Less Meat!

I tried to go vegetarian once after watching a documentary about meat processing. It only lasted about a week.

There has been a recent movement called “Meatless Mondays.” Despite the name suggesting that this is only happening on Mondays, you can go meatless on any day of the week. There are lots of reasons for cutting the meat including health reasons and environmental reasons. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to go fully vegetarian, but I do think I can pull off at least two days a week without meat to improve my overall health.

Sounds easy, right? It is a little more difficult with my attempts at following the Paleo diet about 75% of the time. So, no veggie pastas, veggie tacos, veggie pizza, or other easy go-to ideas that may immediately come to mind.

Today was my first attempt at being a vegetarian. I personally find it hard to think of a variety of ways to spice up my diet without the proteins I grew up on, so I thought I’d start sharing my attempts at making vegetarian fun and healthy.

My first meal was breakfast and I had a boiled egg and cantaloupe (and coffee of course!)

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For lunch, I used portabello mushroom caps, brushed them with olive oil inside and out, and added a slice of tomato, red onion, and mozzarella fresca. “Fresca” is Spanish for “fresh.” Every ingredient used was fresh, so I’ll call this my Portabello Fresca Pizza. I baked it at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

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Finally, for dinner, I tried a recipe I found on Pinterest for Kale and Butternut Squash Saute. I did not have the dried cranberries, but it still turned out to be pretty good. In past posts I’ve made Butternut Squash and Chicken Curry and Butternut Squash Soup.

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There are lot of types of vegetarians (as I often hear in my students’ speeches). Because of the egg and cheeses used in today’s meals, I’d be considered a lacto-ovo-vegetarian. I found that the most vegetarians have trouble getting enough protein, so I think the egg and cheese is necessary. I also had an apple with peanut butter (more protein) for a snack.

And apparently the term for someone trying to be vegetarian sometimes, like my two days a week, is a flexitarian. So many terms! We’ll see how long this lasts…

Flexi-Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian signing off.

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Balsamic Marinated Pork and Hearty Fruit Salad in Pepper “Boats”

The new season of Master Chef started a few weeks ago so I am find myself newly inspired to keep up with my food challenges. Today marks my 70th post! This weeks challenge included pork chops, plantains, kiwi, and papaya.

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My first thought was that this would be way too much sweetness for dinner. I grew up on meat and potatoes and dessert or fruit always came after dinner. So, I immediately decided that I wanted to use the fruit and make something that was a little more substantial. While I thought about what in the world to do with the fruit, I put the pork chops into a black cherry balsamic marinade. I’ve used this black cherry balsamic in two recipes (sweet potato caprese and salad dressing) now and I am loving it!

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I chopped one plantain, one kiwi, and about 1/4 of the papaya into bite sized chunks. I have only cooked with plantains one other time and tried to make a sweet and healthy dessert with them. I took the plantains in a completely different direction this time.

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I then explored what we had in our own refrigerator to add to it. I chopped about 1/4 cup of red onion, 8 cherry tomatoes, and one jalapeno to add to the mix. I seasoned it with 1/2 teaspoon each of paprika, garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper. I sauteed this in olive oil butter until the plantains were golden brown and the flavors had mixed well.

image(138) While it sauteed, I did two things.¬†First, I cut a green pepper in half to serve as the “boats” for my hearty fruit salad. Second, I started searing the pork chops.

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Next, I stuffed each pepper with the hearty fruit salad. Once the pork had a nice sear on each side. I put both into the oven and baked them at 300 degrees for about 25 minutes.

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The final dish was so good and so filling! I worried about the mix of spicy and sweet in the fruit salad, but it really did taste hearty and not at all like fruit salad. It seemed to be a relatively healthy meal and it meets the paleo diet standards.  Even the plantains are paleo, which surprised me!

As a side note: My life with my cats is always an adventure…Dropping papaya seeds in the floor will result in consumption by cats. Twelve hours later and it does not appear that consuming papaya seeds is harmful to cats. Here are some foods that are dangerous to cats though. Whew!

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Paleo Pepper and Sausage “Pasta”

You know you are eating good spices when it makes your nose run. What? You don’t want to talk about runny noses and dinner in the same blog? But, that is how I felt about this recipe. It was just good spices thanks to a red pepper sausage and jalapeno.

A few months ago I had a cooking challenge that included two specialty sausages: andouille and red pepper sausage. In that post, I made sausage cabbage wraps and spicy sausage and sweet potato mash. I didn’t use all of the sausage and decided to save some for another challenge. Today was the lucky day.

First, I halved and baked a spaghetti squash with the rind up on 375 degrees for about 45 minutes.

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While the spaghetti squash baked, I crumbled the sausage and added one green pepper, one fourth of a white onion, one jalapeno, and three large mushrooms into olive oil and cooked it on medium for about a half hour.

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I warmed my homemade sauce (I had some leftover from making pizzas over the weekend). In a nutshell, it was just slowly simmered onion, garlic, and tomatoes blended until smooth.

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I had never tried spaghetti squash until a little over a year ago. I am still amazed at how easily it comes out of the rind and how much it actually looks like pasta.

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Meat, veggies, homemade sauce, and a little shredded parmesan to finish off this tasty and perfectly spicy dish!

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Lemon Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to slowly use all of the goodies in our freezer. One of the containers I came across today was leftover chicken. I had tried to make a whole chicken in the crockpot a few months ago. I put the whole chicken into the crockpot, added sliced lemons, and crushed garlic and let it simmer all day. It was so tasty and juicy. It actually fell off of the bones and we had to eat it shredded even though that wasn’t the plan at that time. I froze the leftovers thinking that I would eventually make chicken and dumplings. However, with our attempt to eat a more paleo diet, dumplings weren’t really an option anymore. However, I think this would make an amazing chicken and dumpling base! With dumplings off the table for us, I had to think of something else.

I decided to make a lemon chicken and vegetable soup. First, I chopped one green pepper, 1/4 of an onion, 1 jalapeno, and 3 carrots and sauteed them in chipotle olive oil (for more about specialty flavored olive oils, see my post here).

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When the carrots were tender, I added the shredded chicken. The chicken had been frozen in the broth from cooking, but it wasn’t enough to make it soupy. I also added 4 cups of water.

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I let the soup simmer for about 40 minutes. I added a tablespoon of chipotle chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, and a teaspoon of black pepper.

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The final product was very good! The natural broth (I usually buy broth at the store) was amazing. At first, I worried the lemon would be weird in a soup, but it was a nice touch. And what a healthy dish!

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The Gina Special

I haven’t had a real food challenge all week thanks to the busy end of the semester craziness. But that is ok. I’ve had plenty of fun making up meals like my paleo crab cakes and asparagus soup and gonig out to eat at places like Doodles.

When I went into the office today, I had a special package hagning on my office door from my sweet friend Gina. She brought me two beautiful butternut squash from her garden. I was immediately inspired and came home to whip something up for the crockpot (and it isn’t even crockpot Wednesday!).

First, I poured coconut milk and red curry paste into the crockpot (leftover from curried chicken and cabbage). I added pickled ginger (leftover from homemade sushi). Finally I added ginger and curry powders.

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Cut the butternut squash and the chicken into bite sized pieces.

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Add the squash and chicken to the crockpot, stir to coat well, and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

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You can serve this over rice, eat it as is, or serve it with a salad. We went with the salad to keep our meal consistent with the Paleo diet. I also liked that the spinach added a little color to the plate. Thanks to Gina for making the Gina special possible!

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Looking for another butternut squash recipe? Check out this cream of butternut squash soup.

Crockpot Wednesday – Paleo Curry Chicken, Peppers, and Cabbage

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that Wednesdays are crazy busy for me. I need easy but tasty meals that I can put in the crockpot, leave it, and spend my time doing more productive things. I don’t share every “Crockpot Wednesday” meal. I only want to share the really good ones or unique ones. The last one I included on my blog was Beef Vindaloo.

This week we tried a recipe for Paleo Curry Chicken, Peppers, and Cabbage.I found it at a website that focuses entirely on crockpot paleo meals called PaleoPot. I can’t wait to try some of the other recipes!

It was super easy and very good! It would be great over rice because of the curry coconut milk broth, but the rice would ruin the paleo part of the meal. The only change I made to the recipe was using Lite Coconut Milk and chicken breasts instead of thighs.

I didn’t get a great photo…I was hungry and just started eating. I figured the picture on the website where I found the recipe would have to suffice.  =)

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I would love to hear about other crockpot meals you would recommend for me to try on Wednesdays. If I use one of your recipes, I’ll share it with my readers!