Tag Archives: make ahead

Amazin’ Asian sauce for stir-fry or crack slaw

homemade stir-fry sauce, crack slaw

This started out just being a homemade stir-fry sauce, but I’ve found that the leftover stir-fry makes a great broth bowl (curry optional), and the sauce also works for that addictive stuff known as “crack slaw.” You could, of course, also use it in a meatless main dish or veggie side dish. And made with tamari or coconut aminos, it’s gluten-free!

You might want to make a small batch, first, to figure out how you want to adapt it to your taste; feel free to improvise on my recipe! Then make a larger batch to keep on hand in the fridge for easy, throw-together meals.

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Meal prep: Beef and sweet potato freezer burritos – with diet-specific options

meal prep: freezer burritos

meal prep: freezer burritos

Freezer burritos are one of the handiest things you can have stashed in the freezer, for easy meals or snacks any time! They were my go-to lunch last year while I was on my way to losing 33 pounds. Back then, this was a plain ol’ beef, bean and cheese burrito recipe, but I’ve since modified it to accommodate Paleo and other diet restrictions. I’m providing notes here so you can make it as traditional or as Paleo as you like it. It’s very customizable!

First, a few notes about the ingredients…

The tortillas. If you’re not gluten-restricted and you want the easiest option, just pick up your favorite brand of soft wheat tortillas from the store. Or better yet, stop by your favorite locally-owned Mexican restaurant and get a to-go order of tortillas.

If you’re eliminating gluten and/or grains from your diet, pick up your favorite ready-made gluten-free tortillas, or try this crepe-like recipe from Stupid Easy Paleo (this is the one I use), or this egg-free, cassava-flour based one from Eat Heal Thrive.

Beans vs sweet potatoes. There’s some debate as to whether beans are really good for you or not. The Paleo/Whole30 camp says that the proteins in legumes may mimic some of the body’s proteins, potentially kicking off auto-immune issues. To make a Paleo version, I swapped out mashed sweet potatoes for the same texture — and I ended up loving the sweet note they bring to the dish.

Here’s a nutrition comparison of the two (their fat and calorie profile are similar, so I left those out):

nutrition; sweet potatoes vs refried beans

Note that the sweet potatoes are higher in sugary carbs and lower in protein, but that they have tons of Vitamin A, while beans have none. (If you’re using the crepe-like tortillas, you’ve omitted a good deal of carbs right there, so it’s still not a carb-heavy dish.)

Feel free to use whichever you prefer for taste or nutrition — or maybe get crazy and use both!

The cheese. Feel free to include cheese if it fits into your healthy eating style. Omit it if it doesn’t.

The bell peppers. These are here to add fiber and Vitamin C. There’s really no downside to them, unless you just hate them (or can’t eat nightshades).

The meat. I believe that hormone-free, antibiotic-free red meat is a good thing. (I am from Kansas!) If you have an aversion to beef, feel free to sub ground turkey or another protein of your choice.

The salsa. Use your favorite. To keep it healthy, check the label to make sure there’s no sugar or corn syrup.

The taco seasoning. Sure, you can buy some ready-made. But check the label to make sure there’s no sugar, maltodextrin, corn starch, or other unnecessary fillers. Cheaper and healthier: make your own.

The guacamole. While not essential, it makes a nice visual finish, as well as adding flavor and healthy fat! If you happen to have some homemade, by all means use that! However, I usually just keep some Wholly Guacamole single-serve packs in the fridge; one is the perfect size to spread over a couple burritos.

Finally, a note about servings: Because there are so many variables in this recipe, I can only give you an approximation of how many burritos it will make. I get six or seven; your mileage may vary. Also, once you’ve made it once or twice and tuned into how you like to make it, you can certainly double or triple the recipe to really stock up.

Beef and sweet potato freezer burrito recipe

1 or 2 T. olive or coconut oil

1 small (or half a large) yellow onion, diced

1/2 large red bell pepper, diced

1 pound ground beef

1 medium sweet potato, already cooked and diced

(or sub half a can of refried beans)

1 cup of your favorite salsa (or more, to taste)

2 teaspoons taco seasoning (or more, to taste)

3/4 cup shredded cheddar or monterrey jack cheese (optional)

several 6″ tortillas

 

Dice peppers and onion, and saute in olive oil until they are soft. Leave in the pan but push them off to the side.

freezer burritos in the making

Brown the ground beef, drain excess fat if you want, and add in the taco seasoning; stir it all together till spices are distributed. Then add sweet potatoes (or beans) and salsa, and stir till evenly combined. Taste, and add salsa and/or taco seasoning till you’re happy with the flavor. Remove from heat.

Lay out several squares of waxed paper or parchment. These should be two or three inches wider than the diameter of your tortillas, and long enough to wrap around one two or three times. Lay a tortilla on each. Spoon the desired amount of filling down the center of the tortillas, in about a 2″-wide line from one edge to the other. Sprinkle with cheese, if using. Roll the burrito into a tube; no need to fold in the ends. If your filling isn’t sticky enough to hold the tortilla closed, secure it with a toothpick.

freezer burritos - roll 'em up

Then wrap the paper around it. Again, no need to fold in the ends. Repeat till filling is all used. Place wrapped burritos on a cookie sheet or other flat surface, setting them down in such a way that the weight of the burrito holds the paper in place. Then place this in the freezer till the burritos are firm.

freezer burritos, ready to go in the freezer

Then put them all into a large plastic baggie and return to the freezer.

To reheat a burrito, remove the wrapper and place seam-side-down on a plate, and microwave for 30 seconds. Then turn it over and microwave till heated through. I use the “reheat” button on my microwave; every machine is different, so experiment to find what works for you, and make a note of that. Be sure to remove the toothpick before topping with guac!

Make up a batch of these on the weekend, and you’ll have healthy, easy lunches — or dinners, or snacks — on hand for a quick, few-minute meal!

 

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beef + sweet potato freezer burritos

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New to eating gluten-free? Or thinking of going Paleo?

Check out my 20-Day Countdown to a New Way of Eating!

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Make-ahead marinara: 6 ingredients; sugar-free

paleo sugar-free make-ahead marinara recipe

I found this make-ahead marinara sauce recipe in a Good Housekeeping magazine in 2009, and it’s been my go-to pasta/spaghetti/pizza/whatever sauce ever since!

Do you know what’s in your store-bought marinara sauce? Here’s the ingredient list for Ragu:

Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Vegetable Oil (Contains One Or More Of The Following: Soybean Oil, Corn Oil), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Dried Onions, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Romano Cheese (Cow’s Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Spices, Natural Flavor.

I like making my own, so I know there’s no sugar, corn syrup, or bad oils in it, but I love how easy this recipe is to whip up! I double the original recipe, and keep the extra in the freezer. Because there’s no shortage of what you can pair with marinara…

paleo meatballs, marinara, roasted cauliflower
Paleo meatballs with marinara over zucchini noodles, with a side of Italian cauliflower

Things to do with marinara sauce:

  • Of course, the classic: Serve it with meatballs or browned beef, and pasta or zucchini/squash noodles.
  • Use it as a basic pizza sauce.
  • Dollop some heated marinara over cooked green beans or zucchini. Optional: add a little grated Parm on top. Yum! You might get veggi-phobes to like this one!
  • Delicious on salmon, too.
  • Top a grilled chicken breast with some marinara and a slice of mozzarella cheese, and heat till the cheese melts.
  • Brown some crumbled sausage, then add marinara and heat through. Toss with some cooked store-bought tortillini. Optional: add chopped spinach.
  • Add it to a soup of broth and vegetables — adding meatballs, sausage, or chicken is optional — and you’ve got something close to minestrone.
  • Italian tomato butter: Blend 1 stick softened butter and 1/4 cup marinara sauce; refrigerate till solid, and let it melt over hot vegetables, fish, or grilled chicken.
  • Pasta alla vodka: just add cream and vodka for this classic Italian sauce. Simmer 1/2 cup heavy cream and 3 cups marinara sauce in a skillet for 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons vodka. Optional: cook a few minutes to burn off some of the alcohol. Toss with cooked pasta. Shrimp or lobster is a nice add-in, too.

This sauce tastes best if you can get fresh basil, but if you can’t, just substitute two or three tablespoons of basil pesto.

And if you make it without pesto (because of the cheese), this is Paleo friendly and Whole30 compliant! And perfect for anyone who’s trying to go sugar-free.

(Oh, by the way… I’m not including the salt and pepper in the “6-ingredient” count, because: 1) everybody’s got S & P, 2) they take no effort, and 3) they go in everything, right?!)


 

Make-ahead marinara sauce recipe

2 T. olive oil

2 small or 1 large onion(s), chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1  5.5 or 6 oz. can tomato paste

2  28-oz. cans tomatoes: crushed or sauce, depending on desired texture

2/3 c. loosely-packed fresh basil, chopped

1/2 to 1 t. salt

1/2 t. black pepper – freshly ground, if possible

 

  1. In a 4-1/2 quart sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and saute the onions till soft and just starting to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  2. Stir in garlic and tomato paste and cook one minute; add tomatoes. If you want a really smooth sauce, use tomato sauce. If you want a sauce with a little more body, use crushed. If you want a chunky sauce, use whole tomatoes and break them up with a spoon as they cook. Or use a combination. (See my comparison of two brands of organic crushed tomatoes at the end of this post.)
  3. Turn up the heat and cook till the mixture boils, then turn the heat back down to medium/medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in the basil and minimum salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

That’s it! How easy is that?!


 Tips for freezing marinara

If not using immediately, transfer to container(s) and refrigerate or freeze. Here are some tips on the freezing process…

I like to divide the batch into one-cup units, but that’s for a household of two. For a bigger family, you might want to go with two-cup or larger containers. I pour it into individual plastic containers then put those on a cookie sheet and get it as level as possible in the freezer, so the frozen sauce will be an even thickness.

makeahead-marinara-tray-600x320

Then once they’re frozen, I pop them out of the plastic containers and into sandwich-size baggies, then seal those and put them in a gallon baggies. This takes up less space than the hard containers. Putting it in the larger baggie makes it easier to keep them all together in the freezer (easier to find and make sure no one is left behind), plus it’s an extra layer of protection in the freezer. I label the large bag so I don’t end up wondering later if that’s marinara or chili.

makeahead-marinara-bagged-600X270

 

Another tip: I’ve found that 17.6 oz. Fage yogurt containers create frozen disks that fit perfectly into these 2-cup glass storage bowls when it comes time to thaw the sauce. (link goes to my Amazon store)

freezing marinara sauce: the containers

It keeps well in the freezer and reheats beautifully! It may separate while thawing, but just stir it together and it’ll be good as fresh.

To thaw, you can use the microwave, or set it in the fridge for several hours, or just heat it slowly at first in a sauce pan, then break it up and turn up the heat as it begins to thaw.

You are gonna love this sauce! It tastes really fresh and light, and knowing it’s completely free of sugar, corn syrup — better yet!


Comparison of Simple Truth Organic and Muir Glen Organic crushed tomatoes

I used a combination of two brands of crushed tomatoes, so I could test them against one another, at least before they went in the sauce.

canned-tomato-brands-compared-600x400

On the left, Dillons/Kroger organic store brand; on the right, Muir Glen organic. You can see the second has a little chunkier texture and a slightly redder color, both of which I like. It tasted a little better, but that wasn’t really a fair fight: the store brand was plain and no salt added; the Muir Glen had salt and other seasonings. I would use either one again.

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paleo sugar-free make-ahead marinara recipe

Strawberry poppy seed dressing – Paleo, sugar-free, clean eating!

poppy-seed-dressing-salad-cu-600x330

 

I’ve always loved poppy seed dressing, but once I went sugar free, it had to be a very occasional treat. It takes a lot of sugar to balance the onion, and I tried making sugar-free poppy seed dressing, but I found that substituting Splenda ruined the dressing’s ability to cling to the greens. (Back when I ate Splenda.)

Then a few weeks ago, I saw a photo of strawberry poppy seed dressing and it hit me: use the sweetness of strawberries, and you won’t need sugar at all!

sugar-free poppy seed dressing - strawberries make it sweet! #paleo #whole30

This dressing is so easy to make, it’s no trouble for everyday. And it’s so pretty, it can be a star player on a brunch or luncheon table. Especially perfect for a bridal shower, Mother’s Day — or any spring or summer party, really.

I left the onions out of the dressing; with onions in the salad, and with the strawberries bringing the flavor and body to the dressing, they’re not so needed in the dressing.

And yes, this salad is Paleo and Whole30 compliant! Let’s just talk about all the healthiness packed into the salad: spinach, strawberries, olive oil, oranges, pecans – super foods, all! If I weren’t avoiding dairy, I would totally throw some feta cheese in there, too. (Or goat cheese, if you like. Which I don’t.)

sugar-free strawberry poppy seed dressing on spinach salad #paleo #whole30

Sugar-free poppy seed dressing and spinach salad

makes enough for 4 – 6 salads

 

1/2 c. chopped strawberries

2 T. light olive oil, or other light-flavored oil

1 T. mayo (homemade, if ya got it)

1 to 2 T. white balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)

pinch salt

1 t. poppy seeds

 

Strawberries may be fresh or frozen. If using frozen, chop and measure while still partially frozen, but allow to thaw before blending.

sugar-free poppy seed dressing; paleo, whole30Combine all ingredients except for poppy seeds in a blender container, using only 1 T. of vinegar to start with. Blend till smooth. Taste, and add 1 t. of vinegar at a time until it’s as tangy as you want it. (Remember, being spread out on the spinach will make it a bit milder.)

Pour into a jar for storage, then add poppy seeds and stir.

Chill till ready to use. Can be served immediately, but tastes best the next day.

for four salads:
6 – 8 oz. baby spinach
1/4 small red onion
2 navel oranges or cara cara oranges
chopped pecans, to taste

Tear the spinach into bite-size pieces, and cut the onion into thin, short slices.

Cut the tops and bottoms off the oranges, then slice the peel and pith off of them. (To see what I mean, watch 0:20 – 1:30 of this video: how to peel an orange.) Then tear the sections apart, and cut into pieces that will fit neatly on a fork.

Aren’t they pretty in the sunlight?

orange segments for spinach salad

Assemble the salads ahead of time, or let guests build their own. If making ahead of time, the spinach and onions may be stored together in the same bowl. The acid from the oranges and the salt in the dressing would begin to break the spinach down, so don’t store them together. Pecans might get soggy, so keep them separate as well.

spinach salad with sugar free poppy seed dressing #paleo #whole30

 

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sugar-free poppy seed dressing, sweetened with strawberries, on spinach salad. Paleo, whole30

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New to eating gluten-free? Or thinking of going Paleo?

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Make-ahead roasted sweet potato: Paleo/Whole30 secret weapon for success!

Whole30 Paleo breakfast: easy with make-ahead prep!

One of the biggest challenges in eating clean and healthy is putting together meals. And one of the most important tips/tricks for making healthy meals super easy is to have some food “building blocks” ready in your fridge and freezer at all times. I plan to do a complete post on this soon, but for now, here is one of my favorites: sweet potatoes. They’re easy to prep, keep well in the fridge, and very versatile at playing well with other foods.

Plus, when you’re looking for nutrient-dense foods, sweet potato is a super-hero source of Vitamin A! This chart shows amounts for a whole 5″ potato, but even half this is good! (nutrition data source)

sweet potato nutrition chart

I learned this prep method from the ladies at Layers of Happiness, but their recipe was for a complete dish. I’ve just borrowed the method, and adapted it for the ready-t0-go-ingredients tray in my Whole30 compliant fridge. (A post for another day.)

I start with a medium-sized sweet potato. What I’m calling “medium”  is about 5 or 6″ long and roughly 3″ wide at the widest point. Give it a good scrubbing with a vegetable brush under running water, then pat dry. Poke several holes in it with a fork. I usually make three or four pokes on one side, then turn it over and repeat.

Then I put it in the microwave on high for one minute and 45 seconds; turn it over and repeat. (Please note that all microwaves are different and you will probably need to experiment to find the timing that works with yours.)

Next, I take it out and cut it in half. It should be somewhat soft all the way through. It doesn’t need to be thoroughly soft, and you really don’t want it to be. But if it’s still hard in the middle, you can put the halves cut-side-down on a microwave safe plate and zap it for another 30 – 45 seconds.

Then, using a sharp paring or steak knife, cut the flesh of the sweet potato into cubes of about 1/2″ — but don’t cut all the way through to the skin. You may go ahead and cut all the way through the middle, if you like. (Note/update: I used to leave them semi-cut, like this, but I found that I usually use them diced, so now I just cut all the way through the skin and store them diced.)

cubed roasted sweet potato - whole30, paleo

Just stash this in an airtight container in the fridge, ready to deploy for all kinds of easy Whole30/Paleo meals. Such as…

A breakfast stir-fry with eggs, sausage, spinach, and sweet potato.

whole30 paleo breakfast eggs sausage sweet potato spinach

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Another breakfast option — and one reason you don’t cut all the way through the skin. Scramble your favorite eggs and meat combo, and serve it on top of a reheated sweet potato half or quarter. Add snipped chives, if you have ’em, for color and flavor:

whole30 paleo easy meal: egg + bacon scramble on sweet potato

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A super-easy side dish: Spread some bacon fat (or other healthy fat of your choice), salt, and pepper on top, and reheat. Sweet potato and pork were made for each other:

whole30 paleo dinner: pork, sweet potato + cauliflower

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Another easy meal is to top a prepped, reheated sweet potato with some pulled pork or carnitas — then top it all off with some caramelized onions. I haven’t shot a photo of that exact dish, but here’s a similar combo from Free the Animal:

carnitas on sweet potato, by freetheanimal.com
image by freetheanimal.com

 

(Mashing your sweet potatoes is another option.)

One of my favorite easy lunches is to throw some leftover pork or sausage in some bone broth — either chicken or ham — and some veggies from my make-ahead tray; here, I used sweet potato, onion, and zucchini:

sausage, sweet potato, zucchini soup - make ahead paleo whole30

 

This soup is thickened with an egg yolk. On this particular day, I was lucky enough to have some local eggs from a friend. The yolks were almost orange, and it gave the broth a lovely golden color!

The healthy breakfast and soup options are really endless — even within Whole30 restrictions! Once you have some mostly-cooked, mostly-diced sweet potato in the fridge, you’ll find all kinds of new ways to use this flavorful, healthful, versatile veggie!

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whole30 paleo sweet potato tips

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New to eating gluten-free? Or thinking of going Paleo?

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Whole30/Paleo dinner: Meatballs with marinara and Italian roasted cauliflower

meatballs, marinara, zoodles, + roasted cauliflower

With some easy advance prep, this is a Whole 30 compliant / Paleo meal that comes together quickly. The cast:

One yummy, tasty, Whole30 dinner!

For the side dish: Roasted cauliflower from Simply Recipes  – to make it Whole30 compliant, skip the Parm but sprinkle the cauliflower with garlic salt and Italian seasoning mix.

Make sure the seasoning mix is sugar free, corn free, etc. Better yet, make your own. You can find plenty of recipes, but in a pinch, just throw together some dried basil and oregano in generous portions, some garlic powder, and then a little rosemary, thyme, and/or marjoram, if you’ve got ’em.

How to make this an easy, throw-together weeknight meal: Make up a whole batch (or two) of the nom nom meatballs on your day off, and keep them in the freezer in serving-size packs. Four per person works nicely in our house. Make up a batch (or two) of that easy marinara sauce, and freeze it in one- or two-cup units. Cut up the cauliflower the night before, if you want to save that time. Then everything comes together quickly at the last minute!

And — did I mention — yummy?

paleo meatballs, marinara, and cauliflower

New to eating gluten-free? Or thinking of going Paleo?

Check out my 20-Day Countdown to a New Way of Eating!

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Paleo/Whole30 dinner: Herb-crusted salmon and pumpkin soup

paleo dinner: herbed salmon + pumpkin soup
paleo dinner: herbed salmon + pumpkin soup
I try to serve salmon at least once a week — gotta get those omega-3’s! I love that it cooks quickly, and there are so many ways to top it, encrust it, or otherwise embellish it. I’ve found, though, that it’s not as satisfying as red meat. We usually find ourselves hungry a couple hours later.
When I started making bone broth several month ago, I found that it is super satisfying. My theory is that it sticks with you because it’s providing a lot of minerals, gelatin, and other good, healing things your body is craving. So my strategy now is to always serve a bone broth-based soup on the nights I serve salmon.
A few nights ago, I made my herb-crusted salmon along with cream of pumpkin soup, using homemade chicken bone broth. My husband said, “I like this soup. It’s comforting, kinda like coffee.” (He is sorely missing his coffee with cream and sugar in the morning!)
Cream of pumpkin soup is easy to make Whole30 compliant by making it dairy-free: just swap out the cream for full-fat coconut milk. This recipe from AllRecipes is the one I use (minus the croutons): Cream of Pumpkin Soup.
This dinner is easy enough for a weeknight (especially if you make the pumpkin soup the night before, up until adding the cream), but special enough for a Fall or Winter dinner party, I think.
This pairing will go in our regular Whole30 rotation! I’m working toward publishing a four-week meal plan. Hopefully coming soon!

 

Easy, make-it-your-own fish taco bar

fish tacos - how to set up a fish taco bar

I was recently asked for my recipe for fish tacos. “It’s not so much a recipe,” I said, “as it is a collection of ingredients.” Which makes it great for feeding a group with diverse tastes or dietary needs: just set up your fish taco bar and let guests create their own.

And much of it can be done ahead of time: everything except for the avocado can be sliced, chopped, or mixed ahead of time. The fish can be seasoned ahead of time, but will taste best if it’s made just before serving.

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