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

They Gave My Son…Cheerios

CheeriosGoing to church has been a challenge for us since Griffin was born. He is a child who loves his schedule, and that schedule includes a nap from 10am-11am. Since church starts at 11, that leaves me driving separately and lugging baby to his Sunday school class almost an hour after the other children have arrived. Which means we haven’t gone that often.

When we do go, it seems there’s always some type of challenge, but the main problem I’ve been having is in terms of food. I know I’m in the teeny, tiny minority when it comes to feeding my baby. He doesn’t get sugar, grains, or anything inorganic. And although I used to allow the nursery volunteers to feed Griffin food I brought from home, I quickly stopped that after hearing one discussing another baby in the class.

“He seemed hungry after I fed him everything his mother brought, so I gave him some cheerios.”

After my moment of panic, I relaxed. I would just tell them not to feed him anything, and I could do it myself after church. Problem solved. I also wrote it down on the sign-in sheet and underlined it for good measure.

But even after all that, when Jeremy went to the nursery after church to pick Griffin up today, he asked the volunteer how he handled everything.

“Oh, he was fussy at the beginning, but I just gave him a few cheerios and he seemed better.”

This is the point in which my husband freaks out and eventually goes in search of the Children’s Ministry director. Luckily, the volunteer (frantically) assured him that she only offered a few Cheerios, and Griffin would only take the first one. After that, he wasn’t interested. That’s right, he knew it wasn’t real food and wanted no part of it! I was a proud momma.

Unfortunately, even though the director assured Jeremy that this wouldn’t happen again, I’m sure everyone involved was thinking that we were simply Nazi parents. They’re just Cheerios, after all. Practically a right of childhood.

But that’s where I want to sit them down and share my viewpoint. It’s not JUST a Cheerio. It’s a genetically modified, ultra-processed grain. My son has never had anything remotely like that in his life. Not only would he not know what to do with something that texture and could potentially choke on it, but he might have an allergic reaction. It’s my job as his mother to introduce new foods to him.

Why is it that parents follow certain “rules” to the letter? Whattoexpect.com gives a long list of foods to never give babies under 12 months. Can you imagine if some stranger offered your kid honey or peanuts? Wouldn’t you have a minor heart attack and be looking for signs of an allergic reaction the rest of the day?

This is how I feel about grains. And for good reason, although as I’ve already stated, I’m in the minority where this is concerned.

Babies are functionally grain intolerant – their small bodies aren’t ready to digest grains. This is because until about three years of age, they don’t have a complete set of carbohydrate enzymes that can break them down. Especially where GMO, processed foods are concerned, grains at that age can lead to allergies, asthma ADHD, and even autism. Experts from the National Institute of Environmental Health also report that even very low toxic exposure in early life is a factor in a variety of behavioral problems and autoimmune conditions.

From Super Nutrition for Babies:

Cereals (like Cheerios) are

Chemical – Due to the processing they endure, cereals are sources of toxins, created via a high-heat process called extrusion, which denatures proteins, turning them into neurotoxins. Whole grains are even worse, as they contain more protein. Due to high heat during processing, cereals also contain more than 500 times the safe limit of a class 2A toxin: acrylamides. This toxin causes cancer and has a variety of other toxic effects in human and animal studies.

Sugar Loaded

Grains

    • Hard to Digest – At this age, your baby is barely making starch-digesting enzymes. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats, and most cereals, is particularly hard to digest. Undigested proteins increase your child’s risk of developing gluten intolerance and allergies. (Considering I am gluten intolerant, this increases Griffin’s odds even more).
    • Lead to Autoimmune Disease – Early gluten introduction has been shown to play a role in the development of Celiac disease, as well as other autoimmune disorders. As the incidence of Celiac disease (and other autoimmune disorders) is on a steep rise, some experts postulate that this increase might be directly related to early and excessive gluten-containing diets, including an increasing reliance on grain foods for babies.

Addictive – A special enzyme (called DPP-4) is needed to digest gluten. Since babies don’t yet have this gluten-busting enzyme, the gluten can get “stuck” in a partially digested form. Called gluteomorphin, this partially digested protein acts similar to other opiates – opium, morphine, and heroin – clouding and fogging the brain, hindering development and perception, and altering behavior. Since gluteomorphins are just as addicting as other opiate drugs, your baby can get physically hooked on cereal and wheat.

Processed

So, with all that said, do I think all these issues are going to happen to Griffin because of ONE Cheerio? No, of course not. He didn’t have a reaction to the tiny amount he had (and you can bet I was looking closely).

But I don’t know that I can trust that he won’t be given more in the future, either. And that’s a shame. In our culture, babies are given food for everything – celebrations, boredom, and in Griffin’s case, when they are upset. Kids usually get 2-3 snacks a day, not to mention constant grazing. But I don’t carry around snacks for him, and I don’t want strangers feeding him, either. It really makes me sad that as a parent, my requests aren’t listened to. Having childcare at church is a huge blessing, but if I don’t feel safe (or feel that my child is safe in any way), I have difficulty bringing him again and again.

What would you do in my situation? I’m really torn right now. Any comments at all are welcome!!

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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6 Months and Some Recipes for Baby’s First Foods

Half a year is now upon us.

6 Months3

This little boy has more than doubled in size! I realized this fully when feeding him last night. The tiny head that used to hardly reach the crook of my arm now hangs over the edge as he eats.

6 Months2

Rather than mourn for the newborn cuteness I’ll miss, I’m trying to embrace all the amazing things to love about this bigger, more aware Griffin. His laughter has to be the best by far. Those little giggles can send me into fits of laughter as well, and I would gladly make a fool of myself every time just to hear even a moment of them.

6 Months

Right now I’m looking at the monitor and watching him sleep on his side. This is literally the first time I’ve witnessed this during a daytime nap. Although he still hasn’t managed to roll over both ways just yet, he’s learning to settle himself into new sleeping positions – another sign he’s maturing and quickly growing up.

I’m also currently in the throws of making his first batch of solid foods. What an adventure that has already proven to be! I had never thought baby food would be so hard to attain, but in this world of convenience foods, finding pastured eggs, grass finished soup bones, and beef liver has been a process weeks in the making. I’ve literally scoured farmers markets and contacted local farms in the effort, and have yet to get everything I need!

We’ll be slowly introducing these foods to him beginning later this week, after his visit to the doctor and mandatory vaccines are well behind him. To give you an idea of what he’ll be dining on, I’m including recipes from Super Nutrition for Babies, my baby nutrition bible. It’s my go-to for all things related to Griffin’s food – the whens, whats and whys that answer all the questions no one else seemed to be able to. This book is SO vital for any parent interested in feeding their baby real, nutrient dense food!

Super Nutrition

Without further ado, here is Griffin’s menu for the next couple of weeks.

Soft-Boiled Egg Yolk

  • 1 Pastured Egg (the absolutely highest quality)
  • Pinch (less than 1/8 tsp) Celtic Sea Salt

In a small saucepan, boil water. Using a spoon, slip in the egg. Lower the heat to just below its highest setting, but continuing to boil the water, and cook the egg for 3.5 to 4 minutes. Remove from water with a spoon and drop in a bowl to crack it (it will be very hot). When the egg is open, peel away some white, which is semihard. The yolk should slip out in a malleable ball. Scoop up the yolk with a spoon and put into a different small bowl, leaving all the white behind.

The yolk should be warm and soft, not firm or “dry”. Add sea salt to supply additional trace minerals and improve taste. Spoon-feed it to baby.

Liver

  • 2 tsp Raw Grass Fed/Grass Finished Liver (grated if frozen, or finely minced if refrigerated)
  • 1 Tbsp Ghee, Coconut Oil, or Lard
  • 2 Tbsp Bone Stock

Saute the liver in fat over low heat for 1-2 minutes – liver should be a pinkish brown when done. Remove from heat, mash and thin with stock to desired consistency.

Optional: Mix the liver into your baby’s daily egg yolk, mom’s milk (or with other foods as you add them) for a fortifying, nutritionally superior meal.

Souper Stock

  • 1-2 Lbs Marrow Bones, Knuckle Bones, Oxtail, or Soup Bones from organic, grass-fed animals (Beef, Lamb, Poultry)
  • 2 Tbsp Vinegar (which distilled, raw apple cider, or brown rice)

*I found out the hard way that bones need to be cooked prior to making stock. To do this, roast bones at 400 degrees for approx. 45 minutes

In a slow cooker, soak the bones for 1 hour in the vinegar, adding enough water to cover. This helps to leach minerals from the bones. Add enough water to fill the pot and simmer on low for 12 to 72 hours (the longer the bones simmer, the more minerals and gelatin will be present in stock). Allow to cool in the refrigerator and then skim off the fat that rises and firms as a top layer. (This fat can be saved and later used to saute liver).

Add a pinch (less than 1/8 tsp) of Celtic Sea Salt into a serving for flavor and to provide trace minerals. Serve warm to baby.

 

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