Status

How to Pack an Allergy-Friendly Lunch

Welcome to Flawed yet Functional! Earlier in the year, I listed one of my goals of this blog was to create a place of encouragement for my readers. I’ve been contacted in the last few weeks by people at various stages in their life that need some encouragement and help changing their diet. I am thrilled to try to offer what I know. One area that pops up is packing a lunch that is AIP or Paleo approved but can be eaten on the go. Today I’d like to show you my formula for packing an AIP or Paleo sack lunch.

One of the people I’ve been chatting with is about to head off to her freshman year at college this fall. About a month ago, she was just diagnosed with some severe allergies: wheat, dairy, egg, soy, to name the majors. Yikes! What a blow to take when so much is already changing in your life! This post is aimed at her, but works for anyone who needs to pack a sack lunch on an AIP or Paleo diet.

I make sure my sack lunches cover 5 food categories: protein, vegetable, fruit, crunchy side, and snack. My goal is a filling, nutritious lunch with a little sweet treat. A sack lunch is just so much more palatable if you know there’s a goody in there rather than trying to make yourself eat a bag of vegetables. Pack what you know nourishes your body but pack to your preferences too!

Paleo sack lunch

A Good Lunch Bag

First, a good, insulated lunch box is key to keeping your lunch fresh and safe to eat once lunch time rolls around. I use this lunch box to pack my husband’s lunch everyday. He doesn’t use the refrigerators at his office, and everything in the box stays very cold until lunch time.

The key to this bag is the separate zippered pouches that hold the ice packs on both the top and bottom of the bag. The ice packs are thin so they don’t take up too much space in the bag, allowing maximum space for food. There is also an expandable section that you can open or close as your lunch requires. This is so handy as not all my lunch containers are the same size.

If you don’t have a Costco membership, just find an insulated lunch bag and the thinnest reusable ice packs to go inside it.

AIP or Paleo sack lunch

Source

5 Parts to a Great Sack a Lunch

Protein

Protein and fat are the cornerstones of any meal. They keep you full for a long time, so don’t neglect these just because they are a bit harder to pack. If your protein is on the lean side, try to get more fat in the lunch with a fatty vegetable like avocado or olives. My go-to proteins are:

  • Salami
  • Black Forest Ham
  • Chicken Salad
  • Smoked Salmon

Vegetable

Vegetables contain a lot of fiber which will aid digestion and help fill you up. I usually stick to raw vegetables at lunch time. They take longer to chew which helps me to slow down to give my brain time to catch up to my food! The other perk is quick prep: wash, cut and toss in a container!

  • Carrot sticks
  • Bell pepper slices
  • Cauliflower florets
  • Celery sticks
  • Sugar snap peas

Fruit

For my blood sugar levels, it is best for me to have my fruit at lunch. I have no problem burning off the carbs in the afternoon, so I pack about a 1/2 cup serving of fresh fruit in my lunches. Opt for whole, fresh fruit over a processed fruit like a smoothie or fruit bar. Whole fruits have more fiber in them which allow the blood sugar to rise less. And it’s just better to eat whole food versus processed!

  • Whole apple
  • Banana
  • Fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
  • Clementines

Salty/Crunchy Option

There’s just something about a salty snack that is so satisfying, isn’t there? My salty option might just be for munching or might be a holder for my protein. Like almond crackers with almond cream cheese and smoked salmon or pork rinds for scooping up chicken salad. If you know you like a salty snack, pack one that fits in your diet so you aren’t tempted to cheat!

Snack (optional)

Depending on how your day is structured, you may or may not need a snack. If you will be out of your house/dorm for most of the day, pack a snack just in case. I think it’s better to be prepared just in case you get hungry. It’s more cost effective to purchase a box of Larabars from the grocery store than buying them individually from a convenience store!

My go-to snacks are:

  • Trail Mix – homemade or storebought
  • Larabars – homemade or storebought
  • Almond butter packet
  • Something dipped in almond butter (apples, celery, etc.)

Those five pieces makes for a nutritious, satisfying lunch. Would you like some suggestions for what to pack together? I’m so glad you asked! Below are five Paleo sack lunch combos that go together and require very little prep, most of the items can be purchased already made in the store, perfect for college students or anyone packing their lunch!

AIP or Paleo sack lunchIf you are shopping for one person, I would not aim for a different lunch every day. Variety is not cost effective when only shopping for one. If that is your case, I would pick one or two of these options to eat for a week. For example, a box of Larabars come with 5 bars, so I would plan my snack for Monday through Friday’s lunches to be that flavor of Larabar. If you don’t like eating the same thing every day for lunch then pick two options an alternate back and forth for the week.

Try to buy only what you will eat and avoid waste. That way your body and your budget will both be healthier through your efforts to pack a healthy Paleo sack lunch!


What are your go-to sack lunches that don’t include a sandwich? Does the idea of lunch without bread shock you? Do you have a favorite raw veggie? I could always use more suggestions for vegetables!

 

Unripe Avocado
Status

Maximize Fresh Produce | Avocados

Here at Flawed yet Functional, I am all about maximizing the dollars I invest in groceries. I do not want to be throwing anything away or forgetting to use ingredients I’ve bought. A problem fruit for me for years was avocados. The ripe period of an avocado is so short. If only there was a way to capture that perfect time of ripeness!

How to Store Avocados

Avocados are full of good fat, and are the perfect additive or side to so many dishes. Yet it is hard to plan a menu around when the avocados will be ripe. If it’s winter, avocados take a few days to ripen on my counter. In the summertime, they just might be rotten before grocery shopping day is over!

Take these avocados, for example. All four are rock hard yet the darker one will ripen the fastest and the brighter green one, the slowest. The odds of these four being ready to eat on the same day is not good.

Avocado Spectrum

However, you don’t need to plan your meals around the ripening schedule of avocados any more! Here is the super simple, 2-step trick to preserving ripe avocados for 1 to 2 weeks and prevent avocados from rotting for good!

1. Ripen the avocado on the counter until dark green/brown and soft.

Ripe Avocados

The avocados must be ripe before going on to step two! Be patient, let the avocados get quite soft but not starting to shrivel.  Leave the avocados on the counter, checking them daily, to see when they are ripest. Make sure they have plenty of space and are not likely to get knocked off the counter or smashed by other fruit/veggies. Then…

2. Put the ripe avocado in the refrigerator.

Yep, that’s it. Stick it in the refrigerator. It doesn’t matter where you put them either (so long as they aren’t squished!). I’ve put them in the crisper, on the shelf, and in the door with success in all locations. The cold of the refrigerator will stop the ripening process keeping that delicious avocado in that perfect period of ripeness for 2 weeks. Yes, 2 weeks!

If I’m totally honest, I’ve found a lone avocado hidden under some carrots in the vegetable drawer that had been there for who knows how long. It was a little brown on the inside, but not past the point of eating! It had been there for over 2 weeks, possibly 3 or 4.

If I’m really, really honest, I’ve found forgotten avocados in my fridge many times. So this method really is tried and true, if not on purpose, by accidental forgetfulness!

Storing avocados this way allows me to have multiple avocados ripe and ready for eating at any time. The only special menu planning I do for avocados now is I don’t plan to eat them for a couple days after grocery shopping so they have a chance to ripen.

Ripe avocado from fridge

I bought 10 avocados on my last shopping trip, and by day 3 after shopping, all were ripe and in my fridge. I used two to make Cilantro Avocado Mayo today, and I have no worries that all 8 will be ready any day I want to eat them!

That’s it! First, let the avocados ripen on the counter then second, put them in the fridge. How simple is that? They will stay perfectly ripe for up to two weeks. Amazing or what?!


Do you use avocados regularly? What is your favorite way to eat them? How do you store avocados??

how to ripen avocados

Status

Maximize Fresh Produce | How to Store Leafy Greens

Here at Flawed yet Functional, I believe in eating real, whole foods. In order to eat real, whole foods, proper storage is key. There’s nothing more frustrating for me than to carefully plan a meal, shop for the ingredients, then go to make it a few days later and the key ingredient has spoiled. Enough of that crazy cycle! Today, we’ll focus on the proper storage of leafy greens. This method of storing fresh greens applies to all those rich green leafy vegetables: spinach, kale, collard greens, leaf lettuce, Swiss Chard, herbs, etc.


My latest shopping trip brought home 2 bunches of spinach, 1 bunch of kale, and 1 bunch of cilantro. Before learning and taking the time to properly store these leafy greens, the cilantro would be yellow or brown in a day or two. The spinach might get half eaten then the other bunch and a half meet the trash can once they started to stink. The only real contender to make it one week was the kale, as it is the most hardy. None of these greens stood a change of making it to the two week mark.

I used to get discouraged because I could never plan my meals just right to get the fresh, leafy greens all consumed in 2-3 days. Here’s some truth for you: when properly stored, greens can last two weeks or more in the refrigerator. What? Are you mind-blown? I was!

I grocery shop, with a plan, every other week. Fresh, leafy greens are purchased every time, and they stay fresh until the next shopping trip. Well, what’s left of them, I usually have everything used up. On the rare occasion I have some left, it is still edible two weeks after leaving the store. Want to know how? I’m so glad you asked! Read on!

Fresh Green Info Graphic

5 Simple Steps to Save the Leafy Greens

Items needed:

  • Bunches of fresh greens (kale, spinach, collard greens, leaf lettuce, herbs, etc.)
  • Paper towel
  • Plastic bag (I usually just use the produce bag I brought home from the store, but a shopping bag or zip top bag works great too.)

Remove the ties or wrapping around the greens

The key to keeping lettuce or any leafy green fresh long is letting them breathe. The first step to doing this is to remove the metal or plastic tie that is holding them together from the store. When you loosen this tie, you may find wilting or mushy stems or leaves hiding in the middle of the bunch. Go ahead and throw those way now. No sense in letting a little rot spoil the whole bunch!

Fresh Greens from Store

Rinse with cold water and shake out excess water

Run the bunch of greens under cold water to get out any dirt or bugs that might be hiding in there. I know that sounds gross, but you never know! Produce spray is also very helpful for removing dirt, especially if you are storing greens from your own garden which will be much more dirty than greens from the store.

Cleaning the greens now before storing them not only allows them to last longer, but it makes it quicker to use them when you are cooking. Just pull from the fridge, chop, and toss in your recipe!

Cleaned Fresh Spinach

Wrap in paper towel

Not too tight! Wrap the towel tight enough to keep the bunch together as the paper towel gets wet from the freshly washed greens but not so tight as to not let air in. Remember, the greens need to breathe!

Some methods will say to dampen the paper towel at this point. I have found that if my greens are still damp from the wash, there is no need to wet the paper towel. In fact, wet greens + damp paper towel = too much wetness. Rot is quickly to follow. Only dampen the paper towel if you’ve allowed your greens to dry after washing.

Store Green Wrapped

Slide into Plastic Bag

Slide your little leafy green burrito into a very loose fitting plastic bag, leaving the end open. Again, the greens need to breathe! I usually use the produce bag I brought the greens home in from the grocery store to hold my leafy green burritos. I’ve also used the plastic shopping bag or even an unzipped, zip-top bag. Really any plastic bag will do. It just needs to form a little bit of protection from the cold air of the refrigerator while allowing, wait for it, the greens to breathe!

Fresh Spinach Stored

Store in the Fridge for Two Weeks (or more!)

Be careful putting the packages in the refrigerator. Make sure they aren’t smashed by other food or each other. These do best in my fridge alone on a shelf or resting on top of some leftover containers on the deeper shelves. I don’t put these in the produce drawer. There’s not enough air flow in mine (could be because mine are stuffed to the gills though!). Remember, keep the bag loose so the greens have room to breathe, so place them wherever that is optimal in your fridge.

Greens Wrapped Bagged

That’s it! Super simple 5 steps: untie, rinse, wrap, bag, store! It does take a little bit of time when you arrive home from the grocery store. However, a few minutes of work for 2 weeks worth of fresh greens? I’ll take it!

Another perk, beyond frustration when cooking is proper storage will save you money! The best way to save money on your grocery bill and maximize your health is to not throw food away. Don’t let it rot in your fridge! Want to read more? Check out this post for other tips to maximize your grocery budget.

How do you store your fresh lettuce, herbs, and leafy greens? Any other tips to keep them fresh for a long time?


How to Store Fresh Greens

Status

Maximize Fresh Produce | Help for Green Onions

As we are wrapping up the menu planning series (click for parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5), I’ve gotten questions on affordability. How do we afford to eat a Paleo diet? Isn’t it expensive?

Yes, it is, and I’m still ruminating the cost of our diet question. I will share once I get my thoughts straightened out!

For today, I want to share one aspect of affording a whole foods, Paleo diet:

Don’t let your food rot in your fridge.

I know, shocking, right? If most of your fresh fruits and vegetables end up in the trash can, it is going to be pretty expensive if you end up buying them twice or three times.

Making a menu plan will solve a lot of that. You will only have the ingredients for the meals you plan to make. You won’t have that theoretically-good-to-snack-on-or-cook-with celery rotting in your fridge. You will only have celery in the fridge if it is actually an ingredient in one of the recipes you are going to make.

The problem I still run into, even with a menu plan, that I’d like to present to you today is what if you get ahead of your menu plan and veggies/fruit are hanging out in the fridge longer than intended?

I ran into this just this week. I had purchased two bags of green onions from Aldi (equivalent to 4-5 bunches of green onions from the regular grocery store. So…a lot!) for use in soups that I never made. I still plan to make them, but the meals I had planned this cycle ended up stretching farther than I thought they would.

So here I am with a whole bunch of green onions that are past their prime. Most have squishy, slimy green pieces. Some only have slight browned ends, mostly crisp and fresh still. They are on their way out. They will be a pile of stinky, mush if I leave them in the fridge too much longer.

Enter my amazing mother-in-law’s solution: snap off the slimy or brown parts, rinse them off, chop as usual, then toss in a zip-top bag and throw in the freezer!

It’s so simple, but I never thought of it. Freeze the vegetables that are about to go bad. Later, toss them into a soup or baked dish, and the consistency will not be noticeable!

Here are my tired green onions. Honestly, I’ve had way worse in my fridge, but I knew if I didn’t take care of these right away, they’d be a stinky mess in no time!

tired green onionsI pulled off all green strands that were slimy or discolored.

cleaning off dead partsThen I snapped off the ends of any pieces that looked dried or discolored. The difference here is I did not remove the entire green piece from the onion. The piece was still crunchy and fresh(ish) looking except the ends.

snapping off dead partsNext rinse each onion under cold water making sure to remove any remaining slimy parts. Since the onion is in layers, you will find that the entire layer is not always removed down to the white roots. Just make sure all the onions are cleaned up and fresh.

cleaned green onionsMove the onions to the cutting board. Remove the root ends then chop the rest of the onion.

chopped green onionsI, uh, had a lot of these in my fridge. I should’ve counted. I chopped at least 20! Yikes!

Put the chopped onions in a zip top bag, label it, and toss them in the freezer!

baggie green onionsThe next time I need to add green onions to a soup or egg casserole, I pull these out of the freezer and pour them in frozen. They do not freeze in a hard clump. They are easy to break up when frozen. I never thaw them before I add them to a dish. I know the consistency will be mushy, so I always add them to a dish that will get just a little bit more cooking. I would not use them as a raw topping, say on tacos.

There you have it! You never need to waste green onions again! Chop them up and throw them in the freezer! This tip, and many other like it, will help you use all of the vegetables you buy without wasting any.


Anyone else know this trick? I’ve also done it with bell peppers. Have you tried any other vegetables?

Save the green onions

Status

How to Roast a Pig

My husband and I throw an annual pig roast for our close family and friends for no other reason than we like to cook and throw a party. For our Pig Roast 2011, Dan and I decided to go all out this year and roast a pig completely from scratch, completely on our own. It really boils down to 4 easy steps: brine, marinade, roast, then glaze. If we can do it, so can you!

We have rented a propane pig roaster in years past for this party. Renting a roaster is not cheap, so this year, we bought this much more inexpensive roaster on-line. It’s a charcoal roaster which appealed to Dan because the flavor of meat cooked over charcoal is just so much better, and the price of this roaster will redeem itself in 2 years.

The roaster is no where near the sturdiness of the iron (?) propane fed roasters we’ve rented in previous years, but the cost and better flavor were too tempting to pass up.

Note: The roaster was washed before we cooked the pig, and no dogs were harmed in the making of this pig.

4 Steps to Roast a Pig

Dan followed this general plan for roasting our pig:

  1. Brine – The pig was laid in an extra large cooler on it’s back on a bed of ice. The cavity of the pig was filled with a brine and sat there for 12 hours.
  2. Injecting and Marinading – Using an food grade injector, Dan injected some of the marinade into the muscles of the pig. Then the remainder of the marinade was poured into the cavity of the pig. The pig remained on its back, on ice, in the cooler for another 12 hours.
  3. Roasting – The pig was secured in the rack provided by La Caja China, lowered into the box (skin down), the box was covered with the lid, and charcoal was ignited on top to roast the pig. Roasting took about 5.5 hours.
  4. Glazing – To get that awesome, crispy skin, a sweet and sour glaze was brushed on the skin of the pig then the pig was lowered back into the box, skin up, and roasted for another 30 minutes. This allowed the skin to tighten and crisp up, resulting in some fabulous chicharrones.

His sources were the website for the roaster, La Caja China, and Adam Perry Lang’s Crispy Suckling Pig with Spicy Sweet-Sour Glaze.

Make the Marinade and Sauces

Since all of the instructions are listed on the website, I’ll just highlight how we did it.

40 Cloves of garlic. Do you know how many that is? A bazillion basically.


Grating the garlic…


**Safety Note: Wear gloves when shredding the garlic. Garlic can BURN your skin! How do we know, you might ask? Dan lost a layer of skin on his forefinger, thumb, and middle finger where he was holding the garlic. No joke. It is quite painful too. If you do get burned, hold the burned skin in yogurt or milk for 25 minutes. You will not start to feel relief until about minute 20. I’m so sorry if you’ve been through this, it is truly terrible. Ask Dan.**

Dan tackled the garlic, bless his heart fingers, while I made the rest of the marinade. I was finished long before he was. We are old school. We grated every single clove by hand.

The marinade is ready to go!

Roast a Pig Marinade

If you read the instructions, you will see we were supposed to strain the marinade. We didn’t. It was chunky. It still tasted lovely.

Homemade Sauces

We decided to make two homemade sauces this year. We were a little afraid that people wouldn’t like them, so we did put out one bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s.

I was shocked when people deliberately ate the store-bought sauce instead of homemade. They didn’t even try the homemade! How do you know you don’t like it if you don’t try it? Are we so used to mass-produced products we cannot imagine the joys of homemade cooking? Can’t we live outside our comfort zone?

I digress. New foods are my life, but I guess that’s not true for everyone. Their loss.

What were we doing? Right. Sauces.

We made two sauce from the Barbecue Bible: Mojo (Cuban Citris Garlic Sauce) and Sweet and Smokey Barbecue Sauce.

Mojo (Cuban Citrus Garlic Sauce)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 8 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2/3 cup fresh sour orange juice or 1/2 cup fresh lime juice and 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice (We used Simply Orange juice)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea), or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

Heat olive oil in deep sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and pale golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Stir in orange juice, water, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring sauce to a rolling boil, correct the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature then add cilantro or parsley.

Eat immediately or store covered in the refrigerator. Will keep for several weeks.

Spicy Mustard

 

 Sweet and Smokey Barbecue Sauce
Roast a Pig BBQ Sauce

Honey-Pepper Barbeque Sauce

A sweet and savory barbecue sauce by Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible.

Course Sauce
Cuisine BBQ
Servings 24

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow bell pepper
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno chili seeded and finely chopped (We, of course, left the seeds in!)
  • 1-1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup 7up or Sprite
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • coarse salt kosher or sea

Instructions

  1. Pour honey into a saucepan. Add peppers, onion, and jalapeno and "saute" over medium heat until the peppers are soft and the onion translucent, about 5 minutes. 

  2. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer the sauce, uncovered, until thick, 15 minutes.  

  3. Transfer the sauce to a blender and puree until smooth. Correct the seasoning, adding salt, vinegar, or brown sugar if needed.

  4. Use immediately or cover and store in the fridge. Will keep for several months. 

Roasting the Pig

With the sauces and marinade ready to go, Dan started the brine. Twelve hours of brine then twelve hours of marinade. These two steps took a lot of time, but the pig just laid in a cooler on ice and soaked. The flavor payoff was worth it. Don’t skip these two steps!

Brine and marinade complete, here’s Wilbur ready to enter the roaster!


Starting the charcoal…

Now for hours of just chillin’ and watching the fire…

Thankfully, it was a beautiful night. Dan and my brother Zach stayed up all night to keep watch. In previous years we’ve been able to just check on the pig every 2 hours, but with the exposed coals, someone had to stay out in the driveway all night.

And now to see the fruits of Dan’s labor! After the glaze and 1/2 hour of more cooking in the roaster, Wilbur’s done! Isn’t he lovely? Look at the lovely color of the skin and those hash marks. Beautiful!


We are living proof that anyone can roast a pig. Like all good things in life, it takes effort, but each step is really not too difficult. However, it is a time consuming and sleep-reducing process. Roasting a pig really comes down to four basic steps: brine, marinade, roast, then glaze/tighten the skin. Easy-peasy, right?

 

Roast a Pig Pin