Colorado Mountains and Dump Ranch

A few weekends ago, we flew to Denver so that I could co-host a celebratory weekend for my sister, who is getting married in May. I left my baby and my husband with my parents and my sister’s fiancĆ© in Denver, and I drove with my sister and four of her good friends into the mountains to stay at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort for the night. It was beautiful, and my sister’s friends were so generous. I’d rented a cabin with a kitchen, and I’d asked them to bring food for dinner and breakfast rather than planning to eat at the resort’s restaurant. (Since I was flying in late the night before, I didn’t have the time or availability to pick up groceries.) They contributed beautiful charcuterie, a lovely salad (with edible flowers!), adult beverages, tasty fruit and yogurt and granola. It was amazing. One of the women was doing a Whole30, and her enthusiasm for a few recipes AND her InstantPot stuck with me past the weekend, and I made most of her suggestions (several in the InstantPot!) the following week back at home.

Mt. Princeton Hot Springs was lovely. We stayed in a cabin with two bedrooms plus an upstairs loft with two queen beds. It had a mostly stocked kitchen, but no oven. The temperature got down into the twentys overnight, and was maybe 30-50 throughout the day.

We arrived around 3pm, had some snacks and drinks, and made our way to the hot springs. There are several pools and also creekside areas that are heated from below by the hot spring water. We tried some of the smaller pools and the creek (which was nicer in idea than in practice). It was super crowded, which was a bit unfortunate, but we still had plenty of room to enjoy ourselves.

After that, we ate dinner and played games in the cabin.

The next morning, after breakfast and packing up, we spent several hours at the pools again before heading departing. I got a sunburn wearing a bathing suit sitting by a hot spring pool in 35 degree weather! Colorado is so weird.

Before heading home, we drove a few miles in the wrong direction to Buena Vista, CO for lunch. I hadn’t been to Buena Vista in probably 15 years or more (since high school), and there was a totally new area called South Main with cute homes and shops and restaurants down by the river. We ate at Eddyline Restaurant, sitting outside on the porch, and it wasĀ delicious. The right side of my body got more sunburned. I had the pork posole and brewery burger on lettuce instead of a bun (it actually came wrapped in some kind of green leaf that way). Green chile and grilled prosciutto might sound a little strange together, but it was so good.

The first recipe I made that my sister’s friend recommended was the Dump Ranch. Apparently this is a Whole30 thing that I was previously unfamiliar with. I’d made homemade ranch dressing, I think from Cassy Joy’s Fed&Fit book before, but I’d never heard the term ‘dump ranch.’ I think there’s a lot of recipes out there for it, but my sister’s friend recommended this one from 40 Aprons. I maaaaaay have used this as an excuse to by a larger measuring cup that I could use my immersion blender in. It worked great, and the ranch was delicious.

I was skeptical before trying the stuff my sister’s friend made, because she’d told me the oil is avocado oil. I find Whole30 compliant mayo hard, because I *hate* the taste of avocado oil, apparently. I’ve been able to handle Primal Kitchen’s avocado oil mayonnaise in the past, but I don’t love it. However, I couldn’t taste the flavor that I hate in this dressing. My sister’s friend showed me which oil she used (Primal Kitchen’s avocado oil), and my sister confirmed that there are two types of avocado oil: light and dark. I think Primal Kitchen makes both. The light stuff (which I used, which was the right choice) is in a square shaped bottle. The darker stuff is in a circular bottle, and is extra virgin. It’s probably better for you… but the flavor is too strong! Anyway, it was fine! No bad flavor. Just delicious ranch dressing.

The recipe at 40 Aprons says to use it within one week. I have not. I still have some in my fridge, which at this point I should throw out. Going to do that now…

 

 

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Instant Pot Pot Roast

[Mostly written in January 2019, posted way late :/] I finally got an Instant Pot! Well, we got it – my husband and me, from my husband’s parents for Christmas. I’ve been considering it for at least two years… I see so many people rave about it. But I wasn’t sure what it would add over my existing kitchen implements. Now that I have an infant, though, and less time to cook, I thought it was finally time to get one and cut down on cooking time.

I’m still learning how to use it. The first two things I did were steamed broccoli and steamed artichokes. The artichokes were a little over steamed and the broccoli was way over steamed. And I’m not sure it cuts out time for steaming. Maybe for the artichokes it did. Then I made butternut squash soup. This went better. I’m not totally sure it was less work/time than making it in a Dutch oven, but it was pretty easy and quick.

And then today, I made a pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions. I had a 2.5 lb bottom round roast from Butcher Box. I looked up a recipe to make it in the Instant Pot and found this one from La Creme de la Crumb, which also called for carrots and potatoes – two things I had on my counter and needed a plan for. Check.

I used chicken stock, because that’s what I had on hand, and only 3 cups because that’s what I had and I forgot to add an extra cup of water until after I’d closed the lid and the pressure was building. My roast was smaller than in the recipe, so I hoped it would be ok. It was. I also did the pressure cooking step for 55 minutes instead of 60-80, again since my roast was smaller. I actually think this was a bad decision and that the meat would have benefited from a little more cooking time. It was a litttttttle tough to shred. But I didn’t need to shred it a ton, just into chunks.

It was so nice to do all the steps in one pot! And I made gravy! I’ve never made gravy. Clean up was super easy. I didn’t have to watch or stir or check or anything (except a bit during the gravy-making stage). It still took a while, but would’ve taken way longer on the stove or in the oven. I’m hooked.

I ate it for dinner over some kale to get some greens in. I meant to give Gabriel some of the meat to suck on when I fed him solids for dinner, but I forgot.

We had leftovers for several meals. I’m not sure pot roast ever has been or will be a favorite meal of mine, but I would definitely consider doing it in the Instant Pot again!

Pork Spare Ribs

Y’all, it’s been a minute, I know. This motherhood thing is… all consuming. It was all consuming when I was on maternity leave, and it’s all consuming now that I’m back at work. It takes up almost all of my ‘free’ time. I’ve written a few notes about it that maybe I’ll put up here, but they’re sort of the opposite of sunshine and roses, so we’ll see. But in any case, the lack of much free time means, among many other things, that food has defaulted to:

1) Convenience deliveries: HelloFresh, PrimeNow groceries, SmoothieBox (highly recommend all).

2) And/or (usually and) other people making it.

3) Or ordering in.

But occasionally I get it together enough to make something. Usually while watching the baby monitor like a hawk for signs that Gabriel is waking up from a nap:

We’ve had some spare ribs in the freezer from ButcherBox for a few months. Last time I tried to make ribs (my first time ever), I used a dry rub. I didn’t know any better. I don’t know if I’d ever even eaten ribs, though I’ve seen Dan do it plenty. They turned out… okay. Tough. Dry. Boo. So I’m trying a wet rub this time. I searched for a paleo recipe because that’s a shortcut for finding recipes with alternatives to (or no) sugar. I found this one from Every Last Bite. I was able to make the sauce while Gabriel played (and cried some) on the floor. I put it all in a medium pot and used my immersion blender to blend it together. Then I put that in the fridge (pot and all) until Gabriel was down for a nap, and then I was able to season and smother the ribs and set the crockpot to low for 8 hours.

I also used Gabriel’s nap time to make this BBQ sauce from Civilized Caveman, which I’ll use when I cook a 6 lb ButcherBox pork butt on Friday to make pulled pork. It’s a BBQ kind of day, I guess.

We went to a tree farm an hour away in the afternoon to take professional family photos (not a thing I’ve typically done, but why not with a 6 month old?) and get a tree! Fun. And the ribs were nearly done when we got home.

I popped them in the over per the recipe, and we enjoyed them with steamed broccoli and leftover rice from last night’s order-in from Himalayan House.

They were good! Better than the time I made the dry rub. Tastier and definitely more moist and falling off the bone. The flavor was good, spicy, a little sweet from the dates. Not sure it’s the same as commercial/ restaurant BBQ sauce if that’s what you’re expecting, but I wouldn’t really know since I’ve never ordered ribs before. I thought it was really good and am glad we have leftovers!

JalapeƱo Popper Chicken Salad

In my last post (from over a month ago, yes), I mentioned that I planned to make Paleomg’s jalapeƱo popper chicken salad. It was so good, and SUPER spicy (I’m too lazy to take out seeds, and usually I like a lot of spice)! Definitely very different from the other chicken salad I re-made (non-Whole30 version)that week.

It seems to me like that last post was pretty recent, but it was over four weeks ago! Four weeks from now I will be a) 37 weeks pregnant, and b) moving into my new house! It feels like both of those things are really far in the future, but it will come before I know it! Hopefully kiddo keeps cooking until well after that to allow us time to get a bit settled before his arrival, but we’ll figure it out if that’s not the case. Other than that, the timing will work out pretty well. We’re awaiting the delivery of two furniture items (a couch from Crate & Barrel and a custom-made sideboard from Sandtown Millworks), both of which should be ready and delivered between our settlement date (a Tuesday) and the day we’ve hired movers (a Saturday). We’re also getting a chance to get blinds quotes (which means getting to go into our house a few extra times!) and should be able to get those installed in that same time period before we move in, also.

I packed my first three boxes today, of books. I plan to get rid of several broken items (an old, paint-peeling, wood-rotting adirondack chair; a Target bookshelf that is no longer all in one piece; a side table that is broken) in the next few weeks. Dan is ambitiously trying to sell our current couch and a few other items on Craigs list. The couch might end up being a dump item. It’s so old and gross. Blah, I can’t wait to be rid of it. And I’ll keep packing here and there, but the big push will probably be the last week of April and first week of May.

I haven’t been cooking a ton as it is, but it’ll definitely dwindle further over the next few weeks til we move. I AM hoping to cook up a ton of meals to freeze and make snack balls/bars ahead of kiddo’s arrival, but won’t start til we’re in the new house. Then I think the freezer will be the limiting factor. Or time. Eek!

Anyway – back to the jalapeƱo popper chicken salad. It was pretty easy, though there were a lot of steps and component parts. Unlike Juli Bauer in her nice and professional-looking cooking video, my jalapeƱos did not stay on the burner very well, so I kept having to fish them out of the flame with tongs. I also didn’t leave any bacon or jalapeƱo aside to sprinkle on at the end, as Juli suggests. I just threw it all in. As I said, it was quite spicy, but really tasty. And rich – a little goes a long way.

This Week’s Meal Plan

A quickie to report on what I plan to make and eat this week. Hopefully I’ll get a few other posts up this week, but we’ll see!

This week’s plan features a lot of chicken. I’m not sure I have this much chicken in the house, so I might have to buy some. I’d generally prefer to vary it some more, but these are what I want to make, so… here’s what I’m making! Other things I will eat because I have them: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, portobello mushrooms, arugula, sweet potatoes, red new potatoes, and avocados.

Sunday

Make:

  • Chicken salad saladsĀ (non-Whole30 version, so using dried cranberries and Greek yogurt from the original recipe)

Eat:

  • Whatever’s around! Plus, dinner at Woodberry Kitchen with Dan to celebrate my birthday. Can’t wait!

Monday (go to work day)

Eat:

  • Breakfast: Yogurt (maybe with almond butter and/or fruit), chicken sausage
  • Lunch: Chicken salad salad
  • Dinner: TBD
  • Snacks: Probably yogurt, maybe fruit, maybe some bars (Lara, RxBar, Epic)

Tuesday (telework day)

Make:

Eat:

  • Breakfast: Chicken sausage and maybe eggs (I’ll be taking my glucose challenge screening test, so I was advised to have a protein-heavy breakfast if I ate)
  • Lunch: TBD. Probably chicken salad salad
  • Dinner: Slow cooker buffalo chicken chili
  • Snacks: TBD

Wednesday (go to work day)

Eat:

  • Breakfast: Yogurt (maybe with almond butter and/or fruit), chicken sausage
  • Lunch: Chicken salad salad
  • Dinner: Pizza (I believe homemade by my book club hostess). Also some sort of dessert becauseĀ it’s my birthday!
  • Snacks: Probably yogurt, maybe fruit, maybe some bars (Lara, RxBar, Epic)

Thursday (telework day)

Eat:

  • Breakfast: Egg sandwich: 1-2 fried eggs in butter with spinach between two pieces of toast, probably with cheese, hot sauce, and avocado
  • Lunch: Maybe leftover chili?
  • Dinner: TBD. Maybe salmon?
  • Snacks: TBD

Friday (go to work day)

Eat:

  • Breakfast: Yogurt (maybe with almond butter and/or fruit), chicken sausage
  • Lunch: Probably sweetgreen or Taylor Gourmet salad
  • Dinner: TBD
  • Snacks: Probably yogurt, maybe fruit, maybe some bars (Lara, RxBar, Epic)

Saturday

Make:

  • Jalapeno popper chicken saladĀ from paleomg (yes, chicken salad twice in one week, but I’ve been wanting to re-make the one above for a while, and make this one. So that’s what I’ll do!)

Eat:

  • Oh who knows. But surely some of that jalapeƱo chicken salad.

Workouts

I’m only doing CrossFit anymore. And Barre3 classes. My prenatal yoga class ended and my birth class will now take the time of the prenatal yoga class, so I can’t sign up for the next session. Running is too uncomfortable. Other yoga is too lay-on-your-back or core or twist-intensive for my comfort. So, I’ll go to CrossFit at least 3x before work during the week, probably 4x, and will probably do at least one Barre3 workout.

Paleo Quiche

I’m kind of sort of back in the groove of weekly meal planning and prepping. I really lost it during my first trimester, and it just wasn’t happening with holidays, travel, etc. I’ve been mostly feeling a lot better since entering the second trimester, although I have felt a little more tired these past few weeks. And I’ve had a head cold for a WEEK at this point. I’ve never had a cold this long. I’m starting to feel like I’m never going to get better.

Anyway, I saw this recipe for paleo quicheĀ from Paleo Running Momma recently, and I was excited to have every single ingredient on hand except for the breakfast sausage. So I bought some the next time I went to the store, as well as an extra butternut squash just so I’d still have one on hand. Which was a good call because it turned out that the one I already had had gone bad and squishy :-(. I hate wasting food.

I wouldn’t say this was a quick dish to throw together, but it wasn’t terrible. Like any real food meal, it had a fair amount of chopping and steps. But the end result is super tasty, and the butternut squash crust seemed to work out pretty well.

I only needed about 1/2 to 2/3 of my butternut squash to make the crust, so I chopped up the rest into chunks and roasted it with some beets and leftover red onion I had lying around, so I have that in the fridge. Also, the recipe called for 3/4 lb. of sausage, but I used the whole 1 lb. package. I had about 1-2 cups more filling leftover than would fit in the dish, so I saved that and ate it separately the next day (yum!). Also, as you can see from the photo, I used frozen Trader Joe’s brussels sprouts instead of fresh. I first microwaved them for several minutes (5?), then cut them in half, then roasted them per the recipe. They were still a little soggier than fresh ones would have been after roasting, but in the end, I don’t think you can tell the texture in the final dish.

I cut it into 6 slices instead of 8 (the recipe said it’s 8 servings), and I’ll eat this as a pre-made breakfast on days I don’t telework for the next couple weeks. (I didn’t go into work yesterday because GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN… so one more day of pre-made breakfast still in the freezer!)

For this week, I also have made (or planned to make):

  • Sizzing pork Greek salad from Melissa Hartwig’s new Fast and Easy Whole30 cookbook. I subbed ground beef instead of pork because I didn’t have any groundĀ pork, and I added artichokes and tomatoes. This made more meat than necessary, so I have that leftover in the fridge for this week.
  • Mustard- and almond-flour- glazed flounder (the recipe called for salmon, which I though I had frozen, but it turned out I only had two tiny flounder filets in the freezer instead) and roasted potatoes and broccoli. The fish and roasted potatoes recipes were from RealPlans (which I signed up for again for three months).
  • Spinach Artichoke Chicken Bake, also from RealPlans (plan to make Thursday)
  • Deviled eggs and breakfast sausage (plan to make Saturday)

I continued to work out last week despite being sick, but this really has just dragged on and gotten worse. I didn’t work out yesterday, and today I won’t go to CrossFit, though I will go to my super relaxing prenatal yoga class that I started a few weeks ago. Hopefully I can get back to it tomorrow. I’m not feeling any better today, but I’m feeling… different. Less constantly runny nose, more coughing and pressure in my head and ears. So maybe that means things are progressing? We’ll see how I feel in the morning! In the meantime, I’ll keep drinking lots of fluids (including orange juice mixed with seltzer that has been a new craving of mine that I’m indulging… a lot).

Baby Food

This is not what you might think, from the title.

First, let me just acknowledge and move on from the fact that I haven’t posted since August. Clearly, other things have been my priority. That’s okay.

Moving on. In October, a colleague of my husband’s and close friend gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. This friend and her husband also have a dog that we often temporarily adopt when they are out of town, and they do the same for us and our dog. Their dog, Stark, has made an appearance in at least one previous post.Ā I’ve never done this for friends before, but I decided to make several freezable meals for them so they would have easy food after the birth of their child. (So, not baby food – but food-for-parents-that-just-had-a-baby doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.)

I selected four recipes that I thought would freeze well and that would provide some variety. For them, I made four servings each, so 16 individually packaged meals in total. The recipes usually made more, so this was also my meal prep for the week! They were all recipes I’d made before, except one. I chose most from the Fed&Fit cookbook, because most of those package and freeze well, and I like them!

  • Lemony Kale and Sausage soup from Fed&Fit. I believe I added some potatoes and used both sausage and ground turkey (because I had it on hand).
  • Lagered Turkey Chili from Ali Larter’s Kitchen Revelry. I’d made this recently for myself (see photos below), and it was delicious.
  • BBQ Chicken Casserole from Fed&Fit. This was the one I’d never made before, but I thought it turned out great! Dan and I had 4 servings of our own from the recipe to enjoy, so it was great.
  • Tomato and Sausage Frittata from Fed&Fit. Easy and good. I made with chorizo.

Now, I don’t eat frequently with these friends. My husband spends more time with them (as I mentioned, the wife is a colleague of my husband’s). I’ve been to their house for a meal of grilled fish and another for a barbecue with hot dogs and hamburgers. I wasn’t aware of any major food preferences. However, after I was most of the way through making the meals, my husband informed me that he wasn’t “sure they ate much meat.” Hm. Well.

So, I wrote a note that I sent along with the meals when I gave them to them explaining what the meals were and that I mostly eat paleo-ish (lots of vegetables and meat) so that’s the way I cook, and that all of the meat was as high quality as we’re able to get. They did indeed eat them, but the wife told me later that she’d become vegetarian several months before. I’m not sure if she ate any or just let her husband, even though I think he’s eating mostly vegetarian also. Alas. I respect their decisions but also don’t feel bad about providing them super nutrient-dense meals (made more-so by the presence of high quality animal products). Lesson learned for next time though.

I didn’t take photos while cooking, but have some images of other times I’ve made a few of these meals.

Lagered Turkey Chili

 

Tomato & Sausage Frittata

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