Veggie Bento

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This Veggie Bento box is quick and easy to make up to have on hand for an on-the-go snack, lunch or dinner add on. The ranch dressing is optional, but the healthy fats in it will help your body absorb all the beneficial vitamins and minerals in the vegetables. If you’re short on time try Tessemae’s or Primal Kitchens Ranch dressing for some great brands. Feel free to swap out the veggies with any other favorites such as bell pepper slices, cucumber slices, jicama, etc.


Bento Contents:

  • Baby Carrots

  • Celery Sticks

  • Grape Tomatoes

  • Sugar Snap Peas

  • T’s Dairy-Free Ranch Dressing

T’s Dairy-Free Ranch Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 C avocado or olive oil based mayonnaise

  • 1/4 C full fat coconut milk

  • 1 T red wine vinegar

  • 1 tsp. dried parsley

  • 1/2 tsp. dried dill

  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil

  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder

  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

Directions:

  1. In a jar with lid, add all ingredients. Close jar and shake until blended. If still lumpy, whisk to combine.

  2. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving to allow flavors to blend. 

  3. Store in refrigerator.

Mediterranean Bento

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I am SO excited about sharing this Roasted Parsnip Hummus recipe!!! I know, I know! I am not even a parsnip fan, but please promise me you will try this recipe if you are a hummus fan. I was the biggest skeptic, but it is SO good! It’s perfectly dippable just like bean filled hummus. For people who have digestive trouble with beans or who want to try a creative way to eat other vegetables, this might be just the recipe. Parsnips are the ones that look like a white carrot (that you probably pass over to get to the carrots!). The chicken in this box is simply a baked and cubed chicken breast seasoned with a little olive oil and greek seasoning (or you could use some oregano, basil, salt and pepper).

Bento Contents:

  • Greek Seasoned Chicken

  • Cucumbers, Olives, Cherry Tomatoes

  • Red and Green Grapes

  • Roasted Parsnip Hummus

Roasted Parsnip Hummus

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled, cut into 1” pieces

  • 2 large garlic cloves

  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/3 cup tahini

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 lemon, juiced

  • 1 tsp. Sea salt

  • 1/3-1 cup water

  • 2 dashes hot sauce such as Cholula or Tobasco, optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Place parsnips and garlic cloves onto a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Drizzle the 1 T. EVOO over and mix well with your hands.

  2. Bake for 15 minutes until parsnips are soft when pierced with a fork.

  3. Remove from the oven. Place the roasted parsnips and garlic into a food processor or blender along with the tahini, EVOO, lemon juice, salt, 1/3 cup of hot water, and hot sauce. Puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more water as needed to achieve desired consistency.

Lasagna Bento Part Two: Cucumber Tomato Salad

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I created this Lasagna Bento because Italian food is my favorite cuisine. Growing up, if I could choose where to eat out at a restaurant, I’d always choose an Italian one. The smell of garlic when walking inside was the best aroma setting the stage for a delicious dinner . . . Cheese Manicotti and Eggplant Parmesan were my favorite meals. I loved the little side salads too with the fun sounding cici beans that I now know to be chickpeas. :) I’ve kept all the flavor of lasagna in this lunch and managed to leave out the gluten, grains, dairy, and sugar. I added one of my favorite quick salads that also happens to be lettuce free for a little something different.

Bento Contents:

Cucumber Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 English Cucumber, cut into 1” cubes

  • 2 Roma Tomatoes, cut into 1” cubes

  • 1 tsp. Italian Seasoning

  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 T red wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, add cucumber and tomatoes.

  2. Stir in Italian Seasoning, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar.

  3. Mix together and serve.

Lasagna Bento Part One: Zucchini Lasagna Cups

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Continuing with the bento series, I created this Lasagna Bento because Italian food is my favorite cuisine. Growing up, if I could choose where to eat out at a restaurant, I’d always choose an Italian one. The smell of garlic when walking inside was the best aroma setting the stage for a delicious dinner . . . Cheese Manicotti and Eggplant Parmesan were my favorite meals. I loved the little side salads too with the fun sounding cici beans that I now know to be chickpeas. :) I’ve kept all the flavor of lasagna in this lunch and managed to leave out the gluten, grains, dairy, and sugar. I added one of my favorite quick salads that also happens to be lettuce free for a little something different.

Bento Contents:

Zucchini Lasagna Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground Italian Sausage (pork, turkey - just check for sourcing and sugar content)

  • 1 25 oz. jar organic no sugar marinara sauce (or use homemade)

  • 1 T Italian Seasoning

  • 1 large or 2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/3” rounds so that you have 12 total

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add Italian sausage, breaking up, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10-12 minutes. Drain off any fat.

  3. Stir in marinara sauce and Italian Seasoning. Bring sauce to a quick boil and then remove from heat.

  4. Place 6 silicone muffin cups on a small baking sheet. Put 1 slice of zucchini in bottom of each cup. Ladle sauce mixture on top of zucchini, then add a 2nd slice of zucchini on top followed by more sauce until each muffin cup is full (save any extra sauce mixture for Pizza Skins or serve over eggs or spaghetti squash).

  5. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Bistro Bento

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This bento lunch is from a lunchbox series I posted on Instagram. The Bistro Bento Box contents were inspired by a local casual French restaurant. When we first moved to Texas years ago, I kept hearing about a restaurant that “I had” to try. We were gifted a meal from La Madeleine after we had our 2nd daughter and it quickly became a favorite place to meet up with friends. It has a fireplace going inside with gentle music playing in the background creating a cozy and homey atmosphere. Between the food and the ambiance while chatting with good friends, it’s easy to be in there for hours before you realize it.

Before eliminating gluten from my diet, my favorite lunch to order was Quiche Lorraine and Caesar Salad. I adapted that for this lunch with a crustless quiche made in a muffin tin. I pair it with a simple salad made without croutons or cheese to keep it dairy and gluten free. I make homemade dressing, but there are several brands available that are minimal ingredients and fillers such as Tessemae’s and Primal Kitchens.

Bento Contents:

  • Spinach & Prosciutto Quiche

  • Caesar Salad

  • Plum

  • Cherry Tomatoes

Spinach & Prosciutto Quiche

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

  • 4 slices prosciutto, chopped

  • 10 eggs

  • ¼ cup water

  • ½ tsp. sea salt

  • ¼ tsp. black pepper

  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder

  • ¼ tsp. onion powder

  • ¼ tsp. rosemary

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with olive oil or ghee. Alternatively, use a silicone pan and no need to grease pan.

  3. Add a tablespoon of spinach to each muffin well then top with a few small torn pieces of prosciutto (using 1 slice of prosciutto per 3 muffin wells).

  4. Break eggs into a large mixing bowl. Whisk together eggs with water and spices until quite smooth.

  5. Gently pour egg mixture evenly over the veggies/meat in each well.

  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until just set in the center.

  7. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan before removing.

Book Review: Whole30 Slow Cooker

This new cookbook from Melissa Hartwig features many quick and easy recipes sure to become fast favorites that you will make again and again whether on a Whole30 or not because they will save you time and they taste good! These recipes were created for use in a slow cooker and/or instant pot so you can fix and forget them as you go about your day and have dinner waiting for you. If you choose the slow cooker, the delicious smell of dinner will greet you, if you choose the instant pot options, the beauty is dinner can be done in no time which is great for when you forgot to prep ahead or if you just prefer the benefits of pressure cooking. In the week since I’ve had this cookbook, I’ve made half a dozen of the recipes and all of them have been amazing! The only critique I have is that some recipes have had a little more liquid than I like, but that’s not a problem - it left flavorful extra to create a soup for lunch for me the next day. You can check my instagram feed for another recipe (Pork Tenderloin with Butternut Squash) as well as pictures of other recipes I’ve made. Today, I’m sharing Bacon-Mushroom Chicken with Sweet Potatoes courtesy of the publisher and Melissa Hartwig.

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BACON-MUSHROOM CHICKEN WITH SWEET POTATOES excerpted from The Whole30 Slow Cooker© 2018 by Melissa Hartwig. Photography © 2018 by Ghazalle Badiozamani Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Crisp-cooked and crumbled bacon provides a smoky, salty counterpoint to the sweetness of the mashed potatoes in this dish. Look for Whole30-compliant bacon at natural-foods grocery stores—it won’t contain added sweeteners, nitrates, nitrites, gluten, lactose, or MSG.

SERVE 6

PREP: 30 minutes

SLOW COOK: 6 hours (low) or 3 hours (high)

TOTAL: 6 hours 30 minutes

1 cup Whole30-compliant chicken broth or Chicken Bone Broth (see Instant Pot Chicken Bone Broth)

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and halved lengthwise (about 1 pound total)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon black pepper

12 small bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed

3 cups thinly sliced cremini mushrooms

½ cup chopped red onion

1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

3 strips Whole30-compliant bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled

Fresh thyme leaves (optional)

• IN a 6-quart slow cooker, combine the chicken broth and garlic. Place the potatoes, cut sides down, in the cooker. In a small bowl, combine the dried thyme, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ½ teaspoon of the pep-per. Place half the chicken thighs, meaty sides up, on the potatoes. Sprinkle with half the thyme mixture. Repeat with remaining chicken and thyme mixture. Add the mushrooms and red onion to the cooker in an even layer.

• COVER and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours or on high for 3 to 3½ hours. Remove the chicken and potatoes from the cooker. When cool enough to handle, remove the potato skins. Place the potato flesh in a medium bowl; add the coconut oil and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Using a potato masher, mash potatoes until smooth.

• SERVE the chicken and vegetables with the mashed potatoes and drizzle with the cooking liquid. Top the servings with bacon and, if desired, fresh thyme.

INSTANT POT CHICKEN BONE BROTH

MAKES 8 CUPS

PREP: 15 minutes

CLOSED POT: 1 hour 40 minutes

TOTAL: 1 hour 55 minutes

Carcass from a roasted 3- to 4-pound chicken

2 carrots, roughly chopped

3 stalks celery, roughly chopped

2 onions, roughly chopped

5 or 6 sprigs fresh parsley

1 sprig fresh thyme

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

10 whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon salt

• IN a 6-quart Instant Pot, place the carcass, carrots, celery, onions, parsley, thyme, vinegar, pepper-corns, and salt. Add enough water to reach 1 inch below the maximum fill line. Lock the lid in place.

• SELECT Soup/Broth. Use natural release.

• STRAIN the broth through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl or clean pot. Discard the solids. Transfer the broth to multiple containers to speed up cooling—don’t freeze or refrigerate it while it’s hot! Allow the broth to sit in the fridge, uncovered, for several hours, until the fat rises to the top and hardens. Scrape off the fat with a spoon and discard it.

• REFRIGERATE the broth in airtight containers for 3 to 4 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

TIP: A properly prepared bone broth might look a little jiggly when cold. That’s just the gelatin from the collagen in the bones. When ready to use the broth, gently heat it and it will return to a liquid state.

Recipe: Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes

Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes

Prep Time: 8 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

·      3 pounds organic yukon gold potatoes

·      1 can whole fat coconut milk

·      1/2 cup ghee

·      2 teaspoons sea salt

·      1 teaspoon garlic powder

·      1/2 teaspoon black pepper

·      1/4 teaspoon paprika

Directions

1.  Wash and cut potatoes into fourths. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Turn the heat to medium high and stir occasionally until the water boils. This should take 8-10 minutes.

2.  Cover, turn heat to low and cook 10-15 minutes, until a fork can easily go through a potato.

3.  Turn off heat, drain potatoes and add them back to the hot pot. Add in coconut milk, ghee, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and paprika. Mash with a potato masher or hand mixer until smooth.

4.  Add additional sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Notes

*Can be made ahead and reheated - scoop onto parchment lined cookie sheet and flash freeze, then remove into freezer safe container or plastic bag for storage and reheat individual portions.

*To make in the Instant Pot-place potatoes in the bottom, cover with 1 cup water, cook on high for 14 minutes. Hit the "cancel" button, release the pressure and drain.

Whole30 72-Hour Food Kits

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The American Red Cross and FEMA both advise citizens to be prepared for emergency situations such as hurricanes, floods, fires, ice storms, etc. by creating a 3-day supply of food and emergency supplies to have available for immediate use at all times. This helps partner with government and relief agencies to enable people to provide care and sustenance for themselves in the short term until help can arrive. 

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I have lived on the Texas Gulf Coast for over 20 years through multiple Tropical Storms and several Hurricanes, the most recent being last year’s Harvey. Once Harvey’s historic 5-day rains passed, it was days before stores were re-stocked with food. This is another reason why keeping a 72-Hour Kit stocked and current with each household member’s current dietary needs is important.  While survival is of utmost importance, it is completely possible to create a 72-Hour Kit and make it Whole30 compliant. 

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I completed my first Whole30 right after Hurricane Harvey. I’d planned ahead of time to do it and then Harvey hit. I debated not doing it given the circumstances of all the chaos and emotions, but I decided there will always be something. And, as the original Whole30 book says, it changed my life. Be sure to check out this great article on natural disaster and preparedness on the Whole30 website.

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I didn't have Whole30 compliant food in my 72-Hour Kit back then. I was fortunate to not have lost power so I was able to follow my Whole30 program without the need for using one. With hurricane season being active here from June 1 through November 30, I decided to create a PDF planning kit to put together a Whole30 Compliant 72-Hour Food Kit containing tips, food suggestions, and food inventory list. Planning ahead is key, just as with any Whole30. 

Book Review: 100 Days of Food On A Budget

The subtitle of this book continues, "Simple Tips and Tasty Recipes to Help You Cut Out Processed Food Without Breaking the Bank." Cost is such a big concern I find when people consider making dietary changes from what they consider convenience and often overly processed foods to more whole and real foods. Lisa Leake and her family's entire experience of transforming their eating is what ultimately created the "100daysofrealfood" blog after she read Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food. I have followed the "100daysofrealfood" blog since before there was a first book and have been impressed with the first two books. I anxiously awaited this 3rd cookbook’s arrival and preordered it last November when I first heard about it.

This 3rd book from Lisa really hits it out of the park visually the way each recipe’s budget is laid out (with a color photo and shopping list) in a clearly organized manner. Multiple dietary accommodations are shown with the recipes (ie: gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, etc.) as well as in a convenient table in the back of the book for handy reference. The dinner plans, supermarket comparison prices (some may surprise you) and packed lunch ideas for kids and adults all provide valuable time and money saving information for those seeking to use real foods in their kitchen. On top of all of these positive attributes, the recipes themselves use accessible ingredients and are not complicated. Lisa’s own children contributed recipes that look delicious and should encourage members of all ages in families to cook real food!

I am excited to share with all of you, that earlier this year, I was thrilled to be selected as a recipe tester for this cookbook! I was sent 3 recipes to make and provide feedback on regarding the actual cost of the items, making the recipe and our family's opinion of the actual recipe. Lisa was really interested in all of these aspects and I will add that I was able to be chosen to select dairy and gluten free recipes to test. The attention to detail in this book to dietary preferences as well as to cost in order to make eating real food accessible for everyone really shows and there are so many great recipes in it. 

I was also chosen to be a launch team member so I am able to share the following recipe with you to try yourself at home and also to see how the recipes are laid out. Note the budget details and dietary notations. If you are following a Whole30™ substitute cauliflower rice for the brown rice. I've made this recipe and it is really tasty and easy to make. I hope you enjoy it!

 

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