Saturday, 27 April 2013

Something from Nothing--Asparagus and Broccoli Soup

Sometimes you just gotta stick your head in the fridge and make do with what you have.  And sometimes you just gotta make soup.  That's how this happened.  While in my frugal state of mind, I saved both the broccoli hearts and the asparagus ends after Easter dinner.  I really wanted to kick myself, though, because I'd thrown out a ham bone a couple of days before this.  I was thinking, well, if I don't eat split peas, or navy beans, well, I'm just totally not going to try to make any kind of imitation of those to go with that ham bone--I could not wrap my brain around making anything but split pea soup with that ham bone.

Image from
So I threw it out.

And immediately regretted it.

Because no sooner was it touching the compost garbage, then I thought--wait, I could use to to seriously flavor ANY kind of vegetable soup!  Just like bacon makes it better, ham flavor makes things better, too--ham goes with everything, doesn't it??  Well, next time, my clean-out-the-veggie-crisper-soup is going to involve a ham bone, dang-it!

The biscuits come from Satisfying Eats.  They totally rocked.  See note at bottom.

Now, on with the recipe!


Image from
1 cup (roughly) asparagus ends, PEELED
2 cups broccoli stems, hearts (PEELED) or crowns
1/2 cup onions, chopped
2 cups broth--ham, turkey, or chicken preferably
1 ripe avocado
1 - 2 Tbs lime or lemon juice
butter or fat to saute
garlic powder, salt and pepper (optional)
1 cup leftover ham, or bacon (optional)


In large heavy-bottom pot or dutch oven, saute onions in butter until translucent.  Add broth, broccoli and asparagus, cover and simmer on medium-low heat until broccoli and asparagus are very tender (about 20 minutes).  Remove all to blender or food processor and puree until smooth, adding avocado and lime/lemon juice here.  Return to pot along with ham, if using, heat through, and taste.  Add garlic, salt and pepper if necessary.  Add bacon, if using, right before serving.

*These were the best paleo biscuits I've eaten, to-date!  Voted on by my whole family; actually tasted like flour had been used.  They were fast, and easy.  I only added about 2 Tbs of the Parmesan  and skipped the stevia altogether.  Awesome.  I will be serving these with every soup from this point on...

Sunday, 21 April 2013

DIY Pallet-Love Project #1: The Shoe Rack

Are you on Pinterest?  I am, finally.  I'm actually on it twice--first as My Primal Adventures, and second as Paleo Toronto.  The two accounts have totally different angles, though, just like how the MPA blog, and the PT website, have totally different purposes.  Check them both out, and feel free to suggest things for me, because being new on both, I haven't pinned very much so far.

Along that note, though, if you check out the MPA boards, you'll see I have a pin-board dedicated to DIY projects, and I've pinned a whole bunch of ideas for re-purposing wooden pallets.  I LOVE all the ideas that are out there.  Old pallets have this amazing patina to them that remind me of reclaimed barn-board or old milk crates.  I've found pallets made from soft woods, sure, but I've also found pallets made with maple, cedar and oak.  It is important to know, though, that they treat pallets with chemicals to keep them from rotting.  Kind-of like how they pressure-treat wood for fences and decks, but without the green hue.  These are pretty ugly chemicals, so I highly recommend doing any sanding of this wood in a well-ventilated area or using a dust mask.  Wash your hands after sanding.  And clear-coat the entire project when complete with a water-based urethane product to seal it in  (I'm a huge fan of Benjamin Moore's Stays Clear; it was used on every gym floor throughout the Toronto School Board--this stuff is tough, dries in about an hour, and barely has any odor whatsoever).

I also happen to love reno projects and making stuff myself.  My hubby and I have this beautiful dining room table idea we've fully drawn plans to build, but I want to make it from Douglas Fir which is not a common wood in Ontario (unless you have a really old barn to tear down) so we haven't been able to get out and get the lumber to make it.  But at some point, that will happen.  And until then, I'm building some of these weekend projects using pallets that I can get hold of for free (which fits my budget perfectly).

So, the pallet in the front is the one I chose for the shoe rack.  It doesn't have a nice patina at all, but that doesn't matter if its going in the closet.  I think it's actually spruce, so it's pretty crappy lumber, but the width of the slats and the spacing between them was already perfect.

This is such a simple and genius project.  We measured the space we had in the closet, decided we didn't want the shoe rack to go up above where the coats hung, and cut the top off to the right height.  We used a skilsaw for this.  Then I dragged it out onto my driveway and used a palm-sander with 80-grit paper and sanded all the rough fronts of the slats, the ends, and got between the slats as best as I could.  I didn't want rough splinters marking anyone's shoes.  I took a sanding sponge to it after that, just to get between the slats a little bit better.  It wasn't perfect, not by any means, but it was better than it was before.

Now, it was a bone-chilling 2 degrees Celsius outside and I was just freezing my @$$ off outside, so I dragged the whole thing into my front hallway to seal it with the clear coat (and hopefully seal in some more of the rough edges). Like I said, the Stays Clear has almost no smell whatsoever and dries fast, so why not?

Two coats of Stays Clear (with a light sanding between coats), and the project was done.  It took less than a half day.  My cost?  $4 for more wall plugs to mount it in the back of the closet.  We were out of them.


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Shrimp Creole

I got shrimp on sale a couple of weeks ago, and wanted to try something different.

I found this idea on Pinterest-- (original recipe here) but it wasn't yet paleo--and I preferred to make my own cajun spice blend (I've tasted some pretty horrible store-bought blends...).  A few changes...and voila--delicious and perfect!  My whole family loved this one--and it was done in about 45 minutes, which I love, too.


5 Tbs butter
2 Tbs tapioca starch
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup celery
1 cup red, yellow, or orange peppers
1/2 cup onion
2 cups chicken broth (whatever you have)
1 cup tomatoes
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs cajun/creole spice blend (below)
1 lb raw shrimp
1/2 cup green onions

1 head cauliflower


First, prep everything because this doesn't take long:  Make your spice blend.  Chop onions, peppers, celery, tomato.  Thaw shrimp under lukewarm water, peel and de-tail.  Rice your cauliflower with a food processor.

In heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat, melt butter and continue to cook until butter turns a medium brown (takes about 10 minutes).  Sprinkle tapioca starch over butter and stir to dissolve and allow to thicken for a couple more minutes.  (You are making a roux).  Add onions, celery and peppers and continue to cook until onion is almost transparent.  Add garlic and thyme and continue to cook for 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, broth, Worcestershire sauce, and cajun spice.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.

While this is simmering, cook your rice; I prefer to cook mine for 8 minutes in the microwave with NO added water.  Set aside.

Once you broth and tomato mixture has simmered for 20 minutes, add shrimp, and continue to cook just until shrimp is pink and cooked through.  Sprinkle with green onions and remove from heat.

To serve this up like I did; spoon liquid into wide-mouthed bowls.  Using a half-cup measuring cup, press cooked cauli into the measuring cup, packing tight, then invert over middle of bowl.  Arrange shrimp around perimeter.

Can add hot sauce if you like things spicy.


Cajun Spice Blend:

1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt

Combine in small mason jar.  Goes with everything....

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Frugal Paleo--and Scotch Broth Soup

Since making the big change to paleo, do you ever look at your bank account and just totally have a heart attack?

Happens to me a lot.

Too much.  I seriously, seriously stress over food costs.  And money in general.  On the one hand, I want to do the right thing (buy local, buy organic), on the other hand, I want to keep my house.  And my car.  And my kids.

Sure, good food is important to health--pay for it now in healthy food, or later in medicine bills, all those sayings that justify the crazy food costs of a paleo diet.  Whoever coined all those phrases obviously didn't have a household full of teens, large-breed dogs, a mortgage, cars and debt.  All of these things came before learning about Paleo.

Is it just me???

Ok, I'm going to say something that is going to make me extremely unpopular.

Ready???  It is ok, and still totally Paleo, to shop at the grocery store, to buy food when it's on sale, to skip the organic and the grass-fed and finished meats.  Honestly.

Alright, let me finish.

Because you see, there is "optimum", and there is also "acceptable".  It is optimal to eat grass-fed and finished, and optimal to eat organic produce.  If you are diligent, you can find grass-fed beef for under $4/pound, and grass-fed free-range poultry and Tamworth pork for under $5/pound--and you can even find organic CSA's that are very reasonably priced.  But it doesn't always happen that way.  And not everyone has the large lump of money upfront to buy 250 lbs of pork or cow, no matter how reasonably priced it is.  or the $550 to shell out for a CSA, months in advance of receiving the food.

Don't get me wrong, I am 100% in support of both of those things, of buying local, of getting to know and supporting your local farmers.  But the truth is, if you are on a truly tight food budget, cost matters more than anything else out there.

When money is that tight, it no longer matters what the paleo-perfectionists have to say (or at least. it shouldn't matter).  You can only do what you can afford to do.  Did you know that stress is twice as bad for your body as grains are?  So don't sweat it.  Stretch the almighty dollar as far as you can--in fact, I challenge you to find new and innovative ways to do it!  Anything you do or try is still better than your old diet that used to include grains, soy, legumes, processed foods and refined sugars anymore.  That's a pretty big thing.

And for just one minute here,think about this, how much food do you throw away?   (North) Americans throw out more food than any other nation.

So it is with all of this in mind, this week, and well into my overdraft even after just getting paid, that I am being as frugal as I possibly can, while still eating as well as I can.  I'm making do with what I have, and I'm on a mission to waste nothing.  Oh, how I wish that all the food I need would just materialize in my house, that I didn't have to shop for it.  Food is expensive, but food should also be simple and stress-free.  Open fridge, combine ingredients found in fridge.  Make sure you use every last bit of that giant head of cabbage, use those broccoli stems and the bottoms of the asparagus (but peel them--I learned that one the hard way).  It is all food.  If you only knew what to do with it.

So on with the recipe, right?? ...

I didn't want to waste the bone from the lamb we cooked at Easter--so I threw it in the crock pot for 2 days (with water, apple cider vinegar, dehydrated onions and a bay leaf).  Bone broths are very high in protein, gelatin, they're full of minerals and gut-healing properties--and I don't have to tell you that, right?  You all know that.  And you know what else?  Lamb bones cooked into soup are far less gamey than the actual meat is when you roast it.  It's a good way to start your non-lamb-eating family on the road to enjoying it.

After 2 days of slow-cooking, I found that almost 2 cups of meat, marrow and fat came off the bone.

This is more of a guideline than a true recipe.    You can adjust or sub in anything you want to.

Scotch Broth Soup


4 cups lamb bone-broth
2-3 cups leftover lamb meat
3 cups cabbage, chopped fine
1 cup carrots, chopped fine
1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
1/2 can  tomato paste
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
butter or other fat for frying


In a heavy pot or Dutch Oven, on medium heat, melt fat and saute onions until almost translucent.  Add carrots and  saute for a few minutes more.  Add cabbage, tomato paste, vinegar, broth, and remaining meat, turn down to med-low, and simmer or half an hour.

Serve with these awesome biscuits...

(This recipe originally came from HERE with a couple of substitutions--the recipe was fantastic as-is, but I didn't want to spring for bacon this week, so  instead I used up some cheddar cheese).  If you eat dairy, cheese is a pretty cheap source of protein.  Just saying.....

Cheddar-Spinach Biscuits


1/3 cup coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
1/2 cup cheddar
1/2 cup spinach
1/4 cup onions
1/4 cup fat (I used bacon grease--cheap and available)


Preheat oven to 400F

Saute onions on medium heat in fat until translucent.  Remove from heat and let cool a bit.  In a bowl, mix coconut flour and baking soda.  Add eggs to dry mixture, stir well.  Add onions, all the melted fat from the pan, cheese and spinach.  Form into balls and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet.   I got 12 of them out of this recipe.

Bake 15 minutes until golden but still slightly tender to the touch.

Eat up.

All I needed to buy to make this recipe was a head of cabbage.  I already had everything else in my fridge.

$1.49.  Done.

I think I'll be making a lot more soups in the future.