Prepare Weeknight Paleo

January Paleo is going well!  Or, well, was going well.  First, let me say that it's amazinggg how much more energized and slimmer I feel after just a week, or a few days, even, of paleo, sugar-free eating.  My digestion stopped bothering me and my hand eczema began clearing up again, very quickly.  Awesome.  My second week was toughest, as predicted, both just because it was week 2 and because it was a particularly stressful workweek.  Thus, I had a few setbacks and noticed the negative effects immediately, but I'm back and finishing out my month.

Eleven months into my experience with paleo nutrition, I've learned a lot...

Planning and preparation are KEY.  If you say, "I'm going to eat the paleo way" and then just wander out into the world, you will almost certainly struggle and fail. That's just the way it is. I found great success by preparing my week's meals in advance on Sunday.  It greatly helps with enforcing any dietary goals.  We don't live in a paleo world, so following a paleo diet takes work when you first get started.

But--if that "work" is simplified and becomes routine, it's actually pretty easy to adjust to the paleo lifestyle.  With the right planning and tools, you can and will succeed.

One invaluable tool for the busy paleo eater is...

Weeknight Paleo: 
9 Weeks of Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Meals
Foreword by Melissa Joulwan, author of Well Fed (and theclothesmakethegirl.com)


Melissa’s foreward explains how the drudgery of making dinner when you’re hungry, tired, cranky, overworked, or out of patience can be eradicated by a little prep work in advance, helping change your cooking regimen to something entirely manageable on busy weeknights. 
  • “With Amber’s friendly guidance, it’s easy to dine sumptuously on weeknights without sacrificing your kitchen creativity, your entire evening, or your sense of goodwill.”
  • “These recipes are so flavorful, so grounded in good taste and attention to culinary detail, you and your dining companions will forget these meals were born of the desire for good health and weight loss.”
  • “Amber’s done all the hard work of creating paleo recipes that taste like real food so you can reel in the art of cooking, even when you’re making dinner.”

The Book: 

The Table of Contents quickly shows how the weeknight dinners are divided up not by type of ingredient, but rather by full weeks of dinners.

Introduction
-       The main idea of the cookbook is that the meals are “easy enough to pull together on a weeknight, but tasty enough to satisfy my family."  They all include make-ahead instructions, so you can spend 60 minutes or less in the kitchen on the weekend, and then reduce weeknight prep time significantly.
-       Meal plans will include "This, then That" recipes, where Amber helps you transform one ingredient into two distinct dinners.
-       Quick Cooking Meals: Some made-from-scratch meals can be quick but flavorful!

Who is this book for?  “This book is for anyone who practices a special type of diet—Paleo, Gluten-free, Grain-free, or Allergy-free. It’s for mom, dad, grandmamma, a busy professional, all the single ladies and gentlemen, and kids.”  AND you don't need to be an experienced culinary chef to make these recipes! The instructions are made for anyone and everyone.

Then, Amber shares her own story—her own path to Paleo, comments on the “true cost of paleo” (“Either you pay the farmer or pay the physician"), and includes notes on applying Paleo and finding success through balance.  I found her perspective enlightening.

There was only one bit that concerned me, at the end of intro (p. xiv-xv), where she says she uses  “extra virgin olive oil for roasting and sautéing vegetables.”  I used to do this, and it's not a huge gaff, but if using a high temperature, these should be cooked with coconut oil.  But, of course, she quickly came back into my good graces: “You may feel more comfortable substituting coconut oil for extra virgin olive oil, coconut aminos for gluten-free soy sauce, or leaving out the natural sweeteners altogether. That’s totally acceptable.  Feel free to tailor recipes that include special condiments to suit your nutritional goals.”  Excellent. 

The book contains 9 weeks of quick and easy weeknight dinners. Each week-long plan has a...
  • Menu: A list of the meals for the week
  • Make-ahead schedule: Instructions for prepping vegetables, blending a sauce, making a vinaigrette, cooking the longer-to-cook items, etc.  This was GREAT.  I really like the make-ahead instructions, because ever since I started doing my own Sunday prepwork, I was often left wondering how long I could realy wait before consuming certain dishes.  Here in Weeknight Paleo, Amber tells me!  She writes right there in the meal plan: "Serve within 2 days," or "serve within 5 days."  Just what I needed! 
  • Shopping list: Contains all the items you'll need to cook a given week's meals, and categorizes ingredients by grocery store department for easier shopping.  Thank you!

In addition to the week menus and recipes, Weeknight Paleo also has sections on "Stocking Up," which provides tips for a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator, and "Flavor Boosters." Like many other cookbooks I’ve seen and reviewed, these few pages are dedicated to specific, commonly used seasonings and their uses.  Amber shares her “Paleo Savvy House Seasoning,” “Paleo Mayo,” and “Homemade Pesto,” and suggests various uses for all three.

Ah, at least:Meals

First, I flipped through and salivated over pictures and descriptions.  These meals look good, and by good, I mean great.  

Then, I observed two challenges to my effective use of these meal plans:
(1) I still choose not to eat certain types of meat (pork), so certain recipes were off-limits, OR could be adjusted for with beef. 
(2) I'm one person. I'm not cooking for a family, and these recipes yield PLENTY.  This is hardly a problem, just something to be aware of for those following the recipes, like any recipe.  

Clearly, these were small obstacles that I easily overcame.  Instead of following meal plans to the letter, I made adjustments as needed.  


To begin, I passed over Week 1, which contained pork and required a slow-cooker.  However, I made a note to go back and try the salmon recipe, which looked divine.  Jumping ahead to Week 2--more appropriate for my dietary preferences and tastes, I prepared my shopping list, which is right there in the book.  


Weeknight Paleo so generously provides the shopping list upfront.  I didn't have to do the math and guesswork across recipes; it was all done for me!  I simply checked my kitchen for what I already had and copied down what I needed!  How comforting it was to know that I wouldn't end up with excess of one thing or not enough of another. 


Hello, REAL FOOD!

Here's just some of what the Weeknight Paleo recipes yielded:

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Herbes de Provence-Crusted Salmon
with a Citrus-Herb Sauce and Asparagus

Spaghetti and Meatball Sauce

(And leftovers!)

Balsamic-Glazed Brussels Sprouts

Caramlized Onions
Paired with Tuscan Steak that was a fail on my part. 
Recovering vegetarian still learning how to cook steak.

And it was all delicious.  I've made more since that first week and been enjoying the recipes.  You can keep up with more of my #weeknightpaleo meals on Instagram and Twitter

Although adhering to the literal week-long dinner meal plans didn't really work for me, it's definitely a great outline to have for people cooking for a family.  For me, choosing just two to three meals and cooking the full recipe was enough to last me lunches and dinners all week long.  So many recipes approved, and so many more I have yet to make.  So check it out for yourself, experiment, and see what works for you!  

I am so thankful that Amber was gracious enough to share her e-book with me. If you're interested, you can find Weeknight Paleo on Amazon!  (Affiliate link - in no way affects the price or my opinion of the recipes above!) You'll get tons of delicious recipes, and actionable prep instructions to make your paleo weeknights easier.  If you want a sneak peek, check out the Paleo Savvy blog.

Do you plan your weeknight meals in advance?  Would a book like this help you better live up to your nutritional goals?

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