Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cranberry Beef Stew, Um... Potatoes, and Beef Hearts

Caveman had suggested beef stew for dinner, so I made that.

We had a beef bone left over from our St. Patrick's Day Not-Corned Beef (that's what we get for not planning ahead!), so I tossed that, along with a soup bone and some water, into the crock pot on low overnight. In the morning, I chopped up some beef (probably 3ish lbs), browned it in the skillet with some bacon grease and spices (black pepper, cumin, and garlic powder I think), and tossed that in the crock-pot, too, along with some chopped up celery and root vegetables - 2 carrots and half a rutabaga (if I'm not mistaken). I chopped up and fried an onion and some garlic in the same pan I'd used for the beef, and tossed that in as well. At some point I added some more black pepper, cumin, hot sauce, a dash of basalmic vinegar, and worchestire sauce.

I kept feeling that it needed something more, and eventually, I hit on the bag of cranberries that was sitting in the freezer. Googling the idea to ensure I wasn't totally crazy, I found that other people had, in fact, had the same inspiration (this should not be a surprise. Not much is unique on the internet. I found, for example, that I'm not the only person who has literally dreamed up a recipe for Avocado Pie). So I tossed in the cranberries. Caveman wasn't be crazy about that addition, but I told him to pick out the meat bits. The stew was already full of root veggies since I wanted it to be more than chunks of beef in broth, so he'd have to do that anyways.

* B said it was good.
* Autistic Girl ate it without comment or complaint.
* Boy ate a bit, but didn't like it.
* I think Caveman liked the meaty bits ok.
* Medium Girl was very happy eating the carrots and the pieces of meat with fat on them. She loves the fatty bits, and is always asking for more fat, which makes me cringe a little from a standard Western medicine point of view. But she's a child whose brain is still growing, so I try not to get too worked up about it. She asked for another piece with fat as a treat before bed.
* Me... eh. It was good-ish, but I'd imagined the cranberries as providing nice little plump bursts of tartness, when they actually provided little mushy bits of sour. They may not have been the best quality cranberries, and I probably would have gotten results more in line with my imagination if I'd used dried cranberries. I also should have removed some of the broth from the pot in the morning and saved it for something else before adding the ingredients. Without any paleo-appropriate thickener (most stew recipes use flour and/or cornstarch), it was way too brothy for a stew.

Baby tried out her new high chair for the first time, and I was able to actually eat dinner with both hands free until she got too fussy and had to be held. Very unusual these days, that.

Um... Potatoes. That's our new name for parsnips around these parts. Medium Girl adores potatoes, but they have a noticable effect on her behavior, so we don't do them anymore. But she'll happily accept cooked parsnips as potatoes. So we call them Um... Potatoes. Then send Boy to his room if he tries to insist that "Actually, they're Bunicula'd carrots".

Last night's recipe was an organ meat curry that, unfortunately, is really not worth writing about. Definitely not as good as the chili. Even the beef heart was a disappointment. I got it out all ready to totally do Anatomy Lesson with Boy before chopping it up for curry, and discovered that the heart was actually a half a heart, and not cut along a particularly useful plane. Someone else got most of the valves.

I did get to stick my finger through the hole between the right atrium and inferior vena cava, though. That was kind of cool.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pi Day

Since yesterday was Pi Day (3/14), I was obligated to make pie. For the kids, of course.

I followed the inspiration of, and made a frozen berry "ice cream" pie.

1.5ish cups almonds (hazelnuts, pecans, or coconut would be good too, or a picture)
a few spoonfuls of clarified butter (plain butter or coconut oil would work, too)
It would probably taste and hold together a little better with a few dates or something thrown in, but it was fine. The clarified butter was a good choice, flavor-wise.
A dash of cinammon

1 lb berries (I used frozen blackberries because that's what was least expensive.)
1 apple
Coconut milk. 1 cupish? Less than a full can.
A few spoonfuls lime marmalade (not paleo - lime juice/zest and a little honey or something would probably do fine, or you could probably skip the sweetener if you were using good, fresh, ripe in-season berries.
Good big dashes of cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.

I also drizzled some syrup (the fake-maple pancake stuff) on top. That was good, but could easily be left out or replaced with something else. What can I say? We have this stuff that needs using up and I hate wasting food, even if it's actually "food".

Process nuts in food processor until coursely ground. Add butter or oil and cinnamon and process a bit more. Press mixture into bottom of pie pan, about 1/4" thick.

Process apple and about 1/2 to 2/3 of the berries together. Add coconut milk, marmalade (or lime) and spices and process a bit more, until it's like a thick smoothie. You could do this in a blender, in fact, but why get more than one appliance dirty? Pour mixture over crust.

Arrange remaining berries artfully across the top of the pie. Or just scatter them around if you're unartistic like me.

I should have arranged them in a Pi symbol. Darnit.


You probably want to take it out 5-10 minutes before attempting to cut to let it thaw a bit.

The kids, B, and I really enjoyed it. It was a bit too high on the glycemic index for everyone else. Warning: This is energy food! No one was tired after eating it, which is a problem at near-bedtime. I served the rest to the kids this afternoon before sending them to play outside.

I'm kind of surprised the kids enjoyed it so much - between the nuts, lime, cardamom, and low sugar content (relative to most SAD desserts, that is), the taste seems a bit more adult-oriented. But like it they did.

I think it would have been excellent with a spoonful of cocoa thrown in somewhere. In fact, I meant to include some cocoa or carob in the crust (probably carob, since it's naturally sweet), but forgot. Dark cocoa chips/chunks mixed into the filling would have been even better.

As far as I can tell, the baby did ok with the clarified butter, and that provided a good flavor for the crust. I've done similar pies before when we were eating a raw diet, and I think this crust was by far the tastiest.

Dinner was fish. I didn't make it, but it was just basic catfish fillets. I believe they just had some spices sprinkled on top, and were baked for 15-20 minutes at 385F.

The kids love fish, and ate it all up, leaving no seconds for the adults.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A SAD Kid's Nightmare Chili

When I was a kid, I didn't like liver.

I had a Sesame Street book including a princess character who loved liverwurst sandwiches, and my mom convinced me to try liverwurst on the basis of that. I liked liverwurst ok, but I still didn't like liver.

In college, one of my dormmates was originally from India. Her mother sent her back to the dorm after a weekend at home with a container of Indian-spiced chicken livers. I gingerly tried one. It was really good, prepared that way. But I still didn't like plain liver.

I had liverwurst again as an adult, and still liked it.

Then one day our housemate threw some sliced up liver in the soup. It was good. It was better than good. It fulfilled a hunger I didn't even know I had.

And I realized that I'd always liked liver. I'd just been told by various media that I didn't.

Tonight, I was a little stuck on what to eat for dinner, so I looked in the freezer. We had a pound of ground beef (too little to do much with in a house with 6 eaters), a similar quantity of pork labeled "for chili", and 3 lbs of steaks. I took the ground beef and pork and threw them in the crock pot, along with a cup or so of the chicken stock I made from the chicken stock a few nights ago. Half of a pepper from the stuffed peppers remained, and some carrots in beef broth from last nights dinner, so I threw them in, too.

SAD Kid Nightmare #1 - Leftovers.

I processed an onion and some garlic and threw them in, spiced it up (cumin, garlic powder, a bit of dried mustard, a bit of cinnamon, a half spoonful of sage, a spoonful of cocoa powder (see?), and a small small amount of chili powder so the pickies wouldn't be put off. Everyone else can add more hot if needed), and left it for a while.

I tasted it, and it seemed a bit flat. I spiced it up a bit more. Caveman finally sent a message saying he would be eating at home, and I thought it wasn't quite a big enough chili considering that, so I went poking around to see what else I could add.

I found SAD Kid Nightmare #2 - liver.

Looking around at chili recipes online while it cooked, I found one that included spinach. We had spinach, so Sad Kid Nightmare #3 got added.


* Caveman is out, and may or may not eat some when he returns (the tomato paste is probably a bit high Glycemic Index)
* B says it is her new favorite way to do liver.
* Autistic Girl ate it without comment or complaint.
* Medium Girl at first refused, but deigned to eat all the carrot bits I picked out for her, and was, in fact, quite enthusiastic about them. As they were coated in chili, that's a win.
* Boy says he liked it, but ate 4 slices of pizza at a birthday party earlier, and said he wasn't hungry. I'm not sure if this was the truth (I'm sure the pizza part was true, not so sure about the like part), or a white lie. (Edit: Seems to have been a white lie - he said the next day that he didn't like it very much and didn't want his leftovers for lunch.)
* I loved it. It tasted just right. The liver added a creaminess and flavor that had been missing, and it really tasted like chili.

We'll see how Baby reacts. I'm not sure she tolerates tomatoes.

(Yesterday's dinner was nothing worth writing about. A pork roast thrown in the crock pots with some carrots and a cup of beef broth. It turned out kinda dry. The only win was that Medium Girl happily ate it because I was able to give her a piece with lots of fat on it. I still shudder at this, even though I'm supposed to get over the whole "fat is bad" thing.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Roast chicken

When I was little, my mom would make us the dinner of our choice for our birthdays. I always chose roasted chicken.

Then I grew up, moved away, asked her how to make it, and felt a little dumb for letting her off the hook so easy all those years.

Preheat oven to 375F. Stick chicken parts in pan. Drizzle with olive oil (or oil of your choice). Sprinkle with whatever seasonings you happen to feel like using (garlic and dill was her standard. Tonight I used garlic, Old Bay, and something else that I can't remember now. And salt, but that's a paleo no-no, so pretend you didn't see that. I did not add cocoa powder). Stick in oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until juices run clear.

You can stick chopped up veggies in the pan with it before doing all the oil and seasoning. Many do fine with the 45 minutes, but brocolli only needs about 20.

* Caveman wasn't home.
* Autistic Girl ate it without comment or complaint.
* B ate it without comment or complaint.
* I thought I totally nailed the seasonings this time. It was tasty.
* The picky kids gobbled it. Medium Girl got upset that hers wasn't cool right away and she had to wait a few minutes. She only ate one drumstick, but that's a hit compared to most dinners these days. Boy ate two drumsticks.

With a prep time of about 2 minutes and it being about the only thing both pickies will happily eat, I'm not sure why I don't make this more often.

Bones are being saved for stock once we finish with the leftovers.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stuffed Bell Pepper Boats

The other day I got the sudden urge to make stuffed bell peppers. I'm not sure why. I don't know if it's something I've ever had before. It just seemed something that might be visually appealing to the pickies and a good use way of integrating veggies.


3 bell peppers (we have agreed to wait until they're in season to get them again, because they're expensive now)
3 lbs ground beef
1 zucchini (standard grocery store size, not mondo garden size)
A few handfuls of grated cheese
One onion
A bunch of cloves of garlic
A few handfuls of spinach
Some bacon
Cumin (probably about 1 tsp)
Garlic powder to taste (we like garlic around here)
Lemon Pepper to taste
Leftover beef/pork drippings from a previous dinner

Preheat oven to 375F. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise (you can also just cut the tops off, but this way stretched the three peppers across six people), clean out the seeds. Grate cheese and zucchini. Peel garlic and onion, and food process along with the spinach into smallish chunks (probably could have just thrown the zucchini in there, too). Chop bacon. Mix veggies, cheese, bacon, and spices with meat. Stuff meat mixture into peppers. Pour leftover drippings (or broth, or tomato sauce) over the top. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes.

I actually made half of these with cheese and the other half not (no cheese for me, AutisticGirl, or MediumGirl, who likes cheese but not melted in stuff). I meant to leave the zucchini out of part of it for low-carbing Caveman, but the baby was fussing up a storm, and I got mixed up and didn't manage that.

This actually made enough for two small loaf pans of meatloaf in addition to the stuff peppers, which is interesting, since I thought I used the same amount of meat to make two just slightly larger pans of meatloaf the other day. I imagine the zucchini added significantly to the bulk.


* Caveman liked it, but doesn't want that much in the way of veggies right now.
* B thought the bacon and cheese made for an excellent combination, and that the peppers were very good. I'm sure I would agree if I could do cheese.
* AutisticGirl ate it without comment or complaint, as usual.
* Boy loved the meat, said the broth smelled good, had seconds of the meat, and wants it for lunch tomorrow, but didn't eat the pepper.
* I thought I might have a winner for MediumGirl. I called them boats, and cunningly offered to trade my "prettier" red boat for her yellow boat. She enthusiastically accepted, talked about how pretty they were... then refused to eat more than her requisite bite. And then wouldn't let anyone else eat her pepper because it was pretty.
* I thought it was very tasty. The broth inside the pepper was absolutely amazing and I wish there was more of it. I'll be eating MediumGirl's for breakfast tomorrow.

Obligatory Intro

Our household (two families) consists of two picky kids (a 7 year old boy and a 4 year old girl, hereafter referred to as Boy and Medium Girl), my husband (Caveman) who is working at losing weight via a low-carb diet, a breastfeeding BabyGirl who is sensitive to many things (dairy for sure, probably eggs, wheat, legumes, and possibly tomatoes or something else), a formerly-picky autistic teenager who has been on a gluten and casein free, low carbohydrate diet for several years, her mother B who is neither picky nor on any particular diet, and me. I'm not picky (Caveman would argue with that, but really, I'm not particularly), and if it weren't for the baby wouldn't need any sort of special diet. I'm losing weight a bit more than I probably should be while breastfeeding.

That Baby is awfully lucky she's so cute.

Anyways, we started the paleo diet as a household a few months ago, as it both seemed to make a lot of sense and fit well with our varying dietary needs. Even the non-autistic members of the household have noticed negative reactions to grains - tiredness, grumpiness, behavior problems from the kids (and adults!), weight gain... There seemed to be no reason to keep it as part of our diet.

Except sometimes it's really hard to find things everyone is willing and able to eat. Hence this blog.

We're not perfect at the paleo thing. We do our best with a limited budget, but our best sometimes includes excessively processed meats and such. Everyone but Autistic Girl and I (and, by extension, the baby) still eats dairy. I eat chocolate. Yummy yummy chocolate. I find myself saying "This would be better with a spoonful of cocoa powder to just about everything. I considered naming the blog that, actually. I like carob, too. I especially like carob and chocolate together, which may defeat the purpose, but tastes great.

I also have a bit of a sugar problem, in case that isn't obvious from the past few sentences (as I'm not eating straight unsweeteed cocoa, you know), but I've cut way down recently and that's improving. Paleo helped with that, I think. A few weeks after we started the diet, I woke up one day and didn't particularly feel the need for sugar in my coffee (though I still do it sometimes, such as when I stick a spoonfull of cocoa in it). Now, I tend to have a hard time turning it down if it's there, but I don't go out of my way for it either, and a lot of the processed stuff is just not seeming that appealing.

Also, when you eat a piece of cake and the baby starts in on inconsolable screaming a few hours later, it gets less appealing. Especially since it wasn't that great, anyways.

We hope to get a cow or two soon, as we have about an acre of pasture that needs chewing up through the summer. We're also working on chickens, possibly pigs and/or goats, and a garden. That could be interesting.