This week’s tester is: Elena Filek from Salt Lake City, UT.Elena is a stay-at-home Mother of two children, Sarah (13) and Matthew (11). In her spare time, Elena enjoys reading Paleo cookbooks, nutrition and fitness books/magazines, meal planning and skiing or hiking, depending on the season. Here is what Elena has to say about her experience with PaleoNick.com:

“I met Paleo Nick 4 years ago at CrossFit Southbay and have been following him ever since. I have made several of his recipes over the years and my favorite is the Thai Turkey Throwdown. I have been eating Paleo for 5 years now, and although I’m not 100%, I do feel my best when I do.”

“I really enjoyed cooking this meal plan. There were several recipes that were very easy to put together. I really enjoyed using the BBQ since it’s been so hot here this past week. I didn’t have any helpers in the kitchen, but there were plenty of volunteers to do the taste testing.”

  

Approximate Meal Plan Cost As Prescribed:

Chain grocery store (Kroger): $188.00
Warehouse store (Costco or Sam’s): $153.00

The amount you will spend will depend on your geographic location and how much you rely on bulk purchases. As an example, you can get 1 quart of extra light olive oil at Kroger for $19.99 or you can get 4 quarts at Costco for $16.50. You follow? Meat and produce will also be less at the warehouse stores, but might require you purchase more than you’ll need for this plan.

Customize Your Plan and Shop It Up!

I have created a customize-able grocery list in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Even if you’re not good with Excel, I’ve set it up in a foolproof way that even “The Jo!” could handle. Follow these instructions:

  1. Open the document and click on the tab at the bottom that says “Menu item & Ingredient Brkdown”.
  2. At the top, you’ll see the number “1” in bold just below each menu item. You can change this number to correspond with the number of portions that you’d like to make. Say you want to already some Massie Mayo on hand, change the “1” below the Massie Mayo to a “0” and it will remove the listed ingredients for you.
  3. Click back to the tab that says “Meal Plan 16.28 Grocery List” and your quantities will be updated.
  4. Print out the grocery list from the first tab only.
  5. Compare what you need to what you have on hand and finalize your list.

Then, head to the grocery store and make your purchases swiftly and efficiently.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

I want you to knock this out in one shopping session, two cooking sessions, and one short finishing session. I’ll explain these now, but want you to scroll down to the notes on each meal below. They are listed under each picture.

In cooking session one:

  1. Prepare the Beef Brisket with Raisin Sauce, place it in the slow cooker, set the slow cooker on a foil lined sheet pan, and place it on your counter or in your garage to cook overnight.
  2. Prepare the marinade for the Barbecued Pork & Peach Skewers. Get your meat soaking and place it in your refrigerator. We will cook this meal tomorrow.
  3. Prepare the Bacon Wrapped Chicken Fingers and Massie Mayo (you will need some for tomorrow’s cucumber salad, so you might as well make it now and enjoy it for both recipes). Enjoy this as your meal and store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  4. Clean up the kitchen and pat yourself on the back for a day well done.

In cooking session two:

  1. Portion out the Brisket and blitz the raisin sauce in the blender. Portion out the servings and refrigerate or freeze. Clean out the slow cooker. Prepare the meatballs for the soup and load them and the other ingredients for the Meatball Soup into your slow cooker(the squash is suppose to be precooked, so place that in the oven while you are cooking your meatballs). Place on a foil lined sheet pan, and place in it your garage or leave it on the counter to cook for the next 6-12 hours.
  2. Prepare the Pork & Peach Skewers. Portion out and properly store in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze for up to 6 months.
  3. Prepare the Chicken Paillard with Cucumber Salad (if you didn’t make the Massie Mayo yesterday, whip up a batch of that now also). Eat this meal for dinner and properly store any leftovers. The cucumber salad will only last a couple days, so you will want eat the leftovers in the next day or two.
  4. Portion out the Meatball Soup once it is finished cooking. Store these in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze up to 6 months.
  5. Clean up the kitchen and polish up that sink!

In finishing session:

  1. Prepare the Blackened Shrimp with Shrooms. Enjoy this as your lunch or dinner. Properly store any leftovers for up to a week in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 6 months.
  2. Sit back and take it all in. Your Paleo Bank Account is stocked and now you are a Culinary Ninja who is ready to tackle life with energy, clarity, and confidence. Be sure to tell your friends about PaleoNick.com!

Beef Brisket with Raisin Sauce

Notes: “This was a family favorite! Everyone enjoyed the sweetness and slight heat of this dish.  I served it with roasted sweet potato and it was a perfect combo,” Elena shared.

“I made my own Radical Rib Rub and I added more cumin than was suggested in the recipe you sent me (I like cumin). I also didn’t puree the sauce at the end, I just spooned the sauce as is with raisins over top. I thought it looked pretty with raisins,” she noted.

Elena spent 20 minutes prepping this dish, 10 hours slow cooking it and ended up with 12 portions.

BBQ Pork & Peach Skewers

Notes: “The skewers looked really pretty with grill marks on the peaches. The sweetness of the peaches paired really nicely with the salty marinade of the meat,” Elena stated.

This recipe calls for the pork to be marinaded for 4-24 hours. If you use bamboo skewers, you will need to let them soak in water for at least an hour, so prepare yourself for this also.

Elena spent 20 minutes prepping this dish, 20 minutes grilling the skewers and yielded 6 portions.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Fingers

Notes: “Another really pretty recipe! Something I would serve as a perfect finger food at a party.  Jalapenos added a nice little bite to the chicken. Chipotle mayo was amazing and a perfect dipping sauce!” she said.

Elena removed the seeds from her jalapenos with hopes that her children would eat the entire finger without picking anything off. No such luck, they pretty much just ate the chicken and bacon and picked off the bell and jalapeno peppers. Oh well, at least they got their protein with this meal.

Elena spent about 15 minutes preparing this dish, 20 minutes cooking it and made 6 portions for her and her family.

Mexican Meatball Soup

Notes: “Very flavorful! The meatball texture was very nice (not overcooked or mushy). I cooked it on high for about 5.5hrs and both meatballs and the vegetables had the perfect texture for me,” she stated.

“I didn’t precook the butternut squash because I just didn’t plan far in advance to do so, but the soup was amazing anyway.  It was thinner than it would’ve been with mashed squash, but the broth was very nice. Also, the volume was much more than I anticipated.  I had to pull out two more slow cookers to fit everything in,” Elena noted. I have made this dish before and didn’t have any issue with the slow cooker space.

Good thing you had extra crock pots Elena! I guess it really depends on the size of the vegetables you chose at the grocery store. As a reminder, it is always a good idea to read through the recipes and watch the video to cooking them to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the details. It would be rather easy to throw the squash in the oven while you are preparing the meatballs for this slow cooker recipe.

Elena spent 1 hour prepping this dish, 6 hours cooking it and made 9 portions.

Chicken Paillard with Cucumber Salad

Notes: “This was so easy and quick to put together! Chicken turned out so flavorful! And the cucumber salad reminded me of the salad my mom used to make in Russia with fresh cucumbers, radishes, green onion, dill and sour cream. Even the kids loved the salad!”

Elena made 3 chicken breast instead of the 2 listed on the recipe in order to feed her family of 5. You will need to whip up a batch of Massie Mayo for the cucumber salad if you don’t already have some on hand. You can also use the mayo to make the chipotle honey mayo garnish for the chicken finger recipe above.

Elena spent 15 minutes preparing this dish and 20 minutes cooking it and yielded 5 portions.

Blackened Pepper Shrimp with Shrooms

Notes: “Quick recipe and very colorful!  It was easy to put together,” Elena shares.

The only thing she would have changed about the way she cooked this meal is that she wished she would have removed the shrimp tales before cooking. I guess it depends on the way you buy your shrimp, but the recipe states “peeled and deveined.” I always want to eat any shrimp dish I make as quickly as possible, so removing the tails is always a must for me, but the choice is always yours.

She spent 15 minutes prepping this colorful dish, about 20 minutes cooking it and ended up with 10 portions.

Here are the meals Elena made:

Mexican Meatball Soup
BBQ Pork & Peach Skewers
Chicken Paillard with Cucumber Salad
Bacon Wrapped Chicken Fingers
Blackened Pepper Shrimp with Shrooms
Beef Brisket with Raisin Sauce over sweet potatoes
Deposit into Elena’s Paleo Bank Account

A great big thank you to Elena and her taste testers for providing such wonderful pictures and feedback for all of us this week. While it’s not always the easiest to find the time to cook like this, the pay off is the true treasure when you get to put 24 meals into your Paleo Bank Account and feed a family of 5, 5 meals. Way to go Elena!

From Nick:

Elena! I was so glad to see that you were the tester. It looks like you’ve relocated to SLC, so I’ll be sure to look you up when I travel there. We go way back to the South Bay days, oh the memories!

You picked an awesome array of meals and your pictures are amazing. Seriously! I can see from the photos that you followed the recipes well and that love is the first ingredient in all your cooking. The meatballs look killer, I wish I had a bowl right now!!! The shrimp, the poppers, how you dressed up the brisket, it is all well presented, even the prepped food pic at the end. This is a great example of what I am looking for from a meal plan tester.

Anyhow. Keep up the good work with “Keeping It Paleo!”. And, remember that there will always be taste testers aplenty, but dish doers are few! That’s where the love comes in. It’s like “The Little Red Hen” plays out every time a meal is cooked, no?

I hope to see you soon in Salt Lake City so that we can cook together…

Your Pal,

Paleo Nick

Elena’s taste testers

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