This week’s tester is: Laura Grover from Cincinnati, Ohio. Laura is a wife and mother of twin, 1-year-old boys. She is a Medical Writer and also coaches and works out at Ft. Wright Crossfit in Ft. Wright, Kentucky.

In her spare time, Laura enjoys cooking, Crossfit, reading and spending as much time with her family as possible.

Here’s what Laura had to say about her experience with PaleoNick and her meal plan testing:

“I heard about PaleoNick when I was curious about the new Culinary Ninja CrossFit course! I popped over to the website, and love it! I started with the Ribs (delicious, love the rub!), but was hooked when we made the white fish greek salad. It’s so good and so easy! The key for me is fast and easy, as we are often starting to cook dinner at 8, and need to be getting ready for bed around 9!”

“I always enjoy cooking, but admit I found a lot of this meal plan to be daunting. My summer has gotten particularly hectic, and some of these recipes require more time than I have during the week! I’m pretty much the sole cook at our house, but my husband did help with some of the meal prep. Miles and Elliott tried any leftovers, and gave the chorizo hash two fists up!”


Approximate Meal Plan Cost As Prescribed:

Chain grocery store (Kroger): $112.00
Warehouse store (Costco or Sam’s): $95.00

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 make a double batch of the Chorizo Mushroom Hash with Eggs, change the “1” below the Chorizo Hash to a “2” and it will double the listed ingredients for you.
  3. Click back to the tab that says “Meal Plan 16.30 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 80 Clove Garlic Chicken, 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 Pan Seared Lamb Chops with Parsnip Puree and Balsamic Beets. Enjoy this as your meal tonight. Portion out the leftovers and refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months (I wouldn’t freeze the Balsamic Beets, but the Lamb and Puree will freeze just fine).
  3. Clean up the kitchen and pat yourself on the back for a day well done.

In cooking session two:

  1. Portion out the 80 Clove Garlic Chicken servings and refrigerate or freeze. Clean out the slow cooker. Prepare the Slow Cooker Beef Birria and get it into the slow cooker. Place it on a foil lined sheet pan, and set it in your garage or leave it on the counter to cook for the next 10-12 hours.
  2. Prepare the Chorizo Mushroom Hash with Eggs. Eat this meal for breakfast and properly store any remaining portions in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze for up to six months.
  3. Prepare the Greatest Paleo Pizza for lunch or dinner. Store any leftover portions in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (Reheat in the oven for best results)
  4. Portion out the Beef Birria once it has finished cooking. Portion out and store in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze up to six months. Clean out your slow cooker.
  5. Clean up the kitchen and polish up that sink!

In finishing session:

  1. Prepare the Togarashi Tuna with Avocado and Shrooms. Enjoy this as your lunch or dinner. Properly store any leftover portions for 5-7 days in the refrigerator.
  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!

80 Clove Garlic Chicken

Notes: “The garlic turned out AMAZING! I could spread that stuff on anything! Recipes using a Crockpot are nice for during the work week. The kitchen smelled amazing when I got home from work. My husband liked the overall flavors a lot,” Laura stated.

“Crockpot chicken tends to be really mushy and have a bad texture, and this was no exception; it was pretty inedible from a flavor and texture standpoint (it was manageable if every bite had some garlic spread on it), especially the breasts. Maybe using dark meat only cuts would be better. There was far too much liquid by the end of the cook time, making it very difficult to get all the bits of chicken out, and it ended up just making a huge mess; consider decreasing the amount of stock. I’ve cooked 2 whole chickens in my Crockpot before using no extra liquid and it was fine (well, still mushy) and didn’t leave such a huge amount of liquid behind. Using a whole chicken also increases the prep time somewhat (as opposed to just using a whole cut up chicken) and increases portioning time after the cook is done as you try to make sure you got all the inedible bits out. Overall, we won’t be making this again,” Laura noted.

Remember, cook times with slow cookers can vary. I have an 8 quart Crock Pot that cooks rather hot, so I always do my meals on low and keep warm over the high setting. Be sure to check you meal at the 6-8 hour mark to see how things look. If the meat seems cooked at this point, give it a taste test and see what you think.

Also, placing your slow cooker on a foil lined sheet pan, as suggested in the recipe and step-by-step instructions, is always a good idea to avoid any boiling over that may occur during the cooking process. This, for me, has proven to be a very useful step with most of my meals.

There is a list of additional optional seasonings that can be added to this recipe for a bigger flavor profile, so take a look at those choices before heading to the store. And, always remember, you can substitute breasts, thighs or an already disassembled chicken for this recipe if you’d like. This will lessen your cooking time though, so be aware.

Laura spent 30 minutes prepping this meal, with a cook time of 10 hours and yielded 6 portions.

Pan Seared Lamb Chops with Parsnip Puree and Balsamic Beets

Notes: “This was a smash hit! The beets were fantastic, the lamb was delectable, and the parsnips were a nice addition. It was easy too. I roasted my beets on Sunday with the rest of my meal prep so they were ready, and the day of preparation was pretty fast. We’re very likely to make this again,” Laura said.

“I didn’t cook my parsnips long enough because the meat was done, so it might be helpful to add a note to start those quite a bit before the meat goes on the stove. I would also suggest adding a little oil to the parsnips, I think it will help the texture a lot,” Laura shared.

She spent 60+ minutes prepping this meal, including the time it took to roast her beets, about 20 minutes cooking and made 4 portions.

Slow Cooker Beef Birria

Notes:  “This meal was fast, easy, and made a lot. Using the dried chiles for flavor was cool, though wasn’t as flavorful as I was expecting,” Laura said.

We were expecting to be able to make paleo tacos, but the meat was just far too liquidy. We ate this more as a stew, which was okay, but not what we were expecting. Overall, it was so so, not really remarkable, but made enough for lots of extra meals, which was great.  The acorn squash basically disintegrated, which was my bad direction following error! I think perhaps not adding 6 cups of water would be good. There would be enough liquid with 4 cups, I believe,” Laura noted.

Laura spent 20 minutes prepping this meal. with a cook time of 12.5 hours and yielded 6 portions.

Chorizo Mushroom Hash with Eggs

Notes:  “This meal was fast, easy, and full of flavor! Delicious! This was a huge hit. The picture isn’t all that appetizing, but it was yummy!”

Laura decided to double the amount of chorizo for this recipe and used a whole jalapeno in the guac to add some extra heat instead of the 1/2 that is listed.

She spent 15 minutes prepping, 20 minutes cooking and came out with 2 good sized breakfast portions.

Greatest Paleo Pizza

Notes: “The combination of toppings was really good—the addition of the green chiles is brilliant, though we didn’t use shrimp because I am allergic. We did use Italian sausage and it was tasty,” shared Laura.

“Overall, this was a bust for us. I had a lot of trouble getting the macadamia nuts small enough to roll out the dough so the chunks were giving me issues while rolling the dough thin, and when I was able to roll the dough thin enough, the cook time was way too long and the crust would have burnt after 5 minutes if I hadn’t been keeping a close eye on it. The dough always cooked up really dry, despite all the fat and not seeming dry at all while rolling out. Then, despite dusting with extra coconut flour, the crusts stuck very very very badly, and I couldn’t get them to release. The last ditch attempt was to hit the pan with Pam, plus coconut flour, and I only got one crack, but it was still very hard to get the crust off,” Laura noted

Laura tried making 3 crusts out of what should have been 1 crust, so I am guessing that this is where her problem with the crust came from.

This recipe is meant to yield one pizza, cut into 8 slices, that are broken down into 1 protein block and 8.5 fat blocks each. Be sure to follow the step-by-step pictures in this article to achieve the best crust possible.

You also have the option of substituting any of the toppings for your favorite pizza toppings, or just using items you may already have on hand at home, instead of what is listed in the recipe. And don’t forget to try a few of the optional garnishes listed at the bottom of the ingredients list on this recipe. The Salsa Chipotle and Massie Mayo are both great additions! There is also a recipe for the Rib Rub mixture at the bottom of this recipe on your recipe compilation, but you have the option of just seasoning with salt and pepper you’d like. The Salsa Chipotle and Rib Rub ingredients will need to be added to your grocery list, if you choose to go this route.

Laura spent 10 minutes preparing her crusts, with a daunting hour and a half of cook time trying to figure out her crust and didn’t get an accurate portion count, due to her crust problems.

Togarashi Tuna with Avocado and Shrooms

Notes: Laura stated that this recipe was “Fast, easy, and it tasted really good. Felt super healthy and great for summer.”

“It would probably be good to remind people to season with salt if their togarishi seasoning doesn’t come with salt in it, and I think the mushrooms could use a hit of salt (just a reminder to). It definitely pays off to use super high quality fish here, which can be hard to find in Ohio. Overall, super yummy,” Laura noted.

The togarishi is a spicy ingredient and is listed to use ‘as desired,’ so keep this in mind when preparing this incredibly tasty dish. You won’t need the addition of any black pepper for this recipe.

Laura spent 5 minutes prepping her tuna, 10 minutes cooking the fish and came out with 3 portions.

Here are some pictures from Laura’s meals:

Lamb Chops with Parsnip Puree and Balsamic Beets
80 Clove Garlic Chicken plated with a side salad
Beef Birria ingredients and plated meal
Togarashi Tuna with Avocado and Shrooms
Greatest Paleo Pizza attempt

Thank you Laura for taking the time and  effort to test these meals for us, even though the outcome was not as rewarding as you had hoped for. We are glad you took on the task and gave it a shot at least. Keep on trying our recipes and I am sure you will soon come up with a list of quick and easy meals to fit your busy lifestyle.

From Nick:

Laura! You kicked butt! Your pics are beautiful and I can see that you have some real skill. Your meal selections are on point and I love the combination of the Lamb Chops, Beef Birria and Tuna with Avocado and Mushrooms. Not something you’d find in typical midwestern fare, for someone living in Ohio, you are a next level Culinary Ninja! This is also the first time my food has received “Two Fists Up!”. That’s next level Siskel and Ebert stuff.

Take care of Miles and Elliott, they have to be a handful, but the hardest things in life are always worth the effort. I hope to see you as a tester again soon and hope that we can cook together at one of the upcoming Culinary Ninja Seminars…

Until then, “Keep It Paleo!”

Your Pal,

Paleo Nick

Laura’s twin boys, Miles and Elliott

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