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My Meal Rotation: Low-FODMAP AIP Recipe Roundup

This post is part of the Meal Ideas series. Finding something to eat that is simultaneously affordable, quick to prepare, healthy, AND delicious can be next-to-impossible sometimes. In this section I post pictures of the food I make, links to recipes I love, and some tips for saving time and money while still cooking great-tasting healthy food.

In the guest post I wrote for The Paleo Mom blog, I suggested that a useful way to save time in the kitchen is to use a standard meal rotation: a list of several recipes (enough for a few weeks’  worth of meals) that you know how to make quickly and easily and that your family loves. This can be helpful because, by using the same recipes frequently, you’ll learn to make them faster and more easily and, by using the recipes on a rotating basis, your family won’t get tired of eating the same food all the time.

After I posted that, I received several comments asking for examples of this sort of meal rotation. I have decided, therefore, to share with you the meal rotation list that I currently use, including links to some of my favourite go-to recipes.

Because the meal ideas shared below are the ones I currently use in my rotation, they all adhere to a low-FODMAP, autoimmune protocol (AIP) paleo diet and contain modifications to that effect. For those of you who are able to tolerate high-FODMAP vegetables and/or nightshades, I highly recommend that you include a larger variety of vegetables in your side dishes. More advice on how to modify this meal rotation to fit your individual lifestyle and needs will be listed later.

1. Slow-cooked whole chicken with lemon and rosemary / roasted carrots and parsnips / steamed zucchini

2. Beef roast with gravy (omit the garlic, fennel, and Yorkshire pudding) / mashed rutabaga / roasted green beans

3. Panfried fish (any kind) marinated with herbs de provence and lemon / mashed turnip / cucumber salad (only use green parts of green onions)

4. Slow-cooked beef tongue / mofongo (mashed plantain with bacon) / braised kale

5. AIP hidden-liver meatloaf  (omit the celery, onion, garlic, paprika, fennel, and cayenne) / mixed green salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar / roasted carrots

6. Shrimp stir fry with kelp noodles, shredded carrots, baby bok choy, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts (based on this recipe for shrimp chow mein)

7. Bun-less burgers (replace guacamole with homemade basil pesto) / kale chips / carrot fries

8. Bacon-wrapped chicken thighs / plantain chips / steamed zucchini

9. Zucchini lasagna (follow the low-FODMAP modifications) / mixed green salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar / roasted parsnips

10. Panfried shrimp marinated in herbes de provence and lemon / zucchini “pasta” (omit garlic and walnuts) / steamed carrots

11. Beef liver (omit onions) / mashed rutabaga / braised chard

12. Beef heart soup with ginger, carrots, parsnips, and kale (recipe coming soon)

13. Herb-crusted pork loin (omit garlic and paprika) / carrot and ginger soup (omit onions and garlic) / braised kale

14. Beef stew with turnips and greens (omit onions and garlic)

In my household (two people and occasional guests) these 14 meals generally last us for 4 weeks: I make 4-6 servings of each, enough for one freshly-cooked meal and one meal of leftovers. (A serving size in my house is generally 6-8 oz of meat with 2-4 cups of vegetables on the side). To modify this for a larger household, I recommend doubling or even tripling the recipes so that they can feed more people.

To devise your own meal rotation, pick out recipes that you know well and that you really enjoy. Pay attention to how long each meal takes to cook: if you don’t have much time for cooking, opt for slow cooker recipes and ones that can quickly be fried up in a pan on the stove. Also pay attention to the relative prep times and cooking methods of your side dishes: don’t plan to cook two things in the oven at the same time but different temperatures, because it’s not going to work. Moreover, it’s important to balance the relative difficulty-level of the main dishes and side dishes: if you plan to prepare an elaborate main dish, keep the side dishes simple, and vice versa.

Once you have your meal rotation planned, test it out. Pay attention to how long it takes to prep and cook a certain meal and how to time your prep so that everything’s ready for the table at approximately the same time. This sort of information can be really useful when you’re deciding when to use that recipe again: is it more suited to a weeknight? or a weekend? should you prep the side dishes 30 minutes before the main dish is out of the oven? If you’re particularly keen, you can take a moment to write these notes on the recipe so you’ll have them for future reference.

While it’s nice to rely on the same meal rotation all the time, it’s a good idea to switch a few of the meals up every so often, especially to account for seasonal availability and cooking methods. The meals listed above are part of my winter menu and therefore contain a large number of starchy root vegetables, which are the only local veggies available in my area this time of year. I also opt more for roasted vegetables and wilted/braised greens in the winter, whereas in the summer I go for fresh salads. Modifying your meal rotation every three or four months to fit the seasons can also keep your meals from getting boring or repetitive.

However you choose to modify your meal rotation plan, I hope you’ll find it to be a helpful, time-saving tool for your kitchen.

Have any other meal rotation ideas or tips? Post them in the comments below!

Book Review: Practical Paleo (by Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC)

Practical PaleoI bought Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo in March 2013, so I’m writing this review with more than seven months of experience with this book under my belt. After that much time, I can say confidently that this is one of the most useful books in my collection. At 416 pages, this is not a book that can easily be carried around, but in my kitchen it has become a go-to reference guide  for both health and cooking questions.

Health Information (4.5/5)

Although I most frequently use this book as a cookbook (it contains over 100 recipes), I didn’t originally buy it for the food. The first part of the book (124 pages) is devoted entirely to what Sanfilippo calls “The Why–Food and Your Body”. As a Certified Nutrition Consultant, Sanfilippo has lots of experience both learning about how food impacts health and advising clients on how to heal themselves with nutrition. This balance of knowledge and practical experience comes through in the easy-to-understand explanations in this first section, which range from “What is Paleo?” to “Your Digestive System.”

She gives basic information about how the body systems work and how food interacts with those systems. She also provides tips for how to tell if something is wrong and recommendations for how to deal with many issues. One of the most useful pages in the whole book is page 75: a “guide to: your poop!” On this page is a cartoon “poop pageant” which gives hilarious visual representations of what you might be seeing in the toilet. Beneath the cartoon is an explanation of each type (there are seven), what causes that kind of elimination, and tips for how to deal with any non-ideal types.

Beyond this sort of health information, Sanfilippo also supplies useful, practical tips for how to implement a paleo or real food lifestyle. As much as people may like to joke about paleo and “living like a caveman,” it is actually a lifestyle that is relatively easy to fit into modern North American society. By providing guides to grocery shopping, eating out, and travelling, Sanfilippo makes transitioning to real food even easier.

The only thing I’m not wild about in this section is the lack of detailed references. There are references for specific statistics and quotes, but largely the book relies on you to trust in Sanfilippo’s Nutrition Consultant certification. As an academic, I prefer to see clearer evidence that an author has done lots of research on these subjects. This is a book geared more towards a lay audience, however, so many the citation style used is acceptable in this case.

Recipes (5/5)

The recipe section in my copy of this book is covered in post-it notes: all of the recipes I love or want to try are marked. A large portion of the recipes are basic, everyday types of recipes like the “citrus & herb whole roasted chicken” (pg. 256), the “perfectly baked bacon” (pg. 236), and the “mashed faux-tatoes” (pg. 344), but many are more experimental like the “tomatillo shrimp cocktail” (pg. 312) and the “vanilla bean tahini truffles” (pg. 396). The recipes are divided into several sections: kitchen basics, which includes a recipe for bone broth as well as instructions on how to chop vegetables; breakfast; poultry; beef & bison; seafood; lamb; sides & salads; sauces & dips; and, finally, treats & sweets.

Many of the go-to meals in my kitchen come from this book. I love the “rainbow red cabbage salad” for a summer party or potluck because it is bright and colourful (from the cabbage, carrots, broccoli, and mango) and it is really easy to put together: no cooking required. Many of the vegetable side dishes like the “sautéed red cabbage with onions and apples” are also favourites.

What’s really great about each recipe is the information provided in the sidebars. On each page, it is noted whether a recipe contains nuts, eggs, nightshades, or FODMAPs (four common intolerances explained in the first section of the book) so that anyone looking to avoid those foods can have a quick-glance way of determining whether a certain recipe is OK. The sidebar also contains notes on possible substitutions for people avoiding one or more of those foods.

There are also suggested meal plans in the book that give specific suggestions for different health conditions (like autoimmune conditions, neurological health, and cancer recovery) and goals (like athletic performance and fat loss). I’m not a big fan of meal plans in general, so I can’t speak to their utility specifically. However, they do seem well put-together, and there are shopping lists for each of the meals plans that are accessible on Sanfilippo’s website.

Food Photography (5/5)

As much as I may love the recipes, the food photography in any cookbook is really what decides whether I use it or not. A cookbook with few or no pictures will remain on my shelf, largely untouched, but one that contains beautiful, colour-filled pictures will frequently be used. All of the pictures in Practical Paleo were taken by Bill Staley of The Food Lovers Kitchen and really the only way to describe them is as food porn. Each recipe contains at least one full-page, full-colour picture of the prepared dish, and some also contain process pictures to guide the reader through the preparation of the recipe itself.

Overall Layout & Appearance (4/5)

Just like the photos, the overall appearance of this book is excellent: the text is colourful and well-formatted (the author’s experience in graphic design is evident). Even in the health section, where the information could easily have been presented in a textbook-boring way, there are colourful cartoons and charts to keep the reader engaged.

The only real complaint I have about this book is how large it is. All of the information is very useful, but I often wish that it had been divided in two: a health book and a cookbook. It always seems awkward to me to pull a book off my cookbook shelf when I have a question about my digestive health. Also, with the book being so large, it is difficult to keep it propped open on the counter while I cook.

Overall, I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about nutrition and health in an accessible way or to anyone who just wants some really good recipes to use on an everyday basis. 

Meal Ideas: The Evolution of a Paleo Breakfast (Part II)

This post is part of the Meal Ideas series. Finding something to eat that is simultaneously affordable, quick to prepare, healthy, AND delicious can be next-to-impossible sometimes. In this section I post pictures of the food I make, links to recipes I love, and some tips for saving time and money while still cooking great-tasting healthy food.

The Evolution of a Paleo Breakfast in Four Stages (Stages 3 & 4)

Stage 3: Hodge Podge

IMG_0389Curried Cabbage, Ground Pork, and Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This meal is an excellent one for people small budgets and big appetites. Sweet potatoes are an excellent, inexpensive, and nutrient-dense carb source for any meal, and cabbage is even less expensive (usually $0.79/lb). One head of cabbage will produce a lot of food.

I have two favourite ways to prepare cabbage. For red cabbage I like to use the recipe for sautéed cabbage, apples, and onions from Practical Paleo. For green cabbage (as pictured above) I prefer to sauté the cabbage with some yellow onions and a generous helping of curry powder (turmeric alone would also be great). Always remember to use a good quality fat like coconut oil or pastured lard when sautéing.

The protein in this meal was also chosen for its economy: ground pork is generally less expensive than other ground meats, so if eggs aren’t an option, it’s a good choice for a budget meal. I ate between 4 and 6 ounces of ground pork mixed in with the sautéed  cabbage. Ground pork is also a good meat to buy from a good source (pastured pigs). While any good quality meat will be more expensive than meat from animals raised in CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), ground pastured pork is usually still under $5/lb and it’s better for your health.

Stage 4: Nutrient Density

IMG_0564Beef Heart Sausage with Braised Kale, Steamed Carrots, and Raw Sauerkraut

The most recent iteration of my breakfast journey was chosen mostly for its nutrient density. In June 2013, I started the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) to help heal my gut and hopefully improve my symptoms of Raynaud’s Disease (an autoimmune-related condition which affects the circulation of blood to my hands, feet, and nose). One of the recommendations on AIP is to eat nutrient-dense foods as often as possible.

The sausage patties shown in the picture are ones I make myself using half grass-fed beef and half grass-fed beef heart. I get my sausage meat at Your Corner Butcher in the Byward Market, Ottawa, because ALL of their beef is 100% grass-fed. Heart meat is delicious; I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to eat more nutrient-dense meat without having to deal with the strong taste of liver or some other organs. Because heart is a muscle, it isn’t all that noticeably different from regular muscle meat. Like all organ meats, heart is also less expensive than muscle meat. I prepare my sausages according to this recipe, using the instructions for cooking them in the oven. I highly recommend using the spices dictated in the recipe: I tinkered around with my own combinations for a while, but I can’t find anything better than that sage, mace, and garlic powder combo.

The vegetables for this meal are the result of a fairly random choice. In accordance with the diet recommendations made by Dr. Terry Wahls, I try to always have about 3 cups of vegetables on my plate at each meal. Braised kale and steamed carrots are two vegetables that often end up on my plate because they’re inexpensive and easy to make in large batches, but sometimes I’ll use sautéed red cabbage and/or a microwaved sweet potato (3-5 minutes depending on size).

The final part of this nutrient-dense meal is my homemade raw sauerkraut. Sauerkraut has many benefits to overall health because it is a probiotic food. The beneficial bacteria which are the result of the fermentation process can help your immune system and improve gut health. I use the recipe from Practical Paleo to make it myself, and I often ferment some carrots and ginger with the cabbage. If you don’t want to make it (or don’t want to wait two weeks for it to ferment), there are many brands of raw sauerkraut that can be found in almost any organic or natural food store. My favourite brand before I started making my own was Karthein’s Unpasteurized Organic Sauerkraut. I usually see it sold for $9.99/jar, but I can make 2 jars of it at home for the price of one organic cabbage ($3 at my local farmer’s market).

There are a lot of options for breakfast outside of cereal, oatmeal, and toast. Hopefully with these thoughts and suggestions you will be able to find a breakfast combination that suits your taste, your health, and your time and budget constraints. Bon Appetit!

Meal Ideas: The Evolution of a Paleo Breakfast

This post is part of the Meal Ideas series. Finding something to eat that is simultaneously affordable, quick to prepare, healthy, AND delicious can be next-to-impossible sometimes. In this section I post pictures of the food I make, links to recipes I love, and some tips for saving time and money while still cooking great-tasting healthy food.

The Evolution of a Paleo Breakfast In Four Stages (Stages 1 & 2)

Stage 1: The Paleo Template

IMG_0332Kitchen Sink Frittata with Roasted Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes

I call this breakfast my “paleo template” breakfast because it meets all of the basic criteria of paleo but still isn’t very far from standard breakfast food (an omelet and home fries), so it is a great place to start. Despite the mess of colours that ends up on the plate, this breakfast is actually very easy to put together. This breakfast is useful for an on-the-go lifestyle because the dishes can be made in large batches ahead of time, frozen or refrigerated, and then reheated when you want to eat them.

The Kitchen Sink Frittata is really just a combination of whatever veggies and meat you happen to have around (or whatever was on sale at the grocery store that week) and eggs (which are probably the least expensive protein source around, even if you’re buying pastured eggs). Sautée the meat and veggies till they’re cooked, fold in twelve eggs, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook for a couple of minutes until the eggs start to get more solid. Pour the mixture into an oven safe dish (I used a 9×13 lasagna pan) and broil for 3-5 minutes until the top is golden brown. Usually I would make this with a bunch of kale, a large onion, 8 oz of cremini mushrooms, a sweet red pepper, and a pound of bacon or sausage.

The Roasted Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes are a great alternative to home fries if you prefer sweet potatoes to white potatoes like I do. (If you prefer white potatoes, try roasting them instead). Just chop or dice up a few sweet potatoes (however many will fill the container you have – I used a large roasting pan, which fit four large sweet potatoes) and through them in the pan. Then coat the potatoes with cinnamon and melted coconut oil (butter or animal fat would also be good). Roast them at 400F for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes.

If Roasted Sweet Potatoes seem like too much work to you, try just microwaving a whole sweet potato (make sure to puncture the skin with a fork) for 4-5 minutes and eating that alongside your frittata instead.

Stage 2: Egg Sensitivity

IMG_0370Roasted Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes, Bacon-Braised Kale, and Sautéed Veggies

This new breakfast came about because I realized, after completing my first Whole30, that I have a sensitivity to eggs. After being pretty-much paleo for four months and 100% paleo for one month, I was feeling much better in some ways, but in other ways things were getting worse: the more eggs I ate, the worse my digestion got. I stopped eating eggs, and in less than 24 hours I was feeling MUCH better.

Because I eliminated eggs so quickly and then didn’t go back, I had to quickly find an egg-free breakfast alternative that wasn’t going to take any longer to prepare than the old breakfast. What I ended up with was basically the “paleo template” breakfast without the eggs. I continued to make the roasted sweet potatoes, and I sautéed the other veggies together to eat on their own.  For protein I made bacon-braised kale, which I adapted from The Paleo Mom’s recipe for Bacon-Braised Cabbage. Instead of cabbage, I used kale, but other than that the instructions are the same.

This version of breakfast didn’t really end up having enough protein for me, so I eventually moved on to a new egg-free breakfast. To see that one or the next (my current breakfast) take a look at Part Two of this post.