For the love of ghee and screaming for ice cream 

What happens when you blend ghee, honey, turmeric and coconut milk together? Magic.

Ever heard of PaleoFx? IN a nutshell, it is a conference that has everything to do with food, health and wellness. The world comes together for three days to listen to renowned speakers and experts on nutrition and body optimization. Some of the best speakers were found in the exhibit hall too. Friday and saturday, I hit all the booths and spoke with all the vendors. I learned their stories and what makes each of these participating companies special.

I met the most knowledgable man when it comes to ghee and spices while attending PFX17 in Austin Texas. Sandeep Agarwal and his family have been making ghee for 5 generations. They know their stuff. Everything is made by hand in small batches to ensure the utmost in quality. They make their ghee as they would make it for their own family. The heart in their logo is all about the love they put in their products. What does this have to do with ice cream you may be wondering. I will get there eventually. I promise.

In case you don’t know what ghee is, it is grass fed butter that has been clarified to remove all but trace amounts of casein and lactose. Ghee is a nutrient dense food that can be enjoyed in everything from daily cooking to coffee to ice cream. Yes, ice cream. That’s where I come in.

Sleep was elusive to say the least while attending this event. My head was buzzing from all the information I was taking in and the ways to implement everything I was learning in my own world. Saturday night, as my eyes were finally closing, the thought of ice cream and ghee popped into my head. It wasn’t unlike the old chocolate and peanut butter commercial from way back. I couldn’t wait to get to the Palmer Conference Centre.

I left the Pure Indian Foods booth on Sunday with a jar of the Coconut Ghee and visions of ice cream dancing in my head.

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Honey turmeric ice cream:

  • 20 ounces of room temperature full fat coconut milk (cold will cause the ghee to solidify in chunks)
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 2 tablespoons melted Coconut Ghee (I used Pure Indian Foods)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of Vital Proteins Gelatin (provides amazing texture and gut-healing properties)
  • 1/4 cup boiling water (to dissolve the gelatin)

Pour the coconut milk, honey and ghee into a blender and process until smooth. Dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water and whisk in the turmeric. Add the dissolved gelatin and turmeric to the coconut milk and blend again unit completely incorporated. Place in the fridge to cool for approximately an hour.

Quickly blend again prior to adding the mixture to the ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturers instructions. My Cuisinart machine took about 25 minutes.  If you prefer your ice cream more of a soft-serve consistency, dig in. Otherwise, transfer to a glass loaf pan and freeze for a couple of hours for firmer ice cream. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to make scooping easier.

I sprinkled mine with some Wild Hibiscus Flower Pyramid Salt Flakes just before eating. Truth time? I had this for breakfast right after my faTT coffee.

 

Beach days and honey roasted carrot soup 

You never know when inspiration will strike.

I am fortunate enough to live approximately a 12-14 minute walk from a beach. Yes, I have timed it. Have I mentioned this before? I never tire of the view and I never take it for granted. People travel great distances to see the ocean and I have it practically in my backyard. Even in the rain, it is a beautiful ting to behold.

Let me take you there.

There is no one else at the beach. It isn’t tropical white sand. The beach here is predominantly rocks. That is ok because they are easy to walk along to get to your final sitting area. The rocks also act as a deterrent to a lot of folks, so that helps keep it more private. The best things always require a bit of work, wouldn’t you agree? A few minutes along and you find the perfect little alcove below the overhanging trees. You are sheltered from winds and are less visible if anyone else happens along the beach. You set up your chair beside a large flat rock to act as your table.

You are sitting at the beach (in the shade) sipping some cold brew coffee and snacking on all the good snacky snacks you packed. An eagle is circling overhead, then dives down and plucks a fish from the water right in front of your eyes. He returns to the nest, which is situated somewhere overhead, with his treasure. In the distance, a seal is bobbing up and down in the tide. You play a minor game of guessing where he will pop up next. In your head you are thinking Marco Polo and wondering if he is doing the same. Secretly, you long to see the dorsal fin of an Orca break the water.

The only sounds to be heard are those provided by Mother Nature. She really knows how to work her symphony. The tide is relentless. The continual sound of the waves releasing their energy to the shore is hypnotic. That is punctuated by the calls of the seagulls and geese. You close your eyes and breathe in the fresh salty air. You could almost fall asleep because you are so relaxed and at one with the universe.

Carrots. Roasted carrots. Honey roasted carrots. Turmeric, honey roasted carrots. Soup.

Your eyes fly open and you nearly dump your coffee in an attempt to put notes to paper as it were (ok, in reality you are pecking away on your phone) before the ethereal vision of this soup leaves your relaxed brain forever.

You feel content having written down your idea but can no longer remain in a tranquil state because you want to try the recipe your brain has gifted you. You quickly pack up your gear, look around, ensure nothing is left behind and head home.

The roasted carrots on their own were pretty darn delightful and by all means stop there and enjoy them as a side dish. However, sometimes you just want the comfort of soup.

Honey roasted carrot soup:

  • 6 large carrots, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (I love Pure Indian Foods ghee. I had the honour of meeting Sandeep at PaleoFx 2017)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock (home-made is best)
  • 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350.

Peel the carrots and trim the ends. I left mine whole. Cutting them up would shorten the oven roasting time. Mix the ghee, honey, turmeric, garlic and salt and pepper and baste over the carrots. Roast in the oven for an hour until fork tender. Put them aside to cool slightly.

Once the carrots have cooled enough to handle, puree them using a high powered blender or food processor. Slowly add the stock to the carrot puree. Make sure you are allowing any built up steam to vent as you are doing this. We don’t want any burns or soup explosions. Return carrot puree and stock to a large pot. Stir the coconut milk and heat to desired temperature.

Taste for additional salt and pepper.

Vegan: swap the chicken stock for veg stock, coconut sugar for honey and coconut oil for the ghee

 

Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

This question had plagued mankind for a long time. A really long time. This can get one into all kinds of deep and philosophical conversations about evolution and genetic changes.

Does it really matter though?

We have eggs and we have chickens. That’s all that counts, right?

Having said that, all eggs are not created equal. A quick read of the grocery store shelf provides you the opportunity to purchase caged, cage-free, free-range and pasture-raised eggs. I just wanted to buy some eggs. The choices can make your head spin. What’s the difference? I’m glad you asked.

I had the opportunity to attend PaleoF(x) 2017 in Austin Texas. This annual event is where the Paleo world comes together to listen to speakers, witness fitness demonstrations, take part in yoga sessions and walk the exhibit floor with some phenomenal vendors. The folks running the booths are not just there to hawk their products. Every person I chatted with was passionate about their product and company. They were willing to spend the time to explain the science and the stories behind their products. A lot of the Paleo commercial consumer goods were born of personal need. These stories were moving to say the least.

One booth had a gal cooking up some eggs. I stopped because they smelled so good. Plus, the t-shirt she was wearing made me smile. C’mon, isn’t this cute?Girls-on-Grass-ladies-front_1024x1024

I relished the humble scrambled egg she handed me. It was cooked in their grass-fed pasture-raised butter. A match made in heaven. I had to know what made these eggs so great tasting.

I interviewed Amanda (on the right) from Vital Farms about the difference between the types of eggs.

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Me: Hey Amanda, we all love eggs but it can be overwhelming at the store trying to choose between all the types available to us. Can you break down the difference between them?

Amanda: Hi, of course! The easiest analogy is that cage-free is like four human beings living in a bathtub. That’s the amount of space the birds have. They have removed the cages but haven’t given the chickens any more space.

Me: Wow, that is really cramped living space. Do free-range chickens have more space? Is it really as free as we want to believe?

Amanda: Not exactly. Free-rtange is the equivalent of two humans living in a bathtub. They have slightly more space than the cage-free birds. They should have outdoor access but is is regulated.

Me: How does Vital Farms differ with their pasture-raised chickens?

Amanda: Pasture-raised is the highest quality you can get in a grocery store. It is like one human living in approximately a 10×10 area. Each bird has 108 square feet of open pasture. The way we set our farms up, the barn is in the middle. The farm is broken up into different sections and we open up two sections at a time for three weeks. We then rotate the birds through the different parts of the fields so they are constantly vegetating on fresh grass, bugs, worms and grubs. Because they eat what we call “nature’s salad”, are exercising and getting fresh air, it creates an egg with more nutrients. This is healthier for the birds and healthier for us.

Me: What can you tell me about the farmers?

Amanda: We partner with small family farmers. We have over 100 farm partners now. The average size of our flock is about 5,000 hens on 2 1/2 acres. Our farmers practice respectful stewardship of the chickens, animals and farms they keep. They believe in the full circle of the cycle.

If you live in an area that carries Vital Farms eggs and butter, lucky you. Go support them. If not, well, you now have a pretty clear picture of the living conditions of egg-laying hens. Think about it. Would you want to live in a tub with three other people?

The decisions we make as consumers can change the way farming happens. We need to support farmers and companies who respect and properly care for their crops, flocks and herds. Bottom line? Choose pasture-raised when it comes to eggs and butter.

Oh and of course I got a t-shirt.

 

Variety is the spice of life . . . 

If this is true, let’s play with the words a bit and see what else we can come up with. 

Spice gives variety to life. Ahhh yes. I like it. 

Spice allows for personal taste. I’m not speaking of strict “spices” but more in terms of general flavours. Two people can set out to make the same thing and create two totally unique yet similar products. 

Take an avocado. Mother Nature gave us this beautiful, fat, almost blank canvas that happily takes the backseat to allow other flavours to shine through. There are more ways to transform this smooth creamy fruit into guacamole than there are boy-bands. 

Few things get my heart a-flutter more than the tell-tale moment you cut your avocado in half and twist it apart to reveal either avocado-elation or avocado-disappointment. 

You know exactly what I mean. Upon first glance you either smile or you think “unnhhhhhhh, that cost me (fill in the blank with money invested in aforementioned avocado)” 

That which you hold in your hand is either beautiful or it is full of brown lines and bruises or it is too yellow and not mashable. Experts will tell you to squeeze them, you want it to yield slightly under thumb pressure or to smell them. Not sure what I’m trying to smell. They also say to remove the little nub from the stem end. If it’s light green in colour, it’s supposed to be ripe. If it’s brown, it’s overripe or dried out. Well, only one person ever gets to do that Lillie trick and guess what? Once you remove that little nubbin, that parts dries out! So no, that method doesn’t offer much help at all in picking a good avocado. 


Now let’s discuss guacamole. You can add very little or a lot to personalize this condiment, sauce, spread, dip, however you refer to it. 

This version does not have all kinds of minced onions or peppers in it. My goal, as always, is to make things easy and tasty. Hence the name of this blog. TWEATStuff. That Was Easy And Tasty Stuff. (I’m a big word nerd and love acronyms) I digress. 

Guacoli:

  • 1 large avocado 
  • 2 tablespoons Paleo-friendly mayo (I used Chosen Foods avocado oil mayo)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder 
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cut avocado in half (hope the avocado gods are smiling on you and giving you a good one). Spoon flesh from both halves into bowl. Use a fork to smash it up. Add the lime juice, mayo and spices and mix until well combined. 

Grab any guacoli delivery system you see fit, be it chips, veg or a spoon and enjoy. 

Let’s chat about packaging 

Everything comes with a label these days. 

By law, tobacco companies are not allowed to brand their products to appeal to children. I believe alcohol companies have similar guidelines. These are regulated to discourage children from trying and becoming addicted to things that are not healthy choices. Seems like a pretty solid idea. The consumer should know the risks associated with a product or service. 

Now let’s chat about food. Food-like products go be a little more specific. 


I can spend hours in a grocery store. I’ll read labels and compare ingredients. The other day while looking at coconut milk, I found these. This atrocity is sold as a “no cooking required” snack, for, you guessed it, kids. With a look at the blue monster-thingy, I’d say younger children. It almost resembles a cross between Sully from Disney’s “Monster’s Inc” and Sesmae Street’s Cookie Monster.  

Food-products are branded and packaged to catch our eye and the attention of children. These types of goods are located at a child’s eye-level. The bright coloured boxes with cartoon characters appeal to our little ones. It’s amazing how they can spot these things with so many other brightly coloured packages vying for our attention. 


The flip side of the package tells you of some “healthy facts” about corn oil. Some of the claims really make it sound like a good choice. 

The expiry date on this bag of monster nonsense is 2019. Yes, two years from now. Isn’t that a scary thought? The likely accompaniment for this in a lunch kit would be a drink. Probably a juice-box. Again, read the label. Liquid sugar with the promise of 10% real fruit juice. Some kids may get a can of pop instead, but probably a “diet” pop as it has only one calorie. Gotta watch those calories right? 

Food has been engineered to be hyper-palatable. What does that mean? It means sugar, a lot of sugar, sugar in many forms, is in our food in amounts that flip switches in our brains. Things are saltier, greasier and sweeter than anything Mother Nature produces. This triggers a chemical response in the pleasure centre of our brain. We physically crave more. Crunch and mouth-feel are worked and worked until it is just right. We now are teetering on the brink of addiction. 

This is legal. 

It should be criminal. Our children become innocent addicts through no fault of their own.  The role of parent/caregiver becomes increasingly more difficult as we almost require a degree to interpret food labels to understand what we are consuming. 

These marketing tactics are no different than the creepy person trying to lure a child into a vehicle with the promise of a candy bar or puppy. 

Why food quality matters

It’s kind of funny how food has become such a hot topic.

It’s food. We eat it. Shouldn’t really be more complicated than that. Food should be recognizable in its original form when we eat it or at least some semblance of the packaging Mother Nature provided. Obviously we aren’t about to gnaw on the side of a cow or pluck a salmon from the water and bite into it the way a bear would. We are a bit more civilized than that. Zombie apocalypse notwithstanding.

It used to be only the “tree-hugging hippies” who wanted their produce to be free from pesticides and genetic modifications and they were often mocked and ridiculed. Sad thought really. Shaming someone for wanting something better for their body, their children’s bodies and the planet we share. Turns out, they were way ahead of the game. We should have been right beside them, standing up and fighting for our rights as consumers to have explicit ingredient lists on the things we eat. Instead, we ran for the sexy two year shelf-stable meal and opted for super size fries and a large one-calorie soft drink to go with it.

It’s never too late to effect change.

Invest time searching for farmers in your area. Click here to go to Eat Wild. This amazing resource will help you find local farmers who are raising livestock ethically and practicing sustainable farming techniques. You will be amazed to learn who is growing what in your backyard.

Sustainable farming practices and the rotation of crops helps prevent mineral depletion of the soil. Different crops take different nutrients from the soil. Another reason to eat seasonal produce. Eat what is growing for the time of year. Some things grow better together by acting as a natural pest repellant for another crop. Livestock feeds on grasses and then, yes, poops, or fertilizes, the soil to replenish nutrients back into the dirt. Better soil = more nutrients in the vegetables and fruits. The ozone-layer depleting, methane gas horror stories are thanks to the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) methods of raising livestock. Those creatures are standing shoulder to shoulder and knee-deep (figuratively speaking) in their own waste. Remember the video on how canola oil is made? One of the by-products from the production of this oil, is cattle feed. No thanks. I want to be able to eat the food my food eats.

I truly believe we are what we eat. If you are eating garbage, food-like products, I’d wager you are living in a body that is under duress. Maybe you suffer from frequent colds or illness. Perhaps early arthritic symptoms. Poor sleep. Low energy. Headaches. Eczema. GI issues such as constipation or diarrhea. Behavioural issues. The list is endless. Food quality won’t necessarily “fix” everything that ails you, but it’ll certainly help a whole lot.

Time to stand up for yourself. Don’t just eat. Nourish your body with real food. Plan and prepare your meals and eat them mindfully. Put your fork down between bites. Chew and actually taste the food you are eating. Stop wolfing your meal down while sitting in front of the tv. Give your body time to adjust to eating real food. Giving up the convenient, packaged foods comes with a detox period, not unlike that of an addict. You will go through withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, cold and flu-like symptoms. Your energy will tank. Your skin may break out. At this point, you may be thinking “this sucks! I’m supposed to be feeling better by eating better.” It’ll happen. You just gotta hang on.

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I know this first-hand. When I changed from eating a gluten-free diet to a Paleo template, my skin broke out in a terrible, itchy rash. I thought this food and nutrition shift was supposed to be good for me, why is my body reacting like this? Gluten-free does not necessarily equal healthy. There is a lot of crappy food that is labelled gluten-free. So many of these packaged foods are high in sugars and unnecessary carbohydrates. As your body rids itself of the garbage in your system, it puts that trash curb side, or in my case, on my skin. Think of your skin as a revolving door.

Let’s go back to basic biology. Our cells are building blocks. They are constantly moving “food” and energy across membranes, walls and borders to help our bodies repair, function and grow. This system is extremely complex and delicate in nature. It’s tricky enough for the cells to do their thing correctly when given the correct tools. Why would you put something that is completely foreign into your cells and force them to process something they don’t recognize as food? The body does the best it can with what you put in it. What to do with the things it doesn’t recognize? The cells become hoarders and stash the unrecognizable stuff to deal with later. You can only hide garbage for so long before it smells and things start to fall apart.

What goes on, goes in and what goes in, eventually comes out.

 

 

 

Frosting fails and the birth of a new ball

I’m not entirely sure why my go-to cookie shape seems to be balls these days.

Could be because they are two-bite size. Could be because I get to use my handy little small scoop that I love so much. Could be because I simply like saying balls. Balls. In my head, I hear the Saturday Night live skit with Alec Baldwin and his “Schweaty Balls” over and over. Gets me giggling every time. Schweaty Balls.

I did not set out to make balls this weekend. I made strawberry coconut muffins and planned on topping them with a lovely vanilla whipped frosting to make ’em all fancy-like. That went sideways real quick. The original recipe for the frosting called for palm shortening. I do not have that on hand, so I improvised with some melted coconut oil. Yeah, yeah, I can hear your giggles. “You’re so silly, that substitution won’t work.” “Ghee or butter would have been a better swap.” Yeah, I kinda figured that out a little too late. Well, you’re right. Melted coconut oil did not make for a good substitution. No matter what I did to the mixture in the bowl, it just was not about to magically come together and transform into the creamy whipped frosting in the book. Sigh.

I hate wasting ingredients so I had to find a way to salvage what was in my bowl. Like the Grinch, I puzzled and puzzled til my puzzler was sore. Then I got an idea. A wonderful, not awful, idea. I grabbed a few more things from the shelf and put the oven on. My face may have resembled that of the Grinch’s maniacal grin at that moment.

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I do this type of rogue baking when the house is empty and no one is around to watch me sweat and swear, uh, I mean, make magic.

These are light little bites of heaven. Not overly sweet and they are full of great fat thanks to the coconut oil swap debacle.

Goji berry and cacao nib balls:

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons almond flour
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut shreds
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup goji berries (I soaked mine in warm water for a few minutes as they were rock hard)

Preheat the oven to 350. line a cookie sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.

Using a hand mixer, beat the honey, coconut oil, egg, vanilla, salt, coconut flour and almond flour together.

Mix in the coconut shreds. Drain the goji berries (if you soaked them) and blot dry with some paper towel. Stir in the cacao nibs and add the goji berries last to minimize the colour bleed into the cookies.

Pack your dough into that handy little cookie scoop and drop your cookies onto the sheet. Still no cookie scoop? (Seriously, go get one. Next time someone asks what you want for your birthday/Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Festivus/whatever you do or don’t celebrate, tell them you want a cookie scoop.) You will have to go old school then. Wet your hands and roll your balls.

These will not spread out during baking. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool on the sheet for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

 

 

 

Oh for the love of balls

Not those balls. Different balls.

I’m talking chocolate, coconut, nutty, fat balls. Paleo and Vegan balls. Balls you will love. Balls for days. Balls you can whip up really fast.

Some days I am focussed in the kitchen and other days I bounce off the walls and cabinets like Ricochet Rabbit. Remember him? Bing bing bing Ricochet Rabbit. There’s an age drop. I may have really only watched it a couple of times. I can’t recall the specifics of any episodes like I can with Bugs Bunny, other than him literally bouncing off everything in the room. Upon reflection, maybe he was a character with either a sugar addiction, food sensitivities/allergies or possibly ADHD. Maybe too much caffeine? Who knows.

Today was one of those excited electron days. Inside I was buzzing with the energy to “DO STUFF” but I also wanted something treat-like without the associated guilt of inhaling half a bag of chocolate chips (I may have done that once or twice before). I have an upcoming trip to San Diego and I wanted something I can take on the flight that won’t get confiscated as contraband goods. So these easy balls were born.

(Yikes! It looks like I could do with a manicure and some cuticle work.)

I chucked some stuff into the food processor and crossed my fingers. This turned out way better than I could have ever hoped. I’m glad I was paying attention to what and how much went in. Sometimes the creative process really is a blur.

Really.

I may need to make more as I don’t think the inaugural batch will last until I fly. That’s ok because that means they were that good. I eat all the stuff I make, even if it isn’t stupendous because I hate wasting food. When the people I love and live with enjoy my creations, I do the Snoopy happy dance inside.

I give you: ccnf (chocolate coconut nutty fat) balls:

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 10 Medjool dates cut into quarters
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
  • 1 tablespoon coconut butter
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Pinch of sea salt

Pulse the nuts for a few seconds in the bowl of the food processor using the S-blade. Add the quartered dates and coconut shreds and pulse until the mix almost holds together when you squeeze a small amount in your fingers. Obviously don’t put your fingers in the processor while it is running. They aren’t kidding when they say that blade is sharp.

Add the coconut butter, coconut oil, salt and cocoa powder and process until everything is well mixed.

Pack the firmly mix into a small cookie scoop. smallcookiescoopMy favourite one is a 1 tablespoon measure scoop. Pop them into the fridge to set. Makes about 15-18 small balls (depending on how much you “quality check” the mixture as you roll your balls).

Don’t have a small scoop? Don’t fret marmoset. Just get your hands dirty and roll your balls the old-fashioned way.

Winner winner chicken dinner 

Don’t you just love a big fancy dinner?

Picture the room. Tasteful decor, perhaps candles and ambient music in the background. There doesn’t appear to be any other patrons in the restaurant. No menus.  The server begins your meal. A salad and maybe a soup course or some other appetizer with an aperitif. Fish, then game followed by beef all with perfect wine pairings. Oooh, dessert and perhaps a cheese plate with a glass of port. Coffee and cognac anyone?

Wait a second. What’s that noise? It isn’t stopping. It’s getting louder and louder. Oh right. You’re sleeping. Or you were sleeping. Your brain alerts you to the sound of your alarm going off and you haul your carcass from under the covers. Feet hit the cold floor and reality lands on your shoulders with a thud. It was just a dream.

You get through your work day relatively unscathed. All day in the back of your mind, however, lurks the age old question of what to make for dinner. When you get home, you open the fridge hoping for inspiration. Meh. The pantry holds no magic either.

You know you don’t want to cave in and order pizza or some other takeaway food that will leave your wallet empty and your gut and heart full of pain and regret. You remember the portioned flattened chicken thighs in the freezer.  Into the sink with water they go. They will thaw out fairly quickly because you froze them flat. (Aren’t you glad you did that?)

While the chicken is thawing, you get busy hauling the veg from the crisper. This becomes a total Hail Mary play. Carrots, parsnips, brussel spouts and maybe the last of the broccoli. Oh hey, grab the half onion too while you’re in the fridge.

You grab a shallow roasting pan and place it on the counter beside the cutting board. Turn the oven on to get it to temperature while you prep everything. Carrots peeled and chopped into chunks. Parsnips get the same treatment. Brussel sprouts get halved (keep the outer leaves to make chips or sauté them for breakfast tomorrow) and the broccoli is split into small florets. Quarter the onion and dump all the veg into a big bowl. Meanwhile you have melted some ghee in the microwave and have added a shake or two of your favourite spice blend. You pour the seasoned ghee all over the veg.

You check the thawing chicken and see it’s almost ready. You put more ghee in the microwave to melt. Grab the kitchen shears and cut the bones from the thighs. Trim the excess skin while you are at it. You put the bones aside to make stock later. You’re so smart it makes you smile. Your grandma would be proud.

You dump all the coated veg into the roasting pan. You stir a healthy splash of bourbon hot sauce (oh yeah, this is the stuff dreams are made of) into the ghee and slather the chicken all over with this deliciousness and plop it on top of the vegetables.

By this point, the oven is ready and in goes dinner. A quick clean up of a cutting board, a knife, one bowl and a glass measuring cup and you can sit down until food is ready. Or shower or feed the cats (or dogs), open mail or any other home type tasks.

In about 40 minutes, you are tucking into a super all in one meal. Plus, lookit all the veg you are stuffing into yourself and your people. You should be proud of yourself. Dinner crisis averted.

Winning weeknight chicken dinner:

  • 8 skin-on, boneless (or debone them yourself and make some stock) chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup melted ghee, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon Virginia Gentleman’s Bourbon Chipotle Hot Sauce (this stuff is golden! but by all means use another favourite brand)
  • veg of choice to fill your roasting pan  NOTE: I used 3 large carrots, 2 medium parsnips several handfuls of brussel sprouts, half a medium onion and about 2 cups broccoli florets, but use what you have handy
  • 2 teaspoons of your favourite spice blend
  • salt and pepper to taste

Set oven to 375.

Scrub, peel and chop your veg so they are all around the same size. Things will cook at the same time. Mix the spice blend with 1/4 cup of the meted ghee and toss the chopped veg to coat. Put the veggies in the bottom of your roasting pan, spreading everything out evenly.

Mix the hot sauce with the other 1/4 cup of meted ghee and coat the chicken thighs, placing them right on top of the veggies, skin side up.

Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes or until internal temperature of the chicken reads 165.

Like a Scout, it’s good to be prepared

Every good heist has to be carefully planned. Nothing is ever left to chance. If you want to get away with things and be on Easy Street, you need to plan and prepare for any possible outcome.

Food really isn’t any different. You need to plan and prepare. When you don’t have a well-thought out plan, that’s when things start sliding sideways and you find yourself calling for take-out, ordering pizza or whipping through the closest drive-thru. This is then followed by a lot of regret and self-flagellation. These feelings are neither productive nor conducive to getting back on track. Time to get over yourself and get back to the business of feeding yourself good food.

Flip though your stack of recipe books and jot down meal ideas for the upcoming week. Think of all those food videos you share and like on Facebook and Pinterest. (They all have thousands of shares and views but I wonder how many folks have ever made any of them.) Dinner doesn’t have to be a rut. If a recipe calls for bison and well, you are not willing to shell out the dollars for this particular protein, you have permission to use a different red meat. The flavours may not be 100% as the recipe creator intended, but you have a new dish in your repertoire. Same goes for fish. Use cod instead of halibut. Trout for salmon. Just buy the best you can afford. Wild canned salmon on sale? Load up. You can add that to your salads, mix it with some mayo, make salmon cakes and so on.

Like most folks, you probably shop once a week for groceries. If you hit places like Costco, you might wind up with large packs of meats that look a little intimidating. The solution to the party-pak of protein is portioning (ooh, how I love me some alliteration).

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The five pound pack of ground beef has been weighed into half-pound measures and patted flat. By patting it flat like this, it freezes faster, is easier to store in the freezer and best of all, it thaws faster.

Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are often cheaper than their boneless, skinless counterpart. Be sure to flatten the chicken when you portion it to freeze. Like the ground meat, it will thaw much faster. When dinner decisions are pressing, you want to know things will thaw quickly. If you are paying premium dollar for pastured chicken, you want all the parts. You can debone the thighs yourself as long as you have a good pair of kitchen shears. It really is easy to do. Plus, now you have some bones for stock. Your grandma would be proud. Win-win.

Speaking of stock, or bone broth as it’s called in the trendy circles, portion and freeze that too for quick and easy use down the road.

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I have silicone muffin pans that make baking stupidly easy. They never need greasing. Everything just pops right out as slick as can be. I make my stock and ladle it into my muffin pan in 1/4 cup measures and freeze those bad boys. When a recipe calls for a small amount of stock in a recipe, I pull out as many pucks as I need and melt them in the microwave if I’m short on time.

Bottom line, don’t be afraid to buy in bulk. Spend the time in the kitchen portioning and freezing. This meal prep step will save you from feelings of self-loathing as you hide the pizza box in the bottom of the compost collection bucket.

Having a variety of proteins frozen into meal sized amounts will provide you with a good rotation during the week. You won’t be condemned to a week of chicken thighs because you bought the warehouse pack and they need to be eaten – stat!