Shrimp and Grits

April was the busiest month ever and it seemed like most nights we either grabbed some fast food or ate sandwiches for dinner. On Monday night, I was craving something really good, and when I ran by the grocery store, they had frozen, pre-cooked shrimp on a BOGO sale. I grabbed a couple bags and decided to make shrimp and grits. Because I used the pre-cooked shrimp, this meal came together in less than 10 minutes and it was probably the best meal we’ve had all month.

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag frozen, pre-cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined (I got the kind with the tails on, which Jeff didn’t like, so next time I’ll get the kind with the tails removed)
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite Cajun seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup quick cook grits
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (plus an extra splash for the grits)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Dried or fresh chives, for garnish

Instructions:

  • Rinse the frozen, pre-cooked shrimp under cool water in a colander to remove the ice glaze and start to thaw the shrimp. Once the shrimp are thawed and rinsed, put them in a large mixing bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of your favorite Cajun seasoning. Set aside.
  • Pour the water and milk into a medium saucepan and heat over high heat. Add 1/4 stick of butter and salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon of each).
  • When the water and milk are almost boiling, add 1/2 cup of grits and whisk together well (I prefer using a flat whisk like this one). Reduce heat and simmer with the lid on for 5 – 7 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the grits from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • While the grits are cooking, melt 1/2 stick of butter in a medium skillet over high heat. When the butter is melted, add the shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes, until the shrimp is heated through.
  • Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream to the butter and shrimp and stir well. Reduce heat and simmer until the grits are done.
  • When the grits are cooked to the consistency you like, add 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese and a dash of heavy cream to the grits and stir well.
  • Scoop the grits into a bowl and top with the shrimp. Pour the sauce over the shrimp and grits and garnish with dried or fresh chives.

I served this with store-bought Texas toast, and it was really good. I just let the toast brown in the oven while I was cooking on the stovetop and everything was done and ready to plate in less than 10 minutes.

Chicken Pot Pie Noodle Bake

This recipe actually resulted from an accident. I planned on making a chicken pot pie for dinner and had already started making the filling when I realized that I didn’t have any pie crusts in the fridge. I added some egg noodles to my chicken mixture, planning to make chicken soup, but then my husband called and said he wanted something really hearty for dinner because he was starving. Soup does not fit into his definition of hearty, so I thickened it up, poured it into a casserole dish, topped it with crackers, stuck it in the oven and hoped for the best. It turned out really good and I’ve made it a few more times since then for an easy weeknight dinner.

Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 bag egg noodles
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 2 sleeves butter crackers
  • 1/2 stick butter or margarine

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Place chicken breasts in water in a large pot with spices and bring to a boil. Turn down to medium heat, cover, and cook until chicken is done.
  • Remove chicken breasts and bay leaves from broth. Shred chicken breasts and return to the broth.
  • Add the bag of frozen vegetables and bring to a boil.
  • When the mixture is boiling, add half a bag of egg noodles.
  • Boil for 7-10 minutes (until the egg noodles are done).
  • Reduce heat to low.
  • Mix 1/2 cup of milk with 1 cup of self-rising flour in a large measuring cup. Whisk well so there are no lumps.
  • Pour milk and flour mixture into the chicken and noodle mixture and stir well.
  • Cook on low heat for about 3 to 4 minutes, until mixture starts to thicken.
  • Grease a 9×13 casserole dish with butter or margarine. Spoon in chicken and noodle mixture and spread evenly in the pan.
  • Melt 1/2 stick of butter in the microwave in a mixing bowl. Crush 2 sleeves of crackers into the melted butter and stir well.
  • Pour crackers over the noodle mixture and then sprinkle about a tablespoon of parsley on top.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until cracker crust is golden brown.

Banana Nut Oatmeal

Happy Saturday!

Jack and I are having a kind of lazy day at home. I’m trying to do a little housework and he’s pulling out toys faster than I can put them up. He’s crawling now, and he’s into everything. Even though he can make a huge mess, this stage is so much fun. I love seeing him crawl around and start to become independent. He’s so determined when he wants something and he squeals and giggles when he finally reaches something that he crawled across the room for.

He played hard this morning and tired himself out around 11, so when he took his nap, I whipped up this bowl of hearty goodness for my brunch. If you love banana nut bread, this is the oatmeal for you. It tastes exactly like my favorite banana bread recipe, and it’s gluten and refined sugar free!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup oats (I like Bob’s Red Mill Rolled Oats)
  • 1/2 banana, mashed (slice the other half and reserve for garnish)
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Handful of chopped walnuts
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon

Instructions:

  • Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat.
  • Add the oats and stir well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.
  • Add the mashed banana, maple syrup, and walnuts.
  • Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 5-7 minutes until the oats reach your desired consistency.
  • Top oats with a sprinkle of cinnamon, 1/2 sliced banana, and a few more chopped walnut pieces.

Hamburger Steak with Grilled Onions

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 small yellow onion
  • Avocado oil

Instructions:

  • Mix the ground chuck and spices well and form into 4 large patties. Set aside.
  • Thinly slice 1/2 yellow onion.
  • Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add a glug of avocado oil to the pan.
  • Saute the onions with salt and pepper until transparent. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  • Place the hamburger steak patties in the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes per side, then top with the onions and place the skillet in the oven at 350 degrees until the hamburger steaks are cooked through (about 10 to 15 minutes).
  • Serve with onions and baked sweet potato fries.

Hearty Whole 30 Shepherd’s Pie

We’ve been out of school for two days due to ice and snow, and I’ve been craving some comfort food. I whipped up this hearty shepherd’s pie using all Whole 30 approved ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 lb. ground chuck
  • 4 russet potatoes
  • 1 cup Whole 30 compliant chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil

Instructions:

  • Wash and peel the russet potatoes.
  • Chop potatoes into small cubes, cover with water, and bring to a boil.
  • Lower heat and cook until potatoes are fork tender.
  • While potatoes are cooking, dice the onion, garlic, and carrots.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of avocado oil to the pan.
  • Saute the onion, garlic, and carrots for about 3 minutes, until the onions are transparent.
  • Add the ground chuck to the pan and season with salt, pepper, oregano, parsley flakes, and red pepper flakes to taste.
  • Stir and cook until the meat is all browned.
  • Once meat is browned, turn down the heat to low and add 1 tablespoon of coconut flour and 1/3 cup of chicken broth to the meat mixture. Stir well and simmer to thicken the sauce. Cover and set aside.
  • To prepare the mashed potato topping, drain the potatoes. Add 2/3 cup of chicken broth and beat with a hand mixer until creamy. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and parsley flakes as needed (you may not need extra salt because of the salt in the chicken broth).
  • Spoon the meat mixture into a small casserole dish. Top with the mashed potatoes.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then put under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes until the potato topping begins to brown.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Steak and Veggie Bowl

There is something so comforting about eating a warm meal from a bowl. This quick veggie and steak combo is perfect for a quick weeknight meal when you want something tasty and healthy that you can put together in 10 minutes or less.

Ingredients:

  • 2 thin ribeye steaks
  • 1 bag of frozen mixed veggies that can be steamed in the bag (I used a combo of broccoli, carrots, squash, and cauliflower)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • Ghee
  • Coconut Aminos

Instructions:

  • Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Coat the pan with a glug of olive oil and a teaspoon of ghee.
  • Season the steaks with salt and black pepper. Place in the skillet with the melted ghee and cook for about 4 minutes on each side.
  • While steaks are cooking, steam the frozen veggies in the bag in the microwave using the instructions on the bag.
  • Remove the steaks from the skillet and add a little bit more olive oil. Toss the steamed veggies in the pan and season with a little salt. Saute the veggies for about 2 minutes, until they just start to get some color.
  • Scoop veggies into a bowl. Slice the steaks into think strips. Put the steak strips on top of the veggies and drizzle with a little coconut aminos for extra flavor.

Recipe serves 2.

This recipe is Whole 30 compliant.

My Whole 30

Losing weight and getting healthy is a pretty common resolution for the new year, and there are millions of different programs and diet plans to help people reach those goals. I’ve tried lots of them. I’ve done Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, the 21 Day Sugar Detox, Atkins, the South Beach Diet, and all kinds of other fad diets. My weight is something that I have constantly struggled with since I was a little kid. I got to my biggest and unhealthiest point when I was 25. I finally decided that I had to do something, and I cut down my portions and stopped drinking Cokes and lost a lot of weight. It just so happened that I caught mono in the same year, and lost a good 25 pounds from that, which left me at the smallest weight and size I have ever been in my adult life.

I have spent so much time running away from that girl on the left and trying to get back to the size of the one on the right. I was making some good progress before I got pregnant with Jack. I did my first round of Whole 30 in October of 2016. By the end of the month, I was looking and feeling so much better. I had lost weight, but that was just one of the benefits of the program. My skin was clear, I was sleeping better, I was in a better overall mood most of the time. Basically, the Whole 30 showed me just how great I could feel if I fueled my body the right way.

I snapped that selfie at the end of my first Whole 30. I was feeling awesome and was only about 10 pounds from my ultimate goal weight. Then, two weeks later, I found out that I was pregnant (Did you know that sometimes the Whole 30 can actually help with fertility problems? That’s not a reason that I was trying it, but I found that fact pretty interesting.) I think that doing a Whole 30 right before I found out I was pregnant helped me maintain a healthy pregnancy. I didn’t continue to eat like I do on the Whole 30 plan while I was pregnant (because, hello, cravings!), but I did make better choices than I think I would have if I hadn’t done the program prior to my pregnancy.

My pregnancy was great. Other than morning sickness (which should really just be called sickness, because it happens ALL THE TIME and not just in the mornings), it was a perfect pregnancy. I gained about 30 pounds, which was exactly what my doctor wanted me to gain, and I felt pretty good. My doctor still encouraged me to eat healthy and avoid any drinks with sugar, but I did indulge in a Chick-fil-A sandwich and sweet tea at least once a week.

After Jack was born, Jeff and I attempted a Whole 30 in September of last year, which turned into a Whole 14 (if we even made it that far…I can’t remember). We were sleep deprived, trying to figure out how to keep this tiny human we’d made alive, and very ill-prepared for a the challenge of eating clean for 30 days.

This January reset is coming at a good time for us. Jeff’s not doing the Whole 30 with me this month, but he’s very supportive and usually just eats whatever I’m eating for dinner and he’s very good to not bring anything home to tempt me. Now that Jack is (almost always) sleeping through the night and we have gotten the hang of this parenting thing (as much as one can ever get the hang of it, anyway), I’m in a much better frame of mind to complete this challenge. While I do still have some pregnancy weight to lose, the Whole 30 is NOT about losing weight. Losing weight is a happy side-effect of the Whole 30, but that is not its true purpose. The real purpose of the Whole 30 is to reset your system and kill your cravings for sugar and junk so that you are in charge of your choices instead of letting your cravings rule your food decision making (which sounds a lot like how that girl in the first picture used to live her life). It’s about learning what foods make you feel good and what foods you need to avoid to be your best you.

That’s why I’m doing the January Whole 30 reset. That’s why I chose this program over all the weight loss fads out there. That’s why I am Whole 30.

On paper, the Whole 30 is really simple. Eat lean proteins, vegetables, some fruit and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods and added sugar in any form. It sounds easy, but putting those rules into practice is hard. By day two of this round, I was already dealing with some serious cravings for sugar and feeling pretty grumpy, but I stuck with it. This program is hard, but it is worth it, and I have to keep reminding myself of that fact when I’m tempted.

The most important thing to do to ensure success on the Whole 30 is to create a plan. I always make sure to plan regular meals and to plan for emergencies (like if I don’t feel good and want to skip cooking one night or get stuck at work late). I have made sure to cook extra food to have leftovers and I’ve always got some kind of emergency snack with me just in case.

I shared my meal plan on the blog before I started my program (you can find that here). Here are some of the meals I’ve had so far this month:

Hamburger Hash with spinach, avocado, and fruit

Chopped salad with kale and brussel sprouts, grilled chicken, bacon, and berries

Grilled pork chops with apple and walnut hash and green beans

Leftover pork chop with a chopped salad and berries

Mason jar chopped salad for an easy lunch at work

Spicy pulled pork with kale and broccoli salad and veggies

Pulled pork stuffed baked potato (I also had steamed broccoli with this, but forgot to get a picture)