Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Recipe: Dijon Pork Chops

This recipe contains dairy.


4 pork chops
salt & pepper
butter or other Paleo fat
1/3 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup half & half


1.  Season each pork chop with salt and pepper.
2.  Melt butter or fat in a skillet.  Cook pork chops for five to seven minutes on each side, until done through.  Remove and keep warm.
3.  Stir broth into the skillet and scrape up browned bits.  Stir in the mustard until well-blended, then blend in the half & half.  Bring sauce just to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until sauce thickens, about five to six minutes.  Drizzle sauce over chops.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Building a Paleo Pantry on a Budget

And read your labels, for Pete's sake!
Photo by Ambro

While I'm sure there are some folks out there who wake up one day and decide "I'm going to eat paleo!" and then run to their nearest farmstead and buy themselves an entire grass-fed cow (plus grass-fed butter, free range eggs, coconut oil, almond meal, etc. etc.) for most of us this isn't exactly an option. This stuff can be pricey, and if I were to rush out and buy it all at once, I wouldn't be able to pay rent (ahh, if only I were joking...).

I've found that working slowly and adding in a few items on each grocery trip is the way to go.  For example, I've started making it a habit to stock up on eggs.  This week I hit a Trader Joe's and found a great deal on coconut oil and a killer raw organic honey (that it's taking all my willpower not to dig into).  These items are going to last me a while, so by staggering my purchases, I won't have to buy a bunch of high-end products all at once.

We also bought some tamari sauce to make a paleo beef jerky.  That jerky probably isn't going to last more than a day or so, but we'll still have the sauce, which will make the next batch cheaper.  When we run low, I think I'm going to look for it at the Asian market up the street -- I'm betting they have it cheaper than Safeway.

Basically, as we use up a "nonpaleo" item, I'm replacing it with a paleo item.  Stuff isn't going to waste, and we don't feel quite as much of a financial hit.  Our other trick is watching for sales on meat and then buying a bunch of it.  Our grocery bill was a little higher than normal this week, but that's because Safeway had sales on chicken, pork, AND beef.  So we bought the value packs.  Next week I'll have so much meat in the freezer, my grocery bill will be lower than normal. I also found a store-brand organic spaghetti sauce with no sugar in it!  It was only $2.49.  The other brand with no sugar in it was $5.99, so I felt like quite the savvy shopper.

A word about coupons:  Don't even bother.  The only items that coupons are good for are prepackaged sugary junk.  Seriously.  Watch for store sales (and coupons that are specific to the store can be helpful) and shop that way.  I like the Just For U program that Safeway started.  I can check the website before I go and it provides added discounts on stuff that I buy (because Big Brother is watching when I shop, of course).  Oh well -- they're giving me $1 off of almond milk... I'll take it!

What are your best paleo shopping tips? 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Recipe: Balsamic Chicken Salad

This is a quick and easy meal that is perfect for a lunch or dinner.  You might even want to prep extra chicken for another meal using this marinade -- it's that good!

Balsamic Chicken Salad


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
a few leaves of fresh basil, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
mixed greens

1.  Mix the vinegar, basil, garlic, and olive oil in a small bowl, then combine with the chicken breasts to marinate. Marinate in refrigerator for two to three hours.

2.  Prepare outdoor grill or grill pan.

3.  Remove chicken and discard marinade.  Grill chicken until done through, about eight minutes per side.  Let chicken rest, then slice.

4.  Top greens with chicken and a few extra shreds of basil.

Prepping for Shopping

Today's special is...
Image by Simon Howden

Tomorrow is going to be grocery day.  I have the list prepped and dinners planned.  One thing that occurs to me is that I need to find some different lunch options because tuna is going to get old soon.  It's easy to get stuck in a rut once you find something that is tasty and easy, but boredom is often my downfall.

To keep my food bill down, I scour the ads to see who's having the best sales on proteins, and then I base my meals on those proteins.  I'm not a "store loyalist."  I'll go to whichever store happens to be having the best sale that particular week.  This week's winner was Safeway, with deals on chicken breasts, pork chops, and petite beef tip steaks.

Here's my dinner list for the week:

  • Skillet pork chops with sauteed veggies
  • Balsamic chicken breasts with mushrooms and salad
  • Pork chops with Dijon sauce and sauteed spinach
  • Grilled steak with salad
  • Blueberry balsamic chicken salad
  • Italian spinach casserole
I will include the recipes for these meals later in the week.  We also have a potluck to go to on Sunday.  As long as burgers are on the menu I can make it work, but finding something to bring is going to be challenging since my old potluck standbys always included pasta.  I might plan on deviled eggs, but I'll have to think about it.

What is your menu for the week?  What is your Paleo potluck standby?  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Paradigm Shift

We have to break out of this mindset.
Photo by Grant Cochrane

One of the biggest challenges for me, and I'm guessing for a lot of people who switch to a Paleo/Primal lifestyle, is making the complete mental switch that it requires.  Coming from a good 20 years of the diet roller coaster, I've had it beaten into my head that fat = bad, whole grains = good, and every single thing that goes into my mouth should be carefully logged and tracked so that I can beat myself up over it later.

I still catch myself doing it.  "It's a good thing that egg is only 80 calories."  "Do you know how many points that would be??"  "Hmmm, that's probably about a quarter cup of almonds."  "Mmmm, bacon would be good.... oh wait, maybe I should have turkey bacon; it's lower in fat."


I wonder how long before these types of thoughts go away?  Dieting is almost a religion, isn't it?  I can recite you the gospel of Weight Watchers backwards, forwards, and inside out.  Even the whole bit about how "It's not a diet; it's a lifestyle change."  Okay, well maybe it is, but it's not a very good one.  Even when you're maintaining your weight, you're suffering from deprivation, and just ask any successful Weight Watcher about their grueling exercise routine.  Sorry, it's a diet.

When we were moving, I agonized over my digital food scale.  I remember purchasing it and how excited I was to own one.  Now I could know exactly how much food I was eating at any given time and, more importantly -- or so I thought, where I was crossing the line into too much.  Not having to weigh and measure my food is one of the strangest shifts my head has had to make.  Stop eating when I'm full?  But.... how will I know???

The digital scale went to the Goodwill.  My measuring cups and tablespoons are now only used for their original purpose:  to calculate the correct amount of ingredients to keep a recipe in proper proportion.  When I decide I would like to have a snack of almonds, I simply take a handful, and I don't fret over how many I popped in my mouth.  I chose the real bacon and enjoyed every delicious mouthful (and then saved the grease for my eggs tomorrow morning -- damn that's going to be good!).

When I start to stress or I recognize the old thoughts creeping in, I find it helpful to visit a website dedicated to the Paleo/Primal lifestyle, like Mark's Daily Apple or Balanced Bites.  They help me regain my perspective and banish the "diet" guilt that keeps trying to creep back in.  Now that's a lifestyle change.

Simple Sides

Photo by Grant Cochrane

One of the things that is most appealing about eating Primal/Paleo is how simple side dishes suddenly become.  Gone are the days of choosing a protein (unless it was meat-free day -- boy does that make me laugh now!) and trying to come up with something unique and different that we hadn't eaten four thousand times before.  ("Well, we why don't we try having some couscous since we're all so burned out on rice?" "Ugh, couscous is so bland."  "Well, I could toss in some cheese or something....")

When I'm fixing sides to go along with my Paleo meals, I'm just working with veggies.  Not only is this good for me because I'm truly lazy at heart, it's also a lot cheaper.  Really.  Veggies are cheaper than all these darn starches that we've been having up 'til recently.  True, a box of pasta or a cup of rice is mighty inexpensive, but have you considered how much you add to make them taste like anything other than bland cardboard?

Tonight's dinner was petite sirloin steak, with fresh spinach salad, and zucchini sauteed in butter.  The zucchini cost me about 50 cents, the butter was already in my fridge, and I finished it with a few leaves of rosemary off  the plant that is growing in my kitchen windowsill.

Zucchini nutrition information (per cup):

2 grams protein
2 grams fiber
40 mg calcium
20 mg vitamin C
41 mcg folate
319 mg potassium
2011 mg vitamin A (no, that is seriously not a typo)

and other assorted vitamins and minerals including phosphorous, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin K, and iron.