Apple Butter for Days

I’m honestly not sure what possessed me to make apple butter in my Instant Pot. It may be because fall is my favorite time of year. Or, perhaps it was the abundance of apples when I went shopping for other fun food for my daughter’s midterm break. More likely, I saw something on social media about apple butter and I decided if that person could do it, I could give it a whirl too.

As I mentioned before, I am glad I purchased more apples than I needed since my youngest treated the apples like they were a meal for the better part of the week.

I thought it would be a good idea to give the apples a nice bath in the sink. I put clean, cool water into the sink with white vinegar and squeezed half a fresh lemon in for good measure.

Aside from the fact that everyone and their brothers could have touched these apples & I did not plan to peel them, I also like to remove as much of any waxy coating I can. These weren’t organic apples.

Once I had them washed and dried, I set about coring and slicing them. Again, I didn’t want to remove the skins because I had it in my head they might add to the thickness of the end product and I, personally, like to eat apple peels with wild abandon. My favorite days were when my Grandma had to peel a bunch of apples for something, but didn’t need the peels. She could cut them in one, long strip and I would share them with my sister (or eat them all–it depends on which of us is telling the story).

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An Easy But Gorgeous Rustic Fruit Tart

When the calendar moves into November, you start to think about fall food. When the Green Bean Bin brings you lots of yummy fruit, you think about the awesome fruit crisps, cobblers and tarts you could make. This week, I stumbled upon a recipe that was as easy as the result was impressive. The only problem? The dessert did not last.

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Still Struggling

Another month has passed and you’d think, after all the clear thinking bravado of my last post, that I was probably eating well and feeling better. Not really. Embarrassingly enough, I’ve allowed my obligations, the stress of non-stop scheduling, and just plain not paying attention to bowl me over repeatedly.

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Whole 30 Day 2 — Forgot How Much This Sucks

The good thing about doing another Whole 30 is you remember how awesome you’ll feel soon. The bad thing is, you figure out faster the second time around how much it really sucks at the start. It’s kind of like having your second baby–the minute those contractions start, you remember EXACTLY how much it’s going to hurt before it’s all over and they let you eat real food and take a nap. [This coming from a mother of two who went through two very different, but totally unmedicated, labors & deliveries].

A lovely bright spot today was a visit from UPS with an Amazon box that contained an early birthday gift from my dearest of friends [and fellow Whole 30-goer], Rachelle. I can’t wait to try out this panScreen shot 2014-01-03 at 9.42.27 PM!

So, today, it was Slugville. No motivation to do much. As my daughter says, “Your’e taking a ride on the struggle bus.” I had to drag myself from my warm bed early [it is, literally, colder than freezing here] to take my oldest to work on her science fair project. “An hour or so” turned into three and by the time we arrived home, I was very hungry. I warmed some ghee in my cast iron skillet & zested a lemon & orange into the melting goodness. Then, I put sweet potato rounds into the melted ghee, turning each disk over after the one side was covered in fat. I then squeezed half a lemon over the disks, covered the cast iron skillet with aluminum foil & put it in a 325 degree oven for around 40 minutes. When the oven beeped, I pulled the foil off & let them go another five minutes.

In the meantime, I warmed up the remaining Silken Zucchini Ginger Soup I made last night. The soup was miraculous. My daughter, of course, loved it. I loved it. The real kicker? My very picky “I don’t eat green things unless they are jelly beans” husband actually tried it. And, after trying it, he requested his own cup of soup. I was sad when it was gone, so I, of course, reloaded the zucchini supply when I stopped at the market today.

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Whole 30 Day 1–Made It!

This Whole 30’s Day One started off slowly. And, by slowly, I mean I didn’t leave my bed until after noon. I had an awful sinus headache yesterday which had me in bed sleeping most of the afternoon/early evening. That really doesn’t help a person fall asleep at a decent time at night. Add to that a snowstorm that socked us in the teeth, and I was not all that motivated to rise and shine.

Just because the day started slowly doesn’t mean it stayed that way. Nope. Once I shoveled myself from the driveway, I went to the bank and the market. My oldest is doing a science fair project that involves animal bones, so roast chicken made it onto the dinner menu.

chickenbefore I used a recipe I found on Pinterest, but took out the butter, added ghee and substituted sweet potatoes for white potatoes. I used Herbs de Provence rather than the herbs listed in the recipe–mostly for convenience as I already had those herbs handy.

I also drizzled some olive oil onto the bottom of the pan as I didn’t want the chicken to stick as I didn’t really butter up the bottom of the bird like I did the top.

I also took the lead of the photos on the recipe’s blog and use a dutch oven rather than my usual roasting pan to make this recipe. I’m really glad I did. It seems like the chicken drippings, ghee & lemon zest came together to create a glaze for the veggies. It was chickenafterextremely tasty.

The bird was absolutely moist and very flavorful. It could have been partially because I had only had a red pepper, some celery and black coffee by the time dinner rolled around at 5:00, but I don’t think so. My husband even commented on how juicy and tasty the chicken was. I’m a fan of sweet potatoes, but haven’t been eating them lately. So, that was a nice touch for the meal in my book.

bonebrothBecause my daughter needed chicken bones and I had a chicken carcass, I decided to try our new electric pressure cooker and make some bone broth. I didn’t have leeks, so I used celery. I loosely followed the pressure cooker broth recipe from my Nom Nom Paleo cookbook. It took a little over a half hour & I had a little over two big Mason jars of broth.

I was excited about that because I also wanted to try a soup recipe I’d pinned from The Clothes that Make the Girl blog. I had looked at stock and broth at my local market, but couldn’t find one that didn’t involve sugar or some other Whole 30 no-no. But, now? I was more than equipped to put together the soup I’d bought ingredients for earlier today–granted this broth might be a little less hearty because I only used chicken bones rather than an actual chicken to make it, but I’ll deal.

zucchinibeforeThe Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup sounds divine.

It didn’t take much at all to have it going on the stove. It smelled so good. I didn’t think that my oldest was going to leave the kitchen–I had to tell her the soup needed to simmer for at least 45 minutes before we put it in the Vitamix.

I suppose I can’t blame her. She’s my little veggie girl. I distinctly remember being in the produce department with her little baby self in the seat of the cart. I turned to put some things into a produce bag after putting some zucchini in the cart. I turned to put the new bag in the cart only to find her gnawing on the zucchini through the bag–good grief. She did love her zucchini from day one, that’s for certain. We’ll see how we both feel about the soup once it’s finished!

Adding to the Arsenal

When completing my first successful Whole 30 this summer, I ended the 30 days with a list of things I wished I’d have had in the house. Luckily for this girl, Christmas came before the next Whole 30 attempt so that I could add some items to my arsenal–including things I only learned about in the new cookbooks I received as gifts.

peelerpicFirst and foremost, I made sure that I purchased a julienne peeler. I also purchased a serrated peeler from a Pampered Chef party to try out different types of peelers in my cooking adventures.

The julienne peeler was a must add because of my love for noodles and my complete inability to not fantasize about them around Day 14 of the Whole 30. I made a tasty¬†butternut squash lasagna from Stupid Easy Paleo last go ’round and was utterly amazed at the way the ingredients mimicked the sensation & taste of cheese being present. I’m extremely hopeful that Melissa Joulwan’s Comfort Noodles will fall into this palate-fooling category.

[Incidentally, I love all the recipes I’ve tried from Stupid Easy Paleo & she’s starting a Whole 30 in January as well. She offers a free guide for the Whole 30 via her website. Plus, Melissa Joulwan’s Comfort Noodles were included in a post showcasing her Top 15 Recipes in 2013¬†and she’s provided a HUGE service to the still-figuring-this-out crowd with her post discussing her view on meal plans & how to properly prepare to EAT. Her cookbooks, Well Fed & Well Fed 2, are must-have books, imho. And, if you haven’t made her mayo, well, what ARE you waiting on anyway?!]

The other thing I really needed was a set good knives. Good grief, but it’s annoying to try and prep real food with chintzy knives that can barely slice a tomato, let alone a dense squash. My mom came through with a 3-piece set of knives from J.A. Henckels. I researched it a little & made sure that the set I picked was made in Germany rather than somewhere else. I’ve lived long enough with questionable cutting equipment. Let the games begin!

Some other new things in the kitchen since summer should make things interesting: a set of cast iron cookware, a digital pressure cooker, little glass containers to hold spice mixes I’ll be making, and new ingredients like fish sauce and dried porcini mushrooms. Should be interesting!

And, because my husband gave me two awesome thermal mugs that keep hot things really hot like a thermos, but allow for drinking easily & without drips, I’m seriously reconsidering adding hot soup to my breakfast menu. If I think of soup less as soup and more like a hot smoothie [which makes sense in cold weather], I might just be able to mix up breakfast even more AND have it at my desk while I work through the morning. Thanks to the pressure cooker and the slow cooker, the soup supply may increase exponentially in the coming month.

Have you given any thought to what supplies you want to have on hand as you embark on the first week? What about food? What do you think you’d like to eat the first week?

Mid-Week and Making It

This week has been flying, but because I planned ahead, I’ve managed to keep things on track at the house. Smoothies have found their way into my belly each morning this week. I’m pretty comfortable in concluding that the worse a smoothie looks, the better it will taste. I have had some pretty funky looking things in my smoothie cup this week, but it has tasted soooo good!

Last night’s dinner was a success. My youngest is perennially picky. She informed me, however, that she has been liking our dinners lately [even though hers is always modified in some fashion] and making healthier choices at school. That’s major for her–I only craved junk when I was pregnant with her and it seems that was because she had a powerful sweet tooth even before she had teeth.

balsamicdrumsticksI made Crockpot Balsamic Glazed Drumsticks last night. I found the recipe at Who Needs A Cape? and those smarties had adapted a recipe from Mark’s Daily Apple to make it slow cooker ready.

I appreciate the effort to make an already pretty easy recipe even easier.

I marinated the drumsticks overnight, dumped them in the slow cooker in the morning and it made our dinner while I went to work.

A handful of hours later, we arrived home to some awesome smells coming from our kitchen.

And, when we cracked the lid on the crockpot, these beauties were just lazing around waiting for us to put them to good use.

My husband and I ate them as they were in the crockpot. My girls, however, became a little creative.

My youngest is not one for sauces, condiments, crazy spices or anything else resembling creativity in the kitchen. She likes her food plain, crunchy over mushy and relatively bland. Given her proclivity for turning up her nose to all things wonderful,M2take we set aside some drumsticks for her.

They were dusted with breadcrumbs and baked in the oven.

She put together her own sides for her dinner and the end result looked pretty darned delicious.

I’m a fan when she eats the entire thing and that there isn’t much processed food on her plate to be found.

I’m sure the Progresso breadcrumbs aren’t 100% okey dokey, but the fresh fruit and corn balance out the plate.

She even seemed relatively proud of herself that she was eating something similar to what everyone else was eating and that some of us coveted her side dishes.

My older daughter also took her turn at culinary creativity.

She removed the chicken from the bone and used it to top her favorite pasta type–orzo.

She has been eating orzo since she M1takewas in a high chair. She loved orzo with carrots, zucchini and yellow squash.

I swear she’d have eaten her weight in it every day if I had let her. Had I had cauliflower ready to go, I’m sure she would have enjoyed cauliflower ‘rice’ beneath the chicken too. Come to think of it, I should have made that for myself!

She also put together a salad with Romaine, Annie’s dressing, goat cheese and strawberries. She, too, ate what she’d put on her plate and didn’t mind working the main dish into something that made her happy.

I’m happy there is fruit, veggies and chicken on her plate. Both girls expend a ton of energy at school and in their activities, so it’s nice to be able to pull together dinners they find good enough to experiment with and eat.

Tonight is Meatball Wednesday! I have a HUGE container of Paleo Crockpot Marinara waiting to envelope those little beauties. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

YUM!

Fashion Faux Pas? Totally Worth It!

This weekend marked another military ball for my military marriage. I made a very deliberate and conscious decision not to wear a particular gown because I thought I had worn it last year. Why I didn’t think to look at my Facebook photo album of military events is beyond me, but I did not. About 3/4 of the way to our destination, I realized that the dress carefully packed in the trunk was the very dress I’d worn in 2012.

CavBallWell, that stinks. But, in my defense, my husband wears the same “outfit” every year–save some “accessories” that he adds to after each accomplishment. Truly, no one remembered. But, I decided to turn a faux pas upside down and make it worth my while to have worn the same dress to consecutive balls.

With help from my daughter and an app on her phone [because PicMonkey caused me to yank out my hair!] , I was able to knit together a photo from last year and one from last night.

Notice my carefully cropped out arm from last year–because it looked huge. But, the pudge pocket under my left arm last year remained. Plus, my chin is pretty angular [I gave up wearing retainers a long time ago and my pointy chin that braces helped fix is back], but you’d never know it from last year’s shot.

Additionally, notice that my gut last year was encroaching on my husband’s uniform quite handily. I remember feeling completely huge after that meal last year–just nothing ever seemed to agree with me and I would bloat up and stay that way. This year? I did eat the meal that was served that included some bread, white potatoes and a completely naughty piece of chocolate perfection–BUT, one night in the ditch does not a new habit make.

I am simply blown away by the comparison and it’s increased motivation to keep working toward a healthier and more Paleo lifestyle.

To that end, I’m planning ahead. I have combed through websites and the recipes I’ve pinned from them to create our fruitforcrispweek’s dinner menu. I visited the market today and make sure our pantry and refrigerator is fully stocked. One thing that was a fun little last minute additive to the meal plan was a Paleo Fruit Crisp from Guilty Kitchen.

I decided to swap out the blueberries and replace them with raspberries [peach & raspberry = married bliss] and I didn’t use the coconut flakes because my husband isn’t a fan of coconut. Next time, I may try slivered almonds?

When I saw these berries at the market, I knew they would make this dessert even more amazing. My youngest helped with the shopping today. We had very firm [not quite the ripest] peaches and very wiggly celery, but she will learn. I think had the peaches been more ripe, the juice they produced when they sat in the coconut sugar and lemon juice would have been exponentially more. But, even as it was, it turned out beautifully.

Fruit crisps remain one of my favorite go-to desserts. Even when I was living unhealthfully, I almost always had fresh fruit in the house and what sugar addict doesn’t have brown sugar in their cupboard?! Crisps are super easy to make and it makes a routine weeknight dinner seem super special.

fruitcrispI used my pretty pie plate and baked this little beauty according to the recipe.

It smelled delicious baking and when I pulled it from the oven, all the bubbling juices made me wish it were okay to sit at the table with a fork and eat the entire thing.

But, I didn’t. Because I’m a pillar of self control…and the kids were home and would have told on me.

My youngest said to me tonight, “That’s it, Mom! I’m adopting your lifestyle. I’m going to eat as healthy as I can.”

She then proceeded to remember there were Oreos in the kitchen. She ate two and then said, “Okay. I guess I’ll be healthy tomorrow.”

It was a good opening to talk about how eating a couple Oreos is a choice, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep moving forward with making healthier choices. I related to her the story of my choice to eat the meal that was served at the ball, but that I chose not to eat all the cheese and crackers before the event–I had some veggies instead. Not that choosing vegetables erased the chocolate confection I had for dessert, but I had decided whatever was at the table that night would be my meal and anything not at the table would remain closer to my new choices. And, that today I was back on track–evidenced by my homemade mayo being used in some awesome tuna salad with a red pepper half as a delivery system [rather than toasted white bread of days past].

She’s slowly understanding that being picky and not eating good food isn’t smart. She wants to be an athlete and that means feeding the machine. We are eating much more at home and she loves that. And, so far, I don’t mind keeping her food plain while the rest of us try out new tastes. At least it’s a healthful base for her–I don’t mind if her chicken drumsticks are plain while ours are marinated in balsamic vinegar.

So starts a new week. Thank goodness for a fashion faux pas that served as continued motivation to return to and stay on the track!

Whole 30 — Day 06

Day 6 means the Whole 30 is 1/5 done. Can I do this five more times? I’d be lying if I said that today weren’t the first day in recorded history that I drove past Sonic with my window down and actually smelled the waffle cones/sugary sweetness of something forbidden.

I should say, though, that I had an impossibly sweet Fuji apple today and loved every minute. That and tuna rounded out lunch time. [I admit it, I still cannot bring myself to eat breakfast; not sure what’s happening there, but it will come]. I had chicken stir fry in mind for dinner, but my daughter and I needed to go to our Farmer’s Market first so we beat closing time. I had heard that a nearby specialty meats vendor attended our market. I wondered what he might have in store for us and I couldn’t have been more surprised and pleased.

Specialty brats caught my eye and we settled on sundried tomato and basil. All thoughts of chicken stir fry flew right from my ribeye2head. They looked delicious frozen, so I knew fully cooked they would be tremendous.

The vendor told me that today was special because he actually had steaks in his freezer. My youngest, as picky as she is, loves steak. She’s been visiting grandma and this would make a nice welcome back meal.

The ribeye he pulled from the freezer and showed to me looked fantastic! Super lean and plenty big for we three girls to share.

I usually only buy my meat locally. I don’t purchase meat from the big grocery store chains or big box stores. I’ve just never had good luck with it. I cut corners elsewhere so I can do produce and meat at our nice local market. Now, I can add our farmer’s market to that as well.

I’m trying to figure out how I want to prepare this bad boy. Probably just low and slow and let it be who it is…tremendous!

We also picked up some veggies–freshly picked green bell peppers, eggplant, cucumber and zucchini. Those will be fun for this week too.

Another fun addition to the Farmer’s Market is the new food truck from our favorite restaurant. It just happens to be elmesontrucklocated directly across the street from the Farmer’s Market.

Reasonably priced and festively colored, the food truck set up shop in the corner of the lot. My daughter, who is so sweet, didn’t want to eat anything in front of me. That’s not fair, especially when chicken empanadas are on the line!

I noted they had freshly made plantain chips, so we ordered some to share as well. They had just the right crunch!

My daughter went ahead and ordered the empanada. It smelled heavenly. I actually enjoyed watching her eat it. Partly because it looked so good and party because I knew if it came from El Meson, it was made with great ingredients.

Lucky us, our farmer’s market will be here weekly until late October. This was our first stop, but we’ll definitely make it a weekly adventure. Next week? I may need to pick out some fancy handmade soap for myself. Nothing like a nice lavender soap to make a shower even better.

empanada2And, admittedly, once this Whole 30 is over, I definitely will try at least a bite [or six] of an empanada.

But for tonight, we settled on those sundried tomato and basil brats. The seasoning was just right and they were delicious! I know they will go great with scrambled eggs or in an omelet too.

Day 06 down. Just a small cup of coffee today [no overwhelming urge to have one immediately after I woke up] and aside from that, it was all H20. That SodaStream will make a water drinker of me yet!

Whole 30 — Day 05

Today was harder. I failed to plan which left me ravenous by the end of the day. My bad. It was so ridiculous that I didn’t even go to the door when the Schwan’s man came. I hid. Because I knew if I opened that door and he was the only thing between me and a truck full of ice cream, frozen pies, ready-to-bake cookies and French bread loaves, he’d be rolling down the front hill of my house while I commandeered his vehicle. I would have made the news and it wouldn’t have been pretty. I need to pull myself together and plan more methodically or I will be found in Arizona having driven cross country with no recollection of how I arrived there–covered in Oreo dust with a floorboard full of empty Coke cans.

It. Could. Happen.

BLTDinner tasted great, though.

I thought a deconstructed BLT would hit the spot. I already had the mayo made from the weekend and we’d purchased local tomatoes at the market. Replace toasted white bread [shiver] with crispy Romaine and it’s heavenly.

Through this odyssey so far, I’ve determined two things–my nearly 20-year-old dinnerware needs replaced [or I need a fancy plate for blog food shots] and I need a good knife set. So, if anyone loves me [Santa?], I will have those under the tree this year.

In the meantime, you can look at my scritch scratch, Pfaltzgraff long ago retired pattern.

After all, when there is perfect BACON in the middle of the photo, are you really paying attention to the plate? If you are, I feel sorry for you.

Because my oldest and I split the remainder of a nearly empty pack of bacon, we were still hungry after we ate our two deconstructed BLT each. Instead of panicking and opening a bag of brown sugar to eat with a spoon, I peeled a sweet potato and diced it.

We had baked our bacon on a foil lined baking sheet. Funny thing about bacon, its grease doesn’t respect the boundaries of aluminum foil. When it’s a matter of cleaning the baking sheet, that’s a bummer. When you realize you could toss your diced potatoes in that lovely oil rather than using olive oil, you feel a little naughty, but you reason it’s better than covering your next helping of bacon in chocolate and you move onto tossing and salting the potatoes.

For Day 6, we are planning a trip to the Farmer’s Market after I’m done at work. I will keep my hands of the fresh picked corn. I promise.