This is typical.

A post with no advice.

I’m enjoying Julia Child’s My Life in France.

This morning I tried making scrambled eggs as directed by Julia’s instructor at Le Cordon Bleu.  I stirred the raw eggs together gently and poured them into a buttered pan set to low.  I waited three minutes, at which point Julia indicated the eggs would form a custard consistency.  Well, three minutes on my electric stove set on low did nothing to these eggs.

 

I set the timer for another three minutes.  While I waited, I pulled out Joy of Cooking and compared their scrambled eggs directions to Julia’s.  Both say to use low heat; Joy says to beat the eggs more.  Joy discusses the eggs’ forming “creamy curds,” which kind of grosses me out.

Three more minutes were up, and I stirred the slightly-cooked eggs around, keeping them on low.  It would be a while.  Good things come to those who wait.

I wandered over to my laptop, clicking to Pinterest.  Isn’t this dress lovely?   I got disgusted with all the many many “how-to’s” and  “improve your life in five easy steps” pins.   How many of these people really know what they’re talking about?  And if they do, are they really saying anything new?   I had a revelation that I don’t want to be a blogger with a bunch of “how-to” lists and Pinterest-y graphics.  I kind of always knew that but now I really know it.  I might do a graphic here or there when the mood strikes, or a how-to when I really and truly know how-to something.  But . . .

Oh yeah my eggs.

They had hardened into a solid sheet, a rubbery egg pancake.  Julia and Joy would put aside their differences and unanimously disapprove.

I chopped the eggs into chunks and ate them, thankful for all the butter I had used.

scrambled eggs

No how-to’s on scrambled eggs here!

Bon appetit!

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Five Favorites: Meals To Bring To A Friend

I help coordinate meals for new moms in my parish, and I love this ministry.  It’s a concrete way to carry out the corporal work of mercy “Feed the Hungry.”  Maybe the people you bring a meal to aren’t going to starve without your meal, but you are literally feeding the hungry.  And I know what a blessing it was to be fed by the friends and friendly acquaintances who brought meals after I had my babies.

Link-up at From Little Hands

So I’m linking up today with Maia and with Hallie and listing some favorite meals to share:

1. Man-pleasing chicken: Don’t be put off by the name.  It’s woman-pleasing too!  I use a bag of individually frozen chicken thighs (defrosted).  Easy to make and so, so good.  gluten-free and dairy-free.

Man-pleasing chicken

2. Bare minimum mode chicken a la Jen: I chop up potatoes and onions and add some baby carrots, drizzle olive oil and shake on salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil and marjoram.  Then I put frozen chicken breasts on top, drizzle and shake some more, then bake at 425 degrees (F) for about 45 minutes.  It’s a great one-dish meal and it smells awesome.  GF, DF.

3. Creamy parmesan chicken.  You can make it using either mayonnaise or yogurt.  This was a hit each time I made it.

Parmesan crusted chicken

 I’d love to bring homemade desserts and sides, but usually I just make rice and bring a bagged salad kit and ice cream for dessert.  I still remember when my youngest biological sibling was born, and my family received lots of meals.  It was heavenly for us kids . . . ice cream every night!

Actually . . . these three meals are it.  I stick with them most of the time.  I’ve made some doozies in the past though . . . .  One time I made shrimp alfredo and decided to cook the pasta and mix the sauce into it before the 30 min drive to the person’s house.  I shudder to think of the gloppy mess it must have become. . . . And I used to find myself trying out a recipe for the first time the afternoon that I’d promised to bring a meal to someone.  No more!

So to finish out my list,  other favorites for meal deliveries are:

4. Disposable dishes: I try to bring the food in aluminum pans or other disposable dishes so that the recipients don’t have to wash and keep track of and return a bunch of dishes.

5. Pizza delivery: If you don’t have time to make a meal for someone, consider ordering them a pizza.  It feels like a cop-out not to cook, but I think it’s usually a treat to have a fresh, paid-for pizza delivered to your door.  This isn’t always affordable, although a lot a pizza places have mid-week specials.  Also, a rotisserie chicken is a good choice when you’re running low on time.

6. (Bonus!) TakeThemAMeal: Great online meal scheduling calendar.  Very easy to use and prevents people  getting the same dish over and over.

What about you?  What’s your go-to meal to bring to people?  And what was your favorite meal to receive?

A Perfect Health/ Primal-ish Thanksgiving

I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, for the first time.  My parents and grandparents and my brothers are coming up for the holiday, and I’m so excited!  And a little nervous about the dinner.  But mostly excited, because I do enjoy cooking for people.

Ordinarily I might skip our diet for once, but my Mom is sensitive to gluten, corn, and oats.  So, I’ll be doing this Perfect Health Diet/   primal style.

Here’s what I’m planning to make:

  • Roast turkey (duh); I’m going to try to brine it ahead of time.  (It’s my first time roasting a turkey.  Why not make something as complicated as possible the first time you do it, I always say.)  A friend suggested brining it in a styrofoam cooler, outside overnight.  That way it doesn’t take up space in the fridge.  I plan to do that so long as the weather is cold.
  • Make-ahead gravy along these lines, using rice flour and homemade chicken bone broth.
  • Make-ahead freezer mashed potatoes.  Most of the time potatoes don’t do well after being frozen.  But I tried this recipe already, and it really works!
  • Wild rice “stuffing.” I made it for Thanksgiving dinner last year with the following modifications
    • I added about a cup of toasted chopped pecans.  I think the crunchy pecans contrasted nicely with the chewy rice.
    • I used Lundberg Wild Blend Rice in place of wild rice.
    • I used jasmine rice is place of basmati.
    • I skipped the parsley.
    • I used a cup of frozen pre-chopped onion and green pepper in place of the fresh onion.
  • Homemade cranberry orange relish  (I’m going to make this ahead of time and might substitute rice syrup for honey.)
  • Green beans with mushrooms and bacon (or another simple veggie dish; Pat doesn’t like green bean casserole, and it’s better to skip the canned soup anyway).
  • Rolls: regular store-bought rolls for those who aren’t sensitive to wheat, plus a gluten and corn-free alternative if I can find one.
  • Pickle and olive tray
  • Gluten-free pumpkin pie (I’m still pondering whether to use this healthy, sugar-free recipe for the filling, or just pull out the old White Crystals O’ Death).
  • Sweet iced tea . . . because we’re Southern and it’s our life blood.  Maybe I’ll sweeten it with Stevia

No sweet potatoes!  I know!  But Pat doesn’t like them, and I like them best with brown sugar and marshmallow so . . . I’m breaking with tradition and skipping them entirely.

My game plan:

This week:

  • Buy all ingredients
  • Make and freeze potatoes
  • Make relish

Monday and Tuesday next week:

  • Make pie
  • Make gravy
  • Defrost turkey
  • Make rice stuffing

Day before:

  • Brine turkey
  • Defrost potatoes

Day of:

  • Roast turkey
  • Reheat potatoes, rice stuffing, gravy
  • Cook green beans
  • Warm rolls and pie

Also, I’m looking for ideas for a simple centerpiece.  Simple, because I’m not crafty, and because I don’t want it to clash too much with my busy blue and white china.

What are your Thanksgiving plans?

 

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!

I Say M&Ms, You Say Scrambled Eggs: M&Ms! Scrambled Eggs! M&Ms! Scrambled Eggs!

. . . And Calf Liver and  . . . Epsom Salt Baths

I’m finally reading the second edition of Perfect Health Diet (“PHD”).   I’m particularly intrigued by their advice on nutritional supplements.  Apparently deficiencies in copper, zinc, and magnesium are quite common, even for those following a healthy diet.  You know what contains all of those nutrients?  Chocolate.  You know what I crave almost all the time?  Chocolate.  Hmmm.

Dark chocolate also contains iron, which I might be deficient in also.  I’ve started taking Floradix.  It’s too early to tell for sure, but I think it’s improved my energy levels.  PHD warns against iron supplements . . .  except for menstruating women.  Well, guess what I am?  And guess what I crave at those particular times of the month?  Hmmm.

I must admit I tried to follow the PHD supplement recommendations early on, but I quickly tired of taking so many pills, especially as I have to stagger them throughout the day to avoid stomach ache.   According to PHD, it’s basically impossible to get enough copper unless you eat liver every week, or possibly a LOT of chocolate.  I just cannot do organ meat.  Not. Going. There.  And chocolate prices are on the rise.  So, supplementation it is!

Problem is, sometimes M&Ms call out my name like you would not believe.  The dark, more bitter stuff just doesn’t compete.  PHD mentions that cravings for sweets often indicate a need for protein.  I have noticed that if I’m craving sweets but eat protein instead, the cravings go away.  The hard part is force myself to eat protein instead of the sweets.

So, I’m hoping not be undone by M&Ms (or chocolate peanut butter) so much in the future.  Next time the cravings hit, I’ll quickly down some scrambled eggs, with a chaser of dark chocolate, and then jump in an Epsom salt bath for some extra magnesium-y oomph.

We’ll see . . . .

Reading PHD again also reminded me that I should be eating less chicken and more beef  . . . or lamb or goat or liver so . . . beef it is!  Here’s my menu plan for the coming week, with an extra helping of beef.  I’m  linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday (better late than never):

Melt-in-your-mouth parmesan chicken breasts

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

Monday: Paleo crockpot beef brisket (Really tasty and easy; I use chuck)

Tuesday:  Pan-fried salmon with rice and green beans

 

Wednesday: Yummy Baked Thingy (ground beef casserole)

Thursday:  Tilapia with spinach and tomatoes baked in foil

Friday: Shrimp stir-fry with rice noodles

Saturday: Parmesan chicken (using Greek yogurt instead of mayo)

Sunday: Crock-pot lime beef stew (trying out a new recipe)

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.

Can You Shop for the Perfect Health Diet at Aldi? Yes, but . . .

**Update: I get a number of hits on this post from people searching for whether Aldi has coconut oil.  As of November 8, 2014, the answer is now yes!  They have a 14 oz. jar of unrefined coconut oil (“Simply Nature” store brand) for $7, as I recall.  It was near the baking ingredients and cooking oil.****

 

I made my four main weekly grocery shopping trips at Aldi last month, hoping to lower our grocery spending.  Here’s the lowdown:

  • Our total grocery spending for August was $1058.72;
  • Our 12-month average before last month was $1188.32 (I had miscalculated this slightly in my earlier post);
  • I spent about $22.40 more in gas, as Aldi is a ways away from our house;  therefore we achieved a

Net Savings of $107.20, or 9% of our average monthly grocery expenditure.  

This is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s less than I had hoped.

The disadvantages of shopping at Aldi were

  1. The distance (not an issue for everyone, obviously),
  2. The self-bagging system: I find this especially burdensome when I have the kids in tow, and
  3. The limited selection: I still had to make trips to other stores to get things like coconut oil, coconut milk, dish soap, unsweetened almond milk, and all-natural peanut butter.
It takes all my moral courage plus a bag of chocolate pretzels to get through a grocery trip with this one.    And then I have to bag my own groceries???

It takes all my moral fortitude plus a bag of chocolate pretzels to get through a grocery trip with this one.  And then I have to bag my own groceries???

The advantages of shopping at Aldi are

  1. The limited selection: this has an upside.  I made do without some items or buying less expensive alternatives.  For instance, Aldi doesn’t have jasmine rice  (they had it when I went on Nov. 8, 2014), so I settled for less-expensive regular rice.  Aldi only has artichoke hearts in cans.  I prefer buying them in glass jars, which is more expensive, but I made do with the cans.  Etc.
  2. The price.  Obviously.   Aldi beats out the other stores for almost every item on my list (you can see my slightly updated grocery price spreadsheet).  I was tickled to find a good price at Aldi for real maple syrup:

IMG_3446

It’s sooo much better tasting and better for you than the fake stuff.  It isn’t Perfect Health Diet compliant, as far as I know, but I use it in small amounts for this recipe, a favorite of ours:

Man-Pleasing Chicken (woman-pleasing too!)

and for occasional treats like this:

For September I plan to make our weekly grocery shopping trips at Walmart, which is much closer to me.  Its prices are higher than Aldi but only marginally so.  I am hopeful that price difference will be cancelled out by the savings on gasoline.  We shall see . . . .

****

A Healthy Dessert For Your Weekend, Etc. {7QT}


— 1 —

On Monday, I promised to share the recipe for this:

IMG_3450

All-natural, non-dairy, gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, really delicious chocolate tart from GI 365

— 2 —

It has no dairy and no grain.  It’s kind of expensive to make but well worth it for a treat that is delicious and nutritious (tho full of lots of maple syrup).  What do you think the secret ingredient is??

Did you guess?

Don’t cheat . . . .

Scroll down . . . .

— 3 —

 Avocado!  It’s amazing, it really is.  It doesn’t taste like avocado at all, just chocolate creaminess like an ordinary chocolate pudding.   The recipe is from GI 365, here.

Would you ever guess this:

Avocado

Avocado (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Could become this??

— 4 —

On a completely unrelated note . . .

Girl 2 has taken to saying “Mama” and “Dada” a lot.  She correctly identifies Pat and Me.  She also, however, points and says “Dada” when she sees a picture of any adult male and “Mama” when she sees a picture of any adult female.

— 5 —

“Mama”:

— 6 —

“Dada”:

— 7 —

Have a good weekend! Thank you, Jen at Conversion Diary, for hosting today’s link up!

Amazing Steak From Aldi {Ye Olde Sometimes-Weekly Food Poste}

I made some delicious steak a few nights ago and just have to share.

IMG_3309

I used these frozen sirloin filets from Aldi.  They were $5.60 per pound, which is not cheap but it’s much less expensive than you would usually pay for this cut of beef.

IMG_3310

I wasn’t sure what to expect from frozen steaks.  Maybe a connoisseur would find fault with the texture or something, but Pat and I both thought they tasted great!

I defrosted them on the kitchen counter (I like to live dangerously).  Then I seared them in a pan on the stove on medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side.  Then I broiled them in the oven.  Our broiler has “high” and “low” settings.  I used low because I’ve set things on fire before using high.  I don’t remember how long I broiled them, but they ended up medium-well, which I like.

I sautéed some fresh onion and mushroom in the pan with the steak drippings, adding some coconut oil, water, salt, and pepper.

Delish!

Aaaand, wouldn’t you know, just as I’m planning to write this post I read about how U.S. beef is all horrible and stuff (prior link didn’t work; sorry about that).  Anyway . . . if you can’t eat organic, grass-fed beef all the time, and you want some good but inexpensive steak . . . try the frozen sirloin filet from Aldi.

Linking up this week with Cari at Clan Donaldson for Theme Thursday.

For More About How We Eat, Read These: