Favorite Brands in My Kitchen

I don’t rely on many foods that come in a package or can, but there are several that I consider staples in my kitchen. These products are legit, pure, minimally processed and something I can feel good about too. Sometimes, I mention what brands I use in my recipes, but I thought I’d put it together in one handy list. Here goes:

  1. Trade Secret Raw Coconut Aminos: this is the only brand I know of that makes coconut aminos, in fact. Use this fermented coconut product in place of soy sauce or tamari. It’s free of wheat, soy and additives. Oh, and it tastes salty and delicious too.b6cfe6b9ceca747388e4adbe33b65e4e
  2. Aroy-D and Natural Value full-fat coconut milk: this stuff is as pure as it gets without making it yourself. There’s no gums, thickeners, stabilizers, sugar, preservatives or additives. These are my only two go-to brands. Aroy-D comes in boxes and Natural Value comes in BPA-free cans. Aroy-D also makes a wonderful coconut cream that I love. 01b4dc3b8a18d71b933ce753f422d5cc0a757268b885cf3e55843797b7e60d03
  3. Tessemae’s All Natural dressings/sauces: these are paleo-friendly (made from extra virgin olive oil) and come in a variety of delicious flavors. The paleo-friendly flavors even say ‘paleo’ on the label! The BBQ sauce is legit and I love the ranch (non-creamy) and cracked black pepper atop of ground meat and veggies. I find it in the refrigerated section at Whole Foods. f9c4bb8c418f785f17e34c18d932033e
  4. Kerrygold grass-fed butter: I always buy unsalted, unless it’s out of stock, but I absolutely love this butter. It comes from Irish grass-fed cows and tastes delicious. I find it for the best price at Whole Foods, but I think it’s reasonable at Trader Joe’s too. I pay $3.19/block (equivalent to 2 sticks) at Whole Foods. I used to get it for $2.99, but Whole Foods raised the price a few months ago. Also, this is the butter I use when I make my own ghee at home. ecc2c354f858241fc94f6dd284e8d4ce
  5. Vitacost organic extra virgin coconut oil: this is now the only place I buy coconut oil because I can buy a 54 oz container for about $22 at most, but often have a coupon code and get it for under $20. If you stock up on other things, you can usually get free shipping too. Once you buy from Vitacost once though, you’ll be notified of deals all the time, especially on Vitacost brand stuff. It’s totally worth it.4b9f916917f000e9968ae993ac816609
  6. Coconut Manna or MaraNatha coconut butter: these are the creamiest coconut butters of the brands I’ve tried, and so smooth too. I generally pick up a jar of either when it’s on sale and have found it for as cheap as $5.99. I never pay full price for either of these brands. Sometimes, I’ll refill my empty jar with Let’s Do Organic Coconut Cream Concentrate, which comes in a little packet. I soften it first by placing it in a bowl of hot water, and then empty the contents into the jar. This stuff is a little grittier and sometimes needs to be mixed with a little water before using (depending on what you’re using it for). The bonus with this stuff is that it’s cheaper. I always pay less than $3 for an 8 oz box.c2701bed1957677eded68a5c006e8386
  7. Bernard Jensen’s powdered gelatin: this gelatin powder is grass-fed and fantastic. You get a lot of bang for your buck and can use it in many different ways. It’s so good for your gut and skin too!6d915b15660e3dde3d1968ece69ac40f
  8. Pomi tomatoes and tomato sauce: this brand is imported from Italy, so you get exactly what’s on the label, which is nothing but pure. In the U.S., companies don’t have to list an ingredient if the product contains 0.5 grams or less, so it’s possible you get added sugar or other unwanted ingredients. Pomi comes in boxes too, so there’s no worry of BPA. I love that the tomato sauce has a cap on the container too because sometimes, I just need a little bit.7f93ef17b17431ecb1819bc0d29d2008

Weekend Highlights

Wow, what a great weekend! Saturday, in particular, was outstanding. Before I get rolling about that, I just want to say that a Monday – Wednesday school schedule is SO much better than going through Thursday. One less day of school during the week really makes a big difference. If you’re curious, my classes this term include exercise science, fitness assessment II, and professional activities: special populations (fitness programming for older adults).

My post-workout Saturday morning breakfast: pastured eggs scrambled with leftover US Wellness Meats Easter ham, kale, avocado, and raw sauerkraut.
My post-workout Saturday morning breakfast: pastured eggs scrambled in grass-fed butter with leftover US Wellness Meats Easter ham, kale, avocado and raw sauerkraut. There’s a splash of full-fat coconut milk in the scramble too. Yum! (Taken on iPhone).

Anyway, Saturday started with another great workout at Recreate. Then, it was breakfast at home and a little downtime before heading to Whole Foods for a healthy fats presentation by my friend, Ashley, also the blogger behind Craving4more, in case you didn’t remember. The event was actually titled, “Fat is NOT the F-word!” Ashley had a great spread laid out, as usual and we had the opportunity to sample the delicious food. I tried the macadamia-crusted halibut, a fig olive walnut tapenade, roasted watermelon radishes (roasted in coconut oil), and lemon pound cake bites (grain-free and similar to a larabar). She also had an avocado chocolate mousse with port berries and spiced pecans, but I needed to opt out. I brought some home for Jesse though, and he said it was delicious. Ashley also had some freshly made grass-fed tallow and grass-fed ghee on display for participants to see.

Ashley's spread (Taken on iPhone).
Ashley’s spread (Taken on iPhone).
Freshly rendered grass-fed beef tallow (Taken on iPhone).
Freshly rendered grass-fed beef tallow (Taken on iPhone).

Ashley gave a great overview of the types of fat, which to cook with, which not to cook with (finishing oils), which to avoid, omega-3 vs. omega-6, myths and overall benefits. I knew most everything already, but it was neat to see others learn about it that did not know all these details. It was fun and I was happy to be there to support Ashley, and taste the delicious food too! Be sure to keep an eye on Ashely’s blog this week because I know she’ll be posting some of the recipes.

The macadamia-crusted halibut and roasted watermelon radishes were my favorite! I plan to make the halibut for dinner tonight, actually!
The macadamia-crusted halibut and roasted watermelon radishes were my favorite! I plan to make the halibut for dinner tonight, actually and probably the radishes too (Taken on iPhone).

Then, when leaving Whole Foods, I randomly ran into two different friends, one of which I hadn’t seen in a long time (also a former lululemon co-worker). The other was one of my special yoga buddies. I love them both and was happy to see and chat with them, even if it was only for a few minutes.

Fast forward a little later in the day and I remembered that Nora Gedgaudas, author of Primal Body, Primal Mind, was giving a talk at a local bookstore about 5-10 minutes away from my house. I called to make sure there was still spots available, and lucky for me, there was, but I wasn’t sure if I’d make it in time or not. I had dinner going and realized I’d have to eat quickly and bolt, and I really detest rushing! I knew I’d regret missing it though, so I made it work.

Here’s the description of Nora’s presentation, as stated by New Renaissance Bookshop:

“Dietary fat has been treated like a villain for the better part of the last century by medical authorities, the USDA and other mainstream nutritional authorities. Instead, dietary carbohydrates have been lauded as foundational to human dietary needs largely without question and now makes up the majority of mainstream dietary intake. Dietary fat is demonstrably central to our most basic energy, metabolic, neurological and physiologic needs and by restricting its intake we foster a much less healthy and unnatural dependence upon dietary sources of sugar and starch. Nora Gedgaudas is the author of the critically acclaimed international best-selling book, Primal Body, Primal Mind. She maintains a private practice in Portland, Oregon as both a Board-Certified nutritional consultant and a Board-Certified clinical Neurofeedback Specialist.”

At the event, I had the opportunity to meet a couple other Portland paleo bloggers and it was awesome to finally put a face with the name in person! I’m referring, specifically, to Holly over at The Paleo Blog of Yay and Jennifer over at Paleo Dieting. Jason Seib, my mentor and author of the book, The Paleo Coach, was also there. I grabbed a seat and Jason told me to save the seat next to him. I still feel so fortunate to have him as a friend and mentor.

Nora’s talk was 90 minutes long and I was engaged every second of it. I took notes and could have taken a lot more, but was so enthralled by her at times, that all I could do is sit and listen. She is a wealth of knowledge, as well as a fantastic speaker and presenter. I am SO glad I went.

After the talk, I chit-chatted with some others and was able to meet Nora and have her sign my book, which was such a pleasure. I didn’t get a picture with Nora, but did take one of Jason and Nora together on my phone.

Nora and Jason. I actually borrowed Jason's picture because the lighting was better than in mine.
Nora and Jason. I actually borrowed Jason’s picture because the lighting was better in his than in mine. Still a phone picture none the less.

Here are a few highlights from Nora’s presentation that I wrote down (note, this is not everything I wrote down):

  • Taking statins for high cholesterol levels is the equivalent to shooting the fireman at the fire.
  • Cholesterol is an indicator, not a disease marker. To know what’s really going on, you have to look under the hood.
  • The more we depend on fat, the longer we live.
  • Cell membranes require 50% saturated fat for functioning and other parts of the body, including the heart, need it to function properly as well (she listed how other parts of the body use saturated fat, but this is the one I was able to jot down in time).
  • Cholesterol functions as an antioxidant and acts as duct tape in our arteries.
  • Cholesterol — not diamonds — is a girl’s best friend.
  • Using ketones for fuel creates more ATP.
  • The brain uses >20% of the body’s total energy demands.
  • For human longevity, it’s best to keep protein around 25 grams per meal. (Note: this varies for some people with specific goals or needs, such as athletes or those trying to gain muscle).
  • Special note: go watch Allan Savory’s TED talk titled, “How to green the desert and reverse climate change.” Jason made sure I wrote this down.

On a completely different note and just because I want to share, Jesse and I get married exactly two months from today!

Saturday Sauerkraut Tasting

Firefly Kitchens kraut varieties. (Photo credit: Craving4more.com).
Firefly Kitchens kraut varieties. (Photo credit: Craving4more.com).

Alright, time to backtrack a few days to my Saturday, which I said I’d recap about today. It was a fantastic day and started with a great workout at Recreate in the morning, part of which was outdoors in the sunny weather. Afterward, I picked up a few things at Food Front Co-op, then came home and made a late breakfast, which I ate outside on the patio. Perfection.

Then, I got cleaned up and went to the sauerkraut tasting at Whole Foods that my friend, Ashley was hosting. Ashley is the healthy foods specialist at the Whole Foods store in the Pearl District in Portland and also the blogger behind Craving4more. She writes beautiful and inspiring posts, and definitely has a way with words. Sometimes, she shares fabulous looking recipes too.

Ashley and her wonderful spread at Whole Foods.
Ashley and her wonderful spread at Whole Foods. (Taken on iPhone)

The tasting incorporated a variety of raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut, many of which were from Firefly Kitchens. There was also different dishes to sample that included sauerkraut as an ingredient. I didn’t know there was going to be so much, and was still full from my late breakfast, but managed to sample a little bit. I sampled some Firefly kraut on its own (varieties included Yin Yang Carrots, Cortido, Caraway, and Ruby Red). They were all wonderful and so different, and they ferment for three months! I especially loved the Yin Yang Carrots, which is fermented carrots with ginger. Lucky for me, Ashley gave me a little bit to take home. The other flavors were delicious as well. I got to take home the remaining jar of Caraway too, as well as another brand of raw kraut that had beets, carrots and cabbage in it! Yum, yum.

Look at all that different kraut! (Taken on iPhone)
Look at all that different kraut! (Taken on iPhone)

As for the recipes, I sampled the pecan pate, ruby red beet and kraut atop of mixed greens (I liked eating this with the pate), roasted butternut squash with an almond butter/kimchi sauce and secret brownies, which incorporated sauerkraut into the recipe. These were raw, of course, so the benefits of the sauerkraut were not lost. These were also surprisingly good and you really don’t notice the kraut. My favorite, by far, was the roasted squash. The sauce was just to die for and not only that, but I am a sucker for squash! There was also a smoothie that had kraut in it, but I didn’t taste it since it was made with store-bought almond milk. I only drink homemade almond milk because it doesn’t have things like guar gum, carrageenan, etc., which I need to stay away from. It got a lot of rave reviews from the other attendees though.

My plate with various kraut samples, pecan pate, ruby red beet and kraut atop of greens, butternut squash with almond butter/kimchi sauce, and a raw secret brownie.
My plate with various kraut samples, pecan pate, ruby red beet and kraut atop of greens, butternut squash with almond butter/kimchi sauce, and a raw secret brownie. (Taken on iPhone)

Ashley has done a couple posts this week about the kraut tasting and recipes, so if you’re interested, please go check out her blog. Specifically, check out this post and this post, and also check back again tomorrow, because it looks like she is going to post more of the recipes.

Additionally, Ashley gave some great ideas for eating kraut. For example, use it on tacos, mix with tuna for a jazzed up tuna salad (egg salad too), roll up into a slice of deli meat, use atop of deviled eggs, mix in smoothies, add to salad, etc. The ideas are really endless, just don’t heat it, so as to not kill the live cultures.

Thanks, Ashley for putting on a great event!

St. Patrick’s Day Recap

My St. Patty's Day meal.
My St. Patty’s Day meal.

Monday, already? It always comes so quickly, doesn’t it? Well, anyway, I hope you all had a lovely weekend and St. Patrick’s Day. Did you do or make anything special to celebrate? I made corned beef with carrots, onion and cabbage, which tasted delicious. I probably hadn’t eaten corned beef since I was between the ages of 12-15. I cheated a little and bought 2 lbs worth of fresh, local corned beef at Whole Foods. It was pre-brined and had spices rubbed all over it, and just needed to be cooked. I threw it in the Crock Pot with carrots, yellow onion, green cabbage and bone broth, and let it cook for about 4.5 hours. It was perfect and much better than the corned beef I recall eating as a kid. The beef was more brown than pink after cooking, because it didn’t contain any nitrates, but it did have beet powder in the brine, which allowed for a tiny bit of pink. I served it up for us in bowls, to allow for ladel-fuls of savory broth. Specifically, here’s what I did for the recipe:

Corned beef and cabbage

  • 2 lb pre-brined fresh corned beef, preferably grass-fed
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 6-8 medium carrots, chopped into 1-inch pieces (I used orange and multicolored carrots)
  • 1 head of cabbage, quartered
  • 4 cups bone broth
  1. Place corned beef in the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with carrots, onion and finally cabbage. Pour broth over everything, making sure the meat is covered by about 1-inch.
  2. Put lid on slow cooker and cook on high for about 4.5 hours.
  3. Slice meat against the grain to serve. Top with veggies and lots of broth. Watch out for loose peppercorns from the rub!

For a St. Patty’s Day treat, I whipped up the egg version of Against All Grain’s, cinnamon ‘oat’meal raisin cookies. Holy moly, these really do turn green too, especially as they sit and cool. The reaction of sunflower seed butter and baking soda causes the green to occur, in case you’re wondering. Mine turned just as green as Danielle’s (blogger of Against All Grain) did in her pictures! They almost look mossy and even look slightly blue, which may be in part from the raisins. Because of their mossy appearance, they’re definitely a Portland-appropriate cookie! We have a lot of moss here, because of rain and being in a valley.

Speaking of this recipe, I had to chuckle when I read some of the comments. One of the readers, who clearly doesn’t pay attention or read Against All Grain’s posts very often, asked how much oats are needed for the recipe because it wasn’t mentioned in the ingredients. I loved Danielle’s response, telling her that it is a grain-free site and there are no oats in the recipe! The unsweetened coconut is meant to emulate the oats. Some people are so oblivious, yet I find it entertaining…sometimes.

Danielle's pictures were so pretty, that I decided to borrow one. Mine wouldn't do the cookies as much justice! (Photo credit: Againstallgrain.com)
(Photo credit: Againstallgrain.com)

So, that was my St. Patrick’s Day. The rest of my weekend included (kind of) studying for finals, working on a final project, working at the gym, laundry and errands.

My Go-To Lunches and Some Ideas

In debating what to blog about today, I realized that I’ve never addressed any lunch recipes or ideas. I’m not sure why that is exactly … maybe because I usually just throw something together or eat dinner leftovers. Also, lunch is my least favorite meal of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat and definitely enjoy lunch, but of my three meals each day, lunch is number three (breakfast is number one and dinner is number two). I generally don’t eat snacks because my body doesn’t need it, and eating high-quality protein and fats in each meal helps carry me over to the next.

Below you’ll see a few of my typical lunches. Sometimes, I’ll have a small dish of homemade 24-hour whole milk yogurt and a piece of fruit with my lunch as well. It just depends on what my lunch is and how I feel. Following my photos, you’ll find a few great sounding and looking lunch ideas.

Applegate Naturals fresh-sliced (not pre-sliced) oven-roasted turkey breast, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, avocado and carrots.
Applegate Naturals fresh-sliced (not pre-sliced) oven-roasted turkey breast, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, avocado and carrots.
Two grass-fed beef hot dogs, sauerkraut, avocado, cucumber slices, carrots and Dijon mustard.
Two Applegate Naturals nitrate-free, grass-fed beef hot dogs, sauerkraut, avocado, cucumber slices, carrots and Dijon mustard.
Large spinach leaves wrapped with Applegate Naturals freshly-sliced oven roasted turkey breast, avocado and cucumber slices, and carrots with homemade beet dip.
(Taken with iPhone). Large spinach leaves wrapped with Applegate Naturals freshly-sliced oven roasted turkey breast, avocado and cucumber slices, and carrots with homemade beet dip. Sometimes I make these wraps with romaine or green leaf lettuce too. See link to my beet dip recipe below.
Salad at Whole Foods
(Taken with iPhone). Salad at Whole Foods: spinach, cucumber, carrots, beets, hard-boiled eggs, small amount of walnuts, rotisserie chicken, all topped with olive oil. Also, a side of fresh strawberries and blueberries. Sometimes I buy a few slices of Applegate Naturals freshly-sliced oven-roasted chicken or turkey breast and add it into my salad. It’s cheaper (because of the weight) than adding a bunch of rotisserie chicken pieces!

In case you’re curious about my beet dip recipe, check out this blog post from a while back. You’ll see a carrot dip recipe, which is exactly the same as the beet dip — just sub beets for carrots (about 2 cups worth).

Now, here are some lunch recipes that look worthy of trying. I’ve pinned all of them to my Pinterest boards and encourage you to come follow me! To find these recipes, just click on each photo.

Turkey avocado roll-ups from Avocado Pesto.
Turkey avocado roll-ups from Avocado Pesto.
Hayley's Chicken Salad
Hayley’s Chicken Salad from The Food Lovers Kitchen.
Or this chicken salad from Everyday Paleo.
Or this chicken salad from Everyday Paleo.
Bacon, egg, avocado and tomato salad from Mark's Daily Apple.
Bacon, egg, avocado and tomato salad from Mark’s Daily Apple.
Spinach and smoked salmon salad with lemon dill dressing from Food & Wine.
Spinach and smoked salmon salad with lemon dill dressing from Food & Wine.
Grain-free salmon cakes from Balanced Bites.
Grain-free salmon cakes from Balanced Bites.

A Weekend of Good Eats, Arm Balancing and More

Well, it was yet another fun and eventful weekend. I’m enjoying weekends so much more now that my weekdays are so busy and full, but don’t get me wrong, it’s good busy and I am not complaining by any means. When I was first laid off, and before different projects and my summer class picked up, I didn’t really have a sense of weekend … for all I knew it was the weekend every day! It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think I enjoy having a more defined sense of the weekend.

Saturday morning, I slept in a little (7:30 I think?), but got up early enough to eat a nice breakfast before my 2-1/2 hour arm balances workshop with the lovely, Ms. Kathryn Budig. She taught various workshops all weekend at Yoga Pearl, but I only made it to one. I would’ve loved to do more, but didn’t want to spend too much money. Fortunately, I got to do one of her sessions when she visited last summer too. She’s spunky, funny, witty and real. She also takes the fun in yoga to a whole new level. Seriously, she’s awesome and I learned a lot of good tips from her workshop, specifically with practicing handstand and forearm balance.

Saturday morning breakfast
My Saturday morning breakfast of sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, kale and spicy turkey sausage served with two over easy pasture eggs and avocado slices.

The workshop ended in the early afternoon, so afterward I walked over to Whole Foods in the Pearl District to make a salad. On my walk over, I bumped right into the Best Butcher Contest, sponsored by Whole Foods. Two whole street blocks were closed off and filled with different vendors, musicians, kitchen demo setups, etc. Panorama (a grass-fed beef farm) was there, along with some other farmers, a pickle vendor, live pasture chickens, etc. It was pretty fun to walk into and I got to sample some delicious grass-fed meat too. Panorama is actually the brand I buy when I get grass-fed beef from Whole Foods. It’s good stuff!

Best Butcher Contest
Best Butcher Contest, sponsored by Whole Foods. Don’t mind the poor quality phone pic.

For dinner Saturday evening, we had a tasteful, simple meal of roasted beets, sautéed kale with garlic and cherry tomatoes, and grass-fed eye of round steak. It was lovely and extremely satisfying.

Saturday evening dinner
Grass-fed eye of round, sautéed kale and cherry tomatoes, and roasted beets.

Yesterday, I got a lot done around the house and it felt great! Cleaning, tidying, laundry and cooking, of course. For dinner, I threw some ingredients into the Crock Pot – chicken breasts, carrots, onion, garlic, cabbage, ghee, vegetable broth, salt and pepper, and a bit of dried thyme and parsley. After several hours of cooking, I shredded the chicken. It’s so tender at that point that it shreds so easily and basically just falls apart. To pair with the chicken stew, I made a batch of almond flour biscuits, which we ate with grass-fed butter spread on top. It was definitely a comfort meal and Jesse said it was blog-worthy.

Sunday dinner
Sunday dinner: thrown-together chicken stew and almond flour biscuits with grass-fed butter.

Oh, another exciting thing happened this weekend … Jesse and I got a grill! Wahoo! My mom reached out to me after reading this blog post of mine and offered to get Jesse and me a grill as an early Christmas present. We had to order it online, so we don’t have it yet, but we picked out a Weber portable gas grill. I can’t wait to start grilling!

Weber portable Q 100 propane gas grill
Weber portable Q 100 propane gas grill.

Garlic Scapes and Meatballs

While in Whole Foods the other day, Jesse pointed out the basket of local garlic scapes. I’ve never bought or even eaten garlic scapes, but thought it’d be fun to give ’em a whirl. I figured we’d both like the garlic scapes since we enjoy the mature variety — garlic spears.

Local garlic scapes

Garlic scapes

I didn’t have any specific recipe in mind for the garlic scapes, so I searched good ol’ Google for ideas. Nothing really jumped out at me, but then I got the idea to make meatballs and serve them on top of sautéed garlic scapes and zucchini.

My go-to meatball recipe is foolproof and ridiculously easy. I’ve only ever made the recipe with ground turkey breast, so this time I decided to use grass-fed beef. Both are delicious, but actually, I think I like the beef meatballs even more!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb grass-fed ground beef or ground turkey breast
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with hands.
  3. Make tablespoon-sized balls and place on a baking sheet lined with foil.
  4. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes.

While the meatballs were baking, I sautéed 1/2 a yellow onion and one clove of minced garlic in a pan. Then I added a jar of Cucina Antica spicy arrabbiata sauce. I love this marinara sauce because it’s pure and simple ingredients, has no preservatives or additives, and no sugar added. It’s an easy shortcut on days I don’t feel like making homemade sauce or don’t have Pomi brand diced tomatoes on hand to do so, although making homemade sauce is pretty damn easy too.

With the sauce simmering and the meatballs still baking, I got the garlic scapes going. To a heated pan, I added a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and then threw in the sliced garlic scapes. I let these sauté for a few minutes and then proceeded to add zucchini slices, sea salt and pepper. I let everything sauté together for a few more minutes and then set the burner to low to keep it warm.

Garlic scape and zucchini saute

 

After the meatballs finished baking, I tossed them into the simmering sauce. I stirred the sauce around, making sure each meatball got coated with the sauce. I served the meatballs and sauce on top of the sautéed zucchini and garlic scapes. It tasted wonderful and was a nice change from using kale or spaghetti squash (when in season) as ‘noodles.’

Meatballs, sauce, garlic scapes and zucchini

Meatball bite