Homemade paleo beef jerky – no dehydrator required

I love me some beef jerky. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to find jerky with a reasonable ingredients list – most of them are chock full of preservatives, nitrites, and other junk. I was always intimidated by the thought of making my own, and I didn’t even know if it was possible since I don’t own a food dehydrator.

I actually stumbled onto my decision to make beef jerky somewhat accidentally. I bought some top round steak at Aldi on special at a great price, thinking I would just broil it up and serve it with veggies or something. But after doing a little research I found that this cut of beef, which was new to me, might be better used with a marinade or on the grill. Then, I stumbled upon a few sites that recommended using it to make your own beef jerky – and that it could be done in an oven! I was intrigued and decided to give it a whirl.

First I sliced the meat into thin strips – I didn’t go tooo thin because I like thicker, chewy beef jerky. Then, based on the articles I read, I created my own marinade (with coconut aminos, garlic, onion powder, liquid smoke, chili powder and a little red pepper) and let the beef marinate for about four hours.

I was a little nervous that four hours wouldn’t be long enough because many of the articles recommended marinating overnight or even 24 hours, but it turned out perfect. In fact, it was pretty salty so I think that if I had let it marinate for a lot longer it would have been too salty. Maybe it was just my marinade because I used a lot of aminos, but four hours was the way to go.

After marinating, I put the beef on a roasting rack and popped it into the oven on its lowest setting (for me that was 170 degrees F). Then, I stuck a wooden spoon in the oven door to keep it just slightly ajar.

I left it in there for six and a half hours, flipping the beef halfway through. When done, it cracks when bent (but doesn’t break).

Pull it out, let it cool completely, and eat!

Most articles I read said it could be stored up to a few months in the fridge, especially if vacuum sealed, but mine was devoured in less than 48 hours. Making my own jerky was waaaay easier than I expected, and tasted better than store-bought natural jerky. Try it! Next time I am going to try adding a little bit of honey for some sweetness.

Homemade Paleo Beef Jerky

1-2 lbs top loin steak
1/3 cup coconut aminos
1 tbsp liquid smoke
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp red pepper

  1. Cut beef in thin (1/4 inch) slices against the grain. If you find it difficult to cut cleanly, try putting the meat in the freezer for 15-20 min first for it to firm up and then cut it.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients together in a container or a plastic bag to create the marinade.
  3. Marinate the beef strips for four hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 170 degrees F. Lay the strips across a broiler pan, and place in the oven. I put a pan underneath it to catch any drippings. Place a wooden spoon in the oven door to keep it slightly ajar while the jerky bakes.
  5. After 6 hours, begin testing for doneness. It is done when the jerky cracks when bent (but doesn’t break). When done, remove from oven and let cool completely.
  6. Enjoy! Store 2-3 months in the refrigerator in plastic wrap, vacuum sealed, or a container.

No place like home

Last Saturday afternoon, Corinne was discharged from the NICU. Her very first graduation :) The NICU tracked her overall progress with a train on the wall. The train cars all started out red, and as she progressed they individually changed to yellow and then to green. When all the train cars were green, she could officially go home.

It was bittersweet to leave the hospital. The doctors and nurses there were all so wonderful, and I hadn’t left for almost 2 weeks. It had sort of become my home!

S and Brayden came to pick me up, and we walked out together as our new family of four.

Heading home, I was so excited but so scared at the same time. When she was born, doctors estimated she would need to stay in the NICU for 3-4 weeks. She progressed so quickly that she ended up being discharged after just 11 days. I’m so proud of her, she really is a fighter. I wish I had as much confidence in my ability to mother a premature infant.

The first night she was home, her temperature dropped to 97.1. It needs to stay above 97.4, otherwise she uses too much energy to keep warm and she has none left to eat/take in nutrition. Then her weight would drop, and she would be in trouble. When I saw that 97.1 reading on the thermometer, despite my desperate efforts to bundle her up and keep her warm, I just lost it.

A couple of hours of skin-to-skin later, all was well.

Her temperature was back up, and we have been monitoring it closely since and it has never come close to dropping below 97.4. But I still fear that it will. If she doesn’t eat well for one feeding, I get scared. If she sleeps longer than usual, I get scared. If she cries more than usual, I get scared. I feel like at any given moment, I am riding that thin line between bliss that my baby is beautiful and healthy, and devastation because she is still so tiny and vulnerable. It is exhausting. Compound that with the fact that I am up 4 times each night to feed, diaper, and monitor her temperature and I feel like I am on a 24-hour audition for a role on “The Walking Dead”.

I am also having a difficult time with her feedings. She needs to eat every 3 hours, and I alternate between nursing her and giving her a bottle of breast milk with some added preemie formula at each feeding.  I need to pump at each feeding, even the ones where I nurse her, because she is still very small and doesn’t eat as much as a full-term baby. So I need to pump to keep my supply up so that when she does grow, I have plenty for her. I HATE pumping. It is annoying and time consuming, messy (somehow I always manage to spill or drip or make a mess?!?!) and totally stresses me out. The doctors at the hospital said I would most likely have to continue this constant feeding/pumping regimen until she reached gestational age of 40 weeks (full term) which is still another four weeks. However, when we went to the pediatrician this week, he said that the new studies show that premature babies do better when they continue this regimen with the formula supplement for 6-9 months! I thought four more weeks was bad… I’m not sure I can do 6-9 additional months of this.

I hope this is just the post-partum hormones speaking, but I really don’t think it is. In fact, I haven’t felt too overly emotional since she was born. I have my moments, especially when I get a scare like a low temperature, but overall I am feeling pretty even-keeled. And I want to do what is best for my baby, that is absolutely my number one priority. If 6-9 months of bottles of breast milk with formula supplement are what is best for her, I will do it. But I hope I am able to keep nursing her as well. Right now, I feel like I am having to do both – nurse full-time, and pump full-time. It is just too much. Nursing her is very important to me. I nursed Brayden for 14 months and only stopped when we were trying to get pregnant with Corinne. I was hoping to do the same for her, and it makes me sad to think I might not be able to. But her long-term health has to come first, and my sanity has to also enter the picture at some point in time.

Now that I have gotten all that debbie downer stuff out of the way, let me tell you how happy I am. I am so in love with this baby girl – each day I am in wonder of her simultaneous strength and fragility. I look at her and imagine her still in my belly. It is almost impossible to believe that she could/should be in there at this time, as I see such a whole and beautiful baby girl. I can’t believe she is already over two weeks old.

Although I am 99% sure this was my last pregnancy, I do feel that if I were to have another baby I would see my entire pregnancy in a whole new light.. especially when entering the third trimester. Having a premature baby just makes what was going on inside me the whole time feel that much more real.

I am on maternity leave from work, but my days are just as full and rewarding. It seems like I never have enough time to get done all the things I had planned for the day. And when Brayden comes home from daycare it is like a crazy house. A newborn and an almost-two-year-old is no joke, ya’ll. Those last few hours of the day are by far the most exhausting. Brayden is handling the situation well so far, though. He does act out sometimes, but overall he is very loving to his baby sister. He is always trying to give her kisses, he wants to give her her bottle or rocker her in her carrier, and he is always trying to share his goldfish or other snacks with her.

S and I try to give him our full attention as often as possible, but I still have fears that he will grow to be jealous or resentful of Corinne. I suppose it is normal for siblings to be jealous to some extent, but I would like to do everything that I can to counteract it from the start. Any tips are appreciated!

Many folks have asked what actually happened, why Corinne stopped moving in utero and why the emergency c-section was required. To make a long story short… we don’t know for sure, but doctors have a theory. All looked ok during the c-section and they did tests for the things they thought might have caused it (mom and baby’s blood mixing, a bacterial infection with baby, something wrong with the placenta, etc.) and all the tests came back normal. The theory is that somehow little Corinne put a kink in the umbilical cord (like if you bend a garden hose) and so the required blood flow, etc. wasn’t getting to her properly which started the problem and lack of movement. This caused her to be in distress and make a bowel movement, which is how the meconium got into her system. Then likely she moved so the umbilical cord did unkink itself, but by then with all the meconium she could no longer be safe in the womb and needed to come out.

So that’s that, and it is probably all we will ever know. At first, it really bothered me that we might never know for sure what happened. But now, it doesn’t bother me. I only care that my beautiful baby girl has the opportunity to grow, thrive, and enjoy life like every other child and I count my blessings that it looks like she will.

Corinne’s birth story – aka that random Tuesday in May I had a baby

If these past 10 days had gone as I’d expected, you would be reading a different blog post. After not posting for over a year, I had already started my “return to the blogosphere” post and update on what I have been doing for the past 13 months. Because I know everybody on the interwebs was sitting on the edge of their seat, waiting for it.

One of those things I have been doing is… growing a second little peanut! My first peanut, Brayden, is no longer really a peanut but is rather a full-blown toddler!

I can’t believe it – he will be two at the end of next month. It’s like I blinked my eyes and the time had passed. But anyhow… here was peanut #2, just one week ago:

 That is me, at 33 weeks pregnant. That is the one and only pic I took documenting this second pregnancy. Remember how during the first pregnancy I took a photo every single week? Yeah…. that didn’t happen this time around. When I was pregnant with Brayden, I remember talking to people who were pregnant with their second child and hearing them say how things were different the second time around – photographs slipped and were forgotten, baby books fell by the wayside, they didn’t always eat pasteurized cheese during the pregnancy or they had sushi… etc. I thought, “Oh, that won’t be me! I will be just as diligent during my second pregnancy as I was during my first.” Ha. My due date was July 3rd.

So anyways, back to last Tuesday. I woke up at the usual time, 6:30, and started getting Brayden ready for daycare and myself ready for the day. At about 7am, I realized that I hadn’t felt the baby kick or move since I had woken up. This was slightly unusual, as she had been very active throughout the pregnancy, but I didn’t worry too much and instead just paid attention and waited to feel movement as we continued to get ready. By 7:30am, I still hadn’t felt anything and was slowly getting more concerned. I made myself a cup of coffee – regular, not decaf. I drank regular coffee just a few times during this pregnancy and each time the baby went bonkers afterward so I figured that would get her moving. Nope – nothing. At 8am we left the house to take Brayden to daycare and I called my ob gyn office as soon as they opened. They told me to come to the office for some testing/monitoring so they could verify everything was ok. We headed straight there after dropping off Brayden and arrived around 8:40am.

Once we got to the doctor’s office I was surprised that we had to wait for about a half an hour to be seen. I understood that they had just fit me in since it was an unplanned visit, but I thought it was urgent enough to warrant being bumped up in the schedule/lineup. In a way, though, it made me feel like maybe I shouldn’t have called the doctor or that maybe I was making a big deal out of nothing. After all, if the doctor didn’t seem to think it was urgent, it must not be… right?

Eventually they called me back and hooked me up to the monitoring machine. They monitored the baby’s heartbeat for 20 minutes and gave me a little clicker, asking me to click any time I felt the baby move. The heartbeat sounded strong, regular and normal, so that gave me reassurance. However, I didn’t feel any movement during the 20 minute monitoring period. The doctor said that perhaps the baby was just having a lazy day. I hadn’t yet had breakfast, since we had come straight to the doctor’s office, so he told me to go out and have a big breakfast, then come back around 11am to have a second monitoring session.

So S and I headed to IHOP :) We enjoyed a nice leisurely breakfast of pancakes, sausage, bacon and eggs (the doctor said to have a BIG breakfast!!) and it was nice.

Although I was still worried, hearing the healthy heartbeat had calmed my immediate fears. Plus, I love IHOP! We even made a quick stop at a local bakery where I picked up a cupcake, cookie and cinnamon bun for later.

At 11am, we headed back to the doctor’s office. After another, shorter, wait, we went back for a second 20-minute monitoring session. Same thing happened – solid, regular heartbeat but no movement. After a couple jokes about how I’d probably now put the baby into a pancake coma, the doctor said he wanted me to have an ultrasound. The ultrasound was 30 min and, during that time, the baby didn’t move an inch. The ultrasound tech tried rubbing, poking, etc – even trying to get her to move something as small as a finger… nothing. At this point I started to get pretty scared. It was one thing to not feel any movement myself, but it was another to see the baby up on the big screen during the ultrasound and not be able to see her move even a tiny hand or foot. The doctor and tech could not see or hear anything wrong, but clearly something was wrong. The doctor said I should head directly to the hospital for some additional tests and monitoring.

Again, this all seemed to be going in slow motion. I was scared, but no one was acting like it was an emergency. I asked the doctor if it was, and he said no – it wasn’t an emergency, but something did appear to be wrong and we wanted to do the proper tests to figure out what it was and how to handle it. He told me that while we were driving to the hospital, which was about 15 minutes away, he would call a neonatal specialist and get their opinion of what should be done. He said that if a c-section was necessary, they would try to first have me take steroids to help the baby’s lungs grow quickly.

We arrived at the hospital at about 1pm. I was quickly admitted into the maternity ward and they hooked me up and began monitoring the baby’s heartbeat. Within a few minutes, the heartbeat dropped twice, which had not happened before. At the same time, the ob gyn (another doctor at the same practice I go to) came into the room and said my doctor had talked to the fetal specialist and that we needed to get the baby out right away. The baby would have much better odds at 33 weeks outside of the womb than inside in the situation she was in. And with that, I was being prepped for surgery. Don’t pass Go, don’t collect $200. And no time for the steroids for her lungs – those require 48 hours to have an effect.

Just one hour later, at 2:40pm, my beautiful baby girl was born at a little over 33 weeks gestation. Corinne Rachel, weighing in at 5 lbs 1 oz and 17 inches long.

As the doctor pulled her out, she announced that it was a girl. I have been saying “she” in this post, as we now of course know her sex, but it was a surprise to us until she was born. Although we did find out the gender of Brayden during my first pregnancy, I really wanted this one to be a surprise and S finally agreed. I am so, so glad that we did that because it added a wonderful, happy element to an overwhelming and stressful time. When the doctor announced it was a girl, I just started to cry. It was a combination of happiness, fear, but also relief. I didn’t feel surprised – it was like I knew all along that the baby was destined to be a girl and it just felt immediately right that we now had a baby girl in our family. It was just meant to be.

Due to the fact that she had been in distress, she had made a bowel movement in the womb. It was inside the umbilical cord (causing it to be a green color) and she had swallowed and inhaled a lot of meconium. So they needed to get it out of her stomach and give her assistance until she was stable. I heard her cry as they cleared out her stomach and throat, and it was such an amazing sound. They put her up to my face for just a minute, but then had to take her quickly to the NICU.

After that, the doctor sewed me up and took me back to my room. I didn’t get to see Corinne for a couple of hours, as my anesthesia had to wear off before I could go to the NICU, but Stephen got to go see her more quickly. She of course has to stay in the NICU so was unable to stay in our room with us like the regular term babies do. Her progress has been amazing, but I will update more on that in a later post.

Overall, it has been a week of ups and downs. I have felt happy, sad, and pretty much every emotion in between. But what I have felt the most is overwhelming gratitude.

Gratitude for my life, my family and my new baby girl. Grateful for my intuition and attention to my body that I was able to recognize the lack of fetal movement in less than a half hour and know that something was wrong. Because the doctor said that had Corinne not been born when she had been, she had somewhere between a half hour to two hours before we would have lost her. I thought about waiting, about not calling the doctor that morning. I didn’t want to be “that girl” who was running to the doctor for the littlest, paranoid things. But something told me that things were not right, and so I called.

Listen to your intuition, listen to your body. You might save your baby’s life.

Oh, and by the way, I didn’t get a single day of work off to relax or prepare before Corinne was born. When I was pregnant with Brayden, I chose to take two weeks off of work before my due date to have some time for myself before he arrived. Of course, he was born 2.5 weeks before his due date so I didn’t end up having any time off before his birth. So this time around, I thought I was going to play it safe and take FOUR weeks off before my due date. But baby Corinne laughed and came 7 weeks early. *sigh*

Though she be but little, she is fierce!

– William Shakespeare

Welcome to the world, Corinne. We love you, baby girl.