Primal Chicken, Broccoli, and Artichoke Casserole

This weekend Nashville was hit hard by Winter Storm Jonas. Rain on Thursday night quickly turned to early morning sleet, followed by heavy snow that fell throughout the day and into the evening hours. I can honestly say I’ve never seen snow like that in the South. It was wonderful!

Snow2

SnowAlthough the roads were slick and our cul-de-sac dangerous to drive on, my parents and brother braved the elements and came to spend Saturday with us. We had cozy clothes, a roaring fire, plenty of mimosas, and a comforting casserole for dinner.

It was a Primal feast! Since my husband and I are right in the middle of our 21 Day Primal Blueprint Challenge, we knew we couldn’t overindulge too much, so I pulled out what I had in my fridge and freezer, got my mom to bring over a few supplemental items, and we threw everything together into a wonderful casserole.

Broccoli CasserolePrimal Chicken, Broccoli, and Artichoke Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1-1.5 lbs Organic Free Range Chicken Tenders
  • 1/2 tsp Basil
  • 1/2 tsp Parsley
  • 1/2 Cup Almond Meal
  • 1/4 Cup Coconut Flour
  • 2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 bag frozen Broccoli
  • 1/2 bag Trader Joe’s (or similar) frozen Artichoke Hearts
  • 1 head fresh Broccoli (or 1 pack precut fresh broccoli)
  • 1 cup Shredded Cheese (I shredded some Greyere and Kerrygold Dubliner)
  • 1 cup Primal Kitchen Mayo
  • 2 Tbsp. Sour Cream
  • Avocado Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350. In a ziplock bag, place chicken tenders and toss them with some avocado oil, then add the basil and parsley, along with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to your taste. Coat everything then arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then cut or pull apart into bite size pieces and set aside.

Using the same method as above, put bite size pieces of the fresh broccoli in a bag with avocado oil, salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Arrange frozen broccoli on a separate parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with avocado oil topped with salt and pepper. Both of these will go into the oven for 30 minutes, or until edges of broccoli begin to char.

While all this is baking, combine mayo, sour cream, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt and cheese in a large bowl. Allow artichoke hearts to thaw enough to cut each in half, then add into this mixture, along with the almond meal and coconut flour.

When broccoli and chicken have cooled enough so as not to completely melt the cheese, combine everything and put in an 8×12 baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes and have two or three helpings!

 

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Primal Mustard and Dill Salmon

Day two of the Primal Blueprint 21 Day Challenge and my son wanted salmon. He LOVES salmon and sweet potatoes, so that’s exactly what he got.

Luckily this was another meal that was super simple to prepare, so it didn’t take up much of the time I needed to spend with the kids. Earlier in the day I was able to make a great broccoli salad with Primal Kitchen mayo (another dish that my son can’t get enough of). Potatoes went in the oven and stayed there until after bedtime for Rowan and bath time was over for Griffin.

I served the salmon with broccoli salad and baked sweet potatoes covered in butter.

Mustard and Dill Salmon

Mustard and Dill Salmon

Ingredients

  • 1 – 1.5 lb. Salmon
  • 3 tsp. mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1 tbsp. Coconut Flour
  • 2 tbsp. Avocado Oil

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425. Mix all dry ingredients together, then add in avocado oil. Spread evenly over salmon and place on a baking pan with a non-stick rack (not necessary, but allows the excess fat on salmon to drip down instead of congealing and looking all white and slimy). Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on how done and flaky you prefer your salmon.

Primal Enchilada Chicken

When my husband really likes a meal I’ve made (and let’s be honest, I’m a great cook so he loves them all, right?) he tells me to remember the recipe so we can keep in on regular rotation. Which I ultimately fail to do. The recipe gets lost among the other thousand I’ve pinned to Pinterest, and never gets placed upon our table again.

But with the Primal Blueprint 21 day challenge in full swing at our house, combined with my need to simplify and spend less on everything including our grocery bill, I’ve had to get creative and attempt simple, tasty meals that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and are super healthy to boot. A task many would say might be near impossible.

But I was up for the challenge!

This week I’ve made three winners that are going to be on regular rotation not only because they fulfilled the above requirements, but because they were so easy that I wasn’t spending all afternoon cooking – which is pretty much a requirement when two small children are in the house.

First up was a recipe a friend of mine had texted me Monday morning, as I was on my way to the grocery store frantic that I didn’t have a meal plan. She said they cook it all the time in her household, and that the end result tastes just like enchiladas without the tortillas.

CheddarIt was so simple I was almost worried it couldn’t possibly taste good, but it did! It’s one of those recipes that doesn’t have precise ingredients, because it’s all about doing what’s simple and to your taste.

We ate this with roasted broccoli covered in butter. Mmmmmmmm.

Enchilada Chicken

Primal Enchilada Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1-1.5 pounds chicken thighs or breasts (whichever is your preference – we chose thighs because of cost)
  • Salsa of Choice (We used Trader Joe’s Organic version)
  • Organic Tomato Slices
  • Grassfed Cheese (Dubliner or Trader Joe’s Grassfed New Zealand Cheddar works well)
  • Scallions (Optional)
  • Garlic Powder, Salt and Pepper as desired.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Slice tomatoes to about 1/2 inch thickness. Season chicken to your liking and place in an 8×8 casserole dish. Arrange tomato slices on top, then pour your choice of salsa over this. Cover with as much cheese as you like; I sliced up about 10 strips from the block of Grassfed New Zealand cheddar I had and simply arranged that way. Bake for 30-45 minutes depending on the thickness of your chicken, and when cheese is very golden and starting to brown. Enjoy!

The Primal Blueprint 21 Day Challenge

Although I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, there really isn’t a better time to kick off some good habits.

This holiday season was very overindulgent for me, maybe for the simple fact that I was sleep deprived and stressed with the new additions and responsibilities of a bigger family. I ate too many sweets, too many foods that slow me down and make me grumpy, and most likely had a few too many glasses of wine some nights, as well.

Last week I purged the house of all that holiday junk, and this Monday began the Primal Blueprint 21 Day Challenge. Jeremy is doing it with me and so far we’ve been pretty much spot on. I can already tell a difference in my energy level! I can also tell a big difference in the way my pants fit when I don’t eat sugar, corn, or gluten free cheat foods. I do so well on a primal diet, and need to just stick with it instead of slowly letting treats creep in (like popcorn at the movies and tortilla chips at a Mexican restaurant).

I’ve been told before that I’m too regimented – too disciplined sometimes. But I don’t see it that way at all. My body tells me very quickly when I eat something that isn’t optimal, and it’s much easier for me – and my family – if I just stick with what I know works.

I can also see a big difference when I let a lot of cheat foods come into Griffin’s diet, as well. When he eats primally, with lots of vegetables, fruit, quality meats, and raw, organic dairy, he doesn’t have as many chaotic times. He’s more level-headed and fly off the handle quite as much. Of course, this is a 3 year old we’re talking about, so all that’s all relative.

I know for a fact that our entire family benefits from living Primal, and that includes Rowan. Not just in regards to the quality of my breast milk, either. Because Primal isn’t just about food. It’s an entire lifestyle that includes getting the right amount of sleep, quality sunlight every day, moving our bodies and not being sedentary, and PLAYING.

Play is such a huge aspect of the Primal lifestyle that many people overlook. But our best moments as a family are the times that Jeremy is playing the guitar and Griffin and I are having a dance party around Rowan, who kicks his feet and looks in wonder at what he knows his body will eventually be able to do.

So today is day 3 of the 21 day challenge and we are flying high. It allows us to really connect as a family, get as healthy as our bodies can be, and simplify life to include what’s really important.

It’s all about simplifying right now, and this is just one more way we can do that.

Primal Challenge

Bed Rest – Temporarily, I Hope

First, a little back story.

Last Tuesday I worked out to a VERY short bodyweight program while Griffin played. Doing some sumo squats, I noticed I had a “heavy” feeling in my pelvic floor. The next exercise was a plank variation with a leg exercise involved – which produced stabbing pains throughout that area. Realizing I needed to stop that immediately, I finished the rest of the workout and rested. Throughout the remainder of the day however, I had that same heavy feeling, especially when climbing stairs, standing up from sitting, etc.

At first I didn’t think much about it, but at the prodding of both my mother and mother-in-law, I called the doctor. Her nurse said that if a Tylenol and rest didn’t help things, I needed to go immediately to the Women’s ER and see if anything serious might be happening.

Although I probably would have ignored this and just rested until the following day, my husband was concerned enough to suggest we take her up on that offer. Luckily Nashville’s Centennial Women’s Center is amazing and I went immediately into a room with no wait time.

A few tests later and they discovered that my cervix had shortened quite a bit from my last ultrasound. Strict bedrest was prescribed until I could meet with my regular doctor, which I happened to have an appointment with on Thursday morning, anyway.

Hoping that I would only be confined to a reclined position for one day, I made the most of it and read throughout that next 24 hours.

Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t give me a perfect bill of health just yet. Another week’s worth of bed rest was the result, to see if my cervix was simply shortened temporarily by the workout I had done (I swear it was low impact!). Although she had wanted to go ahead and give me a shot of steroids and progesterone in the off-chance the baby would come super early, she was willing – at my pleading – to wait a week and see if things would resolve themselves.

I had argued the point when thinking about having avoided food with antibiotics and steroids this entire time, only to be injected with both of them at the very end, making my child artificially developed before the natural time. Of course, I certainly don’t want him to spend any time in the NICU either, making the entire thing a huge struggle for me.

So here I sit.

I keep praying that somehow everything will be back to normal after Wednesday’s ultrasound. The baby is certainly healthy right now – perfect heartbeat and movement. But the fact that Griffin naturally came at 34.5 weeks with zero complications, combined with this latest development of my cervix, has everyone overly focused on my staying in a prone position and drinking a gallon of water each day.

Spider ManSo much so, that I’m now the proud owner of Jeremy’s childhood Spider Man dinner tray to ensure I rest even at meal times.

To pass the time I’ve been doing an enormous amount of reading, finally watching some Netflix shows that friends have raved about for years, and hanging out with Griffin on either the bed or a recliner. Griffin has definitely been the aspect of bed rest that has depressed me the most. I simply can’t play with him, take care of him, or feed him as normal. Luckily I have an amazing family unit that has come to my rescue!

Father's Day EntertainmentWhen Jeremy isn’t working he is doing everything in his power to ensure my comfort and Griffin’s entertainment and well-being. He literally spent his Father’s Day helping me and going to Home Depot to pick up a mini fridge that could house the meals I’ve had delivered from a Paleo meal delivery service in Nashville – I couldn’t stand the thought of any of us eating unhealthy simply because I couldn’t cook!

My in-laws, who we are staying with, make life super easy by caring for the little man and taking Griffin with them on fun errands. Marcia has even gone to two grocery stores in one day, and is currently at Target with Griffin. My own parents have taken off work to cook and be there for Griffin and myself. My mom spent her days off this weekend having a slumber party with him and cooking.

FriendsThis isn’t including friends who have dropped in with food and playmates.

So I’m going to continue to occupy my time by blogging about the days that stretch ahead of me. Maybe the muse will finally return to me after a long hiatus, and this daily bit of writing will inspire my other projects, as well.

 

The Only Paleo Bread that Works for Me

I was thrown into the world of preschool parenting this week. There was no gentle nudge, but a well-meaning push sent me into the grocery stores to gather snack items for the children. I think I’ve mentioned that our school alternates families to purchase the week’s snack items. Well, I signed up for the first week, in order to get it over with (and control what my child was putting into his mouth). I’m neurotic, what can I say?

The list was long, and included many things my son wouldn’t be eating. Among those things were crackers, pita bread, and bagels. This was mostly for the lower elementary students, but I know some of it makes it’s way into our toddler class. However, there was one itemswith an asterick beside it – homemade bread. Griffin’s teacher knew we were on a special diet, and was also aware that I liked to cook. So she suggested my bringing in some Paleo bread for the class.

Wonderful, right?!

Except that it’s one thing to make something in the safety and seclusion of your own kitchen, knowing that no matter how it turns out your family will love you. It’s quite another thing to supply grain free bread to strangers and cross your fingers in hopes they don’t think you feed your children nothing but rabbit food and cardboard.

photoSo I spent yesterday baking.

And EVERY SINGLE recipe I tried was a failure. It didn’t matter how good the reviews were or how much the blogger raved about her perfected Paleo bread recipe. It either tasted exactly like scrambled eggs or it refused to rise. One managed to do both. Did I mention the recipe also had to be nut free, as well? With small children devouring my cooking, there was no way I was going to chance an allergic reaction. My own son has never even had nuts.

However, there is one recipe that has never failed me. It takes a bit more effort (which is why I was attempted new recipes in the first place), but it tastes just like homemade bread! Both my husband and my father give this a thumb’s up, which is a testament to just how delicious this stuff really is.

It comes from Sarah over at The Paleo Mom. She remains to be the only source I’ve found for a grain free bread machine recipe that actually rises and tastes like true, homemade bread. Sarah, Thank You, Thank You! The children at my son’s preschool will be thanking you tomorrow, as well!

You can find the Nut-Free Yeast-Based Paleo Bread here,  and check below to see my notes!

Grain-Free, Nut-Free Paleo Bread

  • For the Flaxseed, I have used pre-ground regular flaxseed before, but found it very easy to grind my own golden flaxseed with a coffee grinder.
  • For the Arrowroot Flour, I have had success also using potato flour, or simply doubling up on the Tapioca
  • Raw Pepitas are pumpkin seeds! Measure, then grind in either a coffee grinder or food processor.
  • It can be a little disconcerting not to mix everything together before putting it in the bread machine, but the machine knows what it’s doing! I do generally mix the dry ingredients together before putting them in, because I just can’t put 100% faith in my mom’s 25 year old bread machine.
  • Make sure to follow Sarah’s advice and use a spatula to help kneed the dough!! I did this about once every 5 minutes during the initial kneed cycle.
  • The top of this bread isn’t going to be pretty. Just cut the loaf on it’s side and use the crust to keep the bread fresh.

 

Do you have a bread recipe that actually works? Sometimes Pinterest is great, but I find that I spend more time sifting through the recipes than I do cooking!

2013 Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge

I don’t think it was a coincidence that the very day my father commited to beginning a Primal lifestyle, I received an email letting me know that the 2013 Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge was starting!

Ironic? Dad and I chose to think of it as a sign from above. This was meant to be. Because of that, Jeremy and I commited to the challenge, as well. We both do fairly well eating Paleo/Primal, but this will take us to an entirely different level. Today is day three, and I really do feel better – maybe it’s just the knowledge that I’m doing something that is a benefit to me, but I think it’s having a goal and sticking with it.

LunchDoesn’t Jeremy’s lunch look tasty? I pack his lunch every night so that he doesn’t have to eat in the cafeteria at the school he works at. Usually there is some type of organic grain included in his meals, but not now! I love how colorful everything is. If you’re curious, that’s strawberries, nuts and low-sugar dried fruit, strips of red pepper, and an assortment of cheese, cherry tomatoes, and Applegate grass-fed organic hot dogs.

To help explain how I eat a little better, I thought I would also include a visual summary. But it’s not just eating – it really is a lifestyle. Food isn’t all there is to life (even though it’s one of my favorite parts). Getting good sleep, sunlight, and exercise play a huge role, as well. And note that exercise isn’t what most people attempt these days – yoga or walking are some of the best ways to be healthy.

Below is a really great graphic that Mark over at Mark’s Daily Apple created. It explains the Primal Blueprint in just a simple, easy-to-understand way!

The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge
Learn more at Mark’s Daily Apple.

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