Not Every Recipe is A Winner – Common Sense Philosophies

Grilled Shrimp on a Baby Spinach Salad

Not every recipe is a winner. If you’re new to cooking, I think it’s important for you to know this. Now, I admit I do have an uncanny luck with liking most things that I make. My husband was shocked one day when they liked a dish and I refused to eat it because I didn’t like the flavor. It’s rare, but I promise I don’t always like everything I come up with…but my biggest message is…That’s okay!!!

One reason I like doing review blogs on recipes by other bloggers is because I want you guys to know these recipes are accomplish-able. I like to show you guys which recipes I’ve tried. Now…I think my first review was my only negative one and I immediately decided that I did not want to do another negative review. We all have different opinions…We all have our own food issues. For instance…Since going paleo for well over a year now I am not fond of most gluten free bread like products. I have given up on finding a pancake that I like. It’s just a texture issue for me. However, there are several good recipes out there that many people like. My goal is never to discourage anyone from at least trying a recipe.

When you’re cooking you have to be reasonable with your expectations. Not every recipe is going to be right for you. There may even be ingredients that you are just not ready to try. I, frankly, love to try anything and everything. I learned the hard way that I’m not a fan of short ribs. The flavor is just not something I care for. I’ve tried making up my own recipe. I’ve tried other recipes. I’m just not a fan…Again…That’s okay!

The picture above is actually shrimp sauteed in butter, lemon, and pepper. The shrimp turned out really soft and the butter flavor over powered the shrimp. It just didn’t taste good. I was not a fan of the texture either. Grilled shrimp would be a much choice for this salad in hind sight.

Things I’ve learned when choosing and trying recipes:

  • Go for it! Don’t be afraid to try it.
  • Modify when you know what you like. If you know you prefer basil over thyme…Do it! Try it!
  • Recipes are not written in stone. Experiment. Use the recipe as a guideline when you’re comfortable enough to experiment.
  • Keep time in mind. Do you really want to try to master bouef bourguignon on a Wednesday night?
  • Don’t be afraid to make your own recipe! (Have you seen the tab that says “Stuff I Make Up”?)
  • Shop local and in season as much as you can for inspiration.
  • Stay inspired and watch others cook, such as cooking shows, or on YouTube.

To end this Common Sense Philosophies post, I want to remind you my dear friends, just because the recipe isn’t a winner, doesn’t mean you’re a loser. You are still winning with experience points. Every meal is a lesson and you get a chance three times a day to try again, and learn more. I told my husband the other day, there’s nothing in this world that I wouldn’t want to learn. The day I stop learning is the day I’m ready to move on to the next life to learn something new there.

Keep on cooking friends and come back next time. I have several recipes and a review coming up that I am so very excited to share with you. I’ll be reviewing He Won’t Know It’s Paleo’s Red Wine Pasta Sauce…and I have figured out my AIP Bouef Bourguignon. Thank you guys for your continued support. It is so greatly appreciated.

-Ami M. Lee, Experimenter, Mad Hatter Chef, The Common Sense Cook

Common Sense Philsophies – Food Religion

The Best People, Julia Child

Oh yes… One of my favorite quotes by Julia.

One thing you might not know about me, is that I am a seeker of knowledge. I just love understanding things and people. I AM that weirdo who can talk religion, politics, food, Team Edward or Team Jacob (Edward…in case anyone was wondering…) and basically anything and everything. Even if I don’t agree, or have the same beliefs, I just love to know how people tick. It ignites that child like curiosity within me when I meet someone or something new. Same thing goes for “food religion.”

Now…You may be like…What in the world are you talking about?! I’ve come to this interesting conclusion lately that the way you eat is so very similar to religion. You have a set way of doing things and you put your whole heart into it. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, paleo, or just Standard American Diet but using mostly organic foods. You have your reasons, and they’re usually always good reasons to eat better, whole foods, and support local farmers. There is a lot of common ground! However, it seems like more and more these days, people get stuck in the Dogma of Food Religion and forget that we’re all just eating… And let me quote her again… People who love to eat are the best people.

There are some extreme diets out there! I’ve heard of everything from a completely meat diet to a completely raw plant based (vegan) diet. There’s the Standard American Diet, Paleo, Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, Wahl’s Protocol, Low-Histamine… The list goes on and on and on… But, when did we start saying that MY DIET is the ONLY RIGHT kind of diet for a person to have?

Even though I’m paleo…This is something I’ve seen in our large paleo group. If someone mentions being able to eat something not typically described as “paleo” then people get all bent out of shape. We even have hashtags for #TeamWhiteRice! I see things like, grains are evil! Soy is poison. Dairy is the devil. And while….That may make sense for that person… Is there a one size fits all human diet?

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the vegans lately. It’s just something I find interesting, and I love that more people are advocating against animal suffering. But, even in the vegan community…They fight and bicker about who is the most vegan… Who does the most hashtags to get out the vegan message. Vegans are truly passionate to deny the primal instinct within to go completely without eating meat. I admit, I eat vegan meals on occasion. Especially vegan treats. If I’m going on that rare occasional treat, I would rather use whole, raw foods than to have to bake, and have a million weird ingredients… (Doesn’t help…Paleo baking is hard.)

Then we have our friends (and family) who are Standard American Diet. I mentioned to one family member who was looking at the possibility of having cancer that they have seen great things with a vegan diet and cancer patients… Needless to say…This was my daddy and love him as I do he replied, “I’ll die with a steak in one hand, and a beer in the other.” I’m sure some people just fell over…But that’s my dad. A lot of us probably know these folks. Heck, some of you might be reading my blog like…Yep..She’s talking about me. What do I have to say about this? Well. You can’t make choices for these people. They’ve eaten this way their whole lives and think there’s nothing wrong with it. Does it annoy the heck out of me when people complain that my kids are starved because they don’t get treats or can’t have soda? Oh you bet…This momma bear is happy to inform any and all that I am trying to give them good healthy options. But, again I come to the question… Is this diet right for everyone?

The answer to these questions are……NO! No way! Never! Nope.

No one diet will ever work for all 7 billion of us. We all have different backgrounds and genetics. We may have different life experiences and handle food differently. I often hear stories about people like me who are severely allergic to food in the U.S.A. going away on holiday to another country and being fine! Why are there skinny people who eat junk food all day? Why are there people who are still fat on paleo? I think it is simply because…

We are all unique.

I think the most important thing that I would like anyone who reads this to take from it is….

(Say it with me.) People who love to eat, are the best people. So yes, that means you. If you love food, you’re awesome in my book. No matter what you believe is best. If you’re vegan and you feel great and are full of life and energy and can help the planet and reduce animal suffering…You have my kudos and encouragement. If you’re a single mom just trying to make it and all you can afford is spaghetti noodles, pasta sauce, and a pound of ground beef…You still have all my kudos! If you’re some form of Paleo like me and you are all about nutrient density, snout to tail, and buying local…You have just as many kudos as the rest!


Because we’re all awesome people who love food. We can learn awesome things from each other regardless of our diet. I definitely don’t let paleo stop me from figuring out how to make or recreate amazing dishes from all sorts of amazing people. And, I am committing to be able to serve not just my paleo friend, but everyone! So don’t freak out if you see a Standard American Diet with pasta in it, my paleo friend… Don’t freak out my Standard American Diet friends if you see a vegan recipe…

So whether you’re passing the spaghetti…the lentil…or the bacon….I hope we can all share a dish together and just enjoy food. I hope you’ll come back next time and see what opinions this hippie momma, Common Sense Cook can lay down next.

-Ami M. Lee, The Common Sense Cook

Common Sense Philosophies – School Lunches

Kiddo Lunches

Today was a wonderful learning day. I have two kiddos going to kindergarten this year. My oldest fell under birthday rule, while my middle kiddo did not. I am all about being prepared way in advance. So here we are, getting prepared for school lunches!

I bought these great little containers last year for a picnic. I thought they’d be great to hang on to for when they kids go to school. They’re silicone with a plastic lid. They can fold up, or expand when food is in it. They are dishwasher safe. I’m still trying to figure out how to get them in a cooled lunch box because of the shape…But we’ll get there eventually.

So what did I put in my kids’ lunch box? Well…It started off like this.

Kiddos Grocery Shopping

I let these three cutie patooties push their own mini-cart around the store and pick out what they wanted to eat for lunch. We picked up things like almond butter, dried fruit, and more. It was a little crazy because I had to constantly remind them to watch where they were going, but they had a blast and most people just smiled from ear to ear.

So….back to what I put in it. As a paleo (AIP) mom, I know that in the media there have been many parents come under heavy fire for what they send in their kids’ lunch boxes. I am not half as strict on my kiddos as I am on myself, for one. I leave occasional wheat based products (usually of higher quality) in their diet so that if they do slip up, they are not as gravely affected as I am. I did have a time where I was very strict, and my kiddos ended up getting very sick if they were anywhere but eating at home. In some paleo circles, this is just unacceptable, but for me…80/20 paleo is important to us for our kids and leaving in a little gluten allows them to have those occasional conventional treats with other family members.

For these lunch boxes I packed a pretty well rounded meal (in my opinion only). There are some carrots with ranch (not shown) because my kiddos can devour some carrots. We have some amazing dried strawberries with some walnuts. Finally, we have two sandwich halves that are oatnut bread and almond butter.

I look for a few things when compiling this lunch box. I’m looking for protein, vegetables, a healthy source of fruit or sugar, and healthy fats. Almond butter (as many nut butters do) have a good amount of protein. My kiddos love carrots and they keep well, so that is a great veggie to be able to send. The fruit is small, dried, and stable to be refrigerated or not. Then, the healthy fats are in the extra walnuts with the dried strawberries. I don’t look (or care) about the “whole grains” part because it is not a staple of our diet (another philosophy for another time).

You may be asking…Where is the dairy at? My youngest kiddo is severely lactose/casein intolerant. We do coconut and almond milk from time to time. I occasionally do high quality, raw, local cheese for the family. However, I am just not comfortable with having it under light refrigeration (via a cooling pack) over the course of many hours. I am wanting to look at the ability of a thermos that could help keep liquids cold for an extended period of time…But that’s still in the works.

This was an amazingly fun project to do with the kids. I think they really enjoyed picking out their lunch foods, and they’ll be really surprised this afternoon when they get to have all of the amazing things that they picked. Here’s the jist of what I learned from this experience:

  • Get your kiddos involved. Make sure to ask them what they would like, and if it’s available to you, let the kids do the shopping.
  • Pick your containers in advanced so that your kids can practice how to use it, and the general “rules” of eating at school. Such as, eat your sandwich and carrots before you eat your fruit treat.
  • Know what is most important to you on their plate while considering what the conventional guidelines are.
  • Look for the basics such as protein, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats. (If you’re family does dairy and/or whole grains, know what the good/healthy ways to send these are.)
  • Keep experimenting.

I hope you enjoy this post. I had so much fun doing it and can’t wait till I can figure out some more lunch combos as we get closer to the big day. If you have kiddos, what are their favorite things to take to school for lunch? I’ll be sure to share more as we experiment.

-Ami M. Lee, Lunchtime Experimenter, Whole Food Lunch Giver, Common Sense Cook

Common Sense Philosophies – Cooking Fats

I think a great thing about Paleo/AIP is that Fat is no longer a four letter word. Well…it isn’t a four letter word literally or figuratively. When you enter into this lifestyle, in what ever version that may be, you may be perplexed with recipes that call for coconut oil, lard, tallow, avocado oil, or many others. Is cooking fat, just fat? Well…there are a lot more in depth articles than this one, so I encourage you to go to Google my friends, especially the health benefits.

My Favorite Cooking Fats

1. Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the first cooking fats that I used that was considered “health beneficial.” I love the flavor that it can give to certain foods. I found out how simple and delicious it could be to cook thin chicken breast pieces with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil. I’ve since learned that olive oil is better suited for lower temperatures and cold on salads. Now…I have heard through the grapevine that if you get olive oil too hot, it loses some of it’s beneficial properties.

2. Coconut Oil

What can I not say about coconut oil? Coconut oil is very versatile. You see it in a lot of paleo/aip baking, you can do stir-fry or frying. It does have a higher smoke point than olive oil. I’ve used this for frying off some chicken nuggets with a coconut flake crust (recipe coming soon), or stir fries. It is very versatile. I also stopped using conventional, store bought facial cleansers. I do about a teaspoon of coconut oil, honey, and coconut sugar. My face has never been clearer in my life. I have oily, combo skin with extreme sensitivity. Best thing that has ever happened in my skins life is this, and doing paleo/aip.

3. Avocado Oil

This is one of the more expensive oils you can buy. But, I urge you to look around! I bought a bottle at Kroger to “try it out” and ended up spending $13! However…I found a bigger bottle at Target for $9. The benefits of avocado have long been known and if you really want to invest in good quality oils, this is what I would recommend. Why? The highest smoke point. I really notice that olive and coconut oils turn brown real fast when they get hot for too long. I did a ribeye steak just the other night and the avocado kept up very well and was able to take high heat for the 7 minutes on each side. I was very impressed.

Fatworks Tallow and Lard

4. Lard and Tallow

I especially love Fatworks Lard and Tallow. Now, lard is an acquired smell. I started using for Sweet Potato Apple Hash and blasted right through the jar. It gives great flavor. However, tallow is by far my favorite. Lard stays a thick but liquid consistency while the tallow was solid. I think I liked tallow more because of the flavor. Both hold up very well and add great flavor. Plus…one of my favorite things about companies like fatworks, and other organic/grass fed/pastured products is putting money in the hands of people who truly cares about what is going into your body, the welfare of the animals they raise, and support sustainable farming practices.

So these are just some of my favorites that I’ve used so far. I know I would love to get my hands on some ghee. Tin Star Foods is on my radar because she runs a great Facebook page and is a very hard worker. Fatworks is also another great page to follow on Facebook and Instagram.

I encourage you to check out the health benefits of using these oils. They can get expensive but I like to space them out. Coconut oil, for sure goes a lot longer than the others.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know below…What’s your favorite cooking fat and what do you use it for?

-Ami M. Lee, Fat Loving, Common Sense Cook

Commmon Sense Philosophies – Eating out with Food Restrictions

As many of you may have noticed….a lot of my recipes are Paleo and now AIP (AutoImmune Protocol). I know that not everyone is able to stay home, and cook every single meal. Sometimes we get sick, or just in general want a break from cooking all of the time. With AIP, it is impossible to do fast food (if you have any successful restaurants and meals for fast food, please do all of our friends a favor and leave us a comment. <3). Restaurants have a little more help, but you’re putting your trust in a person’s hands that you will probably not even see. This can be stressful! But, I want to tell you about my recent experience at the Chili’s in Conway, AR.

What?! Chili’s?! You mean….Nightshade allergy hell?! Stick with my guys.

1. Keep Calm and Carry On

We were there with my Mom and my Cousin Lisa. They had come down for a visit and that’s what we do in my family. We eat and visit and enjoy being around each other. This is what you need to “worry” about. Talk, stay calm, and have fun! Remember, you’re here to enjoy yourself. I truly believe, if you stay calm, you’ll be more likely to make great decisions and keep your health goals in mind, while enjoying your time eating out.

2. Take your Time and Seek out All of your Options

Look over the menu. Consider your budget. Consider what may be a little easier your first time out. When I went to Chili’s I ordered a burger, plain with bacon, asparagus and a side of avocado. It may seem weird to your family, and your waiter, but be confident. Know that this is what will fuel your body, and keep you healthy.

3. Ordering

I waited till last and let everyone else order first. My order was long, wordy, and complicated. The burger I originally ordered would’ve been:


  • Bread
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Pickles
  • Sauce
  • Seasoning
  • Fries

I think after this experience, this is my advice. Don’t concentrate so much on No’s. Let them know you have a lot of food allergies. Smile and give the waiter/waitress some confidence. They want to do a good job and get you what you need. Give the original name of what you’re looking at. Tell them what to take off. And then summarize with, “So basically, all I want is a burger patty, bacon, asparagus, and a side of avocado.”

4. Check that your Order is Correct as soon as it Arrives.

Now…No. We can’t test to see what spices, if they touched gluten, or anything like that. But, in general, check to see that they brought everything. Most servers will ask, “Does everything look right?” Make sure to tell them right then so they can try to help you as fast as possible. Be forgiving if they do mess up. You did have a pretty high maintenance order. I can’t brag enough about the server we had. He got my order right along with a total of 7 orders! For 4 adults total and 3 kids who all ordered different things except for two kiddos. Great job to the server for getting the order to the kitchen right, and just as big kudos going to the kitchen staff for getting it out right. Make sure, if they get it right, please make sure to smile at them, make eye contact and thank them! But, keep in mind…You may not always get the pro server. Sometimes you get the newbie that may mess up. You might be a great learning experience for them, so make it a good one so that even if they don’t do the greatest for you, they may be able to even better aid the next person with food restrictions.

5. Make sure to let Managers know that they were Able to Help you Well!

Of course…if something goes wrong. You want to let managers know and more than likely you surely will. But, we often forget to tell them when their staff does something really awesome. Now…being a blogger…I’m going to find a way to send this link to the manager so they can see what a great job they’re doing. Dealing with people who have food sensitivities is stressful. If they get something wrong, they could make someone sick. They know this. I waited a week before writing this because I wanted to make sure I had no reaction, whatsoever. I did not have any reaction and I am AIP, so my body is insanely sensitive right now to many things. If you’re reading this Manager of Conway, AR Chili’s…I hope you know, your staff really impressed me. I don’t remember the name of our server. It was Saturday, January 17th. We were seated by the windows on the right side of the restaurant (from the coming in the door’s perspective). The gentleman who served us, I believe was blonde. Very kind. I would come back to that restaurant just to sit in his section…if I remembered his name!

So for this AIP, Common Sense Cook….it only seems Common Sense to give thanks where it is due, and pass a long this great experience to you guys. Have you had a good experience with any food restriction at a restaurant? Leave a comment below!

I hope you enjoyed this “episode” of Common Sense Philosophies. I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for Manic Monday where I try to share a recipe that is super fast, or super easy…and always super yummy.

-Ami M. Lee, The Common Sense Cook