Menu Plan Monday Plus Healthy Avocado “Ranch” Dressing

Lately I recalled something my sister-in-law unexpectedly said when she spent a semester Rome and was talking to us over the phone:

You know what I miss? . . . Raaaaanch dressing.

There she was in Italy, eating wonderful food every day, and she missed that uniquely American blend of soybean oil, buttermilk, and high fructose corn syrup.

I know exactly how she felt.

I am sick of oil and vinegar on my salad.  So I concocted a little Avocado-Ranch-ish concoction.  It might not taste exactly like Hidden Valley, but it’s delish and it’s Perfect Health Diet compliant (or at least it can be, if you make your own mayo).  Here it is:

Primal Avocado Ranch Salad Dressing

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2T mayonnaise (you can make your own from olive oil and egg)
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 2/3 c. whole-milk yogurt (preferably not Greek)
  • 2 T rice vinegar (or white vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. dried dill

Mash up the avocado and then mix everything together well.  Makes about 1.5 cups.

Primal avocado "Ranch" dressing

Primal avocado “Ranch” dressing

You can leave out the mayonnaise and increase the yogurt a bit.  It’s tangier and a bit less creamy, but still good.

I’m  linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday today.  Our menu has stayed pretty much the same the past few weeks.  Here’s what it looks like:

  • Breakfasts: Usually banana-egg “pancakes”
  • Lunches: Leftovers, plain yogurt with frozen blueberries, or rice cakes with cheese

We usually eat rice or potatoes on the side, along with either a green salad or a cooked, frozen vegetable.

Have a delicious week!

This Week’s Menu Plan

Real quick-like, here’s my menu plan for the week.  I’m  linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday:

  • Lunches: Leftovers, salads, and um, leftovers.  Oh, and plain yogurt with frozen blueberries.  Pat eats rice cakes with cheese a lot.
  • Dinners:

Monday: Shrimp stir fry with rice or rice noodles

Tuesday: Man-pleasing chicken  (so good; one of our favorite recipes)

Wednesday: Spinach and tomato frittata

Thursday:  Paleo crockpot beef brisket (Really tasty and easy; I used chuck)

Friday: Salmon cooked one way or another

Saturday: Cajun-spiced tilapia

Sunday: Back-to-school BBQ with Girl 1’s school

Have a delicious week!


New & Improved Menu Plan

I added some new recipes to our weekly meal lineup:

Easy chicken and spinach from Paleo on a Budget.  This is very easy and yet so good.  The lemon and basil flavors blend so beautifully.  I left out the garlic.  (**Just made it again using frozen spinach, which the recipe calls for.  It’s fine but better with fresh spinach.)

Easy spinach and chicken from Paleo on a Budget

Yummy baked thingy, also from Paleo on a Budget.  It’s kind of a cross between a hearty bolognese, a meatloaf, and chili.  So simple, endless variations.  Very satisfying.

Wilted spinach with scrambled eggs and avocado.  For breakfast!  Thank you Michaela for this idea.  Never would have thought of it on my own, and it’s great!

Hearty sausage fried rice a la Jen Fulwiler: I made this last night.  Very yummy.   I couldn’t fit the full four cups of rice in the pan along with all the other ingredients, so mine ended up being more sausage and veggies and less rice.  I used Jimmy Dean’s Italian sausage because it doesn’t have MSG, unlike some of the other varieties.   Will be making this again.

Finally, salmon with zucchini baked in parchment.  (I used foil.)

This reminds me of these guys:

Can anyone tell me why???  Is anyone out there as much of a creepy fan as I am?? *

So here’s the menu plan, linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday:

Monday: Sausage fried rice (above)

Tuesday: Paleo crockpot beef brisket (I’m using chuck; we’ll see how it turns out)

Wednesday: Chicken and spinach (above)

Thursday: Yummy baked thingy (above)

Friday: Salmon and zucchini in parchment (or aluminum foil, as the case may be) (above)

Saturday: Man-pleasing chicken  (so good; one of our favorite recipes)

Sunday: Shrimp stir fry

Have a delicious week!

* The answer can be found in this article.

Sweet and Sour Swiss Chard {Ye Olde Sometimes-Weekly Food Poste}

Swiss chard is still in season in some places, I believe.

English: Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) with vari...

Swiss chard

We all know leafy greens are super healthy, but it can be intimidating to prepare them.  Here’s a quick, easy recipe for it that I really enjoy (from a vendor at the farmer’s market; no copyright that I know of).  It uses both the stem and the leaves.  It has a bit of sugar, so it’s not completely Perfect Health Diet compliant.  You could probably substitute stevia or rice syrup, but I have not tried it yet.


Sweet and sour swiss chard, served with Cajun-spiced Tilapia

Surprisingly Tasty Sweet and Sour Swiss Chard

  • 1 lb. Swiss Chard
  • 1 Medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 c. raisins
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Rinse and pat dry the chard.  Chop the stems diagonally in small pieces and set aside.  Chop the leaves into 2 inch pieces.  Set aside.  In a deep frying pan over medium-low heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the chard stems, raisins, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook for 8 minutes.  Place the chopped leaves on top of the mixture (do not stir in).  Cover and cook another 4 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir, and serve.


I don’t have a menu plan yet for this week.  You can bet your buttons, though, it will include some beef, some chicken, some salmon, some tilapia, some rice, lots of green salad, lots of eggs.  *Yawn*

Easy Spinach Tomato Frittata {Menu Plan Monday}

Recently I found this yummy frittata recipe through Pinterest.  It’s easy, delicious, and nutritious.  I’ve tweaked it quite a bit so I’ll share my version with you.


Easy Spinach-Tomato Frittata

  • 8  eggs
  • 2/3 cup marinara sauce (I use Delallo)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup frozen, pre-chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp. pre-minced garlic (4 cloves fresh, minced garlic)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 c. frozen spinach (about 4 oz.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).  Defrost the frozen spinach and put into a colander or sieve; press the water out.  Allow the remaining water to drip out.  Meanwhile, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat, using an oven-proof pan (heavy steel or cast iron). Remove from heat.  Beat the eggs and mix in the marinara sauce, mozzarella, salt, pepper, and spinach.  Add to the onion and garlic and mix it all together in the pan.   Sprinkle the parmesan on top.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes.  Makes 3-4 servings.

* * * *

I’m linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.  I found this recipe in my recipe binder the other day:

Vinegar-braised chicken with greens via the WSJ

I had clipped it out of the Wall Street Journal, made it a time or two, then forgot about it.  (I guess that’s because I use Pinterest a lot these days to save recipes, rather than paper copies.)  So delish; can’t wait to have it again.  It calls for crème fraîche, which I cannot find in my grocery store.  Any suggestions of where it would be located in an ordinary grocery store?  Or is it usually only in specialty shops?

Breakfasts: Coffee with unsweetened, vanilla almond milk, scrambled eggs with avocado and Jones all natural,  pre-cooked breakfast sausage (love these) OR two-ingredient grain-free “pancakes,” OR gluten-free oatmeal (not completely Perfect Health Diet compliant)

Lunches: Our main meal (see below)

Dinners: Leftovers, some variation of a big-ass salad, a smoothie, or a baked sweet potato

Monday: Sweet and sour pan-fried salmon, potatoes (sweet for me, white for Pat), salad

Tuesday: Vinegar-braised chicken with greens (above)

Wednesday: Cube steak with mushrooms and onions, potatoes or rice, and a veggie

Thursday: Frittata (above)

Friday: Pizza using Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pizza crust mix

Saturday: ??

Sunday: ??

Fish So Good My Kids Ate It {Menu Plan Monday}

I serendipitously came up with a good recipe the other day. I started making Cajun Spiced Flounder and realized I was out of most of the ingredients.  I improvised and . . . what can I say? My kids ate it, and that’s saying a lot.*

Flounder Cacciatore

Flounder Cacciatore

I’m calling it

Fish My Kids Ate (or Flounder Cacciatore)

  • 4 flounder filets
  • 3-4 T. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic from a squeeze bottle (or 2 cloves)
  • 2 T. dried, minced onion (or 1/2 c. chopped onion)
  • 1 4-oz. can of sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1/2 c. cooking sherry (any white wine probably would work)
  • 2/3 c. marinara sauce (I used Delallo)
  • 4 artichoke heart quarters, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil on medium for about three minutes. Add the sherry and mushrooms and sauté about 5 minutes more. Add marinara sauce and artichoke hearts to the pan and stir it all around. Sprinkle the flounder with salt and pepper and add it to the pan. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Serve with rice or some other side that will soak up the delicious sauce.

* Okay, so Girl 1 ate three bites the first time I made it.  The second time, she refused to touch it.  But Girl 2 gobbled it up both times.

I’m linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday:

Breakfasts: Hard-boiled egg, a banana, and coffee (sometimes with some unsweetened, vanilla almond milk) OR scrambled eggs with avocado and Jones all natural,  pre-cooked breakfast sausage (love these)

Lunches: Our main meal (see below)

Dinners: Leftovers, some variation of a big-ass salad, a smoothie, or a baked sweet potato

Monday: Crock pot rotisserie chicken, potatoes, salad

Tuesday: Spinach tomato frittata 

Wednesday: Flounder cacciatore (above)

Thursday: The Happy Housewife’s Marinated chicken with rice and a salad

Friday: Salmon cooked somehow or another

Saturday: Pizza using Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pizza crust mix (I’m back to eating some dairy now, more on that later.)

Sunday: ??

Perfect Health Diet: Why I Keep Trying {Menu Plan Monday}

Lately I’ve been discouraged by my lack of discipline when it comes to sticking with my healthy eating resolutions.   (I’m continuing my no-dairy attempt for at least another month, by the way.)  I feel like a bit of a fraud when I talk about the Perfect Health Diet because I’m by no means a model follower.

When I think of giving up, though, I feel a bit like Saint Peter.  Jesus asked him, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” and Peter responded, “Lord, to whom would I go?”  I mean, What else would I eat?   Processed, refined crap?  NO thank you.  I eat junk food on the sly more than I’d like, but I can’t bring myself to eat that stuff purposefully, regularly.  I could see going to a less restrictive, whole foods diet, one that incorporates more grains and legumes and natural dairy products.  But it’s so easy to overdo those.  So for now I’ll keep on keepin’ on, albeit very imperfectly.


Linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday:

I’m excited to make this avocado egg salad this week.  Doesn’t it look great?  And so nutritious.  I’ll probably eat it on rice cakes.  I’m the only one in the house who will eat it, though.

Avocado egg salad from

Our main meals will be the following:

Monday:  Jennifer’s “bare minimum mode” chicken and potatoes

Tuesday: Cajun spiced tilapia (this is sooo good, y’all; I use canned tomatoes to make it easier)

Cajun spiced flounder (or tilapia)

Wednesday: Chili

Thursday: Pan fried steak and collard greens

Friday: Salmon with roasted cauliflower

Saturday: Easy tuna and rice noodles

Sunday: Dinner out.


Menu Plan Monday: Musings of the Dairyless

I’ve been without dairy for over two weeks now.

At first I was all like:

But now I’ve actually lost a pound or two.  A friend of mine was gluten-free and dairy-free for several months for various reasons.  She was quite thin, and I remember thinking, “She’s given up gluten and dairy: of course she’s skinny!  There’s nothing she can eat!”  And now I’m in the same boat (albeit by choice).  So yeah . . .

I doubt any weight I lose is due to my giving up dairy, exactly, and more a matter of my having fewer food options.  For snacks I’ve got nothin’ but fruit and nuts, nuts and fruit, as far as the eye can see.

Also, I’ve learned to drink my coffee black (gasp!).  I never thought it would happen.  It tastes a bit better when I brew it with some cinnamon shaken in with the coffee grinds (thank you Sharon, for the tip).  And I think that my caffeine addiction is just stronger than I gave it credit for.

True. Dat.

Cutting out a whole food group is a pretty drastic way to lose weight.  I don’t know whether I’ll keep it up when (if???) I get down to my goal weight.  I experienced weird stomachaches and headaches recently, and those are gone now.  So maybe I was slightly sensitive to milk?  I don’t know.  We’ll see.


I’m  linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.  About the menu plan though: Girl 2 is sick and screams if I don’t hold her constantly.  I don’t know what I’ll cook, if at all.  Fortunately we have enough leftovers and odds and ends to keep body and soul together.    But here are some ideas I have for later in the week:

Butternut squash, quinoa, and chicken stew with Kalamata olives. I love this recipe from Cookin’ Canuck so much. I make it with frozen, cubed squash and frozen, diced onion to make it easier.

And next time I’m at the store I plan to get some rice papers, to make Asian-style leftover rolls, like my little sister did:

Classy leftovers from Romancing Reilly

Have a great week!

The Beginner’s Guide to Good Enough Fish, Part 2

I’m linking up again with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.  But first, here is the post you’ve been waiting for:

Part 2 of The Beginner’s Guide to Good Enough Fish!  Last week, we cooked tilapia.  For part 2, we’re cooking salmon:

People make a big fuss over wild caught vs. farm raised.  I found these at Walmart and they say “wild caught” and “Alaskan,” but the fine print says “Product of China.”  What the????  I say: any salmon is better than no salmon.  So just pick up a bag and get on with it.  I prefer the filets with the skin removed, but the kind with skin will work too.

For defrosting, as with the tilapia, the best way is in a bowl of warm water:


The microwave also will work, but it will take longer if your fillets are bigger, as these are.


While the fish is defrosting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  We’re going to bake the fish.  Broiling is another option, but I have a tendency to start fires with the broiler, so I stick with baking.

Grease a baking pan with a little oil or butter or cooking spray.

I mixed up a little sauce based on this recipe from the Perfect Health Diet blog.  It has about 1 Tablespoon rice syrup, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tsp minced garlic, and some salt and dried basil.


Salmon also tastes good with some orange juice mixed with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup or brown sugar.  Or you can just use some salt and pepper and seasonings of your choice.

I baked the fish for 5 minutes first without the sauce.  Then I poured the sauce on and baked it for 5 more minutes.  If I put the sauce on at the beginning it might have burned.  The salmon was perfect after 10 minutes.


Cooking time will vary depending on the number of fillets and how thick they are.  They’re done once they’ve gone from dark pink to light pink and “flake” with a fork.  This means if you scrape a fork along the top little pieces of the fish, well, flake off.

Try to avoid overcooking, because salmon isn’t as good when it’s too dry.  You can always stick them in the microwave for a minute (COVERED!) if you misjudge and it’s still a bit raw.  But always remember, we’re going for good enough.  So don’t sweat it.  If it’s too dry, just add a little butter.   😉

If you have the fillets with skin on them you can turn them over with tongs and scrape off the skin with a butter knife:


By the way, salmon always forms little globules of fat on top, because it has all those healthy oils in it.  This looks gross but I don’t know what to do about it, other than put on seasonings that hide it a bit.


So there you are, good enough salmon!  This batch actually turned out really well, better than just good enough.  Highly recommended.

I’d love to hear about your fish-cooking experiences!

Dinner menu for the week:



A Beginner’s Guide To Good Enough Fish

**Update: Be sure to see Parts 2 and 3 of this “series” for better fish recipes.

As a busy blogger with multiple interests and talents, it can be hard to respond to the multitudinous questions and comments I receive from my loyal readers (i.e., sometimes my family members email me and it takes me a day or two to reply).  BUT when I received a comment last week from a devoted follower, whose name begins with SH and rhymes with “Erin,” and who may or may not be my sister-in-law, well, I couldn’t help but respond to her plea:

I currently have 0 fish dishes in my arsenal. I am a little afraid of fish and all the things that could go wrong. So if you feel like posting a beginner’s guide to fish (or seafood in general), I would FULLY support it!

I am at your service, Gentle Reader!  Here it is:

A Beginner’s Guide to Good Enough Fish

(If you want an intermediate or advanced guide to really good fish, you’ll have to go elsewhere, ‘cause I’m not there yet!)

So, for the first installment we’ll cook tilapia.


The best way to defrost is to stick the fillets in a bowl of warm water:


These fillets are so thin that they defrost in 15 minutes or so.

If you’re really in a hurry, stick ‘em in the microwave.  For just this one filet, I used the weight defrost option for four ounces, but that wasn’t enough.  So I put it in and entered four ounces again.  If you don’t have the weight defrost option, I think this is equal to putting it on 50% power for 3 minutes or so.

IMG_1233 IMG_1234 IMG_1235

Just keep checking it until the middle is no longer frozen solid but the edges are cooked as little as possible.

Mmm, appetizing.

Mmm, appetizing.

Don’t worry too much though, we’re only going for good enough!

IMPORTANT: Cover the fish in the microwave!  I forgot this important, important rule and spent precious time cleaning the microwave of smelly fish particles.  Yuck.



Once the fish is defrosted, dot it with butter and pour in a little lemon juice.  If you don’t eat dairy, you could use olive oil or coconut oil, I think.  Sprinkle some salt and seasoning of your choice.  Here  I’ve used lemon pepper but I don’t recommend using this much of it.  It tasted good but smelled bad.  Try using dill and/or garlic powder.  Or Mrs. Dash.


Stick them back in the ‘crowave for 5 minutes at full power, then check them.


If they’re still a little translucent and shiny looking, stick them in for another minute.  I think I cooked these for 6 minutes total.

The result:

Good enough fish

Good enough fish

Fish that is good enough to eat!  In under 30 minutes, including defrosting time!   Thanks to 10 Minute Meals for introducing me to this method of cooking fish.


Next week, slightly more involved, but even better tasting salmon.

I’m linking up with OrgJunkie today for Menu Plan Monday.  Girl 1 and I are coming down with colds (again! why meeeeeeeeee???) so who know how much I’ll cook, but here’s my menu plan for this week.

  • BreakfastsPaleo pancakes , whole milk yogurt with fruit
  • Lunches: Leftovers, cold-cut “sandwiches” wrapped in lettuce**
  • Snacks: pistachios, fruit, rice cakes with cream cheese
  • Dinners:
    • Monday: Pot roast with carrots and potatoes
    • Tuesday: Shrimp over rice noodles with salad
    • (Ash) Wednesday: Baked salmon with rice and veggies
    • Thursday: Chicken stir-fry
    • FridaySalmon patties from Everyday Paleo
    • Saturday: Coconut pancakes and eggs
    • Sunday: ???

** I buy the nitrate-free cold cuts when I can.  I know that processed meat is bad for you, so I’ll try to find a substitute eventually.  For now, we don’t eat cold cuts more than twice a week or so.

Have a delicious week!