In an effort to give my healthy, homemade lunches more variety I’ve been looking for different carbs/starches to substitute for my usual roasted potatoes. I’ve never been much of a potato enthusiast, but I love simple diced and roasted white potatoes and sweet potatoes. I ate a lot of them when I was doing my Whole30-ish diet in October. But as much as I enjoy them, I need other options for my weekday lunches so that I don’t get completely burned out on potatoes. While I was in Tallahassee for Christmas I tried out a recipe for mashed butternut squash and it was only semi-successful, mostly due to the fact that I was too lazy to use a food processor. (Note: Mashing roasted butternut squash with a fork doesn’t really work, nor does blitzing it with an electric mixer.) But in spite of its weird texture, the flavor of the partially mashed butternut squash was outstanding, so I saw some potential for a tasty and less complicated version. I basically just used the same ingredients, olive oils and minimal seasonings, but didn’t do anything else after the roasting step. What could be simpler? I make this every couple of weeks and it’s the perfect side dish for just about any meal.
12 oz diced butternut squash
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp black pepper
Put the diced butternut squash in a large bowl. (I buy pre-diced butternut squash for convenience. My time is valuable-ish and this helps make my healthy lunches more achievable.) Add the olive oil, salt, Italian seasoning, and pepper and stir to combine. Bake at 375 deg F for about 30 minutes, stirring once about halfway through, or until tender and slightly browned. The duration required will depend on how large the pieces of squash are. The Green Giant variety that I usually buy is a small dice, less than 1 inch per piece, so it took less time than the recipes I researched. Enjoy!
Based on Momtastic’s Roasted Butternut Squash.
New Year’s Resolution #4: Cook for myself again
I’ll bet you’re wondering, “What happened to resolution #3?” Nevermind about that for now. There’s something I need to do before I write about that one so I’ll get back to it later.
While searching for topics for NaBloPoMo (my daily goings on are not nearly interesting enough to warrant sharing with anyone), I came across a couple of draft posts about the New Year’s resolutions I made back in January. Given that ten months have passed since I gave any thought to my goals for the year, 2017 has obviously not been very productive as far as resolutions go. Fortunately, there’s still a little time to take action and also to take credit for some progress. Case in point, I had absolutely no plans to do Whole30 back in the beginning of the year when I wrote resolution #4 to cook for myself again. At that point I was still halfheartedly eating Nutrisystem meals and snacks, mostly because I was ambivalent about cancelling my monthly deliveries. The premade food was something that required little effort on my part, but I was getting burned out eating the same meals week in and week out. They were edible, but not tasty enough to keep me as a loyal consumer.
After nearly a year where I cooked almost nothing, I started preparing my meals again in September in anticipation for the beginning of Whole30. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. This cooking renaissance reminded me not only that I have to go to the grocery store at least every other day to keep up with all the produce required for a healthy diet, but also that it takes a lot of time to prepare three meals a day! The upside was that I enjoyed knowing that I was cooking from scratch and eating whole, healthy foods. I haven’t written a wrap-up post about my 30-day diet experience yet, but the bottom line is that I was happy with the results. I lost about 6 lbs and I am certain I was healthier at the end than I was at the beginning. Since October 30th my diet has gone downhill a bit, mostly due to my vacation, but I’m working on formulating a maintenance strategy going forward. Especially with the impending holiday season. It can derail even the best-laid plans. I still intend to cook most of my breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but I want to have some looser restrictions in regards to healthy carbs. I’ve learned that I need more than fruit and sweet potatoes to be able to run any significant distance, and I have a lot of long runs between now and the Dopey Challenge in January. In conclusion, Whole30 absolutely forced me, if unintentionally, to fulfill this New Year’s resolution that I made so many months ago. And since Whole30 is more focused on a lifestyle change rather than temporary dietary rules I think it will help me continue this beneficial trend into next year. Maybe it will even inspire a new resolution in 2018!
Before I can write about my prize-winning Halloween chili I first have to share this carnitas recipe because I put some if the pork in the chili. I don’t want to diminish the importance of this recipe, though. Not only is it Whole30-compliant due to being sweetened only with fruit juice, but it’s also incredibly simple and delicious. I ate this meat for many lunches during the month of October with roasted sweet potatoes and vegetables on the side, but it would be delicious in tacos if tortillas and cheese are included in your diet. When you don’t have a lot of free time your Crockpot can be your best friend. Slow cook a batch of carnitas either on the weekend or one day while you’re at work and you’ll have protein for days. Now that my Whole30(-ish) experiment is over I might add some BBQ sauce to the leftovers I have in the freezer for a little change of pace. I get tired of eating the same thing more than two days in a row so variety is important. I encourage everyone to customize this recipe any way they see fit.
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp black pepper
3-4 lb pork shoulder (or pork loin, which I used instead)
8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 onions, quartered
3/4 c orange juice
2 limes juiced
In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, paprika, and pepper. I did this the day before to save time. Once you’re ready to put the pork roast in the slow cooker, rub the spice mixture on all sides. I cut my roast into two pieces to make this easier and to have more surface area for the spices. Put the onions into the bottom of the slow cooker, place the pork roast in next, and evenly distribute the garlic cloves on top. Pour the orange juice and lime juice over everything. Cover and cook on low heat for about 8 hours.
Remove pork shoulder from the slow cooker and shred the meat in a large bowl, removing any large fat deposits that remain. Add some of the cooking juices from the slow cooker if you want. I did this because my batch would be refrigerated and reheated for lunches and I wanted to keep it from getting too dry. Add additional salt and pepper, if desired. I added a tiny bit of salt to my lunch portions and it was divine. Enjoy!
Based on Damn Delicious’s Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas.
As a follow-up from yesterday, the turkey taco meat I made with homemade taco seasoning was delicious! I’ve always used packaged taco seasoning, but being able to mix my own version without any weird ingredients was very appealing. At some point in the past (I need to check Pinterest to remember exactly when) I tried another recipe for do-it-yourself taco seasoning and I was underwhelmed, but this one is a real winner. The only thing I changed was replacing the 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper with 1/4 tsp of black pepper. If you combine the ingredients in the amounts below it yields about 3 Tbsp of seasoning, which is perfect for 1 lb of whatever ground meat you have on hand. I used turkey because I had some in my fridge that needed to be used in relatively short order. I’ll try it with lean ground beef next time to see if it works just as well.
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Based on The Garden Grazer’s Taco Seasoning.
Note: I browned the turkey in a skillet, added the seasoning when the turkey was done and cooked for a couple of minutes, and then poured in an 8 oz can of tomato sauce. This yielded the perfect taco meat. If only I could eat it with a tortilla and some shredded cheese!
Breakfast – Scrambled eggs and breakfast hash (sausage, butternut squash, onion, spinach, and apple)
Snack #1 – Apple
Lunch – Turkey taco meat, roasted broccoli and carrots, and roasted diced sweet potato
Snack #2 – Banana
Dinner – Salad with shredded garlic chicken, red onion, red bell pepper, shredded carrots, nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing