Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sausage, Cauliflower, and Spinach Casserole

Happy Hump Day!  My alarm clock went off this morning and woke me from a super vivid dream, which had me pretty disoriented all morning.  Typically by the time my phone goes off I'm sleeping pretty lightly but this morning I saw intense pillow creases on my face in the mirror, and knew I was completely zonked before my alarm jolted me awake.  Not the most pleasant start to the day.

In other news, the battery on my iPhone is fading--completely died for the fourth day in a row after being off the charger for 8 hours.  So frustrating.  I'm planning on going to Apple this weekend, which I HATE because they always make me feel like I'm such a bad Mac-momma.  "You have water damage", "your screen is filthy", "your case is pretty dinged up", etc.  Sorry Genius Bar, let's just be happy the phone you're holding hasn't fallen in the toilet yet, ok?


I have rounds on Wednesdays so I have to go to work early...every Wednesday...and yet I continue to get to the gym late specifically on these days and only have 15 minutes to work out.  I try to make those 15 minutes count by doing some high intensity activity or another, so today I did a tabata (20 sec of hard work, 10 sec off) including jumping rope and walking lunges.  Major red face after that, but glad I banged out something worthwhile despite the time crunch.


I've been on a bit of a casserole kick lately, only Monday night's meal was pretty meh.  Last night's, however, was delicious.  I love a good one-pot meal, plus this one managed to sneak spinach in to the mix, which I typically only partake in when part of a salad.  This casserole, adapted from The Preppy Paleo, was super tasty, probably from the sun dried tomato action.  The original recipe called for ricing the cauliflower then steaming it in chicken stock, but I'm way too lazy for that, plus who cares if the cauliflower is grain-sized when it's going to wind up in a casserole anyway?  So I adapted the recipe to make it simpler, here's how it went:

Sausage, cauliflower, and spinach casserole
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
1 lb. sausage
5 cups raw spinach
1/2 can of full-fat coconut milk 
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil
2t garlic powder
1T tomato paste
s&p to taste

Preheat your oven to 350.  Then heat an oven-proof casserole dish over medium-high heat and brown your sausage.  While that's going, steam your cauliflower.  When the sausage is done, add the spinach and mix it around until it's wilted, then throw in the cauliflower,  sun dried tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic powder and s&p.  While that's cooking together for a couple minutes, mix the eggs and coconut milk with s&p.  Then simply add the egg and milk mixture to the meat and veggies and mix together quickly before the eggs start to set at all, and throw it in the oven.  Cook for 35-40 minutes until the middle of the casserole is set.  Enjoy!


This meal was so easy to make and packed with veggies.  I was really surprised how just 1/4c of sun dried tomatoes could flavor a whole dish!  The original recipe didn't call for tomato paste, but the Coach always talks about how tomato paste has lots of lycopene in it, so I threw it in there.  I buy tomato paste in the toothpaste-like containers that are at most grocery stores now, because unless you have a recipe that calls for a full 6oz, the rest usually goes to waste if all you need is 1-2T.  As we were eating last night, I kept turning to the Coach and commenting how surprised I was that the dish turned out so well--sometimes it's the simple recipes that taste the best!

Off to use up the rest of my jar of sun dried tomatoes for dinner...hmmm guess what I'm making?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thanksgiving Stuffing Meatballs + Carrot-flower Puree

I can't believe we're already halfway through's weird that Mother's Day has happened and yet it was 40 degrees out this morning.  I'm pretty much counting down the days until the Coach and I have some time off this summer.  We have a lot going on these next few weeks so we are REALLY looking forward to some much needed R&R in June, not to mention our 3-year anniversary (!) at the end of May.  Lots to look forward to!


Back to lifting today!  And I'm already sore.  Womp womp.  Today's workout included dumbbell plank rows, which I have only been able to master recently.  I've pretty much figured out why these used to be so hard for me: I didn't have my feet planted wide enough in the starting position, so I would quickly crash to the floor as soon as I lifted an arm up.  You basically set yourself up in a plank, with your hands on dumbbells (I use 15lbs) and (apparently) your feet wider than your shoulders.  Then you simply do a 1-arm row with the weight, making sure to brace your core and your bum muscles, like this handsome man does so beautifully.  Let me tell you, the Coach makes it look easy but this sh*t is hard!  Major ab workout right there.  Who needs crunches, right?


So this meal last night was pretty epic, which is why you get TWO stellar recipes today!  The Coach loves all things meatball (minus any Jersey Shore references), while I tend to avoid making them because of the serious mess factor.  But I have to return Practical Paleo this week and I wanted to make one more recipe from this informative/delicious book.  This meatball recipe would pair nicely with a simple cranberry sauce like the book recommended (as the Coach quickly pointed out) but I had to use up my cauliflower before it went bad.  So enter my spin on Nom Nom Paleo's carrot and parsnip puree!  Here's how both recipes came together:

Thanksgiving stuffing meatballs
1lb Italian sausage
1/4c walnuts, finely chopped
6 sage leaves, chopped
 1 egg
1 onion, finely chopped
4 carrots, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 425.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and saute the carrots and onions until translucent.  Meanwhile, mix the sausage, nuts, egg, and sage together in a bowl.  When the veggies are done, let them cool for a few minutes, then mix the whole mess together.  Roll in to 12-15 golf ball sized meatballs and bake for 20-25 minutes.


Carrot-flower Puree
1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1lb carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
1c chicken stock
3T butter

Melt 1T butter (or cooking fat of your choice) in a large saucepan over medium heat, then throw in your veggies and stock with s&p.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover for 25-30 minutes (I started this puree before the meatballs, and the timing worked out perfectly).  The veggies should be very tender, and then either use an immersion blender or food processor/standard blender to mix everything up.  Add the last 2T of butter and adjust for seasoning.


These two dishes went together SO well!  The meatballs were moist and delicious, and the puree was insanely creamy.  This is the first way I've been able to coerce the Coach in to enjoying cauliflower puree, as my previous efforts have been poorly received--I think the sweetness the carrots added to the mix won him over.  The meatballs weren't super Thanksgiving-y (I hate to admit it but the Coach is right, the cranberry sauce would have knocked it out of the park), but the sage flavor plus the toasty nuts made these a definite make again.

Hope everyone's week is off to a great start!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Greek Chicken Hash

Happy Mother's Day!  Hope everyone had a nice day celebrating the mama's in your life, or being pampered yourselves.  The Coach and I traveled to CT today to enjoy dinner with my parents and both my sisters and their families.  We had a blast, and the day only would have been better if I had gotten to spend time with my mother-in-law as well!

We got to CT early so we met my parents at Whole Foods.  It's only been within the past couple of years that I started cooking dinner every night, and my "real, whole food" eating style hasn't come around until the last year, and I haven't been to WF since these changes.  Holy food palace.  The degree of amazing, non-processed, real ingredient options there is unreal.  I totally get why they call it "Whole Paycheck".  I could have wandered around there for hours, literally.  Choosing lunch from the hot bar was hard enough.  The Coach and I ended up leaving with some freshly ground mixed nut butter (combo of almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, and Brazil nuts), coconut flour (first time buying this, couldn't resist the $4 price tag), and some all-natural jalapeno ranch salad dressing for the Coach.  Good thing we had a 2 1/2 hour drive back, because the insane amount of Applegate Farms hot dog options had me wishing we had a cooler with us.  Did I mention hot dogs are one of my favorite foods?  Can't wait to use the coconut flour in something...hoping the new cookbook I ordered from Amazon, Well Fed by the blogger of The Clothes Make the Girl, has some inspiring dishes that call for this paleo ingredient.


I made sure to get to the gym for a quick workout this morning--I find that long car rides are way more tolerable when I've burned some energy beforehand.  The gym was pretty quiet, but the bike I chose was right next to a middle-aged man pumping so slowly I was impressed with what I assumed was a crazy high resistance level.  When I snoopishly glanced at this display, I realized the bike wasn't even on!  He was pushing the pedals in slow motion with no resistance--actually not that easy to do in reality.  5 minutes in, he began doing rhythmic fist pumps.  He seemed pretty dedicated to his routine, I had to hand it to him, even with his arms flailing about.  It was entertaining and made my gym time fly by.


I actually made this Greek chicken recipe a few days ago and never got around to blogging about it, because of my state of supreme exhaustion last week.  I'm always up for a one-pot meal, especially since the Coach has been home late this trimester so I like to get most of the dishes done so he doesn't have to scrub pans right up until bedtime.  I try to choose recipes where I can start the cooking process and continue to prep ingredients while the meal is getting underway, and this dish is a great example of that.  As always I couldn't resist the temptation to modify, so here's how my interpretation of this recipe came together:

Greek chicken hash
1lb ground chicken
2-4c steamed veg of your choice (I did a combo of snow peas and green beans)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, chopped (I left the veins and seeds in for extra heat, scrape those out for a milder dish)
1t dried oregano
zest & juice of 1 lemon
¼c coconut milk (or stock)

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and saute chicken until cooked through.  While the chicken is cooking, steam your veggies.  To the cooked chicken, add in the garlic, jalapeno  and oregano and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add in the lemon juice + zest and the coconut milk or stock. Stir everything around and make sure you get up all the bits that might be stuck to the pan.  Add in your steamed vegetables and let reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated.

greek chicken hash

This meal was delicious.  I LOVE lemon, so the fresh citrus taste paired nicely with the herby chicken.  I often like to swap out chicken stock for coconut milk because I love the creamy texture and subtle sweetness it lends to most meals.  The original recipe calls for chicken thighs which weren't at the supermarket during my weekly shop so I subbed in ground chicken--never be afraid to try different cuts or types of meat with these recipes!  Anyway, the Coach and I really liked this one, especially because it was a change from the never ending cycle of Asian and Mexican dishes I've been creating lately.  Yum!

Hope everyone enjoyed today with their family, have a nice start to the week!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Thai Burger with Almond Butter Chili Sauce

Hello blogees!  I took a little time off from blogging, sorry for my absence, life has just gotten in the way, yknow?  But no worries, I come equipped with a delicious summer-ready recipe!


I've taken a week off from heavy lifting.  Crazy right?  I was feeling so run down by the start of the week, I decided to be nice to myself and gorge on the stack of InStyle and Women's Health sitting in my gym locker.  Glorious.

So no crazy gym routine today, guys.  Instead just a tip: do what you like at the gym.  It's pretty fun.


Something about summer just screams burgers to me.  Burgers and cold beverages in some sort of outdoor space.  Yum.  I've been perfecting the oven-baked burger in the absence of a grill, and this  sauce was a delicious twist on the original.  Plus I made cocoa-toasted cauliflower from The Clothes Make the Girl that was an excellent accompaniment to the spicy sauce. 

Thai burger with almond butter chili sauce
Burger ingredients:
1lb ground beef (I used 93% lean)
1/2t garlic salt
1/4t pepper
1t chili powder
Sauce Ingredients:
3T almond butter (or nut butter of your choice)
1T rice wine vinegar
1T low sodium tamari (or soy, aminos, etc)
3T coconut milk 
1T sriracha
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all the burger ingredients together until just incorporated--overmixing will result in tough burgers!  Then simply divide the meat mixture in to 4 patties, throw on a baking rack over a cookie sheet linted with foil.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, flip, and bake for 10-12 minutes more.  While that's cooking, mix together your sauce.  Once the burgers are done, top with sauce and enjoy!

Thai Turkey Veggie Burger Image

Let me tell you, this sauce is bangin'.  It's super flavorful and packs a powerful punch that the Coach and I just couldn't get enough of.  And the cocoa-toasted cauliflower really went perfectly with this one.  I think the smoky flavor of grilled burgers would make this sauce taste even better, so I'm looking forward to *one day* having a grill to try this out on.  Definitely a make again!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Mother's Day tomorrow!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Creamy Avocado Stir-Fry

Wah for Monday.  This past weekend was just too nice to end, in my opinion.  The Coach and I spent Sunday in Saratoga, walking around shops, eating delicious food, and lounging in the park.  Perfection.  Topped off by an absolutely delicious new creation, so stay tuned for that below.


I woke up this morning very much NOT pumped to work out.  I was energized but just had lots of stuff on my mind and figured it'd be hard to focus lifting with good form, so I opted for one of my standby run/walk treadmill routines that looked like this:

0-5 minutes 4.0 mph, 1.0 incline
5-10 minutes 7.0 mph, 2.0 incline
10-12 minutes 4.0 mph, 2.0 incline
12-14 minutes 4.0 mph, 8.0 incline
14-16 minutes 3.5 mph, 10.0 incline
16-18 minutes 4.0 mph, 8.0 incline
18-20 minutes 4.0 mph, 2.0 incline
20-25 minutes 6.5 mph, 2.0 incline
25-30 minutes 4.0 mph, 1.0 incline

Those sneaky 5 minutes runs really had me sweaty and red-faced.  Quick but effective workout!  Plus the gym was weirdly packed for a Monday morning so I had lots of good people-watching action.  The trainers at my gym have their clients to the oddest things, sometimes it's hard to decide if I'm entertained or horrified (usually the former but occasionally the latter when I think about these clients turning in to patients with back problems one day--I can't quiet the physical therapist in me so easily).


OK, so this dish I made last night was killer.  Like crazy good and crazy easy.  Would I deliver anything less?  The original recipe is from Carrots 'n' Cake, but I had to modify since my supermarket was all out of zucchini for zoodles (made using the julienne peeler) and I continue to resist the lure of the spaghetti squash because...let's be honest, it's because I'm too lazy.  Plus I wanted to have some protein in there so I adapted the dish to include some hot sausage.  I used broccoli as my veg, but you could obviously use zucchini or spaghetti squash, or any other vegetable you like.  Here's how my version came together:

Creamy avocado stir fry
16oz sausage
1 ripe avocado
2T sunflower seed butter (or any nut butter)
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lime
1T rice wine vinegar
1/2c coconut milk
1/2t salt
~4c steamed veg of your choice

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and brown your sausage.  While that's working, steam your vegetables.  Then, put the avocado, nut butter, garlic, lime juice, vinegar, coconut milk, and salt in a blender and blend until smooth.  When your sausage is done, add the steamed veggies to the pan and stir them around a bit.  Then add the sauce and let the whole thing hang out for a few minutes over medium-low heat for the flavors to meld.


The sauce was so freaking good.  The creamy avocado plus the zesty lime juice was reminiscent of guacamole, while the sweetness of the coconut milk played nicely with the spicy sausage.  This was really so yummy and a cinch to toss together.  Please, please try this.  It's worth dusting off your blender.  And I don't say that lightly.

Hope everyone had as lovely a weekend as I did, and an easy start to the week!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Taco Salad with Pineapple Cucumber Salsa

Got a small sunburn on my arms eating lunch outside today.  I might seem to be elderly given by early bird bedtime, but I continue to be too immature to remember sunscreen.  Woops.

The Coach is watching Ridiculousness on MTV right now.  I hate this show--maybe it's because I work with patients with spinal cord injuries, but every time these fools crash into / fall off of something it makes me feel ill.  Anyone else?

Apparently I'm feeling a bit rambly this evening...welcome to the randomness of my mind!


 I was tired at the gym today.  I dragged my butt in because I'm too stubborn to admit defeat but I really wasn't feel it.  UNTIL I saw a woman who was probably in her 70's doing kettlebell swings.  Beautiful swings, I might add.  If that woman can haul tush at 6AM, I certainly can.  Such a good motivator.

After my daily does of inspiration, I got down to today's workout, which included lunges with an overhead reach using a medicine ball.  Lunges + any upper body move is a nice way to work some core strengthening in to your session and jack your heart rate up pretty quickly--I like these overhead reaches where you grab the heaviest med ball you can find (or simply use a dumbbell), hold it in front of your chest in the starting position, then simply bring the ball up over your head as you lunge forward.  Make sure to squeeze your bum as you push back to the starting position, lowering the ball to your chest, then alternate to the other leg.  Why is it that you can be a pretty dedicated gym-goer, and lunges are still tough?  And still leave your quads quivering the next day?  Oy.


Today's warm temps had my itching for a fresh dinner, so I'm happy I had this recipe for taco salad from Practical Paleo on tap.  You all know I'm a fan of the one pot meal, so this was a fun little change up for us!  I made the taco meat and salsa below, but also chopped up some plum tomatoes and avocado to toss in the mix as well.  Here's how the meat and salsa came together:

Taco meat
16oz ground beef
1/2 red onion, chopped (other half used in the salsa)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1T apple cider vinegar
1/2T cumin
1/2T chili powder
1/2t cayenne

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with some cooking fat.  Brown your meat, then toss in the rest of the ingredients when your meat is about half way cooked.  Stir everything together until the meat is no longer pink, then use as a base for the rest of your toppings!

Pineapple Cucumber salsa
1c pineapple, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
juice of 1 lime
cilantro to taste

This one's pretty easy--just toss everything together and taste to adjust the seasoning! 

Paleo Taco Salad

The pineapple salsa was SO GOOD!  The Coach took one bite and exclaimed, "Damn that's fresh".  The combo of sweet and juicy pineapple with the crisp cucumber was really nice, plus how bad can anything with avocado taste?  Also, did you know that if your avocado is ripe but you're not ready to eat it, you can put it in the fridge for up to 5 days?  Thank you Google, because now I know that.  The seasoning mix on the taco meat was perfect, although I might add some tomato paste to make it a bit saucier next go around.  Sometimes I just like to be a bit saucy, y'know?

I have one more meal planned from Practical Paleo, but if it's as good as any one of these simple recipes I'm definitely planning on purchasing that book.  Everything so far has been a hit!

Hope you all have some fun weekend plans in the sunshine!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Italian Stuffed Peppers

Hello blogees!  Is that what you call people who read a blog?  Well it's what I call people who read my blog.  You've been named.

Is anyone else finding it harder to go to work when it's so gloriously beautiful out?  I was so looking forward to spring and now that it's (finally) arrived I'm actually more bummed because I can't be outside to enjoy it.  I keep dragging all my patients out to the parking lot--which is really the only outside space we have--whether they want to or not.  We all need our Vitamin D, right?  Check out what Mark Sisson says, author of The Primal Blueprint that I loved so dearly:

"From the presence of vitamin D receptors in our cells and vitamin D factories in our epidermis, along with the central role vitamin D plays in calcium metabolism, immunity, and gene expression, it’s pretty clear that having adequate vitamin D is an essential component of being a healthy, successful homo sapien."


So there you go, sun time is prescribed by nature!

So I can't lie to you, I did not workout today.  My body felt beat last night from the hard workouts I've been doing lately, so even though I really dislike getting out of my weekday routine, I decided to sleep in today (still woke up at 4:20 to the Coach's alarm though).  So even though I didn't get my daily sweat sesh today, I am still quite sore--especially from the one-arm dumbbell rows I did yesterday.  This exercise is pretty important, since tightening up the postural muscles that run between your shoulder blades helps to spare the rest of your body--everything from your spine to your rotator cuff.  I like bent over rows best, where you stabilize one arm on a bench or on a dumbbell sitting on a weight rack, and step back until your back is nearly flat with a slight bend in your knees.  Tighten your core, i.e. suck that gut in!  Then simply use your other arm to pull the weight up, making sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together without shrugging your shoulder, like so: cute guy, cute row.  One arm at a time allows you to really focus on technique while engaging your core at the same time.

So I'm still making my way through Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo, and I continue to be impressed!  Tonight's dinner of Italian stuffed peppers came together pretty quickly, and the simple flavors were really delicious.  Naturally, I made some adjustments for personal tastes, so here's how my version came together:

Italian stuffed peppers
2 bell peppers
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, hopped
14oz can diced tomatoes, juice drained
1 lb ground beef
8-10 Fresh basil leaves, chopped
2c Baby spinach, chopped

Preheat oven to 375.  Chop your peppers in half lengthwise and put them cut-side down in a baking dish.  Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until soft.
While the peppers are baking, heat some cooking fat over medium-high heat in a skillet.  Saute your onions until translucent, then add the garlic and tomatoes with s&p and cook for a couple minutes.  Then add your ground beef and some more s&p and cook until no longer pink (remember, it's important to season each step of the cooking process so don't add too much salt/pepper along the way).  Add your basil and spinach and a little more s&p and cook until fully wilted.
Your peppers should be done at this point, so just spoon the mixture in to each of the pepper halves.  My peppers were pretty small so I had some extra meat leftover that I decided to eat as is.

This recipe actually came out looking like the picture in the cookbook!  Super pumped about that.  But more importantly, it was delicious!  Considering the whole process took about 40 minutes from start to finish, this dish came together very easily with simple ingredients and really fresh flavors.  This is definitely a meal I would make again, especially with the nutrient-packed spinach.

Hooray for the week being half over!