Party Prep When Preggo.

IMG_0277I have a limited amount of energy to draw from on a daily basis and being pregnant just exacerbates that. When I want to host something, I try to give myself plenty of time to work so that I won’t be running around like an angry chicken the day of the event. My goal is to make the hour or two before the first guest arrives as stress-free as possible.

We also had guests stay from Saturday to Sunday, which added extra prep so I was more diligent about my cleaning schedule and it really paid off: we thoroughly enjoyed their visit because I didn’t have to stress about party food prep.

It helped that my parents came to town for the wee one’s birthday and my mom cleaned the kitchen/breakfast bar for me, but with this schedule I think I could have pulled it off. I would have been a little more stressed, but I think getting the kitchen done would have been possible.

Here’s what I did for the little one’s birthday:

Monday. Clean the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms. This includes toilets, sinks and sweeping. The upstairs bath tub was clean from the week before, and if it hadn’t been clean, that’s what the shower curtain is for.

Tuesday. Laundry. This meant sheets in the guest room and clothes. Also tidying the bedrooms in general. I also added the T.V. room to the day because there were toys scattered all over.

Wednesday. Living room and errands. We have a giant fur factory of a dog, so cleaning the living room means spraying down the rug under our piano with vinegar water and actually brushing the fur out of it with one of those plastic bristle brushes because vacuuming doesn’t touch the hair. I started sprouting chickpeas for hummus in the morning, we also swept, tidied the toys and other surfaces like the piano and roll-top desk. I picked up all the party foodstuffs and general grocery needs. Then we went to dinner with an old friend of hubby’s, which was a nice break.

Thursday. Kitchen time! This is the day I did all of the food prep I could do ahead of time: I made the deviled eggs without filling them, mixed up 4 pounds of bacon meatball goodness and made 6 cups of coconut milk for tapioca pudding. I also cleaned the kitchen a little, but you really couldn’t tell by the end of the day. Part of the reason the kitchen didn’t get cleaned that day was that I discovered our wonderful cat had revenge peed on the wall in our craft room, so we spent a good portion of Thursday cleaning out the craft room.

Friday. On Friday I made the tapioca pudding, cooked the chickpeas and generally sat around after revisiting some places for cleaning. That evening we went out to dinner with my parents for the little one’s actual birthday. After dinner I started the cake batter (for soaking) and fed the sourdough starter for Sunday pancakes.

Saturday. I baked the cake (recipe next week!) while my mom cleaned the kitchen the rest of the way and I made hummus. Our company arrived around 5, so I spent the rest of the day visiting. In the evening I started the pancake batter.

Sunday. The day of the event! Pancake breakfast and then church. My mom got balloons and cleared off the breakfast bar while we were at mass, which was super helpful. When we got home we had an hour and a half to put everything together and we almost made it. The second round of meatballs were baking by the time the second round of guests arrived. My sister-in-law made frosting, so we frosted the cake when she arrived.

Overall everything went very smoothly. I had help which reduced the stress level by a lot, but the largest factor in stress reduction was definitely splitting up the chores throughout the week beforehand. I definitely recommend doing that for any event you’re planning!

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Bone Broth.

Bone broth is a nourishing and cost-effective way to add nutrients to your soups and other recipes that call for broth. But what about the summer? Soup isn’t exactly a good summer meal, especially if you live somewhere that gets above 85°F, so how do you incorporate bone broth into your diet when soup sounds like the most terrible thing you could eat?

Grains. There is some research indicating that the nutrients in grains that have been properly prepared are even better absorbed when eaten with organ meats, bone broths, or animal fats. In the summer time I cook all of my grains in broth instead of water. It adds a nice rich flavor and it’s a good way to consume bone broth if you don’t like the broth itself. Not only that, but it makes your meal more filling for longer.

Potatoes. Use broth instead of milk in mashed potatoes. This also makes mashed potatoes more palatable for dairy-free kids and adults in my experience. And, if you’re like me, broth is less expensive than the milk you’d be using.

Gluten-free breads. Gluten-free bread always needs structural support and sometimes needs a helping hand with texture. Bone broth lends a hand to both of these problems, particularly with pizza crust.

Broth

So how do you make bone broth? It’s super easy. All you need is a stock pot, crock pot or pressure cooker, chicken bones (or any kind of bones), some water, seasonings, apple cider vinegar, and vegetable scraps.

Stock pot: place chicken bones (or other bones), vegetable scraps, and a dash of cider vinegar into the pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low (enough to maintain a slow simmer), cover and let it cook overnight, or two days. Strain and store.

Crock pot: same as stock pot, except put the crock pot on high for a few hours and then switch to low. Let cook for two days.

Pressure cooker: same as stock pot. Make sure all of your ingredients sit below the 2/3 fill line. Lock the top, turn heat to high and raise to the recommended pressure in your manual (mine is 15). Reduce heat to medium to keep the pressure steady and cook for 30-45 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the pressure cooker come down to 0. I don’t remove mine from the heat, I let it cool on top of the burner. You can let it sit for even longer. I let mine cool past depressurization because I have a mondo pressure cooker that cooks several gallons of broth at once. It’s so large that I have to wait or I’ll burn myself trying to strain the broth.

If you get backed up with broth just save your bones and vegetable scraps in the freezer. I cook 3 chickens at a time with whatever scraps I’ve amassed in the time it takes us to consume all of the broth, so there are always bags of chicken bones in my freezer left from roast/boiled chickens.

Broth will keep for a week or two in the fridge and up to 6 months in the freezer.

You don’t have to throw the bones/veggies you strain away if you have pets. Our cats love the eat the skin and I give our dog any bones I can mash between my fingers easily and without any kind of splintering and the carrots/celery/squash cuttings. It makes for happy pets. I’ve also known people who compost the leftover bones/veggies. I throw whatever I can’t give to our pets in the trash, because the compost system we have is a bag on the counter top. That bag gets plenty full without adding animal bones.

To freeze the broth in mason jars: fill pint jars with broth, leaving an inch of space on the top. Loosely cover with the lids and rings and let cool for a few hours on the counter top. Place in the refrigerator overnight (at least) before freezing. Once the broth is frozen you can tighten the canning rings to prevent freezer burn, but leave them loose until the liquid is completely frozen. Do not use quart or half-gallon jars; quart jars have about a 50/50 chance of cracking and the half-gallons crack every time in my experience.

If one of your jars breaks for some reason you can run it under very hot water to take the glass off and then run the resulting block of broth under hot water for a little less than a minute, making sure the water gets all sides. This way any tiny pieces of glass are melted off and go down your sink instead of into your food and you don’t have to throw the whole jar of broth away.

Paleo Bacon Meatballs.

IMG_0278These meatballs are amazing. The one thing that’s not so amazing is that you need a food processor with a shredding blade attachment to make them. You could give them a shot with super finely chopped bacon too, but shredding the bacon makes them awesome. Another thing you could use is a meat grinder. I saw one at the thrift store the last time I went, now I’m kicking myself for not grabbing it.

Every time I host something I think of making these. Depending on what the event is, it’s more than likely these delicious morsels will make an appearance. As a bonus you can stick them on toothpicks with lettuce and a cherry tomato for something resembling a bun-less burger. I bet you could wow guests if you turned these into actual burgers too. I’m going to try that after the wee one’s birthday party.

Bacon Meatballs

1 pound ground beef (preferably grass-fed)
1 pound nitrate-free bacon (or largest package you can find)
1 egg
1 Tablespoon chili powder (mild if serving to children)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cherry tomatoes and lettuce for garnish

  1. Set up your food processor with the shredding disc and shred the bacon. Do not separate the bacon slices: put the whole brick of bacon through at once.
  2. Mix the shredded bacon and ground beef. Add the egg and spices and mix thoroughly.
  3. Use a cookie dropper to drop meatballs onto a preheated pan and cook for 3 minutes before turning them over with tongs. Cook another 3-5 minutes, or until you cut the largest one in half and there is no pink.
  4. If you’re making a lot of these preheat your oven to 350° and bake portioned meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Bone Marrow!

IMG_0674Bone marrow was one of those things that never crossed my mind as edible. I always thought of marrow bones as dog bones, and a lot of people think of them the same way. It wasn’t until I read Ramiel Nagel’s book Cure Tooth Decay that I considered marrow to be food. Even though that book had convinced me to try it I still had to get over the ick-factor. I was raised on the standard American diet (SAD) and I pretty much only ever ate muscle meats. Why on Earth should I eat bone marrow (or liver)?

I started this blog as an outlet. People don’t want to hear about your food adventures in person, especially if you’re offering it as some form of advice. I have watched someone’s eyes glaze over in annoyance or disinterest many times while explaining food (even after being asked), so I brought it to the big wide world of the interwebs. On the interwebs I can’t see you being annoyed so I just keep going. It’s pretty great.

Anyway, the whole point of the above ramble was that I’m kind of off in the tall grass when it comes to diet and nutrition: I don’t follow the government guidelines or what mainstream nutritionists say. I never have anything less than whole milk in the refrigerator and I eat butter off the knife. So it seems like trying bone marrow wouldn’t have been weird for me, but I had my reservations. I have to say that I’m not a fan of eating it straight out of the bone. Many people love it this way but it isn’t for me, I didn’t like the texture. It’s a bit like eating semi-solid gelatin, which makes sense considering what it actually is.

The flavor of beef marrow bones, however, is a winner. What I’ve started doing is roasting them, taking the marrow out with a baby food spoon and melting it into quinoa or rice. The rich flavor it lends to the quinoa is amazing and it makes a veggie stir fry super filling.

As an added bonus I make beef stock out of the bones and marrow drippings that got left behind in the pan I roasted the bones in. Bone marrow broth makes a phenomenal minestrone soup!

To roast the bones preheat the oven to 450°, shake some salt and pepper on the wider end of the bone and set it in a baking dish with a rim. Shake salt and pepper on the top and roast them for 15 minutes, or until the edges are bubbly. If you don’t like eating things that are slightly pink, roast the bones for 2 to 3 minutes more. Once they’re roasted you can serve them as is or remove the marrow for some other purpose.

To make stock place the bones and any veggie scraps into a stock pock and cover with water. Use a bit of hot water to clean the marrow drippings out of the baking pan. Season however you’d like and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 hours. Strain and store, or enjoy for dinner!