Grain-free meatballs (paleo)

When I was growing up, my mom was known for her delicious meatball recipe. She took it to potlucks and it was requested for birthday meals. Everyone raved about her meatballs.

When I became an adult and moved out, the recipe was handed down to me, and I figured it would become one of my go-to recipes too.

But…fast forward several years, and I have two children who can’t eat grains. Mom’s recipe has bread crumbs in it, and my children can’t eat bread, so for a long time we did without meatballs. But, oh, how I missed this childhood comfort food! So, I took matters into my own hands, and developed my own grain-free version that tastes pretty similar to moms. Maybe not quite as good, but an excellent substitute.

So first preheat your oven to 350, and just mix all the ingredients in a bowl.

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3 lb ground beef or turkey

2 eggs

1/2 t. dried basil

1 t. dried garlic powder

2 t. dried oregano

1/2 t. pepper

1/2 t. dried onion powder

1 t. salt

1/2 cup coconut flour

A spoon doesn’t usually work for mixing these. You’ve got to get messy with your hands. Mash it all together. Smash, smush, squeeze, until it’s all uniformly mixed.

Now take a nice little chunk of it and shape into a ball. Whatever size you feel like making. Preciseness is of no importance here. I usually get about 20-25 balls out of this recipe.

Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. You like my stained pan? My unsolicited advice – don’t trust a cook with spotless shiny baking pans. IMG_6323

After they’re done baking, place them all in a crockpot and cover with your sauce of choice (my simple marinara is at the end of this post). Keep on low for about 4 -5 hours. If you don’t have time for the slow crockpot, then just put all the balls in a big saucepan, cover with sauce and simmer for 30 minutes or so.

And then, yay for meatballs!

Be fruitful, healthy, happy. And eat more meatballs!

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Simple marinara sauce recipe:

Mix all in a bowl: 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, 14 oz can diced tomatoes, 6 oz. can tomato paste, 2-4 t. chopped garlic (depending on how much you like garlic), 2 t. dried oregano, 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper, 1 t. sweetener if desired.

(If you want plenty of sauce for the meatballs and also for pasta or zoodles, then double the recipe of sauce. One batch is sufficient for just the meatballs though.)

Planning my time

Every morning, I wake up with a whole list of stuff I need to do, an even longer list of stuff I want to do. Goals for the day. This morning, I woke up at 6am, so I could read my Bible and pray until 6:30, and then exercise for 30 minutes until the baby woke up at 7am. Well, I decided to check my phone/email/facebook for just a minute. I’m sure you can guess what happened. I got sucked into facebook land, and I glanced up at the time and it was now 6:20. I wasted 20 minutes of my precious morning time. With my houseful of children, my 1 hour before their waking is PRECIOUS. And I wasted 20 minutes of it on scrolling through facebook. So now it was 6:20am and I was already behind on my day. I got my Bible reading in for the day, but no exercise. This is my example of what not to do to have a healthy, happy, fruitful life.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not villainizing facebook. Done in moderation it’s great for keeping in touch with friends, discussing topics important to me and so on. But facebook time needs to be planned into the day, or it becomes a huge vacuum that sucks in my time that is needed for my other goals. Just as leisure of any sort is not wrong in and of itself, it needs to be put in its proper place. Work and then play. Get done what is on my list of daily goals, and then fill in the rest with leisure if there is any time left.

We’re not getting any younger. The sands of time are always drifting away, and so we’ve got to be very aware of the way we are using our time.

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Ephesians 5:15-16  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Having a schedule or plan for the day is the first half of the battle. I look ahead at the time I have available, and figure out ahead of time how to utilize that time to reach my goals. I’m constantly tweaking our schedule to try to fit in all that we need to do as a large homeschooling family. I like the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. A lot of truth in there. If I had no plan for the day at all, then I would not accomplish half of what I do. I plan in my work, and I plan in my time for hobbies, relaxing and reading, and facebooking. I have a plan for when to cook, eat, sleep, exercise, garden, rest.

HOWEVER, merely having a plan isn’t the end, as you saw with my morning of time waste. We can have the best laid plans, but still not accomplish anything. Actually implementing the plan and following through is integral. A plan without the follow through is pretty much worthless.

 

So I make a plan, and I stick to the plan as best I can. Sure, sometimes things outside my control will happen to change the plan, and that’s okay.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21 ESV

If a child wakes up sick, I roll with it. If my car breaks down, I go with the flow. These things happen, and we can’t hold our plans so tightly that we can’t adjust and adapt when these out of the ordinary things happen. But wasting time, scrolling facebook when I should have been accomplishing my goals and following my plan for the morning, that’s not the way to lead a fruitful life. So please don’t follow my example from today 😉

Be fruitful, healthy, happy. And make the best use of your time.

Homemade pasta sauce

Have you ever truly looked at the ingredients on your favorite store bought pasta sauce? The first several ingredients usually sound innocent enough. But as you keep reading…

Here’s the ingredients for a popular store brand taken from their website: Tomato puree, diced tomatoes, sugar, beef, canola oil, salt, beef fat, spice, dehydrated onions, dehydrated garlic, citric acid, flavoring, dehydrated beef stock, onion extract, garlic extract, beef extract, yeast extract.

That thing that says “flavoring” down towards the end – that can mean anything and everything. You honestly have no idea what you’re getting in there. It doesn’t even clarify whether its natural flavoring or artificial. But let assume it’s “natural flavoring”. According to FDA, “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.

Sounds complicated and confusing. And all those extracts? Beef extract? Yeast extract? What is that? Does your body know what it is? Can your digestive system recognize it as a food item? I’m not sure.

This list looks much better: Tomatoes, peppers, onions, beef. Flavored with garlic, salt, pepper, and oregano. We know what these are. Our bodies know what these are. Our digestive system can identify them all as food items and process them accordingly.

Here’s my tried and true recipe for a hearty pasta sauce, tweaked several times over the years, but a family favorite now. If you don’t like peppers and onions in your sauce, you could leave them out – I’m a fan of chunky pasta sauce though.

Homemade pasta sauce

  • 1 or 1.5 lb ground beef (or turkey or venison)
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 t. minced garlic
  • 2 t. oregano or basil or combo of both
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 1 t. maple syrup

Brown the beef over medium heat. When its about halfway brown, add in peppers and onions. As onions start to become translucent, add the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. When beef is fully browned and onions translucent, add in all 3 tomato cans, liquid included, and maple syrup. Simmer for at least 15 minutes, or even up to an hour on low heat, or in a crock pot on low for a few hours.

This pasta sauce is great served over zoodles (zuchinni noodles) if you’re grain free, and also great over regular spaghetti or pasta if you’re not grain-free.

Please do yourself a favor and stay away from ingredients like “flavoring”. And if you really need to know the ugly nasty truth, some “flavoring” is castoreum, which is “natural”, and is a bitter, orange-brown, odoriferous, oily secretion, found in two sacs between the anus and the external genitals of beavers. Seriously y’all. 

Yeah….just stay away from things with “flavoring” or “natural flavors”. You really don’t know what it may be…

Be fruitful, happy, healthy. And don’t ingest fluid from beaver genital glands.

Roasted Chicken, simplified

Oftentimes, moms feel like they just don’t have time to cook healthy for the family. Many “healthy” recipes are long and involved and use strange ingredients. I know. I’ve been there, done that. And I do enjoy cooking, and when/if I have the time, I like to try out those exotic new recipes. But for most weeknights, I just need something easy and simple. This Roasted Chicken is one of those meals.

For those who have never roasted a whole chicken before, the process seems intimidating. There’s that strange stuff inside of it, the question of how to cook it, and endless recipes to wade through of brining, various temperatures, herbs, rubs, marinades, etc. I’m here to say that a roasted chicken can be extremely simple, not to mention frugal and healthy too! My weeknight roasted chicken recipe only takes about 5 minutes of prep time.

I know there are various recipes that can make a roasted chicken a culinary masterpiece. And I realize there is a time and place for masterpieces in the kitchen, but for me, most days, I just want to get something healthy and easy on the table to feed my family. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure the fancier roasted chicken recipes taste better. But this roasted chicken recipe is for the moms with toddlers hanging onto their legs throwing a tantrum. Ain’t got no time for lemon juice and rosemary sprigs and sea salt brines.

This “recipe” (although I can’t really call it a recipe, it’s so simple) is a great weeknight meal. It will also likely give you leftovers for lunch or even another dinner later in the week. It only takes about 5 minutes of active prep time on your part, and then 90 minutes in the oven time. It’s similar in taste to those rotisserie chickens you can get at the grocery store, but this is much healthier because it doesn’t have the “flavoring” injected into it like the supermarket chickens do. (look at labels! “natural flavoring” = who knows what is in your chicken)

So first, you buy that big, raw, whole chicken. In my neck of the woods, these roasters are about 5 pounds, and typically about $0.95/lb, roughly $5.00 for the whole thing. If your family is smaller than mine, it’ll probably give you 2 meals worth of meat. We sometimes get 2 meals out of it depending on how hungry the children are. The leftover meat can be used for chicken tacos, or served on a salad or sandwich, or put in soup.

Ok, now for the “recipe”. Put the chicken, still wrapped in your sink. Cut the plastic off, and then get “the guts” out. Kind of gross, but cooking is not for the faint-hearted. Neither is motherhood. Or life, I suppose. So, “the guts” are just sitting inside the chicken and you simply scoop them out with your hands and into the trash. Some brands wrap them nicely in paper which makes it a tad easier, but it’s still inside the chicken. Now, use some paper towels to blot the outside of the chicken so the skin is dry. (This will give it the nice crispy skin)

Then put the chicken on the baking pan, breast side down. (this keeps the breast meat juicy and not dried out). It’ll probably look a little lonely and sad laying there. You can throw a few big sweet potatoes on the pan to keep it company and cook alongside if you want too.

Drizzle a little oil on top. If you’re feeling fancy, add some salt and pepper too. But if the toddler is still screaming at the base of your feet, you can easily skip the salt and pepper. I speak from experience.

Bake at 425 degrees F for about 90 minutes.

Voila. Done. Simple.

Serve with a couple sides or a salad. Dinner is done.

No, it won’t win any awards. But it is healthy, easy, and frugal. My kind of meal.

Be fruitful, healthy, happy. And simplify your chicken.

Easy healthy dinner – Cabbage, carrots and beef

Easy. Healthy. Those are my two criteria for dinner. Well, and frugal so we don’t go broke, and yummy so that the 8 people I’m cooking for will actually eat it. This dinner fits the bill.

The main players in this dinner are cabbage, carrots, and beef. Cabbage and carrots are two relatively cheap veggies to keep around in your fridge, and for a big family like ours, the cost of groceries is a big consideration. The other plus for these two hearty vegetables is that they last for weeks. They won’t wilt or mold in a few days like some fresh produce tends to do. I try to keep both of these in my refrigerator at all times because they can be used alone as a side dish or used together in this yummy dinner.

This weeknight meal that we call “cabbage, carrots and beef”(so creative!) is one of our family favorites. It’s a quick go-to meal that we usually have all the ingredients for and it only takes about 30 minutes to whip up. It’s also frugal because it only uses 1 lb. of meat for 4-6 servings. It feeds our family of 2 adults, 7 children! Those of us who can tolerate grains eat this served over a big bed of rice, and those who cannot eat rice have it with a side of baked sweet potato. It’s great on its own, so if you’re grain-free, definitely give this a try!

Cabbage, carrots and beef

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 4 carrots, grated or chopped in a food processor
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1-2 t. minced garlic
  • 1 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. pepper
  • 3 t. combo of any of the following: oregano, thyme, basil (I usually do 1 t. of each, but any combo will do)

First, brown your beef in a large skillet over medium high heat. When it’s about half-way browned, add in your onions and garlic and continue cooking until the beef is browned. Now sprinkle in all the seasonings and mix well, and then add in the cabbage and carrots. It will look like way too much cabbage at first, but it cooks down quite a bit! Just keep cooking on medium high until the cabbage is sufficiently tender for your liking. This is about 15 minutes for us. My crew likes it to be very soft (we do live in the south) but I imagine some people would like a little more crunch in their cabbage.

And voila! An easy, weeknight dinner that is frugal, healthy, and filling!

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Grain-free (paleo) granola

Have you heard the saying that you should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a peasant? Basically this means you should eat a huge breakfast, a little smaller lunch, and a light dinner. It’s supposed to be the healthier way of splitting our daily food intake to maximize our metabolism, keeping us feeling more satisfied through the day and giving us more energy.

We definitely eat breakfast like a king at our house. My children load up every morning on fruit, 2 eggs, roasted vegetables (see here for recipe), and some yogurt (see here for recipe) with this grain free granola. I know it sounds like a lot, but remember, breakfast like a king! By eating this big breakfast, my children easily stay full until lunchtime, with no morning snack or meltdowns because of hunger.

I tried a few different recipes for grain free granola that I found online, but we had complaints about each one – not sweet enough, too salty, too chewy, etc. We finally just developed our own and we’re all happy with it!

It is a little chewy, a little crunchy, just the right amount of sweetness. The great thing about it being grain-free (even if you do eat grains) is that it has a lot of protein, fiber, and will keep you full much longer than a traditional oat based granola.

We typically double this recipe and it lasts us a couple weeks. We do have 8 people eating it though! Also, as a side note, in our experience Amazon or Aldi usually has the best prices on nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Paleo, grain-free eating can get expensive, but remember too, you’ll eat less volume than with grain based foods because paleo, grain free foods keep you feeling satisfied for longer. (no morning snacks needed for your children!)

(wondering why we’re grain free? See here.)

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Here’s the recipe. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s so easy that my 10 year old daughter usually handles making this one on her own!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups almonds
  • 2 cups walnuts or pecans
  • 10-12 medjool dates (if you have smaller regular dates, use 14-16)
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 3 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup

 

  1. First, chop the first 3 ingredients in a food processor – not too long or it will be powder – just pulse until the nuts are about the size of the seeds.
  2. Pour into a big bowl and then add the next three ingredients (seeds and coconut) and mix.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon and maple syrup over low heat.
  4. Pour liquid over the nuts and seeds and mix well.
  5. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet.
  6. Bake at 300 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, stirring about halfway through. Cool completely and then store in an air tight container.

 

Enjoy friends! Eat like a king every morning. And be fruitful, happy, healthy!

 

The RC cola

So, we all know we should eat healthy. We should drink  a lot of water. We should cut down on sugar. This isn’t rocket science, and we all know it to be true. Then why don’t we do it? Why do so many people know the steps for healthy living, and yet can’t just put it in practice? There are many answers as to why for different people, but the one I want to write about today is about cleaning up our environment.

I typically eat very healthy, which for me means no processed foods, no fast food, no artificial anything. But the ONLY way I keep to this is by keeping my environment (my home) free of these things. I have to keep it out of my house because I have very weak willpower. IF there is candy in the house, it will be in my tummy by evening. I just can’t seem to say no. Even though I know it’s bad for me and that I will regret it later, if it’s here, I’ll eat it. But if its not here, then I can’t eat it. Common sense, right?

This is very fresh on my mind today because on Sunday (our church meets in our house) someone left this after the meal.

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Now, I don’t even know what RC cola tastes like – my soda of choice was always Cherry Coke or Dr. Pepper. But, I bet it is yummy, sugary, and fizzy. Just what I think I’d like to have right now. If it hadn’t been in the house, I wouldn’t have even given a thought to soda. Or at the most I would think, “man, I wish I had a cherry coke right now” but the thought would quickly vanish because too-bad, so-sad, we don’t keep that junk here. But with this in the fridge, staring me in the face every time I open it, its taking a lot of will power (that I don’t really have) to drink water instead of this.

This is setting me up for failure. I need to do myself a favor and just dump it in the sink. Stop looking at it. Stop considering it.

Maybe your issue isn’t soda, but some other unhealthy food or drink that you need to give up. The first step is set up your environment for success. If you know it’s not good for you, don’t keep it in your house. Don’t rely on your willpower when you can first keep your environment clean.

So now, that RC is going in the trash. And I’m drinking my 64 ounces of water today!

Be healthy, happy, and fruitful!