Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Farewell Summer: Use It Up Recipes

The summer is over, but sometimes the bounty still lurks in our fridges, waiting to be used up or thrown out. This year I shared a garden with a friend and my mother in law planted extra to share with us as well. Needless to say, I've been up to my eyeballs in garden fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers for months. I've certainly enjoyed it and tried to make the most of it. I've managed to can salsa, pickles, and chopped tomatoes (with a 1 year old, this is an accomplishment!) We've had our share of BLT's (before I went Paleo). I've made tzadziki sauce that was to die for, along with sunshine pickles, spaghetti sauce and a failed attempt at cucumber kimchi.

At this point, we've eaten them every which way we could figure- cooked, raw, and everything in between. And yet there are still plenty left. I just don't think I can conjure up the excitement to get through canning another batch of whatever, so what to do with what's left?   Two easy solutions cleaned up my fridge and will preserve the harvest for a few weeks to a few months: Gazpacho and Fermented Salsa.


I love Gazpacho and often take it to work in my coffee cup. Some people don't like the pulpy texture but I love drinking (and chewing) my salad! It's kind of like salsa in a glass, and it only takes a few minutes to whip up, but will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks, if it lasts that long. If you love V-8, this is a great alternative. Celery and lime juice add a salty\savory taste without any added salt.

And oh yeah- this is a great way to use up odds and ends of veggies when you're cleaning out your fridge.

4-5 large tomatoes
1 cucumber
bell pepper
lemon or lime juice (just need a few slices for 1 batch in the blender)
1 jalapeno - seeded or not, if desired

1. Chop all ingredients into large pieces.
2. Blend on high in a blender for 1-2 minutes.
3. If too thick, add a little extra water. If too spicy, add more veggies. If not spicy enough, add more hot peppers.

Tip: Throw your squeezed lime or lemon slices into a pitcher of ice water and enjoy! (Remove them after 1 day, or they will turn the water bitter).

Lacto-Fermented Salsa

Nourishing Days has some wonderful articles on fermented veggies. Shannon has her own version here:

Here is the one from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. She has en entire section in her book about the benefits of fermented veggies with lots of recipes. I quadrupled her recipe to accomodate my gallon-sized jar and critical mass of fresh tomatoes and jalapenos. It looks beautiful and I can't wait to taste it!

Lacto-Fermented Salsa
makes 1 quart

4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
2 small onions, finely chopped
¾ cup chopped chile pepper, hot or mild
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 tablespoons whey (if not available, use an additional 1 tablespoon salt)
¼ cup filtered water (do NOT use tap water)

Mix all ingredients and place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar. Press down lightly with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer, adding more water if necessary to cover the vegetables. The top of the vegetables should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 2 days before transferring to the refrigerator. (Should last a few months in the fridge.)

Easy Pork Loin and Decadent Stuffed Chili Peppers

As a mom of four hungry guys and a husband who eats more than all of them, I'm always looking for simple, delicious, hands off recipes that don't break the bank. They also need to be Paleo\Primal or close to it. While this one isn't strict Paleo (it has cream cheese), it's a fantastic "gateway" meal, especially if other members of your family aren't Paleo\Primal. My family hasn't jumped on the bandwagon...yet. But they love the food! And this meal is quickly becoming one of our favorites.

Don't be intimidated by the length of time it takes to cook- it's a "fix and forget" type of meal. The hands on time for the pork loin is under 5 minutes. The chili peppers don't take that much longer. The key is to defrost the pork loin overnight in the fridge or sous vide style- put it in a sealed plastic bag and sink it in some hot water for a while. I'm always surprised how fast it thaws (and I like steering clear of the microwave when I can!)

You can see the video here: or watch it below. (This is an entry for the Make a Primal Blueprint Recipe Video contest. Wish me luck- I want those cookbooks!)

A note on the video: This is my first cooking video (with the help of my very talented oldest son Sean), so it's far from perfect. The baby was fussing a bit in the background, I desperately need a haircut, and I still have a ton of weight to lose. And I forgot to say stuff or repeated myself. And paleo is spelled wrong at the end. Oops. Oh well. I did it anyway and it was fun! Hopefully we'll all see the weight fall off as I do more, right?

'Nuff said, here are the recipes:

Easy Pork Loin

5 lb pork loin, thawed
kosher salt or other salt of choice
ground pepper (fresh is best)
herbs of your choice- I like rosemary, thyme and sage from my garden, fresh is best but dried is ok
chopped fresh garlic (I forgot this in the video, but makes the pork smell and taste amazing!)

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Put pork loin in a baking dish with a cover. Sprinkle salt, pepper and herbs on all sides.
3. Cover and cook 1 hour. Just before 1 hour mark, make the stuffed chilies (below)
4. Uncover pork loin, bake another 30 minutes along with chili peppers.
5. Serve with steamed veggies, a salad, applesauce or more pork loin and chilies!

Kim's Decadent Stuffed Chili Peppers

The butcher counter at Hyvee has been selling something similar to this for $6.99\lb. I figured I could do better at home. I'm not sure how much mine weighed, but I made 8 halves and 4 full, large chilies for $6.50 (about 80 cents a stuffed pepper). I know we had a lot more than a pound of them!

2 boxes (about 8-9) Anaheim chili peppers
2 - 8 oz pkgs cream cheese
1 lb bacon

1. Wash chili peppers and slice lengthwise, discarding seeds (unless you want these hellishly hot!)
2. With a butter knife, fill insides with cream cheese.
3. Wrap with bacon (we did 6 halves that were wrapped and stuck the other 6 together, then wrapped).
4. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes until bacon is crispy (depends on size of peppers, dish you're cooking in, and your oven.)

A note on handling peppers: I don't use gloves, but you may want to. If you forget to wear gloves and later find your hands burning, rub some coffee grounds on them. I think it's supposed to neutralize the oils or something.

How much did it all cost?

Everything in this recipe was bought on sale, at farmer's markets, or grown by myself. No, the bacon and pork weren't organic or grass fed. I've only been doing Paleo\Primal for a little over three weeks, but that's the point - if I can pull this together, so can you!

$10    - 5 lb Pork Loin- sale, 1.99\lb @ Hyvee
$2      - 2 boxes Anaheim chili peppers $1 ea @ farmer's market
$2      - 2 pkgs 8 oz cream cheese $1 ea @ Kroger
$2.50 - 1 pkg bacon on sale @ Hyvee (yes, I found this on sale just last week!)
$1      - 1 pound fresh green beans @ the farmer's market
$0      - herbs from my garden, and miniscule amounts of kosher salt and pepper

TOTAL: $17.50

We made 8 half peppers and 4 full ones and tons of pork loin. We fed four of us last night. Two of us had leftovers for lunch and there's still enough for another dinner. Depending on how much your family eats, you could easily get 2-3 restaurant-quality meals out of this. That's $6-$8 for an entire paleo-friendly meal! Plus, you could freeze this and keep it on hand for a busy day. I haven't tried freezing the peppers (they get eaten up too fast!) but the pork loin and green beans freeze great.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Three Weeks Down!

I've just ended my third week on Primal Blueprint\Paleo and am simply amazed by the transformation taking place! I have lost over 9 pounds and almost 2 whole sizes in clothing. Just before I started, I felt swollen and tired all of the time. I literally hurt everywhere. Within the first few days there was a huge difference both in my energy and how my body felt. The swelling was immediately gone and my clothes felt a lot looser. I had been almost out of a size 16, pushing towards an 18. Now all of my size 14 pants are falling off! After only 3 weeks!

I still have a tremendous amount of energy, which is great because so does my toddler. I literally did not stop moving all weekend. I was either chasing him and trying to keep him out of everything, or I was taking him for walks, visiting with friends (and chasing him there), apple picking, or taking 3 out of my 4 boys to go see Return to Hogwart's, a special Harry Potter reenactment put on by the Peoria Park District. (We were on our feet for a few hours there, but it was great fun.) I also cooked, cleaned, fixed computers and put baby latches on everything. Phew! I think I got in all of my low level aerobic activity for the week!

Speaking of physical fitness, I also joined a gym last week. There is a nationwide chain called Cardinal Fitness (also known as Charter Fitness) which is a basic gym- just treadmills, ellipticals, barbells, isolation machines, etc. It reminds me of my army days! They offer a $20 a month membership. That's the cheapest I have seen anywhere. It's just down the street from where I work, so I can go over my lunch hour to get in a few primal workouts a week

With winter coming, I think this will keep me motivated through the blah months. The Midwest is one of the most beautiful places on earth from May through October. But November through April aren't so great. I have a hard time getting outside to do anything during those months, and I have no place to workout in my tiny house (and no free time either, really.) The gym seemed like a good solution. Most of them have classes, saunas, indoor tracks, daycare, etc, but they came at a high price ($50-$100 or more a month!) And that's not really what I want or need anyhow. My baby is in daycare too much already. I don't want to spend even more time away from him. And my schedule is too busy to worry about getting to classes right now. I hate saunas (they make me throw up and pass out), and there's a track behind my house I can use three seasons out of the year. During winter, I can walk at the mall (as long as I "forget" my wallet, ha ha!) Right now I have a few favorite parks and areas of town I like to walk at to keep things interesting. I'll miss them when the weather gets bad!

I also gave myself my "10 pounds lost" reward a little early last week. I splurged on some Vibram Five Fingers shoes to keep myself motivated and walking (I haven't bought shoes of any kind in many years). I love them! My feet are still adapting a bit, but they are so comfortable. Unfortunately, there isn't much savings on these by purchasing online, and it's best not to. You really need to try on different styles and sizes to figure out what works for you. I must've tried on about 20 pairs, and was surprised to discover that I fell between sizes in almost every style except the Bikala. Those fit me perfectly, so that's what I ended up with. I am wondering if I am closer to a half size since my last pregnancy. I haven't bought shoes since then, so that would make sense. Just something to keep in mind when you're considering these shoes.

How did I justify paying for them? I've only ever spent $100 on footwear once before, and those were on my Merrell gortex hiking shoes, which I have worn for over 4 years. They are still holding up but starting to wear out a bit as they're seen quite a few miles. I just did some computer sidework which made up the difference for my Vibrams. Hopefully I'll have them for years too (I wear everything out!) So I consider them an investment rather than just a purchase. An investment in myself and my health. That's something most of us moms forget to do....invest in ourselves. So I made most of my rewards investments as well as encouragements to keep going.


 How are you doing on your own health challenge and what kinds of rewards are you planning on giving yourself?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy Accidents: Double Chocolate Paleo Brownie Crumbles

Double Chocolate Paleo Brownie Crumbles - yum!
The other day the chocolate monster reared its ugly head. I wanted chocolate and I wanted it NOW! Of course, I had no chocolate bars in the house, and I had previously satisified a peanut butter cup craving with BiPolar Paleo's PB cup smoothie recipe, but I wanted something more. Something chewy and gooey and chock full of chocolatey goodness. I was checking facebook when I came across this luscious looking recipe for Zucchini Brownies from Fast Paleo. I had most of the ingredients, but not all of them. I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Well, I ended up substituting a little TOO much. I didn't have almond butter, so I thought I'd "whip some up in my food processor". Except I made it with raw almonds and coconut oil. It was delicious, but it wasn't almond butter! I also substituted organic chocolate nibs, which I had never known what to do with, in hopes they would somehow bathe the zucchini mixture with their chocoliciousness. I mixed everything up and it smelled amazing. I poured it into a smaller pan than I should have and baked it for the recommended time.

The brownies weren't cooked enough, so I added more time. Still not done. And the chocolate nibs only dotted the mushy zucchini mixture. Oh, what to do, what to do! So I mixed in some unsweetened baking chocolate (ingredients: chocolate!) and added a bit more honey (not perfectly Paleo but good enough for me!) At least it LOOKED like brownies now! I baked them a while longer, took them out and let them cool.

The results were surprisingly good. Not to sweet and very moist and chocolatey. The brownies didn't hold together (probably because of the raw almonds). They were more of a mixture of a brownie and a granola. And by themselves they were a little bitter (they are NOT a sweet brownie at all), but who am I to ever abandon a failed recipe? I can always recycle it into something else!

I nibbled it a bit here and there that evening and found it was actually really good, just not as sweet as a brownie. And the nibs in there were awesome! Slightly crunchy and chocolatey and oh so good! The next morning I packed up some yogurt and topped it with my brownie crumbles and some dried fruit. Delicious! Today I used the crumbles for the base of my fruit "cereal" mixture. On top of the crumbles, I sliced up a banana and a kiwi, then topped it off with some pecans, walnuts and dried cherries. It was amazing! And everyone at work was jealous, which gave me the opportunity to tell them I was doing Paleo and how fantastic the food was! I don't think they were listening. They were too busy salivating over my breakfast, which took me all morning to eat!

Double Chocolate Brownie Crumbles

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cup grated zucchini
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • i tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 cup organic chocolate nibs
  • 2- 1 oz squares of Baker's Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Squares 
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a food processor, grind raw almonds and then add coconut oil and grind again. 
  3.  Combine all ingredients except baker's chocolate in a large bowl.
  4. Pour into a greased baking pan. (I used an 8 inch round deep pie dish.)
  5. Bake 25-30 minutes. 
  6. Chop baker's chocolate squares into several pieces. Remove pan from oven and scatter chocolate pieces around pan, mixing them in thoroughly to create a big chocolately mess.  Drizzle another tablespoon or so of honey as well. Mix well.
  7. Return to over and bake 15-20 more minutes. 
  8. Let cool, then enjoy the gooey, double dark chocolately crumbly goodness! 


  • Great as topping or a bottom for whatever kind of creamy or fruity dessert you'd like to make! 
  • You should probably refrigerate this after the first day. My first batch was eaten quickly, but alas, I had to throw a bit of my second batch out because I didn't eat it fast enough. There's nothing to keep it from molding. If in doubt, refrigerate or even freeze for later!
  • Non-paleo family members who haven't given up sugar will tell you "these aren't real brownies". (Ask me how I know this, lol).  That's ok, more for us!
Adapted from Fast Paleo's Zucchini Brownie recipe, which I will make when I have all the actual ingredients very soon! Looks delish!

Have you had a happy accident in your kitchen when trying to cook up a Paleo dish? Let's hear about it!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Red Chili Sauce Redo Take 1

This morning I woke up with a craving for huevos rancheros. Not just any huevos rancheros, but MY huevos rancheros. You see, even though I originally grew up on the East Coast, I was exposed to a ton of really awesome Mexican food. My father grew up on the border of Arizona and Mexico and was always searching for the best Mexican food he could find. My mother was an awesome cook, so I was exposed to it both at home and when we went out to eat. There was this one place that had the most unbelievable red chili sauce, which they smothered anything and everything in. The little hole in the wall place was called Anita's, and if you're ever in Northern Virginia, you'll find a string of these little restaurants. They are always crowded and the food is always worth the wait.

Anyhow, I ended up in the Midwest, far from Anita's and all good things Mexican. So I spent years searching for the perfect recipe and finally found it. I have made my own red chili sauce for ages, but alas, it's got flour in it, so it isn't exactly Paleo-friendly. I'm not a purist, I know that sometimes we have to compromise, but if there's a way I can use some alternative thickeners to make it Paleo, I'm game. Today and tried and had mixed results. I can reproduce the taste just fine, but the wonderful texture may take a few tries.

Here's the original recipe:

Kim's Red Chili Sauce

2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup olive oil
4 tsp cumin
1/2-2/3 cup chili powder (buy the big canisters at Sam's and this sauce is very cheap!)
8 cups water or beef broth (can also use bouillon cubes)
4 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp or less of sea salt, Real Salt or kosher salt
2 tsp oregano

1. Mix flour and oil in sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until smooth.
2. Add cumin and chili powder, stir, add water or beef broth.
3. Add remaining ingredients.
4. Simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of your mixing spoon.

Note: Makes 8 cups of red chili sauce, which is enough for 4 family sized meals (or three if you like to really slop on the sauce.) I freeze it in 2-cup portions. It's great on eggs, meat, and well, everything else too!

Redo Attempt: 

1 cup pork drippings and "deglazing" from a dish I made recently
4 tsp cumin
1/2 cup chili powder
7 cups water and a few beef bouillon cubes (I know, not-so-Paleo but I didn't have anything else on hand!)
4 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt of choice
2 tsp oregano
4 tbsp arrowroot powder mixed in a little cold water

1. Heat up pork drippings and juices, throw all dry ingredients in.
2. Mix the arrowroot with the cold water and add.
3. Add water and bouillon cubes.
4. Heat to boiling and let simmers for 10 minutes.

Problem: The sauce tasted great but wasn't thick at all. I may have needed more arrowroot powder, but that stuff isn't cheap! I probably needed double of what I had. I just happened to have some on hand so I thought I'd try it. Will have to learn more about low carb sauces and try again.

(Another thought: perhaps I just need to get back to the basics and cook the actual chili peppers in a crockpot and then puree them for a thicker sauce. Pretty old school, but I bet that's how it was originally done. I'm always looking for simpler, faster, cheaper. Perhaps that way to solve this is to go back to an original, old timey recipe to see what they did rather than using chili powder. This was done with mole sauce here:

I still smothered my eggs in it, along with a piece of leftover pork loin and some spaghetti squash. Strange combination, but not bad. I miss my beans and tortillas! What the heck do you substitute for beans anyhow? Perhaps I'll cook up some winter squash of some kind next time. All in all it wasn't bad. It satified my craving, kind of. Not to be deterred, I threw the rest of the sauce into the crockpot with some boneless skinless chicken I got on a good sale this week ($1.58 a pound! Not free range, working on finding sources for that locally) I'm sure it'll be delish!

Some pages I found on low carb sauces and gravies, worth a look:

Update: I added 4 more tsp of arrowroot while the chili sauce was in the crockpot with the chicken. It never did thicken up but tasted FANTASTIC with my naked chicken enchiladas. We scarfed them down before I could take a picture of them, but there are leftovers! I will dress them up for the camera soon! ;)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bananas Galore and Recipe Test Kitchen Day

Today was a great day filled with new recipes! Bananas were on sale at Hy-vee this week for 39 cents a pound, so I stocked up. I peeled half of them and threw them in the freezer for smoothies later, and am using the rest for cooking and snacks. The first recipe I tried today was BiPolar Paleo's Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie. It was wonderful and such a great way to fend off those cravings for Reeses Peanut Butter Cups (definitely a weakness of mine!) If you have a Magic Bullet or one of those Ninja blenders, cleanup is easy too, since you're blending it in the cup you drink it in.
Total cost for this recipe: about 15 cents (I cut the recipe down and made enough for 1).

 My 14 year old wanted pancakes, so I thought I'd try these Almond Banana Pancakes from Mark's Daily Apple. They smelled great, and were delicious and filling, but they were so delicate that they were almost impossible to flip. I think this recipe either needs some kind of flour or a different cooking method- perhaps baked in the oven. I remember a recipe for a huge baked puffy pancake I used to make. Perhaps I could adapt it to solve the problem.
Total cost for this recipe: about 40 cents.

I also snagged pork loins on sale this week for 1.99 a pound, so I stocked up! I tested a recipe (actually two- an entree and side dish) I'm developing for the Make a Primal Blueprint Recipe Video Contest over at Mark's Daily Apple. Hoping to film it next week. I'll be posting pictures, recipes and videos after I've got it submitted. Wish me luck!
Estimated cost for this feast: $10-$12 with plenty of leftovers!

All in all it was a great primal day and I'm stuffed to the gills. Still holding at 5 pounds lost and lots of energy. Time to curl up on the couch with a cup of herbal tea and savor the remnants of the day. See you tomorrow!
 Kim :)

Photo courtesy of

Friday, September 16, 2011

Two Weeks Down!

Well, I've finished my second successful week of Primal Blueprint\Paleo! Woohoo! It's been much easier than any other eating plan that I can ever recall doing. I've had success in the past with Atkins, Fit For Life and the Sonoma Diet. Paleo seems like a great combination of all of these styles (sans grains and dairy), yet it is it's own animal (pardon the pun!) A lot of my favorite recipes from these plans can also be used for Paleo, which is great since I have my own "comfort foods" recipes from them. I'll be posting some of them soon as I break out the old recipes and start making them again.

Things I've noticed over the past two weeks:

  • Much more energy (important, since I'm a working mom with an active toddler)
  • Seasonal allergies don't seem nearly as bad as they usually are this time of year for me
  • I don't feel bloated and swollen like I have for the past two years
  • I've lost 5 pounds (it's a start!)
  • I don't have the blood sugar and mood swings I used to have. I was usually either hungry, tired, crabby or all three. Not anymore!
  • I can only eat about 2 meals a day. I'm just not hungry for a third. Usually it's breakfast and lunch. If I have enough protein at lunch, I'm wired with energy and don't even want to think about dinner. I'd rather have a hot cup of tea and perhaps a light snack. I can't ever remember NOT being hungry on the other plans!
I am also having trouble sleeping. Seems like I'm almost hyper at bedtime. Having a baby who doesn't sleep through the night doesn't help either. What's weird is that I've had enough energy to deal with this (usually it would wreck me with my schedule). I was also able to give up coffee cold turkey after only two days on the plan. With no headaches! Very strange but great!

I do feel a bit foggy sometimes. I know there's the dreaded carb flu that most newbies get. I'm wondering if I'm also fighting a sinus infection. My ears are ringing and there's sometimes pressure in my head. I'm not in any pain though and my nose doesn't run that much. Could just be my body adjusting to actually having some real food finally!

From a penny pinching standpoint, it's not a bad time to start this plan, since the garden is still producing and the farmer's markets are going strong. I'll be dreading the lack of fresh local produce in a few more weeks, though! I'm seriously wondering how this is all going to play out over the winter. I also walk almost every day (free fitness!), but that will come to a grinding halt when the snow and ice set in over the Midwest. Winter is definitely going to be interesting on Paleo! I think the other seasons here are wonderful. We have plenty of local farms and produce, and lots of wide open spaces for Groks and Grokettes to play.

In the meantime, fall is almost here, and there is no place on earth more beautiful than the Midwest in fall! (In my humble opinion!) I'll be exploring frugal, delicious Paleo dishes with pumpkins and other winter squashes, as well as cranberries, apples, pears, root veggies and other fun stuff. Come join the party, we're just getting started here!
 Kim :)

Welcome to the Penny Pinching Paleo!

Welcome to my blog! I've enjoyed reading so many great Primal/Paleo blogs lately. I just started Mark Sisson's 30 day Primal Blueprint challenge and wanted a place where I could post my thoughts and progress (especially since I don't know anyone around here who has even heard of these things!) I love the program, but it's a challenge in more ways than one. I'm very frugal (because I have to be) and I'm a Christian. I also have four boys ranging in age from 1 to 21, and a husband who eats more than all of them!

Needless to say, the Primal/Paleo ideas are stretching me in lots of ways and that's ok! The food is GREAT and I'm learning more every day. And I'm feeling great too! I'm hoping to lose about 50 pounds, much of which I racked up on birth control pills and my last pregnancy (a long post in itself...I gained 40 pounds and got pregnant on the pill at the age of 40!) Now if I can only stretch my budget! That's a real challenge considering the high quality of food in the Paleo\Primal lifestyle and the less than stellar quality in most grocery stores. But I do believe there's a happy medium and want to explore that here.

I'm no stranger to the web, I've done websites before (I had a nationally recognized frugal living website years ago) but I've never done blogging. One thing I learned as a former web designer, editor, writer and sometime coder....keep it simple! So this site is a more simple approach on purpose. It may not be glitzy or pretty at times, but I'll try. In the meantime, please forgive the mess while I rearrange the furniture and spiff things up a bit!
 Kim :)