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

  • 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
  • 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...) 

  • 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).


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)

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
  • 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!

  • 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
  • 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!


Garbage Meal Awesomeness!

  • 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
  • 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!)

  • 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
  • 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!