paleo basics

Homemade Taco + Chili Seasoning

For whatever reason the idea of making my own seasoning mixes used to really overwhelm me, but it is one of those things I wish I had done sooner!! We've been making our own seasoning mixes for about the last ten years, and it is so easy, plus it makes life so much simpler! We typically buy our individual spices from Thrive Market since we can get organic ones at a great price.  

Our taco + chili mix is probably our most used spice mix! It tastes great, is quick to make, and saves us money all while making sure we aren't ingesting added sugars or other unnecessary ingredients!

 
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TACO + CHILI SEASON MIX:
4T of chili powder
6T garlic powder
4T onion powder 
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4T dried oregano
3T paprika
6T ground cumin
2T sea salt
1T black pepper

Mix well in a medium size bowl, then transfer to an air tight glass jar! When ready to use, I add 1-2T per pound of meat/vegetables. *Note: this makes a large jar. You can make it a little spicier with more chili powder or red pepper flakes if you want! 

September Wellness 02: Go Green

Another thing we are focusing on this month is increasing our vegetable intake! We already eat more vegetables than your average American family, but it is easy to get in a rut or to skip them all together when life gets hectic.

Since saying 'eat more vegetables' isn't measurable or specific, our goal is to have three vegetables at each meal. Yes, each meal, including breakfast. If that seems too overwhelming to you or your current breakfast is a bowl of cereal, let's just start with incorporating one vegetable into each meal. Here is what that typically looks like for us:

This recipe  sounds amazing with simple, but delicious flavors. Just substitute zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash!

This recipe sounds amazing with simple, but delicious flavors. Just substitute zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash!

+ Breakfast: roasted broccoli, zucchini, and kale egg scramble with backyard eggs (organic, free-range and unpasteurized! Hooray for owning chickens!) OR roasted chicken and vegetable soup OR a breakfast salad of mixed greens, green onions, and roasted veggies topped with a fried egg or other protein. 
+ Lunch: a big salad with organic greens, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, roasted broccoli + cauliflower, avocado slices + protein with a homemade dressing or guacamole
+ Dinner: paleo chili with zucchini, bell peppers and eggplant over cauliflower 'rice' OR grilled tuna steaks with roasted brussels sprouts, mashed parsnips and raw coleslaw. This is the easiest meal to incorporate vegetables. 

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Insider tips:
+ Wash, cut and roast a variety of vegetables on the weekend to have during the week. Think cauliflower, broccoli, butternut squash, parsnips, sweet potatoes, okra, eggplant, rainbow carrots, beets, anything you like! Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, garlic and roast. Hardier vegetables like butternut squash and potatoes will take a little longer compared to things like broccoli and okra. 
+ On days when we have smoothies either between meals or as a meal replacement we take a MultiGreens supplement or open the capsules and add them to our smoothies. You can find out more about the company behind our supplements here, and stay tuned for more info on supplements later this week!
+ You can find tips for creating a whole foods pantry and refrigerator here as well as our whole-foods-on-a-budget favorites from Trader Joes and Aldi here and here
+ You can find some of our favorite recipes here and complete month-long meal plans here.

Easy + Delicious Freezer Meals

I talk a lot about meal planing and preparation since I really believe that it is vital to maintaining healthy diet. Life is busy and hectic, and most days there just isn't enough time to pull together a whole-food, nutrient-dense meal from scratch. And while planning and prep are the norm for us, but there are still some weeks that end up crazy and hectic. That's why we have a freezer and pantry stocked with things that will quickly transform into a meal. (More on that later.) 

I typically freeze pre-cooked foods like ground beef or chili, but I recently decided to try a few freezer crockpot meals. So easy! I had a small window of time while my son was napping, and I threw together three meals as well as some marinated meats to freeze. Here are a few recipes to get you started:

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Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry:
1.5lb chicken breast, diced
1/2 cup or so Coconut Secret Teryaki sauce
3 or so garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 package frozen onions OR 1 small onion, diced
1 package frozen carrots + broccoli

Place chicken in a freezer bag, then add sauce and toss to coat. Top with vegetables (except broccoli!) and lay flat to freeze. To cook, place in a slow cooker on low for 6 hours OR thaw overnight and sautee in a large pan. Add in the broccoli for the last 30 minutes of the slow cooker to keep all the nutrient. Crack in an egg to scramble for an authentic stir-fry! Add about 1/4 cup or so of extra sauce during the last 15 minutes of cooking. Serve with zoodles or cauli-rice.


Slow-cooker Sausage + Peppers + Onions:
1 12oz package of sausage, sliced (read ingredients!)
1 small can organic diced tomatoes 
2 garlic cloves, diced (you can use more if you use a different flavor sausage)
1 bag frozen onions + peppers
OR
1 small onion + 2 small bell peppers (your choice of color)

Place all ingredients in a ziplock bag and freeze flat. Write on the bag: Cook on low for 6+ hours. The exact time will depend on your slow cooker and whether your sausage was pre-cooked. I used TJ garlic chicken sausage  that was pre-cooked, so I plan to either put this in the slow cooker on low for about 4 hours or to just sauté together in a pan. Serve with sautéed greens or broccoli and cauli-rice or zoodles!


Maple-Dijon Pork Chops:
1lb thin-sliced pastured pork chops
2tsp organic dijon mustard
1/8-1/4 cup organic maple syrup (to taste, we like less)
21 Season Salute (or other all-purpose seasoning)
s+p

Mix all ingredients together in a freezer bag and freeze flat. Cook in a slow-cooker on low for 4-6 hours depending on the thickness of your pork. 

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Chicken + Vegetable Curry:
1-1&1/2lb organic chicken, diced
1 bag vegetables, your choice! (onion, bell pepper, zucchini, squash, snow peas)
1/2 small bell pepper (any color)
2 tsp curry powder
3 cloves garlic, smashed
s+p to taste
Optional: fresh spinach, slightly wilted
1 can organic coconut milk

Mix together in a freezer bag and freeze flat. Add about 1/2-1 cup organic chicken stock to a slow-cooker and cook on low for 6 hours. Add coconut milk during the last hour of cooking, and add wilted spinach during the last 15 minutes. Top with chopped cashews, green onions, and serve over zoodles or cauli-rice.

Easy + Delicious Chicken Salad

One of our favorite, simple go-to recipes is homemade chicken salad. While the store-bought stuff is laden with industrial seed oils and preservatives, this quick and easy recipe is full of nutritious benefits - lean protein, good fats, and plenty of flavor.

Easy Chicken Salad:
1 - 1&1/2lb shredded chicken*
1/4 cup primal kitchen mayo
1T organic dijon mustard
salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
4 drops lemon essential oil

Mix chicken with mayo and dijon, then add essential oil and spices. Mix well. Add more or less mayo or dijon to your personal taste. We prefer more mayo and less dijon, but do whatever you like best! Other optional add-ins: sliced almonds, diced apples or dried cranberries, smashed avocado, shredded spinach. 

This recipe is also a toddler favorite, especially when I mix in a little extra avocado and maybe a tiny bit of diced apple or a couple diced green grapes. 

*I cook about 1.5lb of chicken in our slow cooker to make this even easier! I season it with a little olive oil and Trader Joe's 21 Season Salute (or other all-purpose seasoning) and cook on low of 5 hours. After the chicken is cooked, shred with a fork and allow to cool. 

Kitchen Gadgets

When it comes to kitchen real estate, we land on the side of minimal, yet practical, and keep our gadgets to a minimum. That being said, there are a handful of things that make life easier, especially when you prepare 95% of your meals at home. Here are a few of my must-haves when it comes to the kitchen. 

+ A really good cast iron dutch oven. We used to have a Martha Steward one, but after it chipped and I had a really terrible customer service experience at Macys, I just can't recommend it. This Lodge Dutch Oven was our replacement and is a much better option.

+ A stainless steel julienne peeler. You can get much fancier and purchase and actual spiral slicer, but I prefer the simplicity of a peeler. Plus, it fits into the utensil drawer and doesn't take up precious cabinet space.

+ A stand mixer . I wasnt' sure we would use this when we transitioned to a paleo diet, but it is the simplest way to make mashed parsnips, cauliflower or potatoes. Plus we use it to make muffins and occasionally break out the ice cream attachment for some coconut milk ice cream.

+ A good french press and accompanying coffee grinder. After our trip to Panama and the opportunity to really taste coffee, we changed our routine a bit. It makes all the difference!

Summer Paleo Chili

Paleo chili is a staple in our home, regardless of the season. It's one of our stand by dishes that we always have ingredients to prepare, so it is great for those insanely busy weeks when time just slips away. I like to keep two pounds of cooked ground beef in our freezer to make the chili prep even simpler and easy to transition to a slow cooker if needed. 

Summer Paleo Chili:
2lb grass-fed  ground beef
1 small yellow or visalia onion (or frozen onions)
1 bell pepper, any color (or 1 package frozen bell peppers)
2-3 summer squash, yellow or zucchini, diced
1/2 a package organic grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 28-oz can organic crushed tomatoes
Splash Bragg's apple cider vinegar
1 tsp organic dijon mustard 
Optional: splash wortschershire sauce (contains molasses, not strict paleo)
Olive oil
Homemade chili seasoning + s/p/garlic to taste

Place onions and olive oil in a dutch oven and cook until slightly opaque. Add in ground beef and cook until no longer pink (if using raw meat) or until thawed (if using pre-cooked and frozen meat). Add in squash, fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, and seasoning and cook, covered for about 30-45 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add water or broth if you desire a thinner consistency. Add apple cider vinegar, dijon and wortschershire, if using, and cook for another 20 minutes or up to 1 hour. We like to leave ours on low for about 45 minutes to really let the flavors meld together.

Serve with raw shredded cheese, raw sour cream, and/or avocado, depending on your preferences. If we really want to kick up our heels, we serve this with gluten-free corn bread. 

Nutrition Tips 04 / 'Emergency Food'

If it is a Sunday, you can most likely find my husband and me in our kitchen preparing food for the week. Most weeks we are really on top of it and make more than enough to feel us until the weekend, but sometimes life happens, we get busy, we work extra shifts, or we just decide to spend a beautifully sunny day outdoors. These times we turn to our 'emergency' foods that will either get us by in a pinch or serve as the base of a tasty recipe. This doesn't always result in the best meal of the week, but it keeps us from caving into takeout or a gluten-free pizza that will leave us feeling horrible later that evening. 

Here are our tips and tricks for always having something healthy in the fridge and avoiding quick and easy fast food:

+ Roasted sweet potatoes: every week we roast an entire bag of sweet potatoes. This is quite possibly the easiest thing you can do. Just wash them, place them on a baking sheet, and bake for about 60 minutes on 375. The time will obviously depend on the size of the potatoes. Then, reheat throughout the week as needed for meals. If you have some left at the end of the week, mash them into your eggs or make twice baked sweet potatoes for breakfast! 

+ Roasted vegetables: an assortment of roasted vegetables can serve as a side dish, a snack or an addition to soups and stews. We usually wash and chop a mix of butternut squash, onions, tricolor carrots, parsnips, broccoli and cauliflower, then drizzle with olive oil and roast on 375 for about 20 minutes, maybe longer depending on the size of the veggies. Just cook them until they are soft. 

+ Crockpot shredded chicken (or other protein): we cook about 1&1/2lb chicken breast in our slow cooker every week to use for salads, making chicken salad, or to add to other dishes throughout the week. It's so simple:
Place the chicken (fresh or frozen) in the slow cooker, drizzle with olive oil and season generously with Trader Joe's 21 Season Salute (or other all-purpose seasoning blend). Cook on low for 4-6 hours depending on the thickness of your chicken. Shred or dice once it is cooked, and use as needed!

+ Whole roasted (or slow-cooker) chicken: this is an incredibly versatile and simple item to cook when you are low on time. We typically cook ours in a slow cooker with this seasoning blend, pull off the meat, then add an onion + a splash of apple cider vinegar to the remains and make homemade chicken stock. We use the meat for salads, chicken salad, a last-minute dinner, or our favorite soup

+ Hard-boiled eggs: these are another incredibly versatile addition to your weekly meal plan - everything from a last-minute, out-the-door breakfast, to snacks, to a salad topping. Again, if you have some left over at the end of the week, dice up with fresh tomatoes, avocado and bacon for a weekend breakfast or add to a salad!

+ Miscellaneous chopped vegetables: For us this is typically onions, zucchini and squash, sometimes bell peppers. This can be sautéed in ghee or coconut oil + coconut aminos for a quick side, added to eggs for veggies scrambles, or placed in a pot with protein + homemade stock + fresh herbs for a quick soup.

And all those things combined bring you:
+ 'Emergency breakfast': hard boiled eggs + a side of fruit + avocado slices + roasted vegetables or sweet potato
+ 'Emergency Dinner': shredded or pulled chicken + a sweet potato or roasted vegetables + avocado slices + our favorite mayonnaise (or you can make your own).
+ Roasted chicken and vegetable soup, one of our go-to simple recipes that can be thrown together in minutes!

Thrive Market

When I shared our recipe for clean ranch dip/dressing, I mentioned that we purchased our new favorite mayonnaise from Thrive Market, so I wanted to share a little more about this amazing, new-to-us company. Thrive Market is basically Costco meets Whole Foods, but online and with charity to boot. For less than $5 a month, you can have non-GMO, organic, whole-food items delivered to your house (free shipping over $49!), get wholesale pricing, and give back to a family in need all at the same time.

This is huge for us because we live about an hour outside of the city and don't have access to Whole Foods, Sprouts or Trader Joe's without a special trip. Furthermore, we can't afford to shop solely at Whole Foods, so that means trips to multiple stores with a toddler in tow. Not really how I want to spend my time. I'd rather be in the kitchen prepping food, listening to Judah & The Lion and having impromptu dance parties with my son. #AmIRight? Plus, I would spend more in gas just getting to Whole Foods than I would on a monthly membership.

Thrive has something for everyone, whether it's gluten-free, paleo, vegan or raw, and they carry supplements, house, beauty and personal care items as well! We love being able to get our Dr. Bronner's castille soap, Seventh Generation wipes, and grass-fed protein powder delivered to our door. Thrive carries all our favorite natural brands like Bob's Red Mill, Earth's Best Organic, Earth Mama Angel Baby, Justin's, Annie's Homegrown, and so many more. 

Furthermore, for every membership purchased, Thrive donates a membership to a low-income American family. I really love this about the company, since it allows everyone the opportunity to have healthy, chemical-free food options that support health and wellness. 

Check it out and start your membership today and receive one month free!

Tried + True Guacamole

When it comes to guacamole, I am a purist. I've tried some fancier recipes with pomegranate seeds, mango or peaches, all of which were delicious, but I really just love the simple flavors of a traditional recipe. I wanted to share our quick and easy guac recipe with you. It's our go-to when we need to jazz up a salad, add flavor to grilled or baked chicken, or serve for a get together. It's also great with egg scrambles, on top of hard boiled eggs, or with plantain chips! Also, this recipe is 100% Whole30-approved and an excellent source of healthy fat to keep you feeling full!

Tried + True Guacamole:  (Serves 2-3)
1 whole avocado
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
a pinch of black pepper
freshly ground Himalayan salt to taste
2 drops of lime essential oil
1 drop of lemon essential oil
Optional (and delicious): diced red onions, fresh cilantro

Scoop out the avocado and smash it with a fork. Add in the seasonings, red onions if using, and mix well. Add in the essential oils and mix once more. Top with a sprinkle of Himalayan salt and fresh cilantro! 


For more information on essential oils, click here. To see other ways we use essential oils, see them here.

A Trip to the Farm

My husband and I recently stumbled upon an amazing local farm where we can purchase raw milk and cream (for pet consumption....), raw cheese, organic free range eggs, chicken, beef and pork, local honey, supplies for homemade bone broth, even homemade soaps! It's not super close to our home, but we try to go by whenever we are out that way visiting family. 

The farm is filled with cattle, goats, chickens and even a chicken dog! Elliot loves watching all the animals roam about. We love the ability to support a local family while getting access to fresh, humanely processed, sustainable meats. The raw cream is amazing in coffee. We even used it to make an iced coffee, which was a wonderful weekend treat! It would also be a great addition to soups or sauces with some of our favorite essential oils for cooking: oregano, thyme, Taste of Italy.

Finding local farms is the absolute best way to buy your meat since you have access to the actual farmer, know the living conditions and processing standards. It may be pricier than the 0.99/lb chicken in the grocery store, but your health is worth it! So is supporting your local economy and farmers. We buy high quality meats and organic produce without breaking the bank. See more about that here