Costco’s summer strawberries are out of control. Is it possible to eat a over kilo of strawberries in a week? I managed to get through about half of them by making strawberry coconut ice pops for Jasmine and bringing some to lunch every day, but I got to the end of the week and still had about a pound left.
I needed a recipe that would be alright with imperfect strawberries just about at the end of their shelf-life, that didn’t have any added sugar (or honey or stevia or any sweetener whatsoever), and that I’ll be able to return to all summer, as our CSA continues to send us more fruit. I started pursuing Pinterest, but all of the recipes I found were either SWYPO (that is, paleo, but actually secretly a dessert, which is FINE, but not what I need right now), or had added sugars. So I got to work and started experimenting.
What better than a refreshing strawberry basil mocktail? The sweetness of the strawberries contrasts well with the subtle bite of the basil, but make no mistake, this is not a sweet drink!
Strawberry Basil Mocktail
Lots of strawberries (1 lb)
Lots of fresh basil leaves (1/2c)
Chop off the tops of the strawberries and blend them with 1/2 – 1 cup of water.
Roughly tear the fresh basil leaves in half.
Gently boil the strawberry slurry and basil down to a thick syrup, stirring frequently.
Store leftover syrup in the fridge for up to one week (or freeze it into ice cubes, like I did!).
Mix 3T strawberry basil syrup, 2T lime juice, and 1c fizzy water. Pour over ice.
FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY. Perfectly boiled easy-to-peel hardboiled eggs. No matter how new or old your eggs are.
The Internets are fill of lore on how to hard boil your eggs. How to get perfectly yellow yolks, with none of the grey-green of over-boiled eggs. How to get a white that is supple and tasty, instead of rubbery and over cooked. And most importantly, how to boil the eggs in such a way that they’re easy to peel.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have finally perfected my egg boiling technique. And for those of you who are laughing right now, you obviously don’t prepare two goddamned dozen hard boiled eggs a week. Because if you had to peel two goddamned dozen hard boiled eggs a week, you’d care a hell of a lot more about how easy they were to peel.
Theresa’s perfect hard boiled eggs
1) Bring a large pot of water to boil.
2) Once the water reaches a rolling boil, add your eggs (I use a spagetti do-hickey to do it one at a time).
3) Prep an ice bath in a bowl big enough to hold all of your eggs.
4) Leave eggs in soon-to-be-boiling-again water for 10 minutes. Note that this varies between burners. On the small burner, it takes 12 minutes. On the big burner, it takes 10.
5) Gently drain the eggs using a colander, then plunge the eggs into an ice bath. Once the eggs are cool, store them in the fridge.
Note: the ice bath is important to stop the eggs’ cooking and prevent grey yolks. If you don’t care about grey yolks, go ahead and skip that step.
What’s the best thing about coming back to the States from West Africa? Vegetable variety. Yes, access to asparagus and swiss chard and fresh broccoli narrowly beats out living close to friends and family. The quality of fruits and vegetables throughout West Africa is incredible. Everything bursts with flavor—after all, West African varieties haven’t been bred over the course of a century for appearance and sturdiness. Fruits come straight to the market from their trees.
And that’s awesome.
But it’s nice to have access to a diverse selection of fresh fruits and veggies. The great thing about spring in DC is that many of the fruits and vegetables I buy are grown locally (for varying degrees of “local,” of course). Crystal City has a lovely farmer’s market, and I’ve been taking advantage of it to buy fruits and vegetables to compliment my GMO bred-for-longevity but OH SO AFFORDABLE Costco veggies.
Even at the farmer’s market, sugar-free nitrate-free (that is, Whole30 compliant) bacon is prohibitively expensive. I’ve been looking for paleo-friendly way to stretch my bacon dollar, as well as incorporate vegetables (which is, after all, why I’m so happy to be back in DC). Bacon Wrapped Asparagus does both. The plate pictured is one rasher of bacon, and a double bunch of asparagus.
Recipe: Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
(OK, and some olive oil, salt, and paper)
Rinse and pat dry asparagus.
Snap off any tough ends.
Wrap bunches of 3-4 spears in half a slice of bacon (cut the short way, not the long way).
Place bunches on a grill on a cookie sheet (or, if you’re living out of an air freight shipment like me, use aluminum foil to create a fake grill) so that the bacon grease has somewhere to drip.
Drizzle exposed asparagus with olive oil, lightly salt and pepper.
There’s been some chatter on a few of the Whle30 boards I’m on about exactly how to get so much cooking done every week. How do you go paleo without devoting your entire life to cooking? There’s no getting around that paleo takes a hell of a lot of time in the kitchen. I’ve found that front loading the heavy lifting on Sundays makes week day meals a lot easier. I’ve been doing a cook-up for the last six months, and I’ve more or less got my technique down. Today, I got everything done in three hours.
Today I cooked:
Two rashers of bacon
20 hard boiled eggs
6 lbs of drumsticks (about 15)
Sweet potato soup
1.5 lbs of seasoned ground beef
Slow cooker meatballs in italian sauce
Chopped vegetables for a stir-fry
A bowl full of meat off two Costco chickens
The snack pot (see below for details)
Sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, and carrots for the baby
Part of being working parents has meant giving up some of the thing we loved most about being young and single and carefree. Like spare time. Ever. So, to save some time and money during the week, I do a cook-up every Sunday morning. I need to make it easy for me to throw dinner together in 15 minutes when we get home from work, and easy for both Bertrand and I to prep lunches for the next day every evening. Yes, it takes most of my Sunday, but well worth it to save the time during the week.
Step the first: Boil eggs and put vegetables in the steamer for baby food
I use my big stock pot for everything (including boiling eggs), and I usually make at least two different dishes in it during my cook-ups. The first thing I do when I get into the kitchen is throw my eggs into the pot, so that it’ll be free later for sauces.
Once the eggs are in a pot, my first batch of vegetables for the baby goes into the steamer.
Step the second: Prep the Crockpot meal
I cook a meal in the crockpot every Sunday. Today, I made Melissa Joulwan’s Italian Slow Cooker Meatballs. She has two fantasic cookbooks, Well Fed and Well Fed 2 that I use just about every week. Luckily, this meatball recipe is one where I can substitute out just about every single ingredient and still make it work. So I did, and it did. I whipped up some quick pasta sauce while boiling my hardboiled eggs, made the fastest meatballs ever, then dumped everything in the crockpot with some leftover chicken stock.
If i’ve got any other meat that’s gonna need defrosting in the microwave (like say, 3 kg of drumsticks), I get that going too.
And finally, I clean any dirty dishes.
Step the third: Vegetable Prep
While sauces and eggs are peculating on the stove, I start chopping. I prep a stir fry mix for the next week with any leftover vegetables sitting in the fridge. I chop vegetables for the delicious bowl of snack love (see below) I keep in the fridge. If I’m roasting vegetables, this is where I chop and season them. And I peel all of the sweet potatoes in the house for both baby food and eating during the week.
I do a lot of this step sitting at the dining room table, entertaining my toddler while I chop.
Once my eggs have been at a rolling boil for two minutes, I take them off the heat and throw them into an ice bath to stop the cooking. I like ‘em just barely hard boiled, and I’ve found that the ice bath is crucial to impeding grey yolks and that awful boiled egg sulfur smell.
And finally, I clean any dirty dishes.
Step the fourth: Baking
Baked items into the stove. Today, it was drumsticks (toss in oil, salt, and pepper, then bake forever at 400 degrees). Sometimes it’s roast vegetables, or a whole chicken, or both. The nice thing about thighs and drumsticks is that they’re forgiving of extra long stints in the stove. No dryness if I forget about them and take them out after 1h15 instead of 45 minutes.
Note that this week I also started the sweet potatoes boiling at this step.
And finally, I clean any dirty dishes (starting to notice a theme here?).
Step the fifth: BACON BACON BACON
I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up some Whole30 compliant bacon while I was up in MD for dinner earlier this week. YUM. I get two frying pans going, and fry 5 pieces in each frying pan at a time.
Keeping the kitchen clean as I go has made a huge difference in how stressful and frustrating the cook up is. If you wait until you’re done to clean, not only are you exhausted from cooking for several hours, you’ve STILL got more work to do.
Step the sixth: MOAR PROTEIN
Use one of the bacon frying pans to brown a pound of so of ground beef. Then, pull the chicken off any leftover Costco chickens sitting around and refrigerate. Dump the bones, skin, and leftover bits and pieces into my big stock pot for, you guessed it, chicken stock.
Step the seventh: Clean, then puree the baby food
At this point, I’m done with the stove and I can start cleaning. Yeah, the kitchen’s usually a disaster at this point, and I can use the downtown while the chicken is baking to straighten things up a bit.
Then it’s time to finish up the baby food. If I’m making a lot (like today), I’ve been switching vegetables in and out of the steamer all morning, while working on other things. I puree the baby food with expressed milk or formula (depending on what I’ve got around), then dump it into ice cube trays for freezing.
Step the LAST: SNACK BOWL LOVE
This last step can be done in your living room in front of the TV if you want. Sit down and drink a bottle of ice water, then get back to work.
The snack bowl is exactly what it sounds like. Plastic baggies full of mixed vegetables, nuts, and dates for Bertrand and I to grab and throw into our lunch boxes every day. This way, we don’t have to get out the chopping board or put any effort into including healthy vegetables in our lunches. In the bowl: 5 baggies of mixed veg, 5 baggies of baby carrots, 5 baggies of raw almonds, 5 baggies of roasted cashews, and 5 baggies of dates.
Keep an eye on the stock and the slow cooker, as they’ll need to simmer all day.
Congratulations! You’ve got your major meal prep for the week done!
After my last post, I got a few questions (and a few snarky emails) about making my own baby food. Here’s the thing. This works for me. I spend all day Sunday cooking *anyway* (thanks, paleo!). So it’s no big deal for me to steam more vegetables, then puree them before making some paleo mayo. It might be a real hassle for someone else, and that’s OK. My making Grace’s baby food isn’t a criticism of those who don’t.
Why do I make my own baby food?
In Freetown, the supply of baby food available to purchase locally was not reliable. Jars were often expired, their provenance was often unclear, and there weren’t any hippy organic brands without sugar and additives.
Here in DC, there are a wealth of baby food options available! Hurray! But after making all of Jasmine’s food in Freetown (often from frozen vegetables), making all of Grace’s here in the States doesn’t seem nearly as scary.
It’s less expensive. Seriously. 5 lbs of sweet potatoes vs. 20 jars of sweet potatoes? A bag of collard greens vs. 10 jars of spinach? I made 2 months worth of vegetables for less than $15.
No sugar. No salt. No additives of any kind. I can get my control freak on and make sure that nothing’s going into Grace’s mouth that I don’t want to. Hahaha. Except when Jasmine tries to feed her Cheerios. *sigh*
Less waste. No jars, no pouches, no nothing that has to be tossed, aside from the occasional ziplock bag that’s too grody to be reused again (yes, I wash and reuse my ziplocks).
It’s a relatively simple process. Buy food, steam or boil food, puree food, freeze into ice cube trays, move into ziplocks when completely frozen.
My baby likes it. My husband likes it. I like it. And that’s really all that matters.
The bad news is that I spent the weekend eating wheat products in hopes of increasing my milk supply. The good news is that I am now super clear on what types of food utterly destroy me when eaten in any sort of quantity.
My supply did increase, but at the expense of my body. And it STILL wasn’t enough! ARGH! All this misery, and Grace still needed bottles of formula this weekend. We introduced her to solids this week, and I think the answer is MOAR FUD PLEEZ. Sure, I could spend another week eating bread and oatmeal and other grains, and being absolutely miserable, or …
I could get out the immersion blender and get to work:
Sweet potatoes. Butternut squash. Pears. Collard greens. Carrots. Plantains. Bananas. And one tray of oatmeal, to mix in as her appetite continues to grow. Yeah, she’s gonna eat better than I do. :-P One of the best things about being back in the States is how damn easy it is to find an enormous variety of fruits and vegetables. And also, being able to mix in water from the tap to get the consistency of my purees right. SO MUCH EASIER. I love America!
In any case, if the apocalypse comes tomorrow, I have enough frozen purees to last us awhile. And if it doesn’t, then I still won’t need to do this again for several weeks. Hellsyeah.
The good news is that cutting grains out of my diet has cured my digestive ills. Coworkers, I owe an apology to anyone who got stuck in an elevator with me my first two months in Freetown.
The bad news is that it is really hard to go out to eat in Freetown and avoid grains and potatoes. As I learned when I had to start avoiding dairy and soy for Jasmine, the only way to really avoid eating something you don’t want to is to avoid processed foods all together.
Jasmine appears to be more and more OK with small amounts of dairy. A chocolate here or a piece of cow’s milk cheese there don’t seem to have major effects on her system. That said, a chocolate binge + a wine and cheese party yesterday = a gassy Jasmine last night and a big breakout today. Oops.
At this point, no grains + no dairy + no soy = basically a paleo diet. The only things left to cut out were sugar and beans. 7 lbs later, the experiment has been a resounding success.
All natural, all the time has also forced me to spend a fair amount of time cooking. This week’s lunch prep:
1 roast chicken
1/2c baba ganoush
4 salmon patties
1 dozen hard boiled eggs
6 carrots, sliced
2 green peppers, sliced
4 plum tomatoes, sliced
Bertrand’s all like, WTF? The kitchen was spotless just a few hours ago!
Perhaps you’ve seen the gorgeous egg-in-avocado recipe that’s been floating around Pinterest. My version was also beautiful. Unfortunately, beautiful != delicious.
I always forget how bland avocados are when baked. The texture was luxurious, but combined with the egg, the dish needed more than just a bit of salt, pepper, and olive oil.
I’m sure there’s a good way to do this. Bertrand suggested mashing up the avocado with garlic, scallions, salt, and pepper first, but that would ruin the aesthetic of dumping an egg into the center of the avocado.
Yesterday was rough. Fun, but rough. Also, avoiding everything on the list of stuff Jasmine may or may not be sensative to has been less than fun.
Lucky for everyone, I am pretty damn creative.
For breakfast, I crumbled turkey sausage on top of half of a leftover sweet potato, then drizzled delicious fake maple syrup over it.
Lunch was ham, fake mashed potatoes made w/ olive oil and water instead of butter and milk, and a vegetable medley.
Dinner was a ginormous salad. Not pictured: gross Wolfgang Puck canned soup that I also ate because I was starving.
Also not pictured: honey graham sticks that I noshed on throughout the day. Turns out, I am too damn lazy to take pictures of snacks.
After today’s trip to DC was canceled, Bertrand and I made some decisions about Jasmine’s (read: my) diet. It’s time to start adding potential allergens back in, so that we can figure out what it is that’s actually bothering her digestive system.
Before bed, I downed a glass of milk and a handful of cheddar cheese cubes. So far, no problems! Hurray! Dairy, I missed you so much!
I’m only going to talk about the baby on Thursdays. One day a week. That’s my New Year’s Blogging Resolution, and I’m sticking to it.
Except that having a baby has affected every part of my life, and sometimes it’s damn hard to talk about anything else without talking about her.
Baby J* has a food intolerence, an intolerence that gives her crazy-ass gas and sometimes diarrhea. Brand new baby has diarhea on the day after Christmas? Guess who spent December 26 in the ER. :-P We don’t know what it is. Her doctor doesn’t know what it is. But everyone’s universally agreed that something I eat messes up her immature digestive system and that I should cut it out.
The Internets are full of lists of food to avoid while breastfeeding. Thanks, Internets, for giving me more Mom guilt, as if I don’t have enough already. I’m on a strict elimination diet, and guess what! It works! Baby J no longer has gas or diarrhea or gastrointestinally provoked colic. Of course, Mama T is hungry and cranky, but that’s actually not as important as actually being able to sleep at night.
Things I can’t eat:
Broccoli and related vegetables
Onions and garlic
Caffeine the doctor said to go ahead and have a cup of coffee in the morning if it didn’t appear to upset Jasmine. THANK YOU LORD I CAN CONTINUE TO LIVE.
The biggies are foods that are hard to digest (veggies, beans), foods that irritate the digestive system (caffeine), and common allergens, including cow proteins. Do you know how freaking hard it is to find processed foods without soy in them? EVERYTHING HAS SOY. Soybean oil. Soy litchen. MSG. Soy is in breads, crackers, cookies, and even frozen veggies.
So whatever. I eat a lot of sausage (pork and turkey), fruits (apples, grapes, bananas), chicken, innocuous vegetables (mushrooms, carrots, green beans), and carbs (oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes).
Breakfast was delicious: crumbled sausage on a sweet potato with maple syrup, and coffee with vanilla almond milk. I didn’t take a picture because I had already eaten everything by the time I’d finished reheating my coffee in the microwave. Yeah, I microwaved my coffee this morning. Don’t hate.
Needless to say, it makes watching what I eat an excercise in frustration. Avoiding anything with soy or dairy in it is hard enough, not to mention the raw veggies I have to avoid. I’m just not interested in freaking out about POUNDS and the SCALE and OMG FITNESS, when it’s all I can do to get enough calories to breastfeed Jasmine every day.
*Not a blog pseudonym; we call her “J” around the house. Bertrand’s “B” (prounounced “bey”, as in the French letter B), and I’m “T”.