Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Dinner

In light of the expected chaos of Christmas morning, Justin and I decided that we were going to save some leftovers for to have for that night's dinner. We thought it would be nice to relax and keep it simple... that is until we received what must be one of the best Christmas gifts ever!

What was it?

Two wonderful dry aged strip steaks and a bottle of very nice wine! Apparently, my mom thought we'd enjoy this more than a gift card to some restaurant. Well... she was right... So instead of leftovers, we had a great meal!

Christmas Steak and Wine

(Look at the beautiful crust on that baby!)

Ingredients:
  • 2 steaks (~8 oz in weight and ~1 1/2" thick)
  • salt/pepper
  • lard (or butter)
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • a splash of whole milk
  • 1/3-1/2 cup beef stock
  • salad greens
  • desired toppings for salad (I used shredded carrots and a few olives)
  • balsamic vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil 
Method:

Steak:
  • About an hour before you start cooking, take the steaks out and let them come to room temperature. (This makes for an even cooking time)
  • Heat a 12" cast iron skillet over medium high heat, until it starts to smoke. Add a small amount of lard and let it melt. (You want enough lard to coat the bottom of the skillet.)
  •  While the pan is heating, salt and pepper both sides of the steaks.
  • Add the steaks to the skillet and let them cook for 5 minutes on the first side. You should have a nice crust on the outside...
  • Flip the steaks over and cook for ~3-4 minutes, until they reach your desired doneness. (I cooked mine for 3 minutes, as Justin and I prefer ours medium rare, if not a bit more on the rare side...)
  • Take the steaks off and place them on a plate. Cover loosely with a piece of tinfoil and let the meat rest for at least 5 minutes. Enjoy!
Cauliflower:
  • Heat a pot over medium high heat. Add the cauliflower, stock and garlic. Bring the stock to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender.
  • Remove the pot from heat and use an immersion blender to puree the cauliflower. (Alternately, you can use a food processor.)
  • Add the butter, splash of whole milk and salt/pepper to taste. Serve along side the steak.
Salad + Vinaigrette:
  • Place salad and fixins in small bowls.
  • I find the best way to make the salad dressing is to use a clear plastic squeeze bottle, like the ones you use for ketchup and mustard. Pour a small amount of extra virgin olive oil into the bottle. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour in enough balsamic vinegar to make a 2:1 ratio with the oil (aka, twice the amount of EVOO used). Put the cap on the squeeze bottle and cover the tip with your finger. Shake the bottle vigorously (Remember folks, this is to make an emulsion! Oil doesn't mix well unless it's with a little coercion...) Ultimately, you want the vinaigrette to taste a little bit too tart and too salty. It'll taste perfect when you put it on the salad.
  • Pour the vinaigrette over the salad just before serving.
This was honestly a FANTASTIC Christmas dinner! It allowed me to use my newly perfected steak cooking skills and let me imbibe in some wonderful wine. (I'll admit that I think this is the best way to eat a steak: simple salt/pepper and a good sear in a pan. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it!) Plus, pairing these with some cauliflower mashies and salad makes for a really nice combo.

Thank you Mom for the wonderful (and tasty) gift!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tongue Twisted

After watching way too many episodes of of "Bizarre Foods" and "No Reservations," Justin and I have become desensitized to weird foods.  We have no problems trying out various recipes that introduce such edibles into our culinary repertoire. That being said, I decided that this past weekend was the perfect opportunity to try out something a little different... Beef Tongue. That's right! Tongue!

I know it looks gross, but it feels much more grosser than it looks... 

I did some fairly extensive research to try to find the best way to deal with this unusual hunk of beef. I found several Mexican takes on tongue recipes, so that was to be my cuisine of choice.

Firstly, I took the tongue and stuck it in the slow cooker. Topped it with some onion, garlic cloves, black peppercorns, a bay leaf, salt/pepper and enough water to cover the whole shebang. I turned this baby on low and let it cook for 8 hours. When I took it out, it looked like this:

(Yeah, it still looks creepy...)

I then cut the tongue into quarters and peeled off the tough, outer skin covering the meat, (all the while repeating to myself, "This is just a weirdly shaped muscle. Muscle meat is good...") and cut it into small chunks.

It totally looks like normal beef now!

This now much less creepy looking meat was combined with salsa, peppers, onions, garlic seasonings and avocado to create an awesome dish!


Lengua Mexicana

  Ingredients:
  • 1 beef tongue, rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 onions, 1 cut into large chunks and 1 chopped
  • 7 garlic cloves, 4 smashed and 3 minced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 15 oz jar organic salsa 
  • 1 tbsp mexican seasoning (I use the blend from Niblack Foods. You could also use a good taco seasoning mix.)
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • butter
  • avocado
  • cilantro
Method:
  • Place the tongue in the slow-cooker, and sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
  • Place large chunks of onion, smashed garlic, peppercorns and salt on top of the tongue, and pour just enough water to cover the tongue.
  • Cook on low for at least 8 hours.
  • Remove tongue from slow-cooker, and peel the skin from the meat using two forks.
  • Discard the skin, and cut the meat into small chunks. Set aside.
  • In a large pan, heat butter over medium-high heat.
  • Add the chopped onions and peppers, and saute until softened. Add the minced garlic and jalapenos. Cook for another minute.
  • Add the tongue meat back to the pan, along with the salsa, mexican seasoning, cocoa powder, salt and pepper. Cook until everything is heated.
  • Serve over some roasted veggies (I used roasted candy-cane beets), on lettuce leaves, tortillas or whatever you desire. Top with cilantro and chopped avocado.
Yes, this meal is a 10 on the weird factor, but let me assure you that it tastes absolutely fantastic! The beef tongue has a slightly chewy texture and the flavor of your everyday stewed meat (No mineral aftertaste like liver. Just a really beefy taste.) The mole style sauce is spicy and deep, and the avocado adds just the right amount of richness. 

Don't be put off by the creep factor of tongue folks! Tantalize your taste buds with some... taste buds?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mmmm, Mmmm, Muffins!

During the holiday season, I tend to do a lot of baking for friends and family. I've oh so conveniently become known as 'the Baker'... However, since I've gone Paleo, I haven't made too many of my usual baked delights. I am bound and determined to make a caveman friendly crowd pleaser at some point... But for now, I'm going to give out one of my non-Paleo goodies that's always a winner.

Peanut Butter & Nutella Banana Muffins



Ingredients:
  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbs creamy, all-natural peanut butter
  • 2 tbs Nutella
Method:
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla.
  • Sprinkle the baking soda, salt and flour, mix.
  • Scoop peanut butter and Nutella into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave until the mix is somewhat syrupy (about 30 seconds). Pour into banana mixture and mix (Don't mix completely. Stir until there are still swirls of the peanut butter/Nutella combo and banana mix).
  • Pour mixture into greased muffin tin (or a lined tin). Fill each cup to about 3/4 full.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick entered into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
These muffins are amazing! Not too sweet, with a nice banana flavor. Plus, they have Nutella! Who doesn't like this stuff?! Bake these and everyone's going to be your friend.

FYI - I'm working on a way to make these sugar free/gluten free. I'm guessing it'll involve almond flour and maybe an extra banana or a little bit of honey for the sweetness... That recipe to come!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Breakfast Revamp

As we now enter the second weekend in December, we've fully descended into time of holiday parties and splurging. 'Tis the season of feasting and, ultimately, leftovers! While I love the idea of not having to actually cook every once in a while, having turkey five times in one week gets a little boring... So, don't wanna have that plain ol' pot roast for dinner again? Cook it up in an omelet instead!

The 'I Need to Clean Out My Fridge' Omelet


Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2-3 eggs
  • leftovers (preferably something not soupy... In this instance, I used my leftover brisket and collard greens from Dinosaur BBQ)
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • shredded cheese, optional (I used some really nice raw sharp cheddar from the Ithaca Milk Co.) 
Method:
  • Heat butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  • In the meantime, warm up leftovers (I usually stick 'em in the microwave and nuke until warmed through).
  • Crack eggs into a bowl, add the salt/pepper and blend with a fork.  
  • Pour the eggs into the preheated skillet and swirl the mix around until the pan is covered with liquid. Run your spatula around the outside of the egg mix to help to shape the omelet and loosen up the edge. Let the eggs cook, undisturbed for about 10-20 seconds (or until they are fairly firm on top).
  • Spread the leftovers in a line down the center of the omelet and let cook for a few moments.
  • Shake the pan to loosen the omelet. Carefully, use your spatula to lift the far edge of the omelet and fold towards you. Fold over the opposite side so that you have a trifold. 
  • Slide the omelet onto a plate and top with shredded cheese.
You can do with recipe with pretty much any type of leftover (I've even done it with leftover Chinese!) It lets you clean out the fridge and create something a little different.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sauerkraut Update!

A few weeks ago I decided to try my hand at some good ol' fermented foodstuffs and started a batch of sauerkraut. I've been waiting with much anticipation for the time when it would be ready. After the initial day, I opened the jars twice a week to test out the sourness, check for any fuzzy bits and add any necessary water to keep the kraut submerged. I'll admit, the first time I opened the jars was a bit... interesting. I don't think I was quite ready for the funk that spewed out... but it did let me know that my first batch was on the right track. Onwardly I persevered on my fermenting endeavor until this moment when I am ready to present to you:

Sauerkraut 1.0 



I made two jars of this recipe. One in my little squatty pint sized jar and one in a standard taller jar. (I found that  the squatty one fermented a little faster than the tall one. Not quite sure why... but I'm guessing that it had something to do with it being a little more hidden from the light in my kitchen.) Anyhoo, the flavor of this 'kraut is pretty spot on compared to the stuff I've bought from Wegman's. I will say that cumin and fennel from my spice mix definitely come through. They don't overpower the natural sourness, but rather add to it. All in all... this is a success!

This makes me want to go on a fermenting spree! My next venture is either going to be Kombucha tea or kimchi. Stay tuned for the next ferm-adventure!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Mexican

Today marks the beginning of a new adventure for me. I have officially finished the first day of my new job! (I still work for the University of Rochester, but in a new department and with different responsibilities.) Post new job stress/excitement, I decided that I was in the mood for some Kombucha... and something with a Mexican flare.

Mexi-Beef and Peas with Pepitas


Ingredients:
  • coconut oil, if needed
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 pkg sliced mushrooms
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pkg frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 15.5 oz jar salsa (I use Wegman's organic hot)
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tbsp mexican seasoning (you could use a good taco seasoning mix)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • lime
  • cilantro
  • pepitas, for garnish
Method:
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat
  • Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Set aside.
  • Save some of the fat from the browned beef, or use a little bit of coconut oil. Add the onion, green peppers and onions. Saute until softened, ~5-7 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and saute for another minute.
  • Add the peas, browned meat, salsa, tomatoes and seasonings, cook until the peas are tender and everything is warmed. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if need be.
  • Serve in bowls, topped with a spritz of lime juice, cilantro and pepitas.
My pepitas were leftover from me roasting two wee pumpkins to make pie. They make a fantastic little crunchy garnish to a spicy dish. The cocoa powder adds a nice bitterness and deepens the flavor profile. Oh how I love this fast little meal! It's great by itself or served over rice, roasted root veggies or whatever you wish. Add some kombucha tea and you've got yourself a fiesta!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I would like to take the time to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

In light of today's holiday, I've baked up two wonderful dishes:

Paleo Pumpkin Pie:


The recipe for this bad boy can be found here, on the Everyday Paleo website. I kept everything the same, except that instead of using canned pumpkin, I cooked down my own. It's really simple and provides a better flavor than most canned varieties (especially since I found out that most canned pumpkin isn't really pumpkin. It's squash. I know pumpkin is part of the squash family, but still...) 

Tips:
  • If you're cooking your own pumpkin, use the small ones. They're typically called pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins, and tend to be sweeter than the giant ones you'd make a Jack-o-lantern from.
  • To roast said pumpkin: cut it in half and scoop out the guts. Rub with a little olive oil and place flesh side down on a roasting pan. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 40-50 minutes, or until the rind will peel easily from the meat of the pumpkin. Set it aside to cool. Once cool, puree the meat on a food processor until smooth (this prevents you from ending up with a stringy pie). I will also put the pureed pumpkin in a fine mesh sieve, over a bowl, and let it drain the excess water for a few hours. I find that if I skip this step, my pie ends up with giant cracks and takes longer to bake. 
  • When actually baking the pie, place the unbaked pie on a baking sheet. This helps to prevent spillage (I've had a couple times where I've spilled the filling all over the oven and then been left with a big mess to clean). 
  • You don't need to use those fancy crust shields to prevent the crust from burning. I just use tin foil. Leave it on for most of the cooking and then remove before the final 10 minutes or so.


Apple Crisp:


I used this recipe, from Elana's Pantry. Again, I kept it pretty much the same. I just squeezed a little lemon juice onto the apples to keep from browning and tossed them with a little more cinnamon (I like a cinnamon-y crisp).

Enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

I am Wonder Woman!

Justin was out of town this past weekend, leaving me to fend for myself. This isn't necessarily a bad thing... It's just that I always end up doing 10 million different things to occupy my time when he's not here. Take Saturday, for instance: Woke up (a little later than usual), attended to my whining felines, went for a little over a 9.5 mile run, showered, ate, went to the public market to fetch my weekly meat order and veggies, went to Wegmans to pick up all the other needed groceries, went home, put the groceries away, did a load of laundry, took my cat for a walk, cleaned my entire townhouse, changed the bedskirt/comforter in the master bedroom and finally took a rest at about 5:30 pm... for about 10 minutes... After all of that, I had yet to make myself some dinner. Something easy, tasty and hopefully involving some sort of libation:

Sausage Sauce and Squash

 Say that name 5 times fast... and yes, that is a glass of Scotch (15 year old Glenlivet french oak reserve, if you really wanna know)

Ingredients:
Easy Sausage Sauce
  • coconut oil
  • 1 lb ground pork sausage
  • 1 bag frozen mixed veggies, thawed
  • 1 8 oz package sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar Wegmans Grandpa's sauce
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • a splash of sherry vinegar
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt/pepper, to taste
Roasted Butternut Squash
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • garlic powder, to taste
Method:
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Place the butternut squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder. Toss with a wooden spoon or spatula until the squash is covered.
  • Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the squash is browned and tender.
  • Meanwhile, heat a little coconut oil in a large pan over medium high heat.
  • Add the sausage and cook until browned. Spoon the meat into a bowl and save any residual fat.
  • Add the mushrooms, onions and peppers to the pan. Saute until they're softened.
  • Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add the the sausage back to the pan, along with the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and let cook until the veggies are cooked through.
  • Serve the roasted squash in a bowl, with the sauce poured over it.
  • Pour yourself a glass of quality Scotch (or wine) and enjoy!
You could serve the sauce over some pasta if you want. Since going Paleo, I've have to find more interesting ways to keep my italian sauce meals sans gluten. Hence the roasted squash. It may seem a little strange in this sense, but it actually works really well! The sweetness from the squash helps to counteract the spice from the red pepper flakes. Give this a try and I swear you won't miss the spaghetti!

You could easily pour a nice glass of wine with this. While I do have quite a fondness for dry reds, I occasionally like to imbibe in something a little stronger... I just happened to have that nice Scotch staring at me from the kitchen. Add and ice cube and it goes down nice and smooth!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I heart Sauerkraut!

This Sunday is all about getting in touch with old school homemaking skills... Going back to the recipes that my grandmother might make. Today, I'm testing my fermenting skills. I'm making a batch of Sauerkraut!


Ingredients:
  • 1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • spices (I used a mix of garlic powder, chili powder and fennel)
  • filtered water, if needed
Method:
  • Place cabbage into a large bowl and sprinkle the salt over it. 
  • Now comes the fun part! Using your hands, squeeze the cabbage until water begins to release from the leaves. (This'll take a bit of work)
  • Add the pepper and any seasonings you wish.
  • Fill a 32 oz mason jar, packing the mis down so that water releases and raises above the line of cabbage.
  • Cover loosely with the lid and leave in a cool, dark place to ferment for 2-4 weeks. Test the sauerkraut every few days for your desired doneness. (If you see any scum floating on the surface, use a clean spoon to remove it. Also, you'll want to keep the solids below the liquid during this process. Add filtered water to the mix if the water gets too low.)
  • Once the sauerkraut has reached a doneness to your liking, tighten the lid and store in the fridge,  It will last for several months with no further fermentation.
So folks, mark this as day 1! I've started my fermenting 'kraut and am anxiously hoping that it turns out well. From the research I've done, my kitchen will soon start to reek like someone passed gas... but I'm ok with that! (Especially if it means that I'm getting something tasty out of it!)  I will repost here in a couple of weeks to let you all know how my fermented goodness turned out.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pantry Clean-out Day!

Today turned out to be one fine day! I got to sleep in to my normal waking time (as opposed to getting up early to get some running in), worked a nice schedule of 8-4:30 and didn't have anything else planned. For once in the past 2 weeks, I got to go home directly after work!

I decided to seize this nice little opportunity and use it to cook up something might delicious for Justin and I; however, upon searching my kitchen, I realized that we didn't have much in the way of food... I didn't want to leave home to go to the store, and Justin was about to head to a meeting with his coworkers. Whatever to do? Time for a garbage meal (aka- clean out the fridge/pantry)!

I find pantry/clean out the fridge cooking requires a little creativity and finesse. First off, it's about having some basics on hand: quality herbs and spices, coconut milk, nut butters, cans of tomatoes, various condiments, bags of frozen veggies, coconut aminos, nuts, onions, garlic cloves, some cooking fats and a random source of protein: ground meat (Justin and I always keep some in the freezer), eggs, tofu, etc...  Secondly, it's having some basic cooking knowledge. After that, it's just throwing whatever you think might taste good into a pan and hope it turns out tasty!

Enter:

Garbage Meal Awesomeness!


Ingredients:
  • coconut oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 16 oz bag frozen mixed veggies, thawed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce (or less if you prefer)
  • 1/2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp indian curry powder
  • 2 tsp jamaican curry powder
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • almonds, chopped
  • cilantro
Method:
  • Heat coconut oil in a large pan over medium high heat.
  • Add the onions and celery, saute for a couple of minutes, or until softened slightly.
  • Add the ground beef and cook until browned.
  • Add the garlic and saute for an additional minute.
  • Add the bag of veggies, coconut milk, almond butter, chili garlic sauce, fish sauce, and both curry powders. Stir everything together and bring the whole mix to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer until everything is heated through and the veggies are tender.
  • Taste and add any salt/pepper, if needed. Serve in a large bowl. Garnish with chopped nuts and cilantro.
I call this one an Indijamaithai curry! You may think all the curry powders, fish sauce, nut butter and chili garlic sauce, may create one really muddled flavor mess; however, in the right proportions, they make one fine dish! Plus, it took less than 30 minutes to make! 

You'll notice that I included a pic o' the side veggie today. I took some green beans, dressed them in some high quality extra virgin olive oil, Moroccan seasoning mix, salt, pepper and a little it of garlic powder. I tossed them in a pan and roasted 'em for ~15 minutes on 400 degrees. (The time may be a little off... Just roast until they turn light brown.)

These meals are always some of my favorites. They make me feel like an Iron Chef or that I'm on the show 'Chopped...' Allez cuisine!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Chilled to my Rib Bones

The first weekend in November has brought the first snow of the year with it. While I enjoyed running in those white flecks this morning, I'm not quite as thrilled with the impending wintry doom I know will soon follow... and stay for 4 months... Needless to say, it's another good day for some comforting grub!

Lately, Justin and I have been gravitating towards ribs, burgers and wings. They're tasty, cheap, and quite satisfying. While I enjoy getting these things out at various restaurants, I enjoy them even more when I make them myself. I've already conquered the chicken wing and the burger... which leaves ribs as the next to try my hand at. It all came down to deciding whether to try pork ribs or beef. I love pork, but beef seemed like the bigger challenge of the two (not to mention that it was the only one of the two available at my favorite farm's stall at the market...)

With the variety of rib settled, the next step was to decide on the flavor profile. Smokey bbq? Mexican? Italian? No, no... I wanted something a little different... and then I found it... Korean! This tasty little number popped out at me from the Nom Nom Paleo archives. While exciting enough on it's own, I put my own spin on it to create:

Pressure Cooker Korean Short Ribs & Collard Greens

(The collard greens took over, but the ribs are there in all their meaty glory!)

Ingredients:
  • lard (or other fat of choice)
  • 2 lbs grass-fed short ribs
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium pear or Asian pear, peeled, cored, and chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 cup coconut aminos
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 scallions, roughly chopped
  • 1 hunk of ginger, about the size of your thumb, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp of fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup bone broth
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • Small handful of roughly chopped fresh cilantro
Method:
  • Season the short ribs with salt and pepper.
  • Melt the lard in the pressure cooker over medium high heat. Add the ribs and sear until well-browned and set them aside.
  • In the meantime, toss the pear, coconut aminos, garlic, scallions, ginger, fish sauce, and vinegar in a blender and puree until smooth.
  • Add a little more lard to the pressure cooker, if necessary, and add the collard greens. Stir until the greens are wilted.
  • Add the broth, pear mixture and ribs to the cooker. Stir until everything is combined, increase the heat to high and cook until boiling. 
  • Put the lid on the pressure cooker and bring it up to high pressure. Once the pot reaches high pressure, decrease the heat to low and maintain on high pressure for 30 minutes. Then, take the pot off the heat and let the pressure come down naturally (10-15 minutes).
  • Taste the stew and add salt/pepper, if need be.
  • Serve in bowls as is, or on something like cauli-rice, grits, or maybe some roasted butternut squash (what we did).
This turned out to be one of the best dishes I've made recently. The ribs had just the right amount of fat/meat that fell right off the bones. The collard greens were perfectly cooked and lent just a hint of bitterness to the dish. There was a little sweetness from the pear and little spice from the ginger. Add some roasted butternut squash and you've got total satisfaction in one bite! 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Reader's Challenge

It's Saturday night and I'm not tired enough to go to bed. I keep looking through my massive recipe index for the next potential blog post/meal to create. Throughout the process, I started thinking... Is anybody really reading this?




I have a proposition for those out there in the vast emptiness of the interwebs: Ever look at a recipe and think, 'Is that any good?' You want to try it, but aren't quite sure... Or maybe it's something that needs to be customized to fit a particular dietary need. If you have any sort of recipe like this or have a question on, post it in the comment section or send it to me.

Recipe reader's challenge: Be it deboning a chicken or creating a wedding cake, send it my way. I'm willing to take on whatever recipe you desire!




Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jamaican Me Crazy Plate

It's a dreary Sunday afternoon here in Rochester. After an eventful morning helping my Mom move all of my Grandmother's furniture, Justin and I are attempting to relax and catch up on some quality horror flicks. (I have a serious addiction to the Horror genre; though I particularly fancy the old school cult classics and foreign varieties. The Italians and Asians are the BEST at doing the whole visually intense, creepy stuff!)

Anyways, our slothfulness creates an intense craving for some sloppy comfort food. Generally, that means a 'Garbage Plate' (or some form of it) is in our future. Thinking of that oh so delicious combo of hot dog/hamburger and meat sauce over fries and mac salad makes my mouth water! Alas, I have not had a true plate in quite some time... I can get close, but being Paleo means cutting the mac salad and fries. The easiest way for Justin and I to get this magical feast is make it ourselves and Paleo-fy it. Enter the:

Jamaican Curry Garbage Plate

Ingredients:
  • 4 hot dogs, cut into rings
  • leftover Jamaican Beef Curry
  • spaghetti squash, roasted and 'shredded'
  • 1 large bunch kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • lime
  • cilantro
  • coconut oil
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • hot sauce, to taste
  • dill relish (optional, I know it seems weird on this dish... but it works!)
Method:

  • Heat a little more coconut oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add the hot dog rings and cook until they brown. Set aside. Add the leftover curry to the same pot and let it heat up. Add the browned hot dogs, reduce the heat and keep warm. 
  • Meanwhile, heat coconut oil in a large skillet, over medium high heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for about a minute, being careful not to let it burn. Add the kale and stir, until the leaves wilt. Add the apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper, and let cook for another few minutes, until the kale is tender.
  • While waiting, pop the pre-roasted and shredded spaghetti squash in the microwave and heat until warm.
  • To assemble: divy the squash up the halves of 2 plates. Divy the kale up on the other halves of the plates. 

  • Pour the curry/hot dog mix over the squash and kale. 

  • Garnish with diced onion, hot sauce, lime juice and cilantro.
Now I know I'm taking some major creative liberties by calling this a 'Garbage Plate,' but it is a plate! It's my plate and it's delicious! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

You Had Me at Pork Fat!

It's been another one of those crazy weekends! 

First off, I went to an all day Paleo workshop with the fabulous Diane Sanfilippo of Balanced Bites and author of Practical Paleo (which, by the way, is one of the best books I currently own) and partner Liz Wolfe of Cave Girl Eats and soon to be author. I already love listening to these two talk in their podcast on the Balanced Bites website and found their workshop to be very informative.

Secondly, I ran the oh so dreaded Mudslog! Let's just say it was a 12k full of mud, trails, mud, tough obstacles, mud, an extremely cold pond and more mud... I ended up finished with a pretty decent time, only a few minor scrapes and surprisingly clean. 
(Yay crazy running outfit! Note the lack of mud...)

Despite all of this mayhem, I managed to find some time to hearken back to the good ol' days and make something that I doubt many today ever think about. 

When you cook a meal and need to use some sort of fat to brown meat/ saute veggies, your first instinct is probably to go for some olive oil (or maybe some butter or coconut oil). I've discovered that, while olive oil is great, it's not really the best oil for the high temperature cooking. Butter and coconut oil are generally better for this method. Bacon fat (I heart bacon fat!), tallow (rendered beef fat) and schmaltz (yes, it is a real word! It just happens to be rendered chicken fat) are even better. 

While I love cooking with bacon fat and butter, my new favorite cooking fat is LARD! Hurray for rendered pig fat! (I can just hear everyone screaming, "Oh no! You can't use that! It'll clog your arteries!" Don't get too worried about saturated fats. This stuff is culinary gold!)  The only problem is that you can't just pick this stuff up at the corner grocery store. Sure some farmer's markets may carry it, but the best way to get it is to make it yourself:

Rendering Lard
(Good reference site is here)
Ingredients:
  • pork fat (enough to fill your crock pot)
  • 1/4 cup water
Method:
  • Cut the pork fat into small pieces (as small as you can cut... or better yet, grind it up!)
  • Pour the water into a crock pot. This is an important step as it will prevent the fat from burning.
  • Add the cut up (or ground) fat to the crock pot and turn the heat to low.
  • Check the crock pot after an hour or so. You'll notice that the fat has started to melt. Give everything a stir and let the whole thing continue to melt. The chunks of fat (cracklings) will continue to render their awesomeness, don't worry. 
  • The whole thing will be done when the fat has rendered down to mostly liquid and the cracklings have settled to the bottom of the crock pot. Mine took about 3 hours.
  • Ladle the cracklings/fat into a fine mesh sieve or a cheese cloth lined strainer over a bowl. From here, you can pour the liquid into glass jars and let it cool to room temperature. Cover the jars and stick 'em in the fridge. The strained liquid will be a light yellow color and will turn creamy white and thick when chilled.
  • You can take the cracklings and put them back into the crock pot and let them continue to cook on low until they get crispy (or you can toss them). The flavor of these is quite intense, but taste really good on salads! Any more liquid rendered from the cracklings can also be saved and used for cooking, but it will have a stronger porky flavor.


 (Before refrigeration)             (After refrigeration)  

Your end product should be creamy white. (I know mine ended up slightly darker. The lighting in that photo was also pretty bad!) It doesn't smell porky and has the texture of shortening. Don't be put off by the idea of cooking with this stuff! It melts beautifully, has a high smoke point and makes the BEST pie crusts!

So, my friends, be not afraid of the goodness that is lard! It's a wonderful cooking fat and is easy to make!
      

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Curry in a Hurry!

Over the course of my recipe hoarding career, I've discovered that one of my favorite cuisines to emulate is Asian. I absolutely LOVE a good nutty/coconut curry! Simple, fast and tasty! If ever I'm having one of those days where I have a bunch of random veggies, some ground meat and am in no mood for to make anything elaborate, chances are, I'm making some sort of quick Asian curry.

With all of the above being said, today is one of those days... Had an intense Crossfit Bootcamp class this morning, shopped til I dopped (for both clothes and groceries), and am now famished! Enter:

Indonesian Ground Pork with Green Beans and Crushed Almonds



Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, divided
  • 1 lb ground pastured-pork
  • 3 tbsp coconut aminos/wheat free soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 lb fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 1 can coconut milk (full fat is best)
  • 2 8oz pkgs sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced (~2 tbsp)
  • 2 tsp chile-garlic sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 4 tbsp crushed dry-roasted almonds
  • lime
  • cilantro
Method:
  • Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil in wok or large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  • Add ground pork, and cook until mostly browned.
  • Add mushrooms; stir fry until softened.
  • Add green beans; stir-fry 4 minutes or until beginning to brown.
  • Add coconut milk, almond butter, garlic, chile-garlic sauce, ground cloves, 6 tbsp. coconut aminos/wheat free soy sauce; let simmer for 5-6 minutes, or until the green beans are tender.
  • Serve over cauli-rice, kelp noodles or regular rice.
  • Garnish with crushed almonds, freshly squeezed lime juice and cilantro.
The recipe was originally inspired by a dish I used to make all the time, when Justin was vegetarian (http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/indonesian-tempeh-with-green-beans-and-crushed-peanuts/).
All I did was sub in meat for the tempeh, substitute mushrooms for the water chestnuts and use coconut aminos for the soy sauce. Truth be told, I like my meat version a little better... but then again, I have a serious addiction to all things pork...

Anyhoo, this amazing curry has a smooth creamy, yet spicy, taste. The almond butter and coconut milk add some richness, while the ground gloves add that 'je ne sais quoi'. Throw in some citrusy brightness from the lime and HELLO Asian sensation for your tastebuds!

Craving some curry in a hurry? I suggest you give this baby a try!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Two for the Price of One!

Sorry everyone for going so long without a post! I've been spending the majority of my weekend trying out some new recipes with varying success:

Firstly, my attempt at creating a 'Paleo Pumpkin Walnut Semifreddo' turned out to be a flop. It has a decent flavor, but the texture is nowhere near that of what it should be. A good semifreddo should soft and light, not grainy and like an ice cube (like mine!).

Then, there's my attempt at making an 'Offal Stew' using beef liver and heart... I have no problem with the flavor and texture (I even find it to be quite tasty); however, Justin, doesn't find it as appealing. He says it's good... in small doses... I appreciate the honesty, yet feel disappointed at the same time. I know, I know... liver and heart are not for everyone. It just stinks knowing that I spent a decent amount of time and effort (and money) making the darn thing, only to have it be described as 'Just okay.'

On the plus side, I have become quite proficient at making two awesome edibles that are quickly becoming staples in our diet:

Pressure Cooker Bone Broth

(Pic taken with my beautiful swiss chard and brussel sprouts from the Public Market)

Ingredients:
  • 1 large onion, cut into large chunks
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2.5 pounds of assorted bones (I use whatever I can get from the market, usually a mix of soup bones, neck bones,  or oxtails. A gnarly nuckle bone would also work nicely here.)
  • 8 cups of water (enough to cover the bones but not more than 2/3rd the capacity of the pressure cooker)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
Method:
  • Dump the onion and garlic into the pressure cooker (make sure it’s at least 6-quarts), toss in your bones (frozen is fine), cover with water (make sure you don’t fill more than 2/3rds capacity!), add the vinegar and fish sauce.
  • Lock on the lid and turn the dial to high pressure. Place the pot on a burner set on high heat. Once the indicator pops up showing that the contents of the pot have reached high pressure, immediately decrease the temperature to the lowest possible setting to maintain high pressure (low is normally adequate).
  • Set the timer for 30 minutes (I let it go for 50 minutes if I’m cooking meaty shanks or oxtails).
  • When the timer dings, turn off the burner and remove the pot from the heat. Let the pressure release naturally (10-15 minutes).
  • Remove the lid, skim of the scum (if you desire), and strain the broth.
  • I don’t parboil the bones to decrease the scum because I’m lazy. Plus, there really isn’t that much left after you strain it.
I got this recipe from Nom Nom Paleo (http://nomnompaleo.com/post/16004110328/quick-pressure-cooker-bone-broth) and just subbed in the onion/garlic for the leeks and carrots. (FYI, this recipe could also be done in a slow cooker. Throw everything in and let it cook low and slow for 24 hours YES, 24 HOURS! You want all that cartilage and marrow to break down and release their rich, goodness into the broth...) The broth is gelatinous, rich and wonderful! Plus, you get to eat all the leftover marrow and meat that just melts in your mouth... I just sip on some as it is and then save rest to use in soups, stews and other dishes. Definitely a keeper for anyone!

And...

Oven Roasted Chicken


Ingredients:
  • one 3 to 5 pound pasture-raised chicken
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1/2 bag baby carrots
  • 2 turnips, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces 
  • ~2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • ~ 1/2 tsp paprika
  • ~ 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • generous dash unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh bone broth (see what I mean about using it in other recipes?)
Method:
  • Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
  • Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. 
  • Sprinkle the inside with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika.
  • Take some of the veggies and place them inside the chicken, being sure to leave room for 1/2 of the lemon and one of the sprigs of rosemary.
  • Squeeze a little lemon juice inside the chicken and place 2 quarters inside, along with 1 sprig rosemary.
  • Truss the chicken (I used this video for help: http://ruhlman.com/2010/07/how-to-truss-a-chicken/)
  • Drizzle olive oil over the chicken and sprinkle the bird generously with salt, black pepper, garlic powder and paprika.
  • Strip the remaining sprig of rosemary of it's needles and rub them onto the chicken. 
  • Place the remaining veggies into a clay baker or baking dish, place the trussed chicken on top, and add 1/2 cup bone broth to the bottom of the pan. Squeeze the juice of the remaining 2 quarters of lemon onto the chicken and throw them into the pan as well.
  • Place the chicken in the oven, covered, and roast for about three hours. 
  • Increase the heat to 375 degrees F and continue roasting for about thirty to forty-five minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and allow the bird to rest five to ten minutes before carving.
  • Serve with roasted veggies from the pan.
  • Save the chicken’s frame to make roast chicken stock.
I use this as the base recipe: http://nourishedkitchen.com/recipes/?recipe_id=6003324, adding the lemon, rosemary, paprika and veggies. You could really use any spice/herb combos to suit your personal tastes. The thing I love is that this is so unbelievably simple and tastes so good! The chicken just falls off the bones and the veggies are amazing! You'll never want to buy one of those rotisserie chickens from the store again!

Yay getting two recipes in one post! (I'm not being lazy I swear!)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hopeful Halloween Goodies!

I know this is a recipe blog, but I can't help sharing something with everyone that makes me excited. Now, I'm not one of those people that will enter into any random giveaway/raffle that comes my way. As a card dealer in my dad's casino gaming experience company (http://upstatevegasevents.com/ ... that's right folks, shameless plug here...), I know that the odds are generally not in my favor. I never have a problem winning when I'm part of "the House" and, consequently, never having a problem losing when I'm playing against the dealer. However, despite my seeming lack of confidence, I feel that this time will be different. I've had a few things happen that should help my chances:

A.) This morning I used my awesome new Halloween mug

B.) I had a black cat cross my path this morning. Yup... walked outside my front door and a large black cat ran right in front of me... I know this usually leads to bad luck, but I'm thinking that I can use the bad mojo from the cat to negate the unluckiness I have with contests.

C.) This is a Halloween giveaway and Halloween is my FAVORITE holiday! I'm one of those people that plan my costume(s) out months in advance and will totally have my future home decked out in a way that will make any young child afraid to come ask me for candy.

With all of these things said, I think I can win this! Enter the Primal Toad giveaway: http://primaltoad.com/giveaway/


First off, I thoroughly enjoy Primal Toad site. Secondly, the first thing on the list of goods is a squatty potty! For those not informed of said device, I suggest you go here: http://www.squattypotty.com/Default.asp. It's essentially a step-stool like object that allows you to maintain the proper position for easy eliminations. Fear not anyone with issues in this arena! The Squatty Potty is here to save the day! Also, the cookbooks they're giving away are totally worth it! I've been eyeing every one of these up for quite some time and am dying to try out the recipes in them. 

So for everyone out there looking to snag some new stuff, take a look at this frightfully good Halloween giveaway and take a chance!

I Heart Chicken Wings!

As the title of this post suggests, I love chicken wings... so does Justin, for that matter. They've pretty much become a once a week staple for the two of us. The only problem I have with this is that they can get get kinda pricey and places don't always make a consistently good wing (except for Dinosaur BBQ and maybe Marvin Mozzeroni's...) Because of said problem, I made it my mission to conquer the homemade, oven-fried, crispy wing. It took a while of searching... but then I stumbled upon perfect recipe: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/02/the-best-buffalo-wings-oven-fried-wings-recipe.html

Oven Fried Buffalo Wings

(That's right! I took that photo!)

Ingredients:
  • 4 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats*
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter*
  • 1 cup Frank's RedHot Sauce
  • Blue cheese dressing
  • Celery sticks
Method:
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, and set a wire cooling rack inside. 
  • Carefully dry chicken wings with paper towels. Place 1/3 of wings in large bowl, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt, and toss until thoroughly and evenly coated. Place on rack, leaving slight space between each wing. Repeat with remaining two batches of wings.
  • Place the baking sheet with wings in the refrigerator and allow to rest, uncovered, at least 8 hours, and up to 18 hours.
  • Adjust the top oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 450°F. Add the chicken wings and cook for 20 minutes. Flip the wings and continue to cook until crisp and golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes longer.
  • Meanwhile, combine butter and hot sauce in small saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking until combined. Transfer wings to large bowl, add sauce, toss to thoroughly coat, and serve immediately with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks, conspicuously shunning anyone who says that real buffalo wings must be fried.
The recipe above is the original from the Serious Eats. I usually make a half recipe of this, but that's the only thing I change from this. I feel it doesn't really need tweaking 'cuz it works every time. 

*Notes: 
  • The key for the sauce, in my opinion, is the butter. It adds some richness to the flavor of the wings that make them seem all the tastier. This being said, I splurge and use some grass-fed Kerrygold Butter (sooo tastey!) Being paleo, I'm technically not allowed to have butter; however, I'll make an exception for the good stuff. For those following a more strict diet, I'm sure leaving the butter out is fine. You could also sub in some coconut oil or coconut butter... or bacon fat (mmm... bacon...)
  • Also, I find using organic, pastured chicken wings instead of the usual grocery store brand produce a more pronounced chicken-y taste to the wings, something that Justin and I tend to prefer. (Yes, I know they're more expensive... But in all reality, these still end up being cheaper than buying wings from the local pizza shop. Plus, they taste better, have more meat on them and aren't shot full of hormones. Happy chickens = yummy wings!) 

As far as the time and effort of these... Most of this recipe involves inactive prep. I find the easiest way make these suckers, and not wanna pull all the hair out of my head, is to get the chicken in the fridge the night before. The next day, all you've really gotta do is preheat the oven and bake the wings. The sauce can be made in the microwave in a large microwave safe bowl. I usually do a 1 1/2 minutes on high, just before the wings are done. From here, you throw the wings into the sauce bowl, toss and serve. Easy peasy! 

In short... these homemade wings ROCK! They're easy, cheap and absolutely delicious!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Going Stew Crazy!

It's the first week of October and the weather has turned from a nice and warm to the typical Rochester gray and rainy. This makes me seriously crave something stew-like or smothered in some sort of gravy. I've combined these two thoughts into a hearty stew that'll knock your socks off!

Hearty Sausage and Kale Stew

(I LOVE GREENS!!)

Ingredients:
  • 16 oz. italian pork sausage (I used hot sausage)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large bunch kale, shredded (or roughly chopped, if you're lazy)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 1/2 cups beef broth (I used bone broth... chicken/beef broth will work too)
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp dried, rubbed sage
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I ended up using a little more, as I like spicy foods)
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • coconut oil
Method:
  • Heat the coconut oil in a large pot, or dutch oven, over medium high heat.
  • Crumble the italian sausage into the pot (If the sausage is in casings, slit them down the middle, peel away and discard). Add the peppers and onions. Cook until the sausage is browned and the onions/peppers are softened, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add the coconut milk, broth and spices. Bring up to a boil. 
  • Add the kale slowly, handful by handful, stirring them in so that they wilt down and make room for more.
  • Put a lid on the pot and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the kale is tender.
  • Taste and add more salt/pepper if necessary.
  • Serve with rice, pasta, cauliflower rice, or on top of roasted root veggies (I used roasted beets and cauliflower).
The real inspiration for this recipe came from the combo of a 'Collard Greens and Chorizo' stew that I've made on several occasions and a 'Paleo Biscuits and Gravy' recipe (from http://robbwolf.com/2011/01/05/gluten-free-sausage-gravy-paleo-biscuits/). The resulting dish is phenomenal! The sausage and coconut milk add a rich fattiness and the kale is tender, yet oh so good! It's spicy and savory and awesome served over some roasted veggies or even some grits. 

In sum, if you enjoy sausage and greens, you'll LOVE this recipe!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Typical Weekend Fare

I love to use my time on the weekends to make the recipes that require a little more effort and planning. This past weekend, I bought some awesome looking flank steak from my fave vendor and scored on getting more beets and cauliflower than I know what to do with (for really cheap no less!!) I took some of the flank steak and made it into homemade jerky. The rest evolved into this plate of awesomeness:

Marinated Flank Steak with a Lemon Tahini Slaw and Turmeric Roasted Beets/Cauliflower



Flank Steak Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 lb grass fed flank steak
  • 1/4 cup Bragg's Liquid Aminos
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + a little more for the pan
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Method:
  • Place all of the ingredients into a gallon sized ziploc bag, let all of the air out, seal and shake everything up. Let sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours (I let mine marinade for a full 24. Trust me, it's worth the wait!)
  • Take the meat out and let it come to room temp for 30 minutes (This step is crucial, in my opinion. Allowing the meat to come to room temp allows for a more even cooking time)
  • Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat until smoking. Pour in a little olive oil.
  • Place the steak in the hot pan and let cook 4-5 minutes per side, depending on how you prefer your steak cooked (Justin and I tend to prefer 4 minutes and have our steak more on the rare side). Remove, cover with foil and let the meat rest for 10 minutes.
Roasted Beets/Cauliflower Ingredients:
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 large beets, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • good quality olive oil
Method:
  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the cauliflower and beets into a large oven-proof dish (or  two, in my case). Drizzle with olive oil and toss with all of the spices. Add salt/pepper to taste. 
  • Place dish in the oven and roast for 30-35 minutes, or until the veggies are lightly browned and tender.
 Lemon Tahini Slaw:
  • 1 bag shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cucumber shredded
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • salt/pepper, to taste
Method:
  • Toss everything in a bowl and let sit for several hours (I let mine sit overnight).
See what I mean about labor intensive? Yes, this meal requires more planning and prep... but... it results in something that tastes AMAZING! The flank steak has this intense, toasty spice profile (and is tender as any filet could be), the beets/cauliflower have a roasted earthy goodness, and the slaw adds some citrusy brightness to create the ultimate flavor combo for your palate.



Saturday, September 29, 2012

A is for Apple Butter!

Fall is officially here in New York, which means that ir's apple season! Apples, in my opinion, are one of nature's super fruits. They're sweet, tart, crisp and soft. Plus, you can make a multitude of deliciousness from them: applesauce, apple cider (both hard and 'soft'), apple slaw, apples and pork, apple pie and one of my favorites...

APPLE BUTTER


Ingredients:
  • 15 apples (or however many your crockpot will hold – mine caps off at 15)
  • 1/4 cup honey (remember, the darker, the higher in nutrition)
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
Method
  • Peel and core apples and cut up into chunks. Place them in your slow cooker.
  • Distribute the rest of the ingredients onto the tops of the apples in the slow cooker. Don’t worry about mixing it all up yet. As the apples heat up and soften, you can begin mixing and mashing everything.
  • Set the slow cooker on low for 8 hours.
  • At about 6 hours, mash the apples, inside the pot.
  • Once they are finished, at 8 hours, throw everything in the food processor and process for a couple minutes until it is smooth.
  • Let cool in jars and store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
I got this recipe from here: http://morethanpaleo.com/paleo-apple-butter/. The only thing I did to change the recipe was to add the ground ginger, as I love the flavor it adds to the apples. This makes a lot too, so be prepared to share (or keep it all and put some in the freezer for later use).  The butter is creamy, sweet and little spicy from the ginger.... I can't wait to try this on top of some pancakes or ice cream!

The original creator of this recipe said that you'll have to resist eating it by the spoonful; however, I like to think, "A spoonful of apple butter a day keeps the doctor away!" SO SPOON IT UP!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Buffalo Chicken with a Twist

I took a couple of days off after running the half marathon to recoup and to use up some of my vacation time. After running a few 'errands' ( ie- me shopping for random house items/cookbooks), I decided to make myself a tasty salad. Enter my version of a buffalo chicken salad with a little twist:
Sweet & Spicy Buffalo Chicken Salad


Ingredients:
  • meat from leftover chicken wings, shredded
  • mixed salad greens
  • shredded carrots
  • half an orange, cut up
  • Dressing: paleo mayo, Frank's buffalo wing sauce (I use a 1: 1 1/2 ratio mayo to hot sauce) 
Method:
  • Put the salad greens in a bowl. 
  • Top with carrots, chicken and orange pieces
  • Mix up the dressing ingredients. 
  • Pour dressing over salad.
  • Enjoy!
I am a HUGE fan of buffalo chicken anything, be it wings, salad, sandwiches, etc... I also have a bit of a sweet tooth. So... the combo of the juicy, sweet orange and the spicy kick of the chicken is the ultimate flavor sensation for my taste buds! Quick, easy and soo good!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Butter Me Up!

It's the eve of the big race day (I'm running the MVP half marathon bright and early), and I needed to get out some of my nervous energy. I know I'm ready for the run itself, but I can never get over the whole butterflies in the stomach thing beforehand.... Anyways, I was spending some of said energy cleaning the kitchen and noticed that, alas, we had no more cashew butter or almond butter! This, my friends, is a shame. Henceforth, I hurried up the cleaning and hied myself to the process of making up a couple of batches o' buttery goodness!

I know that many people out there are perfectly content with buying those jars from the store. I am NOT one of them! Why should I spend $7-8 on some junk that's been sitting on a shelf for who know's how long? No, no... I urge you all to pamper yourselves and take the extra few minutes to make it yourselves.

Homemade Nut Butter

(On the left is Cashew Butter and on the right is Cinnamon Almond Butter)

Ingredients:
  • 15 oz Roasted Nuts (use whatever kind you'd like: peanuts, almonds, cashews, etc)
  • A few tablespoons Oil (I use melted coconut oil, but peanut or sunflower oil both work well too)
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp Sweetener of choice (I love using raw honey or maple syrup, but agave works too)
  • Cinnamon (optional, but I love the taste of it in the almond butter)
Method:
  • Place nuts, salt and honey in the bowl of a food processer. Process for 1 minute. 
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl. 
  • Place the lid back on and continue to process while slowly drizzling in the oil and process until the mixture is smooth, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
  • Put in a container to save for later or eat giant spoonfuls right then and there.
See folks? It's not that hard! Sure there's a little cleanup involved, but the flavor of this stuff is SOO much better than anything you'd get from the store. Not to mention that there's TONS of possibilities for flavor combos. Like: maple walnut butter, maple almond, cinnamon cashew, chocolate almond (add some cocoa powder), chocolate hazelnut, macadamia almond cashew bonanza! I could go on forever... So come on now and butter me up with some homemade nut butter!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Slow Cooker Heaven!

We changed up our slow cooker routine this week and busted it out on Tuesday, instead of Wednesday. After having some not so good tasting pulled pork over the weekend, I made it my mission to hunt down the perfect recipe (preferably one that comes close to Dinosaur BBQ's). I finally found what I was looking for here: http://thedomesticman.com/2011/04/22/pulled-pork/

Pulled Pork

(photo from the Domestic Man's website)

Ingredients:
  • 5 lb pork butt or shoulder
  • 1 tbsp sea salt (original recipe calls for only 1 tsp, sorry man, but I'm not afraid of salt!)
  • 2 tsp cumin (our addition)*
  • 1 tsp onion powder (our addition)*
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (our addition)*
  • 1 tbsp chili powder (our addition)*
  • 2 tsp chipotle powder (our addition)*
  • pepper, to taste (our addition)*
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • Frank's Red Hot Sauce, to taste (our addition)*
  • 1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce (we used Patti Labelle's Smoked Agave BBQ sauce)
Method:
  • Place the pork butt in a crock pot, and pour the seasonings, hot sauce and liquid smoke on top. Cook on low for 10 hours, flipping halfway through.
  • Drain out half the liquid** (you can reserve both the juice and the fat for other recipes) and remove any bones or skin. Pull the pork apart with two forks. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Add the BBQ sauce and mix it together, returning it to the crock pot on low for another hour. If you want it a little spicier, add a couple drops of hot sauce or tabasco when you add the BBQ sauce.
  • The pork should be slightly damp and falling apart. If it dries out, add back some of the liquid you poured out. This dish also freezes well, so you can easily store it in batches.
  • Serve on buns, with mashed potatoes or with whatever you'd like. We used roasted sweet potatoes and some of my homemade coleslaw.
*Note:  I trusted Justin to make this recipe. The amounts of these seasonings (Our Additions) are estimates... I tried asking him; however, he doesn't remember how much of each he used and exactly what (which, I'll admit, is a little annoying to me)... so I'm totally guessing!  They are approximately what I'd use. 
**Second Note: From the amount of liquid we saved after pouring out half , I don't think we even need the BBQ sauce (but this is soo good with it too!) This would taste just as fantastic without and could potentially be altered with various seasonings to suit any tastes. My next task is to make this sans sauce and amped spices. We also dumped the skin/fat back in (I heart pork fat!)

This recipe, as is, turned out to be absolute HEAVEN! The pork was melt in your mouth tender and fatty... and... oh God I must have more!  Eat your heart out Dinosaur BBQ, I can beat you at your own game!

For anyone who's scared of trying some homemade pulled pork, FEAR NOT! This recipe is easy peasy and delicious.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Second Weapon in the Arsenal

It's time to introduce the next major weapon in my culinary arsenal!

 The Dutch Oven
Soon after beginning our cooking adventures, Justin and I decided that we needed some new, better quality pots and pans. Justin did a fair amount of research on what would give us the best bang for our buck. Sure, we could go with some expensive All-Clad cookware (to which I still find myself ogling in the William Sonoma window at the mall)... but instead, the idea of the dutch oven seemed more suited to our current needs.

There are two major players in the dutch oven community: Le Creuset and Lodge. Le Creuset is generally seen as the best you can buy. They're expensive. Worth it... but expensive (especially for our meager budget)! Lodge also consistently ranks well on the cooking sites and is a fair amount cheaper. From the research that Justin did, it's basically a comparison of 100% to 94% satisfaction between the two brands. We chose Lodge.

Soon after the choice was made, Justin added the 4 qt enameled cast iron dutch oven to his Christmas wish list. When he picked up the heavy wrapped box from under the tree that year, his eyes lit up. He unwrapped it hastily and sat staring for a minute, in awe. We had no choice but to bring this baby home, wash it and immediately make some tasty dish in it. 

I've used that pot soo much since we've had it, that we wound up getting the 6 qt Lodge dutch oven to match. We still have both and they are my FAVORITE cooking vessels! HANDS DOWN! The cast iron provides a large, even cooking surface. The enamel makes it non-stick (I've had the bigger one in the oven making an Italian Sunday sauce that ended up coating the top/sides with a thick, black grunge that washed off beautifully clean).  Plus, the things are heavy and virtually indestructible. They'll last you a lifetime! The only caveat to a dutch oven is that you supposedly can't use it on glass top stoves (not a problem for us).

In sum, the next tool I'd recommend that any home cook add to their shed, is the dutch oven. Be it Lodge or Le Creuset, buy a dutch oven to make your day!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Soup for the Soul

This past weekend, I decided it was high time to bust out my latest kitchen gadget: my pressure cooker. Granted, by latest, I mean that Justin bought it for my birthday back in July (sorry man, but the thing scared me a little)... Anyways, with it being September and the weather cooling off, it seemed appropriate to use the cooker to make some warming bone broth.

After doing my usual scouring of the vast web universe for the perfect recipe, I finally settled on one from Nom Nom Paleo (which is fast becoming one of my fave recipe sites. Come on now... She has 'NOM NOM' in the name... It has to be good!): http://nomnompaleo.com/post/16004110328/quick-pressure-cooker-bone-broth

Quick Pressure Cooker Bone Broth


Ingredients:
  • 2 medium leeks, cleaned and cut in half crosswise (I buy the pre-trimmed ones from Trader Joes’s)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into three pieces
  • 2.5 pounds of assorted bones (I use a mixture of chicken and pork bones from the freezer or cross shanks and oxtails)
  • 8 cups of water (enough to cover the bones but not more than 2/3rd the capacity of the pressure cooker)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of Red Boat fish sauce

Method:
  • Dump the veggies in the pressure cooker (make sure it’s at least 6-quarts), toss in your bones (frozen is fine), cover with water (make sure you don’t fill more than 2/3rds capacity!), add the vinegar and fish sauce.
  • Lock on the lid and turn the dial to high pressure. Place the pot on a burner set on high heat. Once the indicator pops up showing that the contents of the pot have reached high pressure, immediately decrease the temperature to the lowest possible setting to maintain high pressure (low is normally adequate).
  • Set the timer for 30 minutes (I let it go for 50 minutes if I’m cooking meaty shanks or oxtails).
  • When the timer dings, turn off the burner and remove the pot from the heat. Let the pressure release naturally (10-15 minutes).
  • Remove the lid, skim of the scum (if you desire), and strain the broth.
  • I don’t parboil the bones to decrease the scum because I’m lazy. Plus, there really isn’t that much left after you strain it.
  • Faster and more flavorful than other methods. Really.
I didn't do much to alter the recipe. I didn't have any leeks or carrots (oops!), so I ended up using a rather large yellow onion and a few large cloves of garlic, smashed. I bought 2 lbs of grass fed beef shanks from the public market (Impressively, I actually had the forethought to place my meat order ahead of time, making the process soo much easier!)

After tossing everything in the pressure cooker, I realized that I had to use up all my nervous energy and proceeded to clean the entire downstairs of our place. The timer went off, I ran to the kitchen to take the pot off the heat and pretty much sat there, biting my nails while the steam released. I anxiously unlocked the lid and opened it up... The smell was AMAZING! 

I strained the broth and took the two large bones out and hungrily scooped out the best part of this whole process: the marrow! I LOVE THIS STUFF! It's fatty and rich! (I knew Justin was coming home momentarily, but he was not about to get these tasty morsels...) After my little marrow sidetrack, I tasted my broth: It's more rich and flavorful than any bouillon I had tasted before! This is going to become a staple in my kitchen from now on!

For those out there with a pressure cooker, this recipe is a MUST for the fall or whenever you need some lovin' for your bones! 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Offaly Good Italian

I know this post is really close to my last, but I can't help it! I've created a tasty meal using one of my new favorite meats: beef liver.

Don't be scared my friends.... please don't run away screaming... Liver may seem like one of the last things on Earth you'd ever want to eat; but let me assure you, that when it's cooked right, it can taste amazing (AND it's good for you)!

Offaly Good Italian


Ingredients:
  • coconut oil
  • 1 lb grassfed beef liver, cubed
  • 1 lb grassfed ground lamb (you could also use ground beef)
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 8oz pkg sliced mushrooms
  • 6 oz fresh baby spinach
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 jar Wegman's Diavolo sauce (you could use any sauce you prefer)
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • lemon juice or a good quality balsamic vinegar (for drizzling)
Method:
  • Heat coconut oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. 
  • Add the mushrooms, bell pepper and onions. Saute until softened (a few minutes).
  • Add the ground lamb and cook until the lamb is browned. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so.
  • Add the sauce, tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the liver; stir well. Then stir in the baby spinach until it has wilted. Let the entire mixture cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the liver is just cooked through (and I mean just! Overcook it and it gets tough).
  • Serve over pasta, rice, mashed potatoes or a lovely parsnip/carrot puree (which is what we served it over and was made from here: http://nomnompaleo.com/post/4105061950/carrot-parsnip-puree). Drizzle with a little lemon juice or good quality balsamic vinegar.
This dish is absolutely divine! The liver is tender and adds just a touch of mineral-y goodness that compliments the flavor of the lamb and the spiciness of the sauce. The lemon juice (or balsamic) adds a little bit of brightness. It's complex, slightly 'off' and will warm your insides on a rainy September evening.

Don't be shy and eat your liver (or at least give it a try)!