter
  • A Bubbies pickle, sliced into smaller pieces
  • Peach sauce (think apple sauce but made with peaches...and salted butter and vanilla bean) made with the peaches from my mom's back yard
  • Sliced pluot

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lunchbox #107

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):
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Monday, August 8, 2011

Lunchbox #106

Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):

  • Tomato salad: heirloom tomatoes (yellow and red), sun dried tomatoes, all drizzled with the seasoned olive oil from the jar of sundried tomatoes.
  • Steak strips, with mustard for dipping
  • Organic whole fat yoghurt with fresh blueberries and a touch of raw honey stirred in
  • SeaSnax (Toasted seaweed with olive oil and salt - that's it! My four year old begs for these - says they taste like sushi.) I used some kitchen shears to cut off 1/8" off of each side of the grab'n'go container and it fit perfectly into the Laptop Lunches box as seen above.
  • A square of Green & Black's 85% dark chocolate

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you!

Lunchbox #105

Today, my husband's lunch featured (left to right):
  • Huge salad. Romaine, cut up pastrami, yellow and red heirloom tomatoes, strips of sundried tomato, and pistachios.
  • Sliced peaches and blueberries


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Raspberry Pepper/Mint Sorbet

You don't need an ice cream maker to make this recipe in your blender; it just makes it a little thicker and more icy - more sorbet-like. Otherwise, without the ice cream maker, it still makes a compelling smoothie in your blender. It's definitely a carby one - so be careful if you have weight loss goals.

The ground white pepper adds a hint of heat at the finish of a bite of sorbet - if you don't like combining a touch of heat with a cold sweet dessert, simply leave out the pepper.

Raspberry Pepper/Mint Sorbet
Serves 6

4-5 cups of watermelon, frozen solid (take an ice cream scoop and get about 10 large scoops out of a half melon)
12 oz. frozen raspberries
1/2 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
1/2 cup water
3 large fresh mint leaves
Pinch kosher salt
Optional: 1/4 tsp. (or less) ground white pepper

Blend all ingredients together until perfectly smooth. Pour contents (~5 cups or so) into ice cream maker, and churn for about half an hour.

Serve immediately, and garnish with leftover mint leaves if desired.

This post is a part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lunchbox Guest Post Swap Featuring Alissa of Not Just Apples

A note from the Family Grokumentarian: Today I am doing a lunchbox guest post swap with Alissa of Not Just Apples - so you'll see some of what my family has been eating this week over on her blog. I am excited to introduce you to her (for those who don't know her blog!) because of her dedication to eating wholesome, real foods. Be sure to pop on over and check out her blog!


G’day to all Primal Kitchen readers - my name is Alissa and I write the blog Not Just Apples. We’re doing a lunchbox swap today, as well as sharing a few recipes with you too!

I’ve been eating and living a mostly primal lifestyle for the last few months, and I’m loving it! Discovering this Grok family blog has been so inspiring for me - to help me plan my meals better, and make sure I get in an awesome variety of food, cooked in lots of interesting ways to enhance flavour.

So, without further ado, here is today’s lunchbox:

♥ There's a zucchini bacon ragout, leftover cooked pumpkin, sliced boiled egg, raw beetroot and apple sticks. I love making a ragout, just simple frying up onions, minced garlic, courgette, bacon and any other leftover veggies with a jar of tomatoes, bay leaf and a little oregano. Stewed slowly to perfection, and a little grated cheese added at the end it’s just wonderful hot or cold.

♥ Roast aubergine slices - one of my favourite vegetables, cooked in the most perfect way. Sliced, salted for 30 minutes, rinsed, shallow fried in butter (or bacon fat is also good), then popped in the oven for 15 minutes drizzled with olive oil, mixed herbs, salt and pepper, until crispy and juicy. So so good!!

[Family Grokumentarian note: aubergine = eggplant. Though I wish we Americans also said "aubergine" instead of "eggplant" - it sounds so much more elegant, non? :) ]

♥ Chocolate chia seed pudding - I’ve only recently discovered chia seeds, and the amazing gel you can create with them. This particular batch was - 1 Tbsp chia seeds, 4 Tbsp milk, 1 Tbsp homemade apple sauce, ½ Tbsp cocoa powder, a dash of cinnamon. Mix it all together, then let sit for 15 minutes to gel. Enjoy!

Well, I hope you enjoy trying out some of these dishes, and thanks for reading! Have a brilliant day. :)

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