Cuban Picadillo Lettuce Wraps (GF, DF & Paleo-Friendly)

Cuban Picadillo Lettuce Wraps Slider

When you crave something different but not too exotic for dinner, try picadillo! Brightened with green olives and capers, mellowed with currants, and warmed with cumin and cinnamon, this ground beef dish is sure to please young and old alike with its mild salty-sweet flavors. We piled it into lettuce leaves with rice and fresh pico de gallo for the perfect summertime meal.

I’m guest posting again at The Nourishing Gourmet, and that was a sneak peek. I hope you’ll hop over and check out Cuban Picadillo Lettuce Wraps, my latest recipe that’s perfect for a weeknight family dinner. We LOVE it chez Alison.

And now, my husband and I are off to Santa Fe for a little two-night babymoon. October’s coming fast (though most days I’d say not fast enough!), and we are ready to relish this oasis of kid free time.

Hope you have a great week too! I’ll be back next week with another installment of the prioritizing food dollars series.

Wholesome Goodness Quick Bites, 2 July 2014

Hm, I should write about that. I think it constantly. And then I hear a lip smack and sigh of satisfaction behind me. I turn and behold Baby Bear, open bottle of children’s Benadryl in hand. Heart attack ensues. Blog post goes out the window.

You see my predicament.

So. While I have a lot of resources and info to share, full articles about them all just can’t happen. I’m trying Wholesome Goodness Quick Bites, then, an occasional short report of the tried-and-true recipes, articles, tools, and resources that serve me well and I think you might appreciate too.

Let’s get started, shall we, before something else terrifying happens? On today’s menu: great snack recipes, an easy gourmet menu for overnight guests, resources on creating energizing morning routines and looking deeply at sugar habits, plus some outstanding products I love.


With a constantly hungry Baby Bear and pregnant mama on the loose, I’m scrambling for healthy snacks these days. Fortunately, I’ve found a few winners.

Power Bars from Elana’s PantryLike healthy crack. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Ingredients: macadamia nuts, unsweetened shredded coconut, flax meal, coconut oil, almond butter, honey, vanilla, salt, and dark chocolate. She does call for stevia, but I subbed extra honey. Next time I’ll put the chocolate on the bottom to make the bars easier to cut. GF, DF, soy free (just watch your chocolate ingredients)

Frozen Banana Bites: nut/seed butter sandwiched between banana slices and skewered on a toothpick. I don’t even dip them in chocolate. Baby Bear and I both love these. It’s the perfect tiny sweet bite. P.S. They’re extra awesome with Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter in the middle. GF, DF, soy free

Strawberry Creamsicles: made with coconut milk, these are a wholesome post-nap hit with Baby Bear. I used frozen strawberries, and they still turned out wonderfully.

Buttermints for Sugar Cravings from Empowered Sustenance: I keep these in the freezer and pop 2 or 3 when I want something sweet. Mostly butter–you have to like butter to enjoy these–with a bit of raw honey and peppermint oil, they do the trick! GF, soy free

My Favorite Hummus Recipe Ever: It’s official, everyone in my household loves hummus now. Baby Bear pleads “um-MUH, um-MUH.” This recipe has been my stand-by for years. The parsley oil and pine nuts put it over the top for special occasions, but I usually skip them. GF, DF, soy free, etc.

Menu for Entertaining Overnight Guests

We were privileged to host my husband’s aunt and uncle this weekend, as they stopped in Farmington on their way to see Mesa Verde. I had such a good time cooking special food (doesn’t happen often these days!), and the work load was minimal. The recipes I used recycled a lot of ingredients, which meant less waste and prep.

Appetizer: Melted Tomato Bruschetta with Roasted Garlic Ricotta — SO easy and yummy! You don’t even need brilliant tomatoes to make this fabulous. I used roasted garlic I’d frozen in teaspoon-size portions a few weeks ago.
Main Course: Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Sage Sauce — an old favorite of ours I hadn’t cooked in a while, feels fancy without the fuss. GF
Sides: mashed potatoes with fresh parsley and steamed green beans with butter
Dessert: Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar, served with a scoop of Straus Family Creamery vanilla ice cream — sophisticated yet approachable flavors, not too heavy. GF, DF w/o the ice cream :)

Main: Sausage and Egg Casserole with Sun-Dried Tomatoes — I’ve been making it for years and still can’t get enough. It’s extra yummy with fresh basil and a bit of parmesan on top. GF
Sides: fresh mixed berries & leftover olive oil toasts from last night’s bruschetta

Sack Lunch
Mayo-less Mediterranean Tuna Salad — canned tuna, good olive oil, leftover melted tomatoes from bruschetta, leftover basil and parsley, fresh dill, leftover shallots. Really easy and tasted gourmet, my new favorite tuna salad!

Mind & Spirit

11 Strategies for a Morning Routine (When You Can NOT Wake up before the Kids): This article not only reminded me of what I already know works for me, it motivated me to apply them every day and to find some new centering practices. I’ve had 3 weeks now of gloriously peaceful mornings.

Creating a Lovely Morning: Another great article on peaceful morning routines. My biggest takeaway from this one was permission to include something I look forward to. What a difference that’s made!

Break the Sugar Habit Workbook: I had some real ah-hah moments while completing this free workbook. For one, I’ve never named the feelings I experience when eating sugar/fast carbs (which I’ve craved a lot more since having a child), and I was surprised by what I found. I love that Lisa Byrne, the author, focuses on what’s underneath the cravings and how to meet those deeper needs in constructive ways. I’ve made some changes in the past 3 weeks and am enjoying the results.

TommiMom: If you want the good medicine of smiles and laughter, check out Tommi’s chronicle of her adventures with 4 kids (aged 5 and under!) on the road this summer. She’s perfectly charming and a natural storyteller. Day 1 left me laughing till I cried.

Awesome Products

Woodstock Chimes: I’ve owned and loved the Butterfly’s Farewell chime for almost a year, and it delights me every day. There’s something about it that refreshes my soul in the morning. You can listen to it and dozens of other Woodstock chimes here, but buy it at a major discount here.

Straus Family Creamery Dairy Products: They’re grass-fed, organic, small batch low-temp pasteurized, and unhomogenized, i.e., as good as it gets when you’re buying from a store. And they taste INCREDIBLE. Their heavy cream, their European style yogurts, their ice creams are all over-the-top delicious. If it’s Straus, I buy it. I see them popping up more and more, but if your health food store doesn’t carry them yet, ask!

Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter: Need a healthier, lower-sugar but still decadent alternative to Nutella? This is the ticket. You can probably find it at your health food store, but if not, Amazon and Vitacost carry it too.

PastTense Essential Oil Blend by DoTerra: I’m experiencing a lot of burning in my mid-back muscles lately, and this stuff is near miraculous for relieving the discomfort, much better than BioFreeze and other products I’ve used. While I work to resolve the underlying cause, I sure appreciate this product! (The link is to Amazon; I do not sell DoTerra oils.)

Refreshingly Simple, Pure Skincare with a Dab of Kindness

Refreshingly Simple, Pure Skincare with a Dab of Kindness

Cosmetics companies swear you need a full line of coordinated high-tech products to beat your skin into submission. I took the bait early. For over a decade, I anxiously cleansed, exfoliated, toned, applies special serums and gels, moisturized–all twice a day–and regularly used fancy masks. You know what I got? So-so skin and a scary bill. Oh, and a boatload of unregulated chemicals. (If you think the FDA regulates your skincare ingredients, think again.)

After growing terribly ill and switching to a holistic approach to heal, I got smart about those chemicals. I switched to natural product lines, some of them quite excellent. (Chae Organics is a notable example.) But it took me a lot longer to ditch the old mentality. I still thought I needed all the specialized products, that my body was the enemy. Skin “care” was really about skin control.

[Read more…]

Pastured Cream or Organic Tomatoes? A Guide to Prioritizing Food Dollars (Part 1)

A Guide to Prioritizing Food Dollars: Pastured Cream or Organic Tomatoes?

Do you ever wonder if organic is worth the money? Or is local better? And if you can only buy a few top-quality grocery items, which ones should you choose—grass-fed beef or organic carrots? This series is for you!

And it’s for me too. Because life has changed for my little family. Our new home in Farmington, New Mexico, comes with some baggage—state income tax, high utility bills, and remoteness—while my husband’s job doesn’t follow the same generous raise schedule we enjoyed before. My toddler eats adult portions and, oh yes, there’s a bun in the oven, due before the end of the year.

We are blessed with more than we need, and yet, we have limits. We can’t buy it ALL, even if we could figure out what the “perfect” ALL looks like.

[Read more…]

Vietnamese Bun: Refreshing Noodle Salad with Vegetables, Chicken & Herbs (GF, DF)

Vietnamese Bun: Refreshing Noodle Salad with Vegetables, Chicken & Herbs

It’s that time again–I guest blogged recently at The Nourishing Gourmet, this time with a perfect-for-Spring healthier take on a takeout favorite, Vietnamese bun. If you’re craving all things fresh and light after a winter of warming comfort foods, this dish is for you! It pairs bright herbs like mint and cilantro with savory chicken, and crisp veggies with silky rice noodles, all topped with a sweet-salty-tangy sauce.

Read the full post and get the recipe at The Nourishing Gourmet. See you there!