Easy Meat Meal Prep for weeknight dinner and work lunches

I've been making plenty of elimination diet friendly lunches lately.   This one was:
  • Cooked brown rice
  • Roasted kabocha squash
  • thin sliced red cabbage (I use a mandolin slicer which is really fast and gets a thin texture which makes raw cabbage much tastier)
  • Slow cooked pork (see below)
  • Avocado Goo: mash up half an avocado (I use a fork and mash it while it's in the avocado skin). Add salt, garlic powder, little bit of water and a tsp of white wine vinegar and mix.  It's a nightshade free sauce that my hubby likes on all sorts of dishes.  It's kind of like guacamole but super simple.

Easy Meal Meat Prep:  

I prep these meats by freezing the cooked meat in cupcake pans, then storing in a ziplock bag in the freezer. That way you have a small portion of meat you can thaw one at a time. And it's efficient with freezer space (instead of a container that takes up space no matter if it's full or half-full). I rely on these for quick meals when I don't feel like cooking.
  • For lunch I can stick 1-2 of these "muffin puck" meats on top of rice or rice noodles with veggies and a sauce of some sort.
  • For dinner, I thaw a couple in the microwave, then use to top green salad.
This is simple enough a college student, body builder, bachelor or working mom can do it. And it pays off!

Here's how you do it:

Grab cheap cuts of high quality meat (I like pork shoulder or roast, or sometimes the loin is on sale; or beef chuck or beef shoulder. Bone in or boneless both work). Stick in the slow cooker with salt and pepper (don't add any liquid, the meat will ooze its own liquids).  Cook on low until fall apart tender, usually 6 -8 hours.  This requires less than 5 minutes of hands-on time.  Then it goes into the muffin pans and frozen as described above.

Raspberry Spinach Salad Breakfast

This was a perfect autumn breakfast.

I've been eating salads for breakfast. I like how I get my greens in early in the day-- I get lots of nutrition without going through my calorie budget too much. And contrary to popular opinion, as long as you keep it sweet with fruit, it's really not a difficult thing to eat in the morning.

In fact, I've been doing this raspberry spinach salad nearly every day this week?  

Thaw frozen raspberries (I picked a bunch this summer and froze them. They thaw in a glass bowl in the fridge overnight).  Place over boxed organic baby spinach. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top. Optionally, sprinkle hemp seeds over the top.

In the past I used to make a dressing (with medjool dates, or maole syrup)  but that's a bit too fussy for a fast breakfast. I can make this in the same amount of time it takes to set up cereal and a sliced banana.

I had this with my favorite California grown organic Japanese style green tea. And a slice of gluten free kabocha cake.

Gluten Free Kabocha Squash/Pumpkin Cake

This was really good!  Started with a recipe, and made some edits.  The starch in the squash does a good job hiding the fact that this is gluten free. This is also free of nightshades as I didn't use potato starch. 


Mix the dry ingredients:
190 grams gluten free flour (mine was a mix of the following ration: 2 C brown rice flour, 1 C cornstarch & 1 C tapioca flour)
1 tsp psyllium husk powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
healthy quantities of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves 

Blend the wet ingredients:
55g of melted coconut oil (approx couple TB?)
50 grams sugar (approx 1/4 C)
2 eggs
1.5 to 2 C cooked pureed squash (I used leftover roasted kabocha squash/pumpkin, pureed with probably 1/2 - 1 C water in the blender)

 Mix the dry and wet together. Pour into an 8x8" glass baking pan. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or until done.

Thanksgiving 2013

This was my second (or third?) Thanksgiving hosted at my house. It's finally getting easier.  I had 8 adults for dinner and surprisingly the amount of food was spot on (i.e. I don't have tons of leftovers- yay!!).

I served two salads this year, which was perfect. I was worried it would be "too much green" but it was perfect- helped folks eat more vegetables (and didn't force me to roast veggies in the oven already taken up by the turkey, or sear veggies at the last minute which is a timing nightmare with a group of people).  And both of the salads were vegan, so that gives some non-animal product dishes to the Thanksgiving table.

Lacinato kale salad with lemon, garlic, olive oil, salt and topped with hemp seeds.  It's a simpler version of this salad with rice and avocados.  The kale is sliced into thin ribbons. It gets better as it sits so you can prep it a day ahead and keep in glass in the fridge or prep an hour or 2 ahead and keep it on the table at room temp.  Just don't store in metal containers (like mixing bowls) so the acid in the lemon doesn't react with the metal.  Folks loved this dish, especially since it's raw (I guess most people's experience with kale is cooked?).

Raspberry Spinach Salad: I picked bunches of raspberries over the summer and froze them. They thaw quite nicely actually (just stick the frozen berries in a bowl and let thaw in the fridge overnight).  This salad was boxed organic baby spinach, a little bit of baby arugula, then spread the thawed raspberries around and drizzle with a mixture of balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, a sprinkle of salt and oil (I used hazelnut but olive oil works great too). I toasted pecans and served on the side for topping salads. For serving this large of a group, I put the dressing on the side so that any leftovers will last longer (dressed salads get soggy really fast and don't hold up overnight in the fridge).

Mashed Sweet Potatoes: this was the first time I've done this recipe. I used 2.5 lbs of sweet potatoes, which was just about the right amount for 8 adults, but I wonder if they would have liked more since the pan was nearly wiped clean by the end of the dinner.  These were super simple to make, just a bit of time on the stove. Made this early then reheated in slow cooker on hot for 1 hour which made sure these were the perfect temp at serving time (without having to deal with the oven or microwave at the last minute).  I really like using the slow cooker for entertaining b/c it's one less thing to worry about the temp and it can sit on the other side of the kitchen, far away from the drama of the oven and stove.

Rolls (gramma brought them! otherwise I had rolls baked up using the "healthy artisan bread in 5 minutes a day" basic dough recipe). I think having 10-12 rolls for 8 people is probably the right amount.

11.5 lb Diestel free range turkey: brined overnight in brining bag with an easy and effective brine solution (the same one I use for roasting chickens):
8 C water
1 C kosher salt
1/2 C sugar
The turkey cooked for approx 3 hours (until 170 F internal temperature), then let it rest covered with foil outside the oven for 20-25 minutes to redistribute juices before carving.

Condiments were all home made and delicious!

Extras that were store bought:
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Organic butter (or you could use cultured butter, or Kerry gold pastured butter). Maybe one of these years I will make butter from cream?

Pie is the typical dessert for Thanksgiving. I served blueberry pie (from blueberries I picked this past summer) in a whole wheat butter flax crust.   My mom brought pecan and pumpkin pies. And we whipped up some organic whipping cream with just a touch of organic sugar to finish it off.

What did I learn this Thanksgiving?
  • Next year I need to have more coffee on hand! I'm not a big coffee drinker, and I make coffee using a Japanese one handled teapot using a friend's recipe (8 g ground coffee + 4 oz hot water, let sit for 4 minutes then strain) which is quite strong and delicious. But it's not typical coffee. 
  • Taking orders for pie was a pain (people wanted one of this and one of that, or small slices or whipped cream/no whipped cream).  Not sure how to handle next year... maybe a buffet line to serve yourself?  
  • I try to keep holiday meals at meal times.  Eating a "dinner" at 2pm drives me crazy.  It's either lunch or it's dinner. Doing anything else provokes 4 meals in a day, or snacking on unhealthy stuff to make up for the odd eating hours. However having a holiday meal at dinner time means folks are tired and it's dark outside by the time the meal is over. Lunch might be better, as long as you can get the food prepped and everyone there around 12noon. So I guess I need to think on this.
  • Setting the table before folks arrived was a big load off my mind- got the silverware and plates out on the table. This makes sure you have enough clean silverware for everyone too. And filling water cups (with filtered water) mean less craziness getting folks liquids.  Then I got the condiments (mustard, butter, cranberry sauce, pickles) out on the table with their serving forks/knives
  • On that note, I need to figure out table napkins. We typically don't use napkins (I get by with handkerchiefs or tissues). So next time I need to either purchase paper napkins (gah! the waste!) or get around to finally making some reusable cloth napkins.
  • I think people were snacky and would have liked to nibble on something right when they arrived, not wait for the meal.  I guess I need to figure out a snack that isn't too calorie dense... maybe cut up apples/pears, or perhaps make popcorn? 
  • Manage the dishes:  I ran the dishwasher and unloaded it before the guests arrived, this way there was space to load all the dirty stuff into the dishwasher. If you do this deliberately while the guests are chatting, by the time they leave you can put the dishwasher on and no more dishes everywhere!

DIY Dijon Mustard

I realized this has been sitting in my drafts folder for a while!  And all this time I've been enjoying my home made mustard. 

Why make mustard? It's pretty simple and inexpensive, but the biggest reason is that all the mustard I've seen in the supermarket has crazy additives.  Even the fancy Plochman's mustard which I loved uses "natural flavoring". Now that I've learned more about "natural flavoring" I am avoiding them.  And making my own mustard is just one way to do that!

This could easily be vegan by using maple syrup or agave instead of the honey. I use a local honey that is scrumptious!  I stopped buying mass produced grocery store honey and I like the taste better and it's better for the bees too (most commercial bee keeping operations take all the bees' honey and give them sugar water to eat, instead of the bees eating some of their own honey to sustain them over the winter).


Mix and let sit overnight:
1/4 C apple cider vinegar
1/4 C mustard seeds
1/8 C beer (flat is fine)

Next day, pour the soaked solution into food processor. Add:
1/4 tea fine sea salt
2.5 to 3 teaspoons honey

Pulse until slightly blended but there are still some intact seeds left.

Store in a lidded glas container (squatty half pint canning jars are great for this) in the fridge for several months. I think mine's been in there for 6 months? As long as it's not moldy and smells and tastes ok I figure I'm good. Vinegar is a good natural preservative. 

Canned Cranberry Jelly

I was inspired by this post by Food in Jars. And what a great way to prepare for thanksgiving.  Not sure whether this is more jelly, sauce or jam. But looks good!

Canned Cranberry Jelly
Yields 1 pint (or 4 quarter pints, the itty bitty 4 oz jars)

Start your boiling water bath canner by heating the water. Get your jars and lids figured out.

Simmer until berries burst:
1 lb cranberries
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C apple cider vinegar

Taste and add more sugar or lemon juice if needed (original recipe ad 1.5 C sugar!)

Blend in vitamix blender or pass through food mill/strainer to break up skins.  I liked the thick texture achieved by the blender-- luscious!

Pack in sterilized jars with 1/2 inch headspace. Can in boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

I was surprised how easy and tasty these were. My hubby sometimes thinks sweet potatoes are too sweet, but he liked these. I think that's b/c the fat and cream tempered the sweetness just a little bit.  He isn't eating nightshades (tomato, potato, chile) right now as part of an elimination diet experiment, so sweet potatoes were perfect. 

They reheat well (in slow cooker, or I imagine the microwave would be fine) so these may be showing up in packed lunches soon! I served these for Thanksgiving and used the slow cooker to reheat them for serving time.

You could make this vegan by using coconut cream, thick almond milk or soy milk.  Hubby is avoiding nuts, legumes and anything canned at the moment, so I went for the dairy cream.

Peel 2.5 lbs sweet potatoes (use the peels for something else like dehydrated chips, or compost 'em).  Cut into uniform 1/4" slice/dice.

In a lidded saute pan, combine the sweet potato slices along with:
2-4 TB coconut oil
2 TB whipping cream

Stir and cover with lid. It will look dry but that's ok, the sweet potatoes will leach their own water as they cook down.

Cook on low heat for 35- 40 minutes or until sweet potatoes break down/soften.  

Mash with a fork.


Vegan Flax Mayo

I found this in a vegan recipe book and decided to try it out. Wowza I am never going back to the regular egg-based mayo again!  

This tastes just as good as regular mayo, but a tablespoon of flaxmeal is cheaper than eggs, and I don't have to worry about eating raw egg or having the mayo go bad quickly (or just as bad: thinking it may be bad and throwing the whole batch out after a few days!).

Unlike the other vegan mayonnaise recipes out there that use tofu or cashews, this one is very similar to the "real thing". You make a "flax egg" by mixing flax meal and water. From there it's pretty much like regular mayo where you add 1 C of oil while blending.

Like any mayonnaise, this is great on sandwiches. But where I especially like it is as a salad dressing. It tastes great smeared over a green salad with brown rice!

Note on oil: use a good quality oil as there is a lot of it in mayo.  I like non-GMO sunflower seed oil.  Olive oil can be expensive and harsh tasting, and I just don't trust canola oil.

Combine and set aside for 5 minutes:
1 TB flax meal
3 TB water

Meanwhile, put in the blender:
2 TB lemon juice
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 - 3/4 tsp fine sea salt

Add the 'flax egg' mixture to the blender, and combine for a few seconds.  Now, measure out 1 C of oil. With the blender running, slowly pour the oil in. It will get fluffier and emulsify. Once all the oil is incorporated, it will be an opaque color.

Season with more salt if needed. Store in small glass jars in the fridge.

Almond Pulp Chocolate Cakey Cookies (gluten free vegan)

This is a great way to use up the pulp leftover from making almond milk.  These are a fluffy texture from the almond pulp, so they're kind of cakey. I wasn't sure I liked them at first, but with coffee they grow on you!  I bet they'd also be good out of the freezer (but ours didn't last that long).

You could double the recipe, but generally I'm not making that much almond mylk to have 2 cups of pulp leftover.

If you made the almond milk with medjool dates, then the pulp itself will be slightly sweet. If instead the almond pulp is unsweetened, then you'll need extra sweetness.

This is gluten free and vegan (assuming you used the right kind of chocolate chips).

Mix together:
1 C sweet almond pulp
2 TB almond mylk
1/4 C cacao powder
1 TB melted coconut oil
1 TB sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Chocolate chips to taste

Shape into small balls, roughly 10-12 cookies.
Place on oiled cookie sheet and press down with a fork.
Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until no longer gooey inside.


Soy Curl Broccoli Teriyaki (gluten free vegan)

Came up with a elimination diet friendly meal for my hubby. He loves teriyaki chicken, and when I saw soy curls in bulk (where I could try them in a small quantity first) I knew I had to try it.  This meal is gluten free, vegan, has no nuts, and does not have nightshade vegetables.   You could make this seed free too if you used coconut or olive oil and opted out of the sesame seed topping.

He voted this the most tasty of the elimination diet dinners in nearly 2 weeks! So it is a winner. We really like the soy curls- great texture and they soak up the teriyaki flavor. I love that they are stored dry in the pantry (instead of refrigerated aseptic boxes which create more waste). We'll be getting these on future shopping trips!


Get the rice cooker going with brown rice.

Make teriyaki sauce, using gluten free soy sauce (sometimes labeled tamari).  The basic idea is to simmer the following, stirring often, until it thickens.
1/2 C mirin
1/4 C sake
1/4 C gluten free soy sauce
2 TB sugar
1 tsp grated ginger

Wash, cut and steam broccoli until tender (approx 5-6 minutes, but still al dente) then refresh with cool water. Set aside.

Dice 1/2 yellow or white onion.

Wash and slice 4-5 cremini or button mushrooms.

Soak 1 C soy curls in hot water with a dash of GF soy sauce, let sit for 10 minutes.  Then drain and squeeze out extra moisture.

In a hot pan, add 1 TB sunflower oil (or your oil of choice) and coat bottom of pan. 

Saute onion and mushroom, adding salt, cracked black pepper and 4 cloves crushed garlic.  Once the onion is browned a little and the mushrooms are cooked down, then add the soy curls and a drizzle of the teriyaki sauce. Stir and heat.

Add steamed broccoli, stir to combine and warm through.

Dish up rice, then stir fry. Drizzle additional teriyaki sauce to taste, and optionally sprinkle with black sesame seeds.

Breakfast Tapioca Porridge (Gluten Free)

This is my hubby's new breakfast that is elimination diet compatible.  Breakfasts are probably the hardest meal for elimination diets!  He always liked oatmeal (and granola!) but we're currently staying away from it to test food sensitivities.  We came up with tapioca pudding as a good substitute.  This is a warm comforting breakfast porridge.

I cook enough for a few breakfasts at once, and then the subsequent leftovers get reheated in the microwave for faster breakfasts on the following days.

The only bummer is that tapioca seems to be less filling than our normal breakfast choices.  I bet this is fairly calorie dense from the coconut milk so it's not a diet breakfast!  Since I'm using canned coconut milk it has the BPA risk.  I'm looking into whether I can make this satisfactorily with home blended dried coconut and water instead.

Note on tapioca: you can boil tapioca like pasta in lots of water, then drain off the starchy water.  Then later add the coconut milk for porridge, or use it plain like a grain or starch with a meal. The only issue is it hardens up really fast (like 10 minutes?!).  But luckily you can easily rehydrate the hardened cooked tapioca pearls by recooking in liquid, while breaking up clumps with a spoon.  I did read somewhere that you can store plain boiled and drained tapioca pearls in a sugar syrup to help keep them from sticking to each other, but I think that's more useful for boba tea.  One of these days I want to see if I can cook the tapioca in the rice cooker... (akin to how we used to set up steel cut oats in the rice cooker overnight with a timer to get them cooking before we awoke).

Note on blueberries: I pick bunches of these in the summer and freeze them. In the winter they are easy to thaw-- heat up water in the electric kettle; pour frozen blueberries into a ceramic/heat resistant mug; pour hot water over the top and let sit for a couple minutes; then strain by holding the berries back with a spoon while pouring the water from the mug out into the sink.

Combine 1/3 C small tapioca pearls with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, stir and boil for 5 minutes or until the tapioca softens. Add more water if needed (if it gets too sticky).

Turn off the heat, cover and let the tapioca sit for 10 minutes. This helps prevent the sticky-center problem with tapioca.

Now add some coconut milk, to taste. For this amount of tapioca, I'd say shoot for 1/4 to 1/2 the can of coconut milk.  Stir and bring to a gentle simmer.

Add a pinch of sea salt, and 1 - 2 TB sugar (or use agave or maple syrup).

Serve hot, with blueberries on top.   Or try bananas-- they are a good tropical match for tapioca and coconut.


Falafel Green Goddess Salad

This was a delicious and satisfying dinner salad that works with an elimination diet (no gluten, no nuts, vegan).

Make Vegan Green Goddess Dressing (variation of this recipe, check out her post for some other delicious vegan salad dressing ideas!). Blend the following until creamy- adding water as needed:
1/2 avocado
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 TB olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup parsley

Arrange salad on a plate:
Chopped lettuce
Cucumber, sliced into julienne "noodles"
Alfalfa sprouts
optional kalamata olives
baked falafel
green goddess dressing (above)

DIY Baked Falafel (gluten free)

The husband is doing an elimination diet, so I needed a gluten free falafel recipe, and ideally one that was healthy-ish and not fried. I never keep tahini in the house, and I want to actually bake these puppies (as opposed to babysit them over the stove).  I love zatar so of course that is going in here too.  I like how falafel brighten up a salad with vegan protein, and are less boring than plain beans, so I think I will be making more soon!

Apparently baking soda is optional- use with an acid like lemon juice... I suppose it makes it fluffier? So in the end I combined two recipes (one and two) and played with it a bit.

NOTE: my early attempts were good tasting but the end result was really crumbly, especially if you tried to re-warm in the microwave. I can see why falafel are usually deep fried or use a binder flour. 

UPDATE: my new method adds up to 1/4 C garbanzo flour (or use another gluten free flour) which helped bind the falafel balls together.  I added this down below too!

Pulse in a food processor until chunky:
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 C parsely
1/2 C cilantro

Now add 3 cups cooked chickpeas (I soak mine overnight, then slow cook; but I've read about people just soaking and not cooking prior to making falafel. Maybe I will try that shortcut next time).
Pulse the food processor to combine.

Transfer to a bowl, and stir in:
zatar seasoning
1 TB lemon juice
1/2 tsp baking soda
up to 1/4 C garbanzo flour

Roll the dough into balls with olive-oil greased hands. Bake on cookie sheet at 375 F for 15-20 minutes, flip them over using a spatula (they brown on the side that touches the cookie sheet, so they'll look not browned at all on the top. Sneaky sneaky).  Then continue baking on the other side for 15-20 more minutes or until done all the way through.

Eat hot or store in the fridge for a salad or sandwich.  Falafel are typically dry so serve with a dipping sauce like avocado based green goddess (I'm fond of Healthy Happy Life's recipe, see #5 on her blog post) or a cucumber tatziki.

Elimination Diet Chocolate Chip Cookies (vegan, gluten free nut free)

I took the vegan chocolate chip cookies I was so impressed with and made them gluten free. This way they are nut free, gluten free and vegan. These are really quite tasty, and the rice flour gives them a little crispy/crumbly texture which I like enough to consider incorporating some brown rice flour into normal cookies.


First find or make gluten free flour. I used this ratio:
1 C brown rice flour
1/2 C potato starch (katakuriko)
1/4 C tapioca starch

Now you can mix the cookie ingredients:
1 C + 2 TB of the gluten free flour (see above)
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1.5 TB flax meal
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 C + 2 TB sugar

Mix the wet ingredients:
1/2 C melted coconut oil
2 TB rice milk
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extra

Combine dry and wet ingredients.  Now add in 1/2 C chopped chocolate or vegan chocolate chips

The texture is a lot more crumbly than the glutinous version, so I suggest rolling the dough into a log in wax paper or plastic wrap, then refrigerating (trying to roll into cookie globs out of a cold bowl was tedious for this dough).

Refrigerate dough for a couple hours.

Slice into cookie sizes, place on cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 F for 14-16 minutes. These do not brown as easily as wheat flour cookies, so check them for done-ness by poking or trying to lift one off the pan with a spatula.

Gluten-Free Nut-Free Vegan Breakfast Crepes

These were delicious but stuck pretty badly to the pan (even a preheated oiled cast iron pan!!). Not sure what I'll do next time, but hubby loved them so I'll have to figure that out.  Started with this recipe and tweaked it a bi.

Mix batter:
1/2 C gluten free flour (I used a combo of rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch)
1/2 C rice milk
1 TB melted coconut oil
1 TB sugar
pinch salt

In hot pan, add coconut oil and swirl to coat the pan. Pour 1/3 of the batter and cook on each side. Finish with rest of batter (mine made 3 crepes). Top with fig jam, maple syrup and or blueberries.

Tortilla Soup (or Vegan Salsa Bean Soup)

Finally a successful tortilla soup!  This is great for elimination diets as it is gluten and nut free and is vegan (just don't try this if you are trying to exclude the nightshade veggies like tomatoes and chiles in your elimination test).

I was inspired by this recipe, and then thought, gee my salsa would be a lot better than plain tomatoes! And it was. The roasted tomato, chile, onion and garlic in my salsa had just the right balance, which made it much easier to make the final soup taste just right.  Sometimes vegan food leaves you feeling wanting- but not so with this soup!  I'm sure the leftovers will be even more amazing tomorrow.

Char 3 dried guajilo chiles over gas flame.  Soak the chiles submerged in hot water for 10 minutes. Discard soaking water, then cut chiles open and discard stem and seeds. Blend the chile with 1 cup hot water and 2 pitted medjool dates until smooth.

Meanwhile, saute 2 red onions in 1 TB coconut oil and salt until softened. Add:
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper

Now pour into the pan the chile-date-water and stir. Add 1 pint of home made roasted tomato salsa and 2 tsp mexican oregano. 

Add 1-2 cups cooked pinto beans (or use other cooked beans).  Add 1/4 cup frozen corn and 1 diced green bell pepper.

Taste and add more salt or some brown sugar if necessary to balance the flavors.

Serve with tortilla chips, or over corn tortillas or with cornbread.

Optional garnish with cilantro.