The weather has been changing around here and the cooler days had me craving a warm and cozy bowl of rice and beans! On a rainy day what can be better than sitting on the couch with a warm meal made from wholesome and natural ingredients?
Most of the times I find simple recipes to be the best ones - they are so effortless but yet so rich and tasty! Another thing that makes me life easier during the week, and specially on the colder months, is my Instant Pot. I love it and use it all the time to steam vegetables, cook up a batch of soup or make delicious stews and dishes like this one.
Some people have been asking me about my Whole30 experience and if I'm still eating the same way now. I'm not - however, I've changed my relationship with food, which was one of my main goals by doing it as well as finding trigger foods for my chronic migraines.
I don't use food as an emotional backup and I can perfectly control what I eat without feeling pressured or deprived: I eat what I feel like eating and the only thing that still is somewhat forbidden to me are chips...I seem to have to eat them if I have them around, so the trick is NOT to have them around, it's as simple as that! It is not only because I feel like I can eat a lot of chips at once but also the fact that, after eating them, I don't feel that well and that is enough of a reminder that they are not good for me and so, I should stay away from them!
And now, the recipe for this scrumptious and simple meal.
1 pack of spicy sausages
1 cup basmati brown rice
2 large carrots
3 celery stalks
1 small can of red beans
4 cups + 1/2 cup bone broth (I used the "Osso Good Bones" classic variety)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp Primal Palate Jerk Seasoning
freshly chopped parsley
organic fresh spinach leaves
1 - Start by peeling the carrots and chopping them into bite size pieces. Wash and cut the celery stalks into small pieced and add these vegetables to the stainless steel pot, from the Instant Pot.
2 - Add the basmati brown rice and about 1/2 chopped parsley to the pot and season with the spices, salt and pepper.
3 - Cover all the ingredients with the bone broth and give them a stir to get everything well combined.
4 - Put the cover on the pot and seal it until you hear the lock sound. Place the vent attachment in the cooking position and set the Instant Pot on the Rice mode for 15 minutes.
5 - While the rice is cooking cut the sausage into medium sized pieces and saute in a non-stick pan. I didn't use any fat because the sausage has enough fat that gets released during the cooking process.
6 - After the "Rice" program has ended use the quick release method to release all the pressure from the inside of the pot and when the valve drops it is safe for you to open the lid. Open and check that the rice is cooked; if it needs a bit more time to cook just close the lid again and let the rice sit for another 5 minutes, it should be enough to get it a bit softer.
7 - Serve up this comforting dish in a bowl and add some extra veggies if you like! In my bowl, I placed a handful of fresh baby spinach - when I placed the rice and beans on top of it the heat from the rice was enough to get the spinach a bit cooked but leaving it still with a bit of a crunch, which I particularly love! Sprinkle with some fresh chopped parsley for a fresh touch and an aromatic finish which goes perfectly well with the warm spicy sausage.
After getting my rice cooked I, immediately, transferred it to a large skillet to prevent it from overcooking with the residual heat from the Instant Pot. As for the amount of food cooked on this meal, it was enough for 7 individual portions which was great for such a simple and economic dish.
That is one of the major advantages of using rice as base for a meal - it does stretch the meals and 1 cup of rice goes a long way!
This is a very nourishing meal and you can use your favorite veggies or sausages to adjust it to your family's preferences. If you'd like just keep it vegetarian, adding bell peppers or butternut squash, for example. I'me acostumed to brown rice and it's the only kind I eat now, after my Whole30 - apparently I'm getting the whole family on board which is, definitely, another WIN for this mommy!
My last blog post was about a week of school lunches for my 7 year old daughter that I'm packing on the Yumbox lunchbox. We just got it for this school year and she has been loving it - the fact that it has different compartments and colors helps her to find lunch even more exiting than before!
I'm also thinking about getting a second tray to use when sending sandwiches because they will fit better in a 4 compartment tray which has a bigger section for the sandwich. Until then we have been using sandwich cutters to make them fit in the current tray and we have also been experimenting and using different colored veggies, fruits and protein sources to make lunch fun and exciting.
This is the one that we have now and it's really easy to use and to get the kids involved in choosing what to get in their lunch and to build the lunch for themselves, which is another advantage. The tray is removable and easily washable and I haven't had any issue with it, so far so good. I really recommend it, specially if you have picky little ones because I think the drawings and the colors will help them get more curious about food and lunch time.
For my 10 year old I finally decided to go for a Rover Planetbox lunchbox. I had been hearing about it for a long time but the price tag was a bit high for me and I've always turned the idea away. I got to read a lot of reviews about it and the more I read the more I thought it would be a safe bet even with a higher price tag than other lunchboxes - it's made of stainless steel and it will last you for a lot of years instead of having to change lunchbox every other year or so and, another great plus for me, it won't get stained and it's super easy to wash.
Also the lunchbox comes with a set of magnets to place on the front of the lunchbox. My son asked for the blue ones but, a few years down the road, when it gets passed on to my daughter she'll be able to pick her own set of magnets and make this lunchbox her own, which is great.
The compartments make it also very easy to plan the meals in. Just choose your protein, veggies, fruits and snacks and place them in the different compartments. There's also a small round container with a green silicone lid (great for dips and sauces) and a medium one (great for sending some pasta salad or a snack for snack time).
Having a great, durable and resistant lunchbox is one of the main aspects to being able to make your own lunchbox prepping routine. I chose these ones and I'm super happy with them, I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a durable and reliable option. The Rover lunchbox is available on Amazon and you can get it in a kit that includes the magnets and the lunch bag to carry the lunchbox - you really need it to make sure that your children can carry that lunchbox safely and with the correct amount of space in it!
Besides choosing the right lunchbox for every children you can also make your daily chore of prepping lunch a bit easier by setting up a lunchbox station in your kitchen. I did it by re-purposing a little carrier that I got at Target about a year ago and using it to hold all my lunch prep essentials.
I use it to keep the stainless steel reusable water bottles, sandwich cutters, little plastic forks for the smaller items in the lunchboxes, cloth napkins and stainless steel picnic knifes, spoons and forks, my recyclable sandwich bags (I've been using the LunchSkins* ones for about a year now and we love them), reusable snacks bags, YoToGo insulated little pouches** (to keep yogurts cool with an ice pack on top) and the lunch bags.
Having everything in one place keeps things simpler and easier for me when prepping lunches everyday.
This is my lunchbox station and it has really helped me to get meals ready way quicker and with so much less stress than before! Get everything together in one place and you'll see what a huge difference it makes. Just find a way to get all those things organized in a way that will make your routine easier and stress-free.
For now I think those are the main things that you should focus on for your lunchbox lunches routine:
I'll now show you a week of Rover Planetbox lunchbox lunches so you can get some more ideas on healthy solutions easy to carry in the kids' lunchbox to school and maybe make them their own by adding or switching some of the ingredients by some of your family's favorites. These lunches were made for my 10 year old son who is currently in middle school - according to his own words "the amount of food was just the right one for the time they have to eat" so I guess we'll just keep it at that.
He also has a snack in the morning which is usually a piece of fruit, pretzels, yogurt or an apple sauce.
I usually prep my ingredients, like fruit and veggies, on Sunday but I like to cook or prepare my animal protein sources as I go. Except for eggs, that I usually boil and store in glass jars in the fridge, all the meat and/or fish gets prepared the day before I need it - I like it for food to keep its best flavor and texture and I might be able to do that if I properly prepare my meals ahead by planning and organizing my shopping trips correctly.
On the first day of the week we started off with this nourishing lunchbox:
As I've mentioned before I think I've found THE perfect almond butter! I'm so in love with it that I keep telling my friends to buy it too...seriously, you need to try it for yourself to understand that the texture, the flavor and the creaminess of this natural almond butter is something that you won't find anywhere else!
Find it here and let me know what you think of it after you give it a try!
Also in the Monday lunchbox I got my son a package of Seasnax roasted seaweed that he loves taking to school, either for snack or for lunch. It's super crunchy and it has an amazing natural flavor that we've learned to incorporate in our daily diet. The whole family loves it!
The lime flavor is my favorite and I can't wait to get some packs on my next shopping trip because I'm out of them and I love having them as a daily snack!
Check here the flavors and packages available:
For the second day of the week we decided on a sandwich to make things simple just by adding some fresh fruit and veggies to the mix! I like to use whole grain breads like Dave's Killer Bread which was the one I used today - I also don't cut the crust, never have never will!
It's the best part of the bread and it just seems silly to waste all that food. IF and when I use sandwich cutters to make things prettier I always have the kids eat the crusts and, if it's a gluten free bread I eat them myself.
The details on this colorful lunch are as follows:
The peanut butter, once again, is from one of my favorite brands and I'll leave you with the link to the Amazon page where you can order it and go through the other amazing products that the brand offers.
By midweek I usually try to be almost at half way of my prepped ingredients to make sure that nothing gets spoiled. Wasting food is the worst thing ever and we try to avoid it at all costs by planning ahead our meals but also by checking in everyday on what has been consumed and what we still have left.
Even though we may have a plan, life happens and, sometimes, meals get switched by a school event, family function or something totally unexpected so we must always try to check our fridge and use what we have.
My 10 year old loves sushi and, now, Miss B is also in love with it!
On Wednesday I decided to surprise them with some sushi lunch, for school - I didn't make it myself but I'll be trying it soon enough to make it easier to send this lunch favorite every once in a while.
On this simple lunchbox we have:
The idea of having the kids eat a sandwich everyday is just not appealing to me...I was trying to figure out ways to switch things a little bit and I remembered to try and make kind of an egg roll to wrap some turkey ham in it using it as a regular wrap!
Recipe tried and approved!
It's super simple and easy to make and you can prepare it the night before, keep it in the fridge and then cut the slices out and place in the lunchboxes in the morning. Let me just tell you how I did it:
The pan I use is the one that I'm posting the link just below. It is non-stick and I've been using a lot lately, to saute veggies, cook some chicken, shrimp and even to grill some fruit over the stove top.
Grilled peaches are a must while they are pretty sweet and juicy!
So, for these yummy lunchbox I used:
You may have noticed that we are trying to be as eco-friendly as possible by using reusable utensils and ditching all plastic and disposable items. I use cloth napkins, both at home, and in the lunchboxes and I got a kit of camping stainless steel utensils that are just the perfect size for the kids. With a fork, a knife and a spoon and with a washable carry case it's the perfect solution if you want to try this clean and green way to live too! There are several different colors to choose from so give it a try and let me know what you think!
The last day of the week is here and it's time for a little treat! I always like to send the kids to school on Friday with something sweet but still healthy and nutritious.
I just started trying these amazing little snacks made from nuts and dried fruits and they taste amazing and are great for packing in lunchboxes - they hold their shape and they pack a ton of good ingredients in a cute little ball that it's easily added to any kind of lunch. There are several flavors but we decided to try the "peanut butter" variety first and it was a success - they are chewy, crunchy and so delicious that I can not wait to try the other flavors too.
On Amazon you can buy the 8 pack kits or a variety pack so you can try out all the flavors and pick your favorites to become your new pantry staples - there's a flavor for everyone in your house, for sure!
Details on this Friday lunchbox:
I usually make my own salad dressings but I like to have some good quality store bought ones at hand for those days when I really need something quick to put in the lunchboxes and just head out the door as quickly as possible! For those moments I choose the Primal Kitchen salad dressings and I've tried several of them including some Whole30 compliant and also the honey mustard which I really love - I usually just use 1 Tbsp per person which keeps the caloric count a bit down and I think that's perfectly reasonable for a single portion salad. The kids like ranch dressing once in a while so we decided to try it out and it was good, they liked it!
If you choose to buy the variety kits they come a bit cheaper than buying each dressing on its own and you can choose to either buy a whole30 compliant variety pack or other packs that contain some dressings that you can always use off round or in your everyday diet once you get to food freedom stage.
These were suggestions of school lunches based on what I pack for my own children. I'll try to continue to build up weekly lunchbox meal plans and I'm think about having the option to receive the ingredient list to every week of lunches, would that be useful to you?
Please, let me know in the comment section what would you like to see on the blog, school lunch related or not. Would you benefit from a week of work lunchboxes for yourself? After all, most of us take our own lunch and sacks to work nowadays and making the right choices is not always easy. However, if you take some time over the weekend to plan and prep, it's just as easy as to do it for the kids!
Most of the days I send my husband a packed lunch to work so I think that would be a great idea to share some of the meals that are easy and practical to pack for a work lunch.
This week the kids are off from school today and tomorrow so my meal prep will be done tomorrow, Tuesday, which will keep things a bit easier and light for me. Take some time to go over the lunchbox lunches I just showed you and try to plan for, at least, 3 days and then just see how you go from there.
Feel free t also check the ideas from my 7 year old lunchbox that I've posted previously here.
Once you start doing it you'll see the benefits and time saving advantage and you'll keep doing it every week, you'll see!
If there's something that makes me happy during the school year mornings is knowing that I have the kids' lunches ready to go and filled with good and healthy food! I need my time in the morning...to wake up, have my breakfast and drink my coffee without rushing or running around getting everyone and everything ready in time for school.
I always wake up way earlier than I really need just to make sure that I get some morning time for myself. I don't do chaos - I hate hectic mornings which usually give me a headache and a bad day, overall. I rather wake up earlier and be able to have a scheduled routine with everything prepared. This doesn't mean that the lunchbox is completely packed and ready to go, it may only need some finishing touches, I'd say 5-10 minutes to get them filled and complete to go into the lunch bags and then everyone gets breakfast before heading out the door.
The only way to make this happen is to meal prep on Sunday. We can go around this issue and try to figure out other ways to make it work but it really is the only way to do it...honestly, I'd rather take a couple of hours on Sunday than put that stress on me on the weekdays.
It's more than worth it!
My husband usually takes his lunch to work too, so I have three lunches to make for the day. As for me I always make sure to cook something extra and loads of veggies that I can always pair with some cooked protein from the previous night's dinner or I can just have a vegan bowl which has been happening a lot lately!
Basics on lunchbox meals
I've always made a single meal for all of us, since the kids started eating "regular food". Cooking two different meals just didn't seem right, or possible, and I believe it is the best way to expose children to different foods and ingredients. They won't like everything we give them but they will start to get used to a diversified diet and that will help them to keep being curious about food.
I never get angry at them if they don't like something, which rarely happens. My 10 year old son loves to eat so there's no problem there! My 7 year old daughter is a bit different...she usually doesn't like spicy food, a lot of fresh herbs on her food or new things, in general. I usually have a couple of veggie options for lunch/dinner so there's always something for everyone.
This might seem a lot of work, having two veggie options at every meal but with meal prep Sunday things get way more easy and manageable. As you know, since I did my whole30 I've maintained the habit of meal prepping which allows for a smoother meal routine.
The basics for lunchbox meal prep are basically the same as for the regular meal prep:
1. First go over your fridge and pantry to make sure that you don't have fresh produce that might be about to go bad, in order to incorporate it on your meal prep. I usually do this on Friday night or Saturday morning and I use whatever I got leftover from the week to cook our weekend meals.
2. The second thing will be making a list of your kids' favorites - write down a list of proteins, veggies, fruit, grains and snacks. After this first time all you have to do at the beginning of each week is go back to this list and match some perfect pairings to have the weekly lunchbox menu done. After that week try to switch the meals to a different day of the following week and change the sides so that you can always give them something different. Kids get bored easily!
3. After having that list done go back to your pantry to check what you've got and what you'll be needing to shop for the week. Make your shopping list and remember to stick to it when you're at the grocery store! A great trick to save you time is to try and make some family meals from a meal that they like, this way you can prep their lunch and a weeknight family meal at the same time just by doubling the recipe!
4. Check what lunchboxes are still good from the previous year or if someone needs a upgrade! Older kids need more food and younger kids might eat a bit less so try to consider that when choosing your lunchbox. This year I took the leap and got my 10 year old son a PlanetBox Rover lunchbox - I can't wait for him to start using it! I've heard wonders about this product and I can't wait to try it out. They are expensive but very durable and spacious. I'll leave the links for the lunchboxes so you can choose which one will suit your needs the best.
I always find Amazon to be the best site to look through and compare different products because it also allows you to read the reviews written by other people that have already bought the item you're thinking of buying. That is an extremely tool for me and I always find the information that I'm looking for! The Rover PlanetBox can be found here:
For my 7 year old daughter I have the Yumbox that she totally adores! The different compartments with the drawings and writings are perfect for kids and make them even more excited about lunchtime! Find it on Amazon:
For me and my husband I have a BentoGo which works perfectly for carrying the meal and the fruit/salad in the adjacent compartment: the size is good and the lunchbox is pretty functional and pretty. The fact that the fork, spoon and knife fit inside the containers is also pretty neat and useful.
5. Check if you have adequate containers to do your meal prep. The amount and the type of container is also important - I've decided to switch to glass storage containers since I've become interested in a greener way of life. Also, besides the good option of ditching the plastic I was shocked about the amount of bacteria and other harmful stuff that can get stuck in plastic containers! No wonder we can't wash them properly...even when we think we do there's always something left there due to the porosity of the plastic itself! So, just check if you need to buy some containers and head on to the next step!
6. Do your shopping trip, preferably alone! This way you can be sure to get JUST what was on your list and not another toy, snack or candy that wasn't there...we've all been there, haven't we?! Don't forget to also shop for snacks - I'll be also making a post about healthy school snack options. It's extremely important in what regards snacks to make sure that your kids' school has a "safe school snack list" to make sure that you don't send anything that they might not be able to eat.
7. Now that you have everything you need to make your lunches for the week, just get prepping! Wash and cut the fruit and veggies yourself because buying them pre-cut is way more expensive and, most of the times, you don't even know how long the produce has been in that container...also, less plastic, less waste!
I've placed below two pictures from my fruit and veggies meal prep. Having this items already washed and ready to place in the lunchboxes is a life saving hack! I can't stress enough how this is the foundation of a smooth week in what comes to packing lunches for kids and adults! To be able to take and go anything from these containers makes a huge difference and it shows us that preparation leads to a healthy lifestyle and good choices. EVERY, SINGLE, DAY.
This veggies are some of the staples at our house. Both the kids love them so we always go around rotating them throughout the week. Whatever I see that's being leftover I usually try to incorporate in our dinner meals to make sure that nothing goes to waste. The only thing missing is the cherry tomatoes that I forget to buy on Sunday and had to rush and pick up on Monday morning.
For example, this week I saw that the carrots weren't getting as much love as the other veggies so I decided to throw them in the soup pot and make a creamy carrot soup with lentils, turmeric and spinach, which is a leafy veggie that I always have frozen to use in a situation like this. Who doesn't like a creamy, rich and delicious soup?!
It's always a matter of choosing your family's favorites and try to incorporate them in the daily meals in a fun and different way. As I've already mentioned kids get bored really fast!
So, put up a list and just start trying out the meal prep game, I assure you it will be something that will stick with you for good!
I've also written this blog post about meal prep when I was doing my whole30, so be sure to check it out too because it has really great tips for a weekly meal prep for the whole family. I assure you that, at first, it may seem a bit daunting, it also did feel that way to me, but now I can not live without it and it's what makes me feel in control of my family's meals and good choices!
A week of healthy school lunches
Now that you have the basics for planning your kids' school lunches lets get to work and build those satisfying and healthy meals that will nourish them and put a smile on their face whenever the time comes for them to open the lunchbox at the school cafeteria!
We must remember something here. It's the beginning of the school year and we're all excited for school to start - kids are eager to get together with their friends, learn new things or get to know a new school and a new daily routine and the parents are off to their regular dairy routines too. At first we're all going to be able to get those sandwiches really pretty with those cutter we just bought from Amazon but by December we may feel like this is too much and that's OK! Just keep prepping and making sure that what's in the lunchbox is healthy and it's something that the kids like, none of us is perfect and a regular sandwich is totally fine! Don't put too much stress on you or everything will become harder and stressful. All you need is some time over to weekend to plan and, knowing the time you have available to get the lunches finished in the morning, just use what you have and the time you have to make it work.
These are some ideas from lunches that my kids like. Some of them have something that my daughter likes the most and some of them are my son's favorites. I hope they inspire you to build your own weekly lunchbox menus and, if you need any help, feel free to email me with your questions and I'll make sure to try to get back to you as soon as possible.
Lunchbox 1 - Ham wrap and fresh veggies and fruit
Take the fresh fruit and veggies from your pre-cut essentials that you have from Sunday meal prep and add some chopped walnuts (or any other nut that your kid may like) for healthy fat and all you have to do is make the wrap which you can prepare the night before and keep it in the fridge until putting it on the lunchbox in the morning!
I chose cherries and green seedless grapes to have some more color which is something that always gets the kids' attention. Trying to make things appealing really does pay off and encourages them to eat what they think is pretty and exciting!
I smeared some avocado mayo on a wrap and added some romaine lettuce leaves, carrots sticks and 3 slices of oven roasted ham. Rolled it up, holding everything very tightly and sliced it so I could fit everything in the lunchbox. If you prepare the wrap the night before, keep it in a sealed container and you just need to slice it in the morning.
I think these lunchbox cards are just adorable! There are a lot of printable options too, if you look them up online. It's something that I love to send to school everyday so that the kids feel like their lunch really is important to me and that I care that they like what I prepare for them. The kit I got is super cute, gender neutral and has a super price as of now - get it while you can!
That's it! Easy and peasy - one lunch down, four more to go!
Tuesday - Grilled shrimp with sticky rice balls
Don't go thinking around that I cooked the shrimps specially for the lunchbox! That would be going overboard, indeed!
We had them grilled the night before and I added some extra so I could have some leftover for the kids' lunches! That's something that I always think about - what protein can I cook extra the night before to incorporate in the lunchboxes for the next day. That's way prepping is SO important!
The fruit and veggies are from the meal prep containers that are sitting in the fridge just waiting for me to pick them up when I'm assembling the lunches. This time I chose fresh cucumber slices, carrot sticks, black olives, diced pineapple and blueberries.
The sticky rice balls were a new experiment and it worked out really well and both the kids loved them! I prepared the sushi rice according to the instructions on the package and then transferred the cooked rice to a glass bowl. When the rice was still warm but manageable by hand I used a table spoon measure to scoop out a rice ball and, with my hands slightly wet I molded the rice just a little bit. I placed the balls on a tray and after finishing them all I placed them in an air tight container and kept them in the fridge. These sticky rice balls are perfect for lunchbox lunches because the kids can just hold them by hand and eat them with no need for forks or any other utensil. Also, they are really cute!
I sprinkled some sesame seeds on some of the balls and I'll be sure to look for black sesame seeds for some color, that should be fun! The little toothpicks are perfect for holding small foods and I'm sure I wouldn't mind having some for myself. Even though I'm an adult I sometimes find myself looking for those cute animal picks to have some blueberries too!
Wednesday - Meatballs with pasta, green beans and mushrooms
The other day I decided to make some meatballs using the Mighty Spark Food ground bruschetta mix. I love this brand because it has the most delicious and creative meat products I've ever seen and I haven't tried one that I haven't liked!
With 2 lbs of ground meat I did a batch of meatballs which I separated in two portions - I froze one of the portions for quick weeknight dinners and I cooked the rest of the meatballs to have during this week. I was even able to get two hamburger patties out of this amount of meat and I decided to freeze them in my Tupperware container that I used for my "Salmon cakes two ways" that you can find here.
For this lunch I sauteed some mushrooms in olive oil and seasoned them with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. I had some leftover cooked pasta and I added some cooked green beans - to make sure that the pasta wouldn't become sticky in the container I decided to give it a toss in a pan adding just a bit of olive oil.
After everything was cooked it was just a matter of assembling everything in the little lunchbox compartments. I also added some tomato sauce as a dip for the meatballs, fresh carrots and some black olives. Honeydew melon was already cut up so I just added that too.
Thursday - Black eyed pea tuna salad with a hard boiled egg
My son LOVES this salad! Although this is my daughter's lunchbox I'm using some favorites from both of them so I can give you a better notion about the meals we eat as a family. It's such a simple recipe and it keeps pretty well in the fridge for 3-4 days, just make sure to season it when you're serving it and not before.
I used one can of tuna and that was enough for four portions of salad, which is pretty good! In a large bowl I added the tuna, a can of black eyed peas, some freshly chopped parsley and diced peppers (I used a mix of orange and red to keep it colorful).
At the time of serving or putting the salad in the lunchbox add a bit of olive oil and salt. I added extra protein with a hard boiled egg and also kept the salad theme with some romaine lettuce leaves, cherry tomatoes, black olives and fresh cucumber. I used a cutter to get that fish shape and it just took me a couple of minutes, using the already sliced cucumber that I had in the fridge.
For fruit today we chose two clementines.
Friday - Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with veggie chips
The last lunch of the week was more a mainstream one! The kids weren't used to having sandwiches for lunch back in Portugal but now they like to have them for lunch, once in a while. Today I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some whole grain seeded bread and used a puzzle shaped cutter to cut out little pieces of the sandwich. I really have to get the accessory sandwich tray for this yumbox because it is way more spacious to fit a whole sandwich than this one!
I added some veggies chips from this brand that we like. I always look at the ingredient list and try to choose a snack option that represents "the less of two evils"! I limit the processed food my kids have in a week but they need to have some chips that they can have and as long as we take note of what is eaten and in what amounts, I think it is perfectly fine. A balanced diet is the final goal, not total deprivation!
I'll be working on a blog post about snacks that I buy for my family and what options you have if you're looking to get your kids on a healthier lifestyle. It's good to have, at least 4-5 options from which they can choose what to have in their lunch.
For veggies today I added fresh celery sticks with ranch dressing. That's another important issue - choosing dressings that are made with all natural ingredients and no added sugar, so that we and our children can enjoy them without not only the guilt but also the unhealthy consequences. I like the Tessamaes "Organic Creamy Ranch" which I buy maybe 2 bottles a year. We don't use much as you can tell but the kids like to dip their veggies on it, once in a while.
For fruit we had green seedless grapes and also some mixed nuts.
I hope you liked my suggestions and that this post was an inspiration to get some freshness and healthy ideas in your kids' lunches and yours too! I would love to get some feedback from all you moms and dads out there that struggle with packing lunches for school:
What information do you need to get your packing routine smoother?
Would you like to see more of our weekly menus?
What about a shopping list with all the ingredients needed for this or other week of school lunches?
Let me know about your ideas and questions in the comments below or send me an email with all this questions! I can't wait to read them and find out all about your needs so I can try to help you through some very simple and easy tips that we can all do in our homes to make our children eat better but without too much stress!
If you follow my blog you must know, by now, that I love salmon!
I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to sample the Virgin Bay Seafood Co. wild caught salmon, from Alaska. It really does pay off to spend a bit more for great quality protein that is sustainable caught and that has, indubitably, more flavor and a texture that will leave you wanting for seconds after each meal you prepare with it!
I mean, just take a look at this perfect and beautiful salmon portions:
How could anyone be tired of eating food like this?!
Oh, well, I can't have this fish every week but I'm making sure to take some time and do proper research about the quality and sourcing of our family meals' protein sources. We really should pay more attention to what we feed our bodies and, specially after the whole30, that has been a concern of mine.
Not only for my health but for all of my family's.
By the time I did this recipe I was also able to try out some veggie kits I got from Urban Roots - even though I had to eliminate some of the seasonings that weren't whole30 compliant I had a great time trying these kits out and sampling the different condiments that come with each package. I loved the experience and I'm really glad to know that there's a company that makes eating veggies easier and simpler - if you have a busy life and not a lot of time to spend cooking you should really look into these!
Check out their website and all their veggie kits!
Here's a picture of what I got, alongside some amazing olive oil which continues to be a staple at our house.
I used the butternut squash and the cauliflower kit as a side for another meal and they were delicious! I usually buy all my veggies at the farmers market and prepare them yourself but, like I sad, if you're running low on time and want to make sure that there is always a veggie option in your fridge, make sure to grab some of these packages and try them out as soon as you can.
You won't be disappointed!
The recipe is pretty simple and that's one of the things that I like about cooking. You don't need to over do it, just choose good ingredients, simple flavors and you're off to a good meal, for sure!
2 wild caught salmon fillets (I used the Virgin Bay Seafood Co. - Copper River Sockeye Salmon)
1 big sweet potato sliced
1 brocolli crown
1 lbs small yellow potatoes
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp capers
1/3 lemon juice
1 Tbsp (total) garlic powder
salt and pepper
a bunch of cilantro
2 Tbsp pitted kalamata olives
1 - Preheat the oven at 400 F.
2 - Prepare all the veggies that are going into the oven - wash the potatoes and cut them in half. Wash the broccoli and separate it in florets. Place each vegetable in a different bowl and add the seasonings.
3 - On the potatoes and cherry tomatoes mix I used olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. The broccoli had olive oil, turmeric, salt and pepper. The sweet potatoes just had olive oil, red pepper chili flakes and garlic powder.
4 - Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and line up all your veggies making sure that they are not overcrowded in order to cook evenly. I ended up mixing the salmon with the veggies but next time I'll cook them separately!
5 - On a different baking sheet lined with parchment paper place the salmon fillets and season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Cook the fish and vegetables for about 20 minutes or until you see they're cooked through. The time may be a bit off if you choose thicker fillets or bigger chunks of veggies - if that is the case roast them for another 5-10 minutes.
6 - When everything is cooked, transfer to a serving plate and make the sauce to cover the salmon: in a bowl add the lemon juice, about a tsbp of olive oil, the chopped and pitted kalamata olives, the capers and some freshly chopped cilantro.
I love cilantro so I really got a good amount in there!
This was a meal for 4 and the whole family loved it!
I must say that sheet-pan meals are my favorite for weekdays because they make everything so easy and simple - one pan (or two, in this case!) and everything gets cooked at the same time. It's also perfect to cook chicken breast/thighs (might need a bit more time to cook) or shrimp!
Take a look at what you got on your last shopping trip and figure out what protein and veggies you can combine to make yourself a full and satisfying meal like this one!
I would love to know if you also have the habit of doing this kind of sheet-pan meals! Let me know in the comments!
Summer break is here and I've been struggling with adjusting to our new routine!
Well. the issue is that there is not an actual routine, which I must have to get some order in my daily life - the kids are having summer camp in alternate weeks so I'm with one of them all the time and the pressure of feeling like I have to get them out of the house for outdoor activities or other interesting things to do, instead of giving into TV and Ipad time is high!
I also have to teach them how to figure things by themselves and try to occupy their own time without needing me all the time. Adding to this a lot of home chores, recipes on hold, reviews to write down and organizing our trip back to Portugal by the beginning of August...well, I'm just a mess all around.
I know things will get better and summer really is a hard season for me. The constant reminder that I have to be perfect and that the house has to always look good, the cloths ironed and the kids well fed takes a toll on me and I'm trying to find a way to keep it all together.
We all have bad days or weeks, it's just a matter of pushing through and trying to do the best we can.
After all, we're just humans.
Another thing that I've been struggling with, due to everything I've mentioned before, is creativity in the kitchen. I'm always trying to think of new dishes to cook and make them a bit more elaborate than everyday cooking looks like. To tell you the truth, I'm realizing that food doesn't have to be over complicated, it just has to be good, delicious and nutritious.
Most of the times I think about putting some ingredients together in the most simple way, with basic condiments and spices and, if it works out it really is a great idea to publish it on the blog because, sometimes, people just need to get an idea of foods that go well together - specially in the summer, no one want to spend hours cooking a meal, right?
We simply want to enjoy good food and spend time with family and friends, so choosing easy and quick meals is the right way to go!
I've been sticking to a mainly whole foods diet and I'm looking into plant based diet too. I don't think I'll ever give up fish, meat and eggs completely but I'm seriously considering lowering down my animal protein consumption. I already try to have 2 plant-based days a week and it has been a great experience - I feel amazing and healthier than ever! I'm also educating myself and learning more and more about nutrition because there's nothing like getting information from clinical studies and educated people that have been studying the subject for decades. I'm currently devouring "The China Study", by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and his son Thomas M. Campbell II, MD. I'm trully enjoying this learning experience.
So, yesterday I decided to cook up a delicious lunch bowl. I just opened the fridge, took a look at what I had in there and put this super yummy and nutritious lunch bowl together in just about half an hour. It rendered my about 4 meals which was pretty good for the amount of time I spent cooking.
I decided to keep every cooked ingredient in a separate container because, I could combine it with different sides I had already cooked. That way I'll change up a bit my bowl every time I pick something from the containers!
As you know I hat food boredom!
I opted for spiralizing the butternut squash at home but you can buy it already spiralized it at the supermarket. It's more expensive to buy it already prepped but if you need convenience it's, obviously, the way to go.
1/2 a whole butternut squash
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper and garlic powder
2 Tbsp freshly chopped basil leaves
3 Tbsp "The new primal" spicy marinade/cooking sauce
1 bunch kale
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup pepitas
1 Pederson's Farms no-sugar added smoked Kielbasa
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 - Start by trimming the kale, chopping it roughly and washing it thoroughly. Reserve.
2 - Spiralize the butternut squash, which can be a bit of a hard task if you got a big one, like I did! You've got to cut the end of and peel the long part of the squash, which is the one that you'll be spiralizing, with a vegetable peeler. Reserve the remaining squash and dice it, store in a freezing bag and freeze to use in a different recipe.
3 - In a non-stick pan cook the sliced Kielbasa, in a Tbsp of olive oil, until it starts to get a brownish color. It's delicious when it starts to kind of caramelize, which is not the case because it doesn't have any sugar in it, but it's delicious!
4 - Reserve the cooked sausage and add the kale to the same pan to just toss it in the remaining fat. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder and keep moving the kale around so it doesn't get overcooked. When the kale turns a dark green color add the pine nuts and pepitas and give it a final toss. Reserve the kale mix in a glass container.
5 - Add the second Tbsp of olive oil to the pan and cook the squash noodles. These will take about 7-8 minutes to get cooked in medium to high heat. Keep stiring them once in a while and when they start getting cooked add the cooking sauce/marinade. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, add the chopped basil and reserve.
6 - All the ingredients are cooked and you just need to assemble your lunch bowl.
7 - In a large bowl add some of the butternut squash noodles to form a base. Add some of the kale and pine nut mix and some sausage slices. Add some extra pine nuts on top and some fresh blueberries for a burst of antioxidant goodness.
This is a great option to include on your weekly meal prep. Also, cook additional protein sources and veggies so you can build lots of different bowls throughout the week - having it all prepped and cooked on a Sunday night will, surely, make up for a stress free cooking week!
Just assemble your plate and bowl every time you need a meal and enjoy the different flavor combos - also, add some more fresh herbs to spruce up those flavors! Nothing like the scent of fresh herbs on a hot and delicious plate of food!
As most of you, who read my blog, know I went through my first round of whole30. I started on January 29 and ended up doing a whole65. I wanted to do the proper reintroduction and have blood work done after finishing my round so I went on a bit longer to make sure that things like my cycle wouldn't influence the results of the blood tests or of the food groups reintroduction.
I was interested in the concept of eating solely whole foods and observing how my body would react - logically it could only be good and I also wanted to find the trigger foods for my chronic migraines. Having to live with migraines on a weekly basis (2-3/week) was disruptive and life altering. The episodes would lead to feeling sick, mood swings, not having enough patience for my kids at the end of the day... it was an overall bad situation, not only for myself but also for my whole family.
What is the whole30?
If you have never hear of the whole30, the first and basic thing you need to know is that it is a food elimination process that is intended to let you know how different food groups affect you. After finishing a round you are supposed to do the reintroduction process, one food group at a time,
The program rules are simple: eat only real food and eliminate all processed food or additives. The first thing you'll need to do is clean your fridge and pantry in order to eliminate any non-compliant food. After that all you have to do is fill it up with whole natural foods and seasonings and eliminate the following for a 30 day period:
By now, if you weren't familiar with this process, you must be thinking:
"Wow! There are so many things that I can not eat!"
What about thinking about it the other way around:
"So, WHAT can I eat?"
The best thing to do is to look around and list all the produce you can eat, I assure you that you'll be able to find new favorites if you just leave your comfort zone for a while. There are a lot more vegetable options than broccoli and cauliflower! Nutrient dense green leaf greens, starchy veggies like sweet potato, peppers, lettuce, zucchini (great to make zoodles which go perfectly with home made marinara sauce!), butternut squash, green beans...there's a whole new world out there waiting for you to find it!
Before diving in, make sure you have all the information possible so that you feel comfortable enough to start the program and keep on track. The whole30website is perfect and has all the information you need. Basic advice, recipes, testimonials, everything is there.
One last thing you need to make sure you have mastered is the notion of the "whole30 plate template" that is the ratio of each food group you should incorporate in each meal. During the day you are to have 3 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) with no snacking at all. Exceptions for pregnant women or if you're breastfeeding and also if you workout intensively which will make you incorporate several mini-meals throughout the day. In order to be satiated until your next meal and to get a balanced daily diet on the whole30 you should recreate the following plate:
Do you spot the "fat" portion of the plate? Be sure to get that healthy fat at every single meal and don't be afraid of it! We need good fat and it does wonders for our bodies. Just give the system a try and you'll see the benefits for yourself! I now know that I always have to incorporate a healthy fat in my meals (avocado, olives, coconut, nut butters) to feel satiated and to prevent mindless snacking before my next meal.
I'll briefly describe my 4 weeks in order to try to explain what I felt and noticed different in my body (and mind) during this whole process.
Week 1 -
The first week was that thrill of starting something new and exciting!
I was preparing myself for a whole month before starting so I knew I had to meal prep in order to succeed - that was my first step. At the beginning of every week I knew I had compliant meals because I spent 2-3 hours on Sundays cooking and prepping all the meals I'd eat during the week. Having a beautifully stocked fridge on Sunday evening made me so happy!
I made sure that I always had washed and chopped fresh veggies and fruit, some cooked meals, roasted vegetables, greens for salads/cooking and the rest of my family's meals scheduled so I could be assured to have compliant meals and no-stress weekdays. It's so worth it the work on Sunday!
This first week I felt lots of energy, since day 1!
I think getting in the right mindset is key to a smooth whole30. If you enter this process thinking that it is an obligation you will not succeed - this is something that I did for my own good, to help my body find its balance and to make it cleaner and healthier. The advantages were all there for me and if to feel better I'd have to leave some foods behind I consider it a small price to pay for a happy and healthier life!
I had one day in particular when I was mad at my husband, don't ask my why, but the good thing that came out of it was that I did't cave in and I didn't go for comfort through food! That was my first NSV (non-scale victory), for sure!
I had some delicious meals and did not feel the need for snacking, at all. Maybe because my portions at breakfast were large I felt satiated longer and pretty confident about what I was feeding my body. I cooked this amazing fish and seafood soup with coconut cream and had it throughout the week. It is amazing and my 9 year old son loved it so much that I had to cook up a second batch! It freezes really well so you can double the recipe and freeze in individual portions to have a compliant meal on those busy days when you really don't have time to cook or strength to go into the kitchen! For lunch I had a small bowl and a salad and when I had it for dinner I added 1/2 avocado as the plated fat.
On those first 2-3 days it was hard adjusting to this new meal template. We're used to the concept of "breakfast food"and abandoning that concept takes a while. After day 3 I was already good with it and it started feeling awesome to have such nutritious food for breakfast!
Isn't that a beautiful plate of food to start the day?
I began practicing the concept of "eating the rainbow" - fill your plate with different colored foods to get an array of different vitamins and nutrients and to enrich your daily diet. Besides feeling great it looks so pretty on the plate!
For some inspiration you can look into my week 1 food journal and check out every meal I had during this week!
Major findings during this first week of whole30:
Stressful situation - the only thing that was hard on me during this week was making toasted bread for my kids in the morning and spreading butter on it! I'm Portuguese and we LOVE bread...having to smell that scent in the morning or afternoon (after school) and not being able to eat it was really hard during these 7 days!
However, I persisted, stayed strong and carried on!
Week 2 -
Another awesome week and I could only think that I was feeling happy all the time. Isn't that weird? I mean, I wasn't unhappy or miserable before but now everything just felt absolutely right! As soon as I'd wake up I'd feel great, super energized and ready to take on another whole30 day!
Every morning was crowned by a gorgeous breakfast and I realized that fueling our body right from the first hours after waking up is essential to keep the energy levels going throughout the day! My family kept find it a bit weird because they really weren't used to seeing breakfast food like this but I felt amazing and just wanted to keep on going!
I remembered about smoked salmon and used it as my protein for breakfast and it was SO good! One of the major issues I see people battling with is "food boredom" - choosing a vast array of different foods (protein, fat and vegetables) allows you to fight this and to maybe, even, get to try new foods that you haven't even thought off, before!
I also made sure that I spent quality time with my breakfast, not shoving food down my throat! Thinking about what you're eating and taking time to properly enjoy breakfast became a priority and, even if that meant waking up 30 minutes earlier every morning, I did it because it made me feel good!
I love food so it does make a lot of sense to enjoy it properly!
I made a delicious "Pan seared cod with homemade tomato sauce" and added some more olives as the plated fat. This was a meal for the whole family...cooking different meals wasn't on my plan so whatever I cooked for me they also ate - what I did was cook the occasional rice or pasta for them instead of having just the vegetables.
For lunch this week I had a lot of salads and tried to incorporate as many different veggies as I could. I maintained the fruit portions on 2 pieces a day and ALWAYS followed the meal template. On day 10 and 11 I felt a bit tired because I was on my cycle; I also felt a bit more hungry than usual but didn't cave in and opted for almond butter as plated fat at breakfast which I think helped a lot!
On my week 2 food journal I have pictures and description of every meal I had, so feel free to check that out and try to recreate some of the dishes by yourself.
You won't be disappointed!
Major findings during the second week of whole30:
Week 3 -
The first day of this week was my last one with the period and that was when I got my first migraine - worst day ever! One of the reasons I started this program was to find trigger foods for migraines and the good news is that this was my first episode during the program - before, I used to have 2 or 3 each week and these two whole weeks with none were surprising, to say the least!
So, with that being said, the first day of this week was the worst so far, with no energy at all and a full blown migraine banging on my head! After that everything returned to normal and by the following day I already had more energy and a clearer head!
This week I had bacon for breakfast in a couple of days and it tasted so good!
I started to think of this way of eating as a probable future lifestyle: it makes me feel great, my body is looking slender and amazing and, above all things, my mind is so clear that I can properly focus on what I'm doing all day long. If you had asked me before the whole30 I wouldn't tell you I had issues focusing but now that I'm realizing that I really did! Detoxing your body from fake stuff and fake food really has a great impact on our mind, that is clearer to me than ever before.
I also stopped stressing so much about whether the program was working on not because I was feeling amazing and that was all that mattered. No scale can make you feel like that, only good, natural and nutritious food, so I decided to just enjoy it!
Feel free to look up my week 3 food journal to get some ideas and try something different for next week's meal prep!
This was the week when I knew I would be having my gum surgery and that was kind of a bummer...however I decided to schedule it for my day 31 of the whole30 so I could do the whole full round. I started to think about soft food diet and I decided to really savor every meal I would have until then!
What I felt during the third week of my whole30:
Week 4 -
With the finish line in sight the week went by too fast! The difference I felt from the other weeks was that I felt more tired but I was getting to my period week again and I attribute that to the hormonal changes - I usually start to have symptoms a week and a half before getting my period. Although I was more tired I can say that, as someone who usually has a lot of pain during this week, I felt like during the whole30 the symptoms were much more lighter and also my flow was lighter too. I know that a lot of ladies ask about this and these were my findings, regarding the period week: less pain, less bloating and less flow.
As for the food things were delicious, as usual!
One of my favorite meals was the one I've pictured below - spaghetti squash with minced meat in home made marinara sauce, roasted asparagus, kalamata olives and plain blueberries. So good and so pretty!
When they say 'we eat with our eyes' I couldn't agree more. Just look at that gorgeous meal, doesn't it look absolutely amazing?!
I was so happy to be able to eat proper food because I got the news that after having my gum surgery I would have to be on a soft food diet for 6-8 weeks! That's a pretty long time...
I also knew that I wanted to do the proper reintroduction so that would mean that I would have to carry on doing the whole30 until after my post-op soft food diet so I could reintroduce foods properly and identify the ones that wouldn't agree with me.
I was in for a treat!
I tend to overthink things like procedures like this one and that was what happened - the result was a week of restless sleep, feeling tired almost all the time and, at the same time, feeling very apprehensive about it all.
In the meantime I kept cooking my meals and doing meal prep on Sunday, which I kept pointing out as one of my biggest tips for a successful program. On my week 4 food journal you can see my meals with pictures and description of everything I ate.
As for my findings I'll leave these ones for the main conclusion because it really reflects all of my whole30 and it should be read as a whole conclusion of the total period doing the whole30.
Laser gum surgery
As I've already explained I had to have laser gum surgery done in two different procedures. On the first one I had my whole left side done and one the second one (10 weeks later) I had the upper right side done. All I can say is that it is not pleasant...it's not worth drawing flowers around the situation, it's uncomfortable and, if you do it while on the whole30, it is even more complicated in terms of foods you can eat.
I'm working on a specific blog post on soft food diet during the whole30 so I won't be going into much detail here. What I can say is that I looked at what I could eat/drink and made it compliant - for example, smoothies are not allowed on the whole30 but in this case I had no choice given that on the third day eating liquid soup for breakfast I was already gagging and getting it all out! So, I had to brace myself and go for it! I used what I knew was good for me, like bone broth and high quality protein that the doctor recommended as a post-op recovering aid.
It really was hard and by the second week I was discouraged and didn't feel like eating at all. I lost even more weight than I already had until then (more on that on the post conclusions) but I really couldn't make myself eat more food. It was hard!
Blood tests after the whole30
Since I had started the program I had the idea of doing a check-up at the end and have some blood work done.
I confess that one if the things that I was fearing the most was cholesterol - due to eating so many eggs. I had already read that it has already been proven that the cholesterol from eggs does NOT influence our cholesterol, which is mainly driven by genetic factors and other food interactions. Also, I had always bought organic eggs precisely due to the fact of eating more of them lately. Even so the doubt was there.
Now, after having read tons of information and watching some documentaries with lots of scientific background studies I see that when we are "fed" the same recurrent message or information over decades it is hard to accept that those ideas were wrong and that the reality is different. It takes a strong person to change but when you have scientific evidence before you, I mean, I don't need anything else to believe the facts.
I won't publish my values because I consider them personal information and I really don't have a base to compare them with because I didn't have previous blood work to compare. Let me tell you - my doctor was so surprised with the results that she even asked my what I was doing, even being a young and healthy woman!
Alongside the blood work I also did a sensitivity test. I found a company online that uses strands of hair and I decided to try this out, after all, what harm could it do? I wanted to have this information in my power AFTER my reintroduction period so I could compare the results I had gotten with the results from the sensitivity tests and find out if they matched.
Reintroduction period -
I decided to do the reintroduction of the different food groups on the final period of my post-op soft food diet. Because of that, I had to change the order of some food groups to be able to try them according to the sensitivity I had on my healing gum - I didn't want to get anything ruined but I also wanted to be sure of the effects that food had on me!
I decided to follow the 10 day reintroduction schedule but, as said, changing the order of some of the food groups.
I'll list the food groups I reintroduced and what were my symptoms after doing it, or for the next couple of days so you can have a feeling of what you might also feel if you try these elimination program. This is something very personal, we are all different and our bodies react differently to the same foods. It's just a matter of doing the experiment and seeing what foods make you feel good or bad!
At the end of the day I was feeling good and thinking that, maybe, the only thing I would be would be some bloating...was I wrong or what?! When I woke up on the next day I felt like I had been run over by a train!
I had pain all over my body, getting up was a hurdle and every movement I had to make was painful...for real, if I hadn't experienced this myself I wouldn't believe it. I had back pain like I used to have before getting my spine surgery...it was really intense and that just goes to show me that, at least for me, dairy is out of the question due to its high inflammatory effects.
Truth be told, the only dairy I used to have was butter and ice cream once in a while. From now on I'm perfectly comfortable with other options like ghee and vegan ice cream, if I ever decide to try it out. Nowadays there are so many options out there that you'll always have options regarding the different food groups or diets you follow.
I didn't reintroduce alcohol because I don't drink alcohol. The exception will be the occasional cooked dish with a small amount of cooking wine but that is so sporadic that it doesn't even bother me. Other than that I don't drink, at all.
It was really interesting to get my sensitivity tests results after doing the reintroduction and noticing that there were things that really did match. Others were a surprise for me and I'll keep having those foods since the effects of consuming them are not serious or almost noticeable. I tested for high intolerance (at least 85%) to the following foods:
There were also other foods like a specific variety of apple but these were the ones that I think are most interesting and the ones that I should focus on more. As for dairy and wheat I had already noticed from the reintroduction phase that I didn't react well to them and that my body had a negative response - either pain (inflammatory response for dairy) or by inducing a migraine (in the case of gluten grains). I had already decided to eliminate these two groups from my daily diet but it was somewhat reassuring to know that this can be supported by this testing. Although it is not a 100% certain result test method I think it helps us to get some more information.
As for the salmon I was really shocked!
I've always loved salmon and during my whole30 I had it several times and never felt anything weird or wrong after eating it. What I've read about the symptoms of eating salmon when having a high intolerance to it was that it can manifest itself through scaling of the skin, like eczema. I noticed that my right hand, specifically, had been getting worse during these last few weeks and it could be because of that. Even so, I don't consider it so bad or harmful that will make me eat less salmon and the same goes for the olives. I love them and will continue to use them a source of good fat on my daily diet.
Findings and conclusion
This really was a journey of self discovery!
I got to try a new way of eating, I began a new eating routine but doing this whole30 showed me that it is way much more than just something about food. It's a deep process of re-setting your mindset towards food and life in general. As I've mentioned before, along the way, I noticed the impact that the changes I made to complete this program had on my behavior, general mood and overall wellness indicators.
As I started to go on a whole foods diet I started thinking clearly and feeling more positive and energetic. I had a sense of calmness that reassured me something that is pretty obvious but that you'll only perceive if you try something like this - real food heals, real food is good for you, real food is what your body needs to keep your mind healthy and thriving through good and bad times.
Whenever I would be faced with a challenge or a situation with which I wasn't comfortable with I was able to turn the situation in my favor and resolve it in a calm and orderly manner. I learned that I start to be more patient with my kids, I wasn't yelling at them as I would before and that everything needed to be more calm and peaceful in my household. My husband also noticed it and mentioned that to me, which was pretty reassuring and satisfying for me.
Physically, the changes are huge!
Of course I've lost weight and that was also favored by my post-op period from my gum surgeries in which I had to have 13 weeks of soft foo diet. Even so, after resuming my regular whole foods diet I've maintained my weight which has never happened before! Since starting in January I've lost 22 lbs and I'm now at my fittest as an adult as I've ever been.
I've been struggling with weight issues for a LONG time and to know that I can be at my fittest without making any sacrifices and eating the foods that I want and crave makes this experience so much more rewarding than I ever thought possible.
For decades I would hear those voices that we all hear, through TV commercials, magazines or on social media:
"Stay away from fat! Eat only fat-free food!"
"If you want to loose weight count calories - if you burn more than you eat you will loose weight, for sure!"
"Eat small portions of food throughout the day, no big meals!"
Those messages that we are fed for so many decades really do us harm and don't help us at all. What I've learned is exactly the opposite of that and I'll keep sharing it with my readers, family and friends so that all of you can, too, try to get to a point where you don't feel like food is the enemy. Food is your friend and food can heal, just choose the most natural way of eating and it can only do you so much good!
Eat real food
Do not base your grocery shopping on boxed items, they are full of chemicals and fake stuff!
Eat generous but balanced meals made up from excellent protein, colorful veggies and fat!
Good fat, eat it and enjoy it because it makes you so much good that you're blood work will get A+
Avocado, olives, nuts, nut butters, olive and avocado oil are amazing good fat choices, use them!
Eat the rainbow at every meal and you'll beat any multivitamin that comes off from a bottle!
Eat loads of different dark leafy greens to get vitamins and calcium in highly absorbable levels!
With all that being said I feel great about my natural daily diet and I'm currently looking into Paleo diet as a lifestyle. Keeping things and meals the simplest possible really makes me feel really good, healthy and energetic, so why would I want to change that?!
The only thing that keeps holding me back from being 100% Paleo, at the moment, is the fact that I love hummus! I usually have it a couple of times a week and I do get it why legumes are out of the Paleo lifestyle but I'll have to contemplate the options and decide what to do. Maintaining a good gut health and avoiding foods that cause leaky gut are a priority for me, now that I've learned so much about nutrition and about the impact that food can have on our lives.
I've also tried to incorporate, at least two days a week, a plant-based day. Eating just plants has proven to be an excellent way to feel even more in touch with myself and to have clearer thoughts and I'm loving all this things that I'm learning through food. Experimentation really is an amazing tool and I couldn't be happier with this experiment that has gone through almost 6 months.
So, eating grass-fed and grass-finished meat, sustainable wild caught fish, organic eggs, lots of veggies and fruit, tree nuts and raw unfiltered honey have been my guidelines after finishing my round. I just have the issue with legumes to look into but if I don't even miss oats anymore I believe I can do that with legumes too, as long as it is for the sake of a better life and healthier future.
I'm also taking the time to teach my kids about food and the importance of making good choices for their present and future health. I don't impose them any specific diet but they do have veggies with every meal and they love fruit. I also know that I'm passing on to them the right concepts and I trust them to carry them on through their lives and practice what I teach them.
Should you do a whole30 round?
I would recommend everyone to do a whole30 round!
As we all know it is not a weight loss diet.
It isn't a diet at all.
It is a reset program built to let your body detoxify itself from all the junk and fake stuff that we usually have through processed foods. Keeping a natural diet will help you achieve so many things beyond weight loss: no more inflammation, no more migraines, no more metabolic issues due to an imbalanced nutrient intake.
With the reintroduction program you will be able to determine which foods don't do you any good and remove them from your diet. It will always be an option and a single round may not be enough, specially if your previous daily diet was loaded with sugar and carbs.
No matter how many rounds you need, the most important thing is to START!
Put yourself first, put your health first because all you feel it's wrong with you can be changed by changing what you eat. We really are what we eat - I see that now, more clearly than ever! Give this program a try and see for yourself how amazing it can be, how good you can feel about yourself and share it with other so they can also have a glimpse of what they can achieve, without medication, fake vitamins or more chemicals pumped in our system.
Go natural, go back to our basic diet and feel like a million bucks!
I really hope that this posts inspires you to start or to continue your journey and I would love to know about your personal experience with going on a natural diet.
Feel free to comment or to reach out through my email, either way I'll love to know your personal experience!
I love salads and they really are my first choice for warm weather meals. This was my first attempt at a chicken salad with mayo since I usually don't use it and prefer simpler seasonings. I had gotten a Primal Kitchen avocado mayo to try out so I decided to use it and it really came out perfectly balanced and not overpowering, as I thought it would be with regular mayo.
I chose Boston living lettuce leaves because they are big and sturdy enough to hold the salad, in case you really want to ditch the fork and eat it like a taco! It's a pretty portable meal either way - carry it in a glass container and enjoy a fresh burst of flavors and textures either eating with a fork or getting adventurous and grabbing your lettuce taco by hand!
This was done as a Whole30 meal, hence the brand of marinade I used, but you can always choose another brand or make your own marinade if you're not following this specific food elimination program. Either way this step of marinating the meat you'll make for a super tasty chicken that will, in itself, elevate this simple chicken salad to the next level. There is nothing worse than plain, boring chicken breast meat, right?!
I hope you get to try this because it is delicious, simple and easy to make. It's a perfect meal for summer days and if you choose to carry it out don't forget to pack some ice packs around your container to make sure that everything stays safe on warm weather days.
The textures and falvors go perfectly together and the crunchiness from the celery is the perfect complement for the creamy mayo and the sweet grapes.
What a perfect flavor/texture combo!
Write down your grocery shopping list and get this recipe on this week's menu for the whole family!
Boston living lettuce leaves (trimmed and thoroughly washed)
1 lb chicken breast
1/3 bottle of "The Primal Kitchen" classic marinade or cooking sauce
3 small celery sticks
1 tsp garlic powder
1 + 1/2 cup seedless grapes
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup Primal Kitchen avocado mayo (you can substitute for your favorite brand)
salt, pepper at taste
1 Tbsp olive oil (to cook the chicken)
1 - Start by marinating the chicken in "The New Primal Kitchen" classic marinade and cooking sauce. If you're using whole chicken breasts, like I did, cut them in smaller bite-sized portions and place them in a glass container, covering with the marinade so that the whole chicken gets covered. Close the lid and keep in the fridge for about 2 hours. Alternatively you can buy the chicken strips instead of the whole breast in order to save some time with the prepping.
2 - Grill the chicken in some olive oil, adding the rest of the marinade as you go. Reserve the cooked chicken in a bowl, letting it cool down completely in order to start making the salad. You can also do this two first steps a day ahead so you can have everything ready to go when you want to make your salad.
3 - Peel and shred the carrot, wash and roughly chop the celery, adding them to a big bowl where you're going to build your salad and mix all the ingredients. Add the cooled chicken pieces.
4 - Wash the seedless grapes, pat them dry and cut them in half. Add these to the salad bowl with the walnuts. Add the mayo to the bowl and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and freshly chopped dill. Mix everything together and taste it so you can see if you need to make any adjustments at this time.
5 - Platting - I love serving salads like this over lettuce leaves and I used Boston living lettuce because of its broad and large leaves which are perfect for this! Serve the salad on a plate, over the lettuce leaves.
I also prepared the rest of the salad in glass meal prep containers so I could have extra meals prepared and ready to grab and go. There's nothing like meal prep to make you feel prepared for a healthy and pretty good tasting week of meals!
In this particular case I ended up sharing my chicken salad with some friends.
I mean, it's one of the things that makes me feel better - to share what I cook with others and see their reaction. My love for food is closely tied too my love for sharing my passion for cooking and healthy habits so the best thing to do is to share!
This is an example of a very simple meal and, of course, you can always add some other ingredients that you fancy or use other seasonings. From the basic recipe build up your chicken salad and make a super refreshing meal to your whole family over this next week!
.Breakfast! The first meal of the day and, as many say, the most important one. After having been without food for a considerable number of hours our body needs nutritious biological fuel to start waking up our metabolism and to give us energy to kick start a new day with a positive mindset.
While I was on the whole30 I had to rethink my idea of "breakfast". It was no longer the meal filled with cereal, bread or milk to what I had been accustomed to. For me it was relatively easy to change my perspective and try to face this meal as any meal out of the other two I would have during the day - it was a meal that, according to the whole30 plate template, would necessarily have to include protein, vegetables, a plated healthy fat and the occasional piece of fruit.
The first instinct is to choose eggs and, believe me, I LOVE eggs!
Having a couple of beautiful, organic, deep orange yolked eggs in my plate seems like the perfect start to any weekday! But the idea of having the same thing everyday, over and over again, can become really old and give room to "food boredom" which is one of my worst enemies! It makes me feel like I no longer enjoy food and while I do eat healthy and try to always make good choices I love a filled plate of gorgeous food for breakfast as you've probably noticed if you have read any of my food journals, like this one: whole30-week-2-food-journal.html.
A lot of people who I talk to come to me with the same question:
What can I have for breakfast that doesn't include eggs? I can't stand eggs anymore!
Well, the quick answer is to tell you that you can have ANYTHING for breakfast, it doesn't have to be eggs!
I used to have leftovers from dinner or lunch from the previous day but I know that ii's also good to have some "recipes" that you can get into your Sunday meal prep and feel more organized during the week, just in case you end up with no leftovers from your meals.
The last thing you want if you're doing a whole30 round is find yourself unprepared and with no compliant options. Having to grab something quick that may not be satiating enough might lead to mindless snacking or poor choices which is precisely what we want to avoid during this reset program.
So, I came up with a bunch of links to delicious and mouth watering breakfast options that don't include eggs. Enjoy and take a look at these delicious and colorful suggestions to start your day right and full of nutritious food!
1. Sweet potato skillet, by "Confessions of a Clean Foodie"
Credit: Confessions of a Clean Foodie
I've been following this blog for a while as well as the author's Instagram account and I am a confessed huge fan!
I so identify myself with her values and her looks on healthy food and eating clean. You will need a spiralizer for this recipe but if you haven't bought one already it's the perfect time to do it! It's one of the kitchen tools I use the most and makes including veggies into your meals even more easy and practical. Zoodles are a favorite of mine and I'm getting the kids on board too, sometimes I'm switching pasta by zoodles and everyone loves it.
It's a super easy recipe that gets everything in the same pan which is perfect - one utensil to clean up and I'm pretty happy about it! You can prepare this over the weekend and even double the recipe, depending on the number of people who you're cooking to and then keep it refrigerated to use as you go.
2. Spinach, mushroom and cherry tomato fry up, by "Eat Drink Paleo"
Credit: Eat Drink Paleo
This is a combo that I love! Spinach and mushrooms really do belong together and I'll try to add the tomatoes next time I do something like this because it looks absolutely stunning! You can always add some more veggies, if you like, and add a piece of fruit like an apple with almond butter for the platted fat.
3. Kale, sausage and pepper skillet, by "Primal Gourmet"
Credit: Primal Gourmet
Just take a look at those sausages? Doesn't that make you want to have a full plate of wholesome food for breakfast?! Sausage and peppers are a great combo and pairing them up with some leafy greens is perfect to get part of your daily dose of vegetables in the first part of the day.
I would definitely add some chopped avocado on top for extra creaminess!
4. Whole30 breakfast hash, by "Tasty Thin"
Credit: Tasy Thin
This kind of breakfast hash is the most common option and useful one if you have a lot of veggies and root vegetables that you want to cook up in just one skillet. Add your protein, choose your favorite healthy fat and finish with a small piece of fruit.
Adding different colored veggies makes it fun to the kids to get involved in the cooking process and in trying new flavors!
5. Breakfast Pot Pie, by "The Castaway Kitchen"
Credit: The Castaway Kitchen
I did not know about this recipe when I was still on my round but now that I've found it I will absolutely make it because it looks absolutely delicious and comforting! This is another blog that I follow, mainly through Instagram, and it's always a source of inspiration and excellent healthy recipes and ideas.
It is a bit elaborate and you have to make the cashew or the cauliflower cream (see notes by the author) but I bet it's absolutely worth it!
Once again, you can always prep ahead and have this done for the week.
It's just a matter of organization and meal prep!
6. Paleo Bison Plantain Breakfast Bowl, by "Fed+Fit"
I love breakfast bowls!
In fact, I tend to prefer eating from a bowl than from a plate...since finishing my whole30 round I notice that I eat less and the size of a regular bowl is perfect for a meal, at least for myself. My husband would take two bowls, for sure!
As for the meat you can use whatever compliant ground meat you have available and substitute the bison.
It really looks yummy and makes you feel hungry just by looking at the picture, right?!
7. Zucchini and sweet potato latkes, by "I Breath I'm Hungry"
Credit: "I Breath I'm Hungry"
I know, I know! When you click on the link and start reading through the recipe you see an EGG on top of the latkes! Forget about the egg, since we're on a egg-free recipe journey and substitute it with another protein of your choice. Smoked salmon would work perfectly here alongside with some fresh and peppery arugula.
Doesn't that sound better?
Usually we think sausage, bacon, ground meat but forget about the smoked salmon and it is such a perfect protein source.
Just give it a try and you might be surprised!
8. Butternut squash breakfast sausage, by "Real Food with Dana"
Credit: "Real Food with Dana"
I love combining fruit with meat and this combo just looks perfect for a breakfast dish!
Add some grilled or sauteed veggies from your Sunday meal prep (yes, I'll keep insisting on meal prep because that is ESSENTIAL to make you stay on track and always have healthy options available!).
Particularly apples work great with turkey or chicken and give that sweet/sour contrast that goes perfectly with the meat flavors.
I love Dana's recipes and views on whole30 and she is also another blogger that I follow and admire.
9. Collard green wraps, by "The Castaway Kitchen"
Credit: The Castaway Kitchen
Wraps are a great option, either for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
They are also very versatile because you can really utilize whatever ingredients you have on hand and it's also the perfect use for those "cleaning fridge" days - whatever vegetables you have left, grilled chicken or salmon, just throw everything together and make it a wrap!
Also, I've seen a lot of collard greens wraps made with the raw leaves and it always seemed kind of hard to assemble that way: getting them in boiling water and cooling them sown afterwards seems like the perfect solution.
10. Egg-free paleo breakfast bowls, by "Simone Miller's Zenbelly"
Credit: Simone Miller's Zenbelly
This bowls are so easy to put together and it's one of those recipes that you can make them your own by replacing some of the veggies by the ones you have sitting in the fridge before they go bad!
Use different proteins and seasonings to have variety do you don't get stuck with the same breakfast every day for a week.
Stay away from food boredom!
11. Yam, celery root and bacon hash, by "Rubies and Radishes"
Credit: Rubies and Radishes
I love skillet meals!
I don't know what it is that fascinates me but a round pan filled with good veggies and tasty bacon sounds like the perfect breakfast option right now!
Just make sure to choose a whole30 compliant no-sugar bacon to stay on program.
I love green veggies so I would definitely add some chopped kale or Swiss chard to this beautiful root vegetable skillet!
12. Mango chicken breakfast sausage, by "HeartBeetKitchen"
Making your own breakfast sausages is a great Sunday meal prep idea!
Aside from the fact that you can add your own seasonings and add-ons, you can also double batch and freeze the patties so you can use them as you need them!
This sound absolutely delicious with the diced mango and simple ingredients.
Have them in the morning with a salad and 1/2 avocado for the healthy plated fat portion.
13. Sausage and sweet potato Paleo egg-free breakfast, by "Paleo Bailey"
Credit: Paleo Bailey
Another great skillet meal and this comes with the suggested plated fat, avocado!
That creaminess from the avocado with the richness of the sausage and the freshness of the green onions seems like the perfect combo!
Give this a try and you'll be surprised at how easy this recipe is and how tasty your mornings can become.
Get this all prepped on Sunday and reheat during the week.
14. Sausage and cabbage, by "Life Made Full"
Credit: "Life Made Full"
Is there anyone who doesn't like sausage and cabbage?
t's such a comforting dish!
Just make sure to use compliant sausage and serve this up with some cheery tomatoes and olives!
A different but truly indulgent way to start any day!
15. Pumpkin breakfast apple bake, by "Wholesomelicious"
This recipe is last on the list for a specific reason.
We all know that whole30 discourages the recreation of baked goods and I can see that this looks just like one of those cases. I also know that, sometimes, we just really need something different to get through another day and it's just not about giving into the sugar dragon, it's about needing to have something different that day or something that it's more convenient to eat on the go.
It's funny how I've discovered this recipe. Actually I didn't!
Through my whole30 I met someone on the Facebook group and we went on helping each other out and supporting each other through our journey.
When I went through my first gum surgery I was really demoralized during my post-op weeks and was so fed up with soups, smoothies (I had to take them because of my restricted soft food diet - even though discouraged if they are compliant it's still a whole30) and scrambled eggs that I really didn't feel like eating...at all!
So, my friend sent me the link to this recipe and I did it with shredded apples and no nuts because of my post-op restrictions. I can only tell you that this was a life saver for my 8 weeks of restricted soft food diet and I think it might help other people that are also looking for alternatives for whatever reason that may be.
I hope everyone finds these suggestions helpful and I would love to know if you tried to cook some of them at home.
Don't forget that whether you are doing a whole30 or not, MEAL PREP is essential for a healthy diet and allows you to make the right choices for yourself and for your whole family.
Spending a couple of hours on Sunday cooking up for the majority of the rest of the week may also free you up from that daily stress of figuring out what to cook!
If you are struggling with this issue go back to my blog post about meal prep, here, and read it thoroughly so you can get into the right mindset.
Also, the post about whole30 essentials is a must for anyone starting a whole30, just to get the basics of the program. You can look it up here.
Let me know if there's anything you would like to see posted here on the blog and keep me on your saved links because sharing is caring and we can all use some advice from one another.
Any questions you may have just drop me an email or comment on this post!
I've been wanting to try the Virgin Bay Seafood Co. salmon burger since the moment I got it! With the gum surgeries recovery time it got hard to try new recipes with the products I had but now that I can eat everything again I'm getting to try some new and delicious recipes and sharing them with all of you once more!
I had two 1 lb packages of salmon meat to use and I decided to make salmon cakes.
A very simple and easy recipe that you can whip up with wholesome ingredients that only bring out the natural flavor of the salmon, which is the star of the dish. It was done as a Whole30 meal because I've become accustomed to using only natural foods and condiments - it really makes cooking such an easy and fun activity!
Just choose some tasty seasonings, add some fresh herbs and I assure you you'll have a pretty tasty and nutritious meal for yourself and for your family!
I cooked the cakes in some avocado oil on a ceramic pan and I got them with a nice golden crunchy crust! I first cooked the plain salmon cakes which I did for the kids, since they don't fancy peppers, and then I cooked the pepper salmon cakes which got so yummy with that brown and tasty outside coating!
This is the perfect recipe for a relaxed weekday dinner - you can prep everything ahead of time and then freeze the cakes/patties to have them on hand and cook them whenever you need to!
I used my Tupperware accessory that I bought when I was still living in Portugal. It's funny because I bought it to make homemade hamburgers but just used them once for that specific purpose!
Now that I remembered to pick it up for this salmon recipe I'll use it again for sure.
It is super practical and it allows me to freeze up to 5 individual portions; I can then take and cook portions as I go and leave the others in the freezer.
Convenience at its best!
As I've mentioned before, I did two variations of the salmon cakes: one plain (just with the salmon meat, almond flour and seasonings such as salt, pepper and garlic powder) and the other with peppers which turned out really flavorful and aromatic.
It's a very costumizable recipe too because you can really add any ingredient, seasoning or fresh herb you prefer!
In cooking these kind of dishes there are no rights or wrongs!
Just pick your flavors and start making your own salmon cakes recipe!
Also, I used a package of frozen rainbow peppers because I had it in the freezer but it's perfectly fine to use fresh peppers, just use whatever you've got available.
I always try to make sure that I have, at least, four different varieties of frozen vegetables in the freezer to make sure that I don't run out of veggie options. Some Whole30 habits remain forever and I consider them a plus!
2 lbs salmon meat (I used the Virgin Bay Seafood Co. which you can findhere)
juice of 1 lime
fresh herbs (I used basil and parsley)
6 Tbsp almond flour
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1 small package of rainbow peppers
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp olive oil
Avocado oil to cook the salmon cakes (about 1 Tbsp should be enough)
1 - Start by defrosting the salmon meat and the pepper mix overnight in the fridge.
2 - Prepare the pepper mix for the pepper salmon cakes. Cook the sliced onion in a pan with olive oil and when it gets softened add the strained rainbow peppers trying to remove as much of the water as possible to prevent the mix to become soggy in the pan. I did this by pressing the peppers though a mesh sieve and pressing a bit to remove all the excess liquid. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder and let the vegetables cook for about 10-15 minutes or until they start to get a brownish color which means that their flavor is really coming out and they're ready.
3 - Reserve the pepper mix on a plate and let it cool to start making the salmon cakes.
4 - Place the salmon meat on a bowl and season with salt, garlic powder and the freshly chopped herbs. Separate into two smaller bowls, one for the plain cakes and one for the pepper ones.
5 - Add 3 Tbsp of almond flour to the salmon meat and form balls using your hands. If you see that the mix is too wet add a bit more of almond flour until you can form the balls and they retain the shape. Place them on a plate and flatten them a bit. Reserve.
6 - Place the pepper mix on a chopping board and using a sharp knife cut them pretty finely or at your desired size. Don't over chop to prevent excess liquid. Add the peppers and the lime juice to the salmon meat and add 3 Tbsp of almond flour adjusting this amount, if needed. I also added some extra red pepper flakes to this ones because I just love a bit of heat on my salmon!
7 - First I filled my Tupperware containers with these salmon mix and pressed down on each compartment to make sure that I would have well defined patties. I used a small spoon to make sure that I was able to press down every single bit of salmon mix. With the rest of the salmon mix I formed small balls and did exactly like I had done with the plain salmon patties.
After having these perfectly shaped and pressed down I pilled them up on top of each other and finished with the plastic lid to seal them up. Ready for the freezer!
8 - To cook the salmon cakes heat up some olive oil in a non-stick pan and place them on medium heat until they're cooked on one side which takes about 3 minutes and flip them over to finish cooking on the other side. The cooking time will also depend on the thickness of the patties, the thinner they are the faster they'll cook up. Don't overfill the pan to make sure that the temperature stays pretty constant.
9 - Remove the cooked salmon cakes from the pan, add some more olive oil, if needed, and continue cooking all your salmon cakes.
10 - Serve the salmon cakes with grilled veggies or a fresh and colorful salad and enjoy! A bit of lime juice on top is also perfect for a final touch of freshness.
This delicious meal pictured below was amazingly refreshing on a warm spring day! Coleslaw with roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts, roasted garlic sauerkraut and an amazing and quite spicy pepper salmon cake!
And you know what the best part of all this is?
I have four more delicious salmon cakes in the freezer for a lazy day when I don't feel like cooking but still want to have a healthy and satisfying meal.
What about you? Do you like salmon?
What are your favorite ways to cook it up and serve it at your house?
At our house we love fish and seafood and try to have it, at least, 2 times a week. When we were living back in Portugal we had a much more fish based diet - fish is very abundant and cheaper also, which allows people to have a higher access to fish. We used to have mainly cold water fish, from the Atlantic because that's what we get over there. A lot of grilled salmon, steamed whitening, grilled sword fish and sardines, in the summer time!
When we moved to the US I really got hit with the reality that we had to cut down, maybe by half, the weekly fish based meals due to the higher buying price. There are cheaper varieties and I used to buy them once in a while but now that my perception of food has changed I really try to make good food choices, like buying wild-caught fish instead of farmed varieties. The quality of the food we eat really impacts our health and well being and, if making better choices gets us having a couple of great quality fish meals a week that's perfectly fine by me.
I'm still looking for a local fish market to buy sustainable and wild-caught fish so if anyone from around Scotch Plains has a regular place where they use to go and recommend, please send me a message or write down a comment on this blog post so I can check the place out and maybe even feature it on the blog, on the "local businesses" section.
For this recipe I used the Virgin Bay Sea Food Co. wild-caught rock fish and it worked out perfectly!
A firm white fish, sturdy enough to incorporate in a stew without loosing shape or flavor. This kind of dish really is a hearty and healthy meal - incorporating potatoes and peppers allows for you to have the vegetables along with the meal and cooking everything in just one pot makes it a winner for any home cook, right?
Keeping things simple during the week is my most precious motto for weekday meals.
Don't complicate and use simple but great quality ingredients and you'll do just fine and won't have to stress about cooking that much. I cooked the stew in a big pot and used 4 big portions of rock-fish which was enough for 8 individual servings.
1 big sweet onion, diced
3 grated garlic cloves
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 celery stalks, trimmed and diced
2 carrots, peeled finely chopped
4 large ripe tomatoes
1 small orange bell pepper, washed and diced
1 Tbsp tomato paste *
2 Tbsp parsley
2 bay leaves
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and garlic powder *
1/2 fennel bulb, washed and thinly sliced
juice of half a lemon
4 large rock fish fillets
1 lb frozen wild-caught mussels *
2 large white potatoes, washed and diced in big chunks
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, washed and diced in big chunks
bone broth * to cover the vegetables (I used about 4 cups)
Dill to season at your discretion
* To make this dish Whole30 complain just make sure that this ingredients are compliant by reading the ingredient list on the package/can.
1 - In a big pot add the olive oil and when it gets to a good temperature add the onion and the garlic to cook them lightly. Add the bell pepper, the carrots and the celery and give it a good mix to combine all the vegetables. Let this cook in medium heat for about 8 minutes or until the vegetables get soft.
2 - Add the washed and diced tomatoes, the tomato paste, the bone broth and the thinly sliced fennel. Give this a stir and add the seasonings and the herbs - salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes (I used 1 tsp), the bay leaves and the freshly chopped parsley. Let this cook in slow heat and with a lid on, for about 25 minutes.
3 - Add the chopped potatoes and cook for an additional 8 minutes and after that add the fish cut up in big chunks and the mussels. Season the fish with some salt and lemon juice.
4 - Cook with a tightly closed lid to get the fish cooked, around 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the chopped dill on top of the stew.
5 - Let the stew cool down a bit for a couple of minutes without the lid (so it doesn't overcook!) and serve it in individual soup plates with some of the broth.
If you you're not doing a Whole30 round feel free to have a sliced baguette to go with the soup, it'll go amazingly with the broth!
This is the absolute warm weather comfort food for me! I love salads and cold food too but a fish stew will always get to me! The combination of flavors is just mouth watering and, honestly, I can not wait to cook a batch of this scrumptious stew again!
As a plus, my kids loved it which makes it even better since cooking two different meals, one for us and one for the kids, was never an option around here!
Give this amazing meal a try and let me know how it went and if the whole family enjoyed it as much as I did!