Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Primordial Pão de Queijo

I laid off the dairy the past few days, and that was probably wise considering this dish was on the menu for tonight. Pão de queijo are Brazilian cheese bread bites that are traditionally made with a hard cheese and tapioca flour. They are crispy on the outside and ooey, gooey on the inside. When I was researching different recipes, some people who weren't familiar with the texture claimed the insides were rubbery. If you get this feedback, just lament with them that they don't understand good food and celebrate that there will definitely be more awesome little bites of deliciousness for you! At the same time, you may only want to make these if you have company coming over. Wait? What? Yes, I know. They are so, so, so good—which is exactly the problem. I had trouble not devouring the whole plate in one sitting! But there you go. I should note that I have combined several different recipes and adapted a few ingredients to make this a little more paleo/primal friendly. This isn't necessarily a traditional recipe, but I did my utmost to keep the traditional texture, and in that attempt, I think I was successful. Either way, they are very good. And I could even see adding more garlic and turning this into garlic cheese balls and serving with a healthy marinara sauce for a nice twist!

Pão de Queijo
½ cup butter
⅓ cup water
⅓ cup half & half
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups tapioca flour
2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup hard cheese of choice*, grated or very finely shredded
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Combine butter, water, half & half, and salt in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Allow butter to melt, stirring occasionally. As soon as ingredients come to a boil, immediately remove from heat. Do not allow cream to curdle. Add tapioca flour and garlic and mix until smooth. Set aside away from heat source to rest for 15 minutes until somewhat cooled. If the mixture is still too warm, remove from hot pan to cool to avoid cooking eggs when they are added. Once mixture is cooled enough, added cheese and eggs and mix thoroughly. The mixture will look a little rough in texture from the cheese particles but should still cling together. Drop in rounded tablespoons onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. No need to grease. Cook for approximately 20 minutes in the oven in the upper half but not too close to the heat source. You want the tops to lightly brown and crisp on the outside.

*I used roughly ½ cup manchego cheese (this is a sheep's milk cheese that has been aged at least 6 months or longer and is very hard) and ½ cup reserved aged cheddar (this cheddar had been aged 2 years and was much harder than your traditional cheddar). This cheese combo turned out great and I can definitely recommend it. If you can't find manchego or the reserved cheddar, you can substitute for other hard cheeses like romano, parmesan, aged cheddar, aged gouda, piave, grana padano, or sbrinz. I have seen other pão de queijo recipes that used soft cheeses like mozzarella, but I don't know how well they hold up or if they adjusted other ingredients. I haven't tried a soft cheese so I can't make any recommendations. Paleo/primal/ancestral health diets recommend hard cheeses, so I try to stick with those.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Curry-crusted Lamb Breasts w/ Basil Yogurt Sauce

Lamb? You're probably thinking that sounds gourmet and expensive. And usually you'd be right. But wait just a second. For this recipe, I'm thinking cheap and lazy. Wait, lamb? Cheap? Lazy? You probably think I'm kidding. A few weeks ago I would have thought I was kidding too. A few weeks ago I'd never come across lamb breasts ribs. Lamb breast ribs are meaty and fatty and very easy to cook; they just take a while. But the best part—they don't necessarily need a whole lot of supervision. And they're definitely cheap. I found several pounds worth for around $5. There aren't many cuts of any meat that you can pick up for that price. Now that we've covered cheap, how about lazy. I had already picked up the lamb breast, but had to figure out how in the world I was going to cook them. They were sitting in my fridge when I heard the news that we were expecting Hurricane Isaac. I live on the Gulf Coast. Expecting a hurricane does not give you a lot of time to cook or prepare food. Instead of cooking, I needed to be preparing for a hurricane. After hurricane prep was all said and done, I didn't have a whole lot of energy left over and I was feeling lazy. So this recipe isn't about exact measurements. Just use your best judgment and throw on some spices. I promise, it will still turn out amazing.

Curry-crusted Lamb Breasts w/ Basil Yogurt Sauce*
3-5 lbs Lamb Breasts Ribs
Salt and Pepper
Ginger powder
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
Basil Yogurt sauce (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 300°F. Rinse off the lamb breast ribs and place in an oven safe dish large enough to hold all the ribs. Season thoroughly with salt and pepper, then with garlic and ginger powder, then with cumin and paprika. Use a little less turmeric. Then a little less cardamom and coriander. A little less of cinnamon and cloves. For cayenne pepper, season to taste. Lightly for a little taste or heavily for heat. You can also choose to season with Thai chili powder for more heat. (Do not use regular chili powder. Chili powder is a different type of chili and will drastically alter the taste.) Flip the lamb breast ribs over and repeat on the other side. Cover with an oven safe lid or foil, and place in oven. Cook for approximately 3 hours. Flip breast ribs halfway through cooking time.

Basil Yogurt Sauce
1 cup Greek yogurt
2-3 tbsp chopped Thai basil
1 tsp toasted cumin
pinch of sea salt

Whisk all ingredients together immediately after placing ribs in oven and refrigerate while ribs are cooking. This allows time for the ingredients to blend and meld together. Serve cold with ribs.

*The photo makes the lamb look burnt. This is really all the seasonings crusted onto the ribs and exactly what you are looking for!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Salmon in Cool Cilantro Coconut Sauce

I have to start this off by saying that I never thought I'd be cooking with cilantro. Especially fresh cilantro! I really just don't care for the herb. But more importantly, I never thought I'd be telling you that I cooked a dish with cilantro that I liked! Yes, you read that right. I actually ate and enjoyed every bite of this salmon—every cilantro-coated piece. So how did I end up with a dish centered around cilantro? Blame it on Instagramer thecavery (see website: She posted an Instagram challenge for her followers to create a dish that incorporated three ingredients: coconut, cilantro and salmon. Normally, I avoid cilantro like nobody's business. But, a challenge is a challenge, and I've been meaning to experiment more lately with food, so I thought, why not? I'm glad I did. This dish turned out great. I definitely need to take more risks in the kitchen. After all, isn't that what this blog is for?

Salmon in Cool Cilantro Coconut Sauce*
1-2 serrano peppers
1 jalapeño pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh cilantro, packed
1 cup full fat greek yogurt
⅓ cup coconut cream**
1-2 tbsp coconut oil
6-8 oz. salmon fillet per person
Salt and pepper, to taste

*Very important: Make your sauce several hours ahead of time! The longer it refrigerates, the better the flavors meld together. Keep in mind that the heat of the peppers will also get a little stronger over time. 

Remove the seeds and membranes from the serrano and jalapeño peppers. Use more serrano for more heat. Roughly chop peppers and garlic and add to processor. Add garlic and pulse until well blended. Add yogurt and coconut cream. Blend. Salt and pepper to taste. Blend again and refrigerate until ready to serve.

At meal time, heat coconut oil in skillet over medium heat. While heating, season salmon fillets with cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Once the oil is very hot, place salmon in skillet skin side down and cook for 2-3 minutes until skin is crispy. Flip and cook 2-3 minutes. Depending on thickness of fillet, this will cook salmon rare to medium-rare. If a longer cooking time is desired, reduce heat to medium low and cook for a few additional minutes per side. Remove from heat. Place salmon on serving plate and top with cold cilantro coconut sauce from fridge. Add additional fresh cilantro if desired.

**It's very easy to place a can of good quality coconut milk in the refrigerator for several hours and then open the can WITHOUT shaking it. Scoop the cream off the top. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pesto Burger (AIP)

For me, one of the most frustrating parts of eating the way I do is that if you don't remember to plan your meals or your schedule goes awry and you're suddenly limited on time, then you're stuck trying to find out how to get some quick but healthy food on the go or on the fly. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do, but its hard to make compromises when you really don't want to eat food that's probably going to make you sick later. Or maybe you've just had a really long day, and you want to throw something together that's quick and easy and doesn't require a lot of thought or effort. There's always an egg or salad, but if you're wanting something a little different, then you really need a little bit of "paleo fast food". I always have individually-wrapped hamburger patties in the freezer (along with some pre-divided chicken), and they are my go to meal when I need something quick because I can pull them out and defrost them fairly quickly. And of course this week, I have lots of pesto on hand since I needed something to do with the overload of basil from my garden. So let's get a little creative on the fly and jazz up your plain ol' hamburger patty with a little bit of pesto love.

Pesto Burger
1 hamburger patty (at least a 1/3 or 1/2 lb)
Salt (to taste)
4 tbsp basil pesto, divided
1/2 tbsp bacon fat or FOC

Salt and pepper your hamburger meat. Add 2 tbsp of pesto and mix together thoroughly. Reform into patty. If you have a gas grill, fire it up and skip the bacon fat. Cook like a regular hamburger. If you're using a skillet, heat up the bacon fat over medium-low heat and add your burger to the pan. When it's cooked to your desired temperature, put on a plate and top with more pesto. Serve with a side of sliced cucumbers or a bed of spinach or even fresh sliced tomatoes.

Italian Sausage in Wine Sauce

Every now and again (or for some individuals, most weeknights), you need a meal that tastes great without too much fuss. This dish may not be up at the top of the list for super quick and easy, but it's up there. The best part is that because of the vegetables in the dish, you can easily get away with making this not just the main dish, but the whole dish. And that means you've got a one pot meal, which also means less dishes. Easy cooking, easy cleanup—need I say more? The trick is to not rush the process and stick to a lower heat range to keep the vegetables from burning while the onions caramelize. And I'd recommend sticking to butter in this recipe. The butter helps the wine sauce thicken a little better without needing flour or another starch. The consistency that you are looking for is almost like a runny syrup.

Italian Sausage in Wine Sauce
3-4 tbsp butter
1 lb Italian sausage (either handmade or your favorite brand)
2 red and/or yellow bell peppers, cut into strips
2 medium yellow onions, cut into strips
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tsp dried marjoram
2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1½ cups white wine

In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Cut Italian sausage into slices or chunks and add to pan. Add bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes and sauté. When onions start to caramelize, add garlic, basil, marjoram, oregano, salt and pepper. If the skillet starts to look dry, add a little bit more butter. Add white wine and scrap up all the brown bits on the bottom of the skillet. Simmer until meat is cooked through and wine sauce begins to caramelize and thicken. Serve as is or over spinach or cauliflower rice.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pesto Chicken (AIP)

I've been neglecting my garden the past few weeks, partly in frustration at the endless amounts of rain that are slowly killing some of my plants and partly because I've been very busy with other endeavors. I remedied that today and gave my container garden some much needed TLC. There was quite a bit of pruning involved, especially when it came to the basil. Seriously, I had some basil stalks over a foot high! What was bad for the garden was great for the kitchen. After snipping all the overgrown basil, I had more than enough to make a great batch of homemade pesto. Throw in some chicken and some rice noodles, and you've got a great meal that almost as good as sitting at a lovely outdoor restaurant in Italy. The fresh ingredients at least help me pretend that I'm back there anyways!

Pesto Chicken
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp olive oil
4-5 chicken tenders
Salt  (to taste)
3-5 tbsp pesto or enough for a good coating

Heat coconut and olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Season chicken tenders with salt. When oil mixture is heated, add chicken to skillet. Cook each side 3-4 minutes each until chicken is cooked through. Dress with a scoop of pesto over chicken or toss chicken in pesto. I recommend serving on a bed of fresh spinach.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chorizo, Spinach & Manchego Stuffed Mushrooms

Chorizo, Spinach & Manchego Stuffed Mushrooms
I can't take credit for the recipe for these amazing little bites of deliciousness. Alas, I wish I could. They turned out great. I actually had bookmarked the recipe months ago with the plans of getting around to trying them eventually. But I had never had Mexican chorizo (we grew up eating Portuguese chouriço and there is HUGE difference), so I just wasn't sure. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my sister said she wanted to try a recipe from Mark's Daily Apple that used Mexican chorizo. We bought some and then it was gone before I even had a chance to try it. So last week when I went shopping and some chorizo caught my eye, I had to try it. So my first experience with chorizo was Chorizo & Egg Pepper cups; they were delicious (that recipe is coming soon), and I was sold on chorizo. This meant that I now had some extra chorizo that I needed to use up. And I've been thinking lately that I need to eat more vegetables. Luckily, I remembered this recipe; it calls for approximately 3 links of chorizo and that's exactly how much I had left. This had to have been something like fate.

I did make a few changes, but the original recipe is here: Chorizo, Spinach & Manchego Stuffed Mushrooms. My changes are as follows:
  • I hollowed out the mushrooms and added the scraps and chopped up stems to the skillet with the onions. I don't frequently cook with mushrooms and can't stand to throw away good food, so I felt like this was a good option.
  • When the oven was preheated and the filling was still cooking on the stove, I popped the mushroom caps in the oven for about 5-10 min until they looked slightly cooked and then dumped the liquid to prepare them for filling. I don't care to use to the microwave for cooking if I don't have to, and the oven was already preheated so I feel like this wasn't any extra work.
  • I added a couple more tablespoons of manchego and an additional ounce of cream cheese to the filling. This meant that I ended up with a little more filling than mushrooms, but I'm not complaining. I'll find a way to eat it.
  • After cooking at 375°F for 10 min, I turned the broiler on high and stuck them underneath it for about 3-5 min. This made the top of the filling a little bit crispy, which I prefer.
A big thanks to I Breathe... I'm Hungry. Because of this great recipe I have also discovered a great new cheese—manchego. Manchego is actually made from sheep's milk instead of cow's milk. The brand I found was a little bit pricey compared to some cheeses, but it was aged at least 6 months (aged cheeses are usually preferred; and according to Wikipedia, all official manchego cheeses labeled "viejo" should have been aged at least a year) and tasted great—definitely a new flavor. While looking for manchego, I also discovered a great deal on some grass-fed cheddar cheese aged 2 years. I tried a bite of this one tonight also; it was a little pungent (similar to Swiss) for a cheddar cheese, but I enjoyed the flavor. Here's an additional photo of my cheese splurge.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Salmon-topped Scrambled Eggs

I wanted something quick and easy for dinner, but I had to use up some of the salmon I bought the other day. It was a great sale price on fresh, wild caught Alaskan Sockeye salmon that I just couldn't pass up so I ended up with a whole pound (this is quite a bit for it being just me!). I also wanted something light and simple since I was eating so late. I had also recently just purchased 3 dozen farm fresh eggs yesterday, so those caught my eye as I was digging in the refrigerator looking for ideas. Salmon. Eggs. Salmon and eggs? It sounds like a perfectly gourmet dish, but also perfectly healthy. And so, voilà! Enter Salmon-topped Scrambled Eggs. Light, quick, and simple but also filling. The following is for one serving.

Salmon-topped Scrambled Eggs
Butter or ghee (or preferred cooking fat), divided
6-8 oz salmon fillet, deboned*
Dill to season
Ground black pepper
2-3 eggs
Dash or two of paprika
Splash or two of half & half
Dollop or two of sour cream

Heat butter in skillet over medium heat. While heating, season salmon with dill and black pepper. (I skipped the salt because I feel that the butter adds enough saltiness to the dish. If you disagree, feel free to add salt here.) Cook salmon in skillet to desired doneness (2-5 minutes per side depending on thickness and preference; medium or medium rare works well with this dish). While salmon is cooking, heat butter in another skillet over medium-low heat. In a small dish, thoroughly whisk eggs, paprika, ground pepper (to taste), dill, and half & half until bubbles form on top. This makes for light and fluffy eggs. Test the pan with a drip of egg. You want the egg to start to cook, but not to start frying. The trick here is low heat. Pour the eggs into the skillet and drag your spatula through the eggs as they cook. Continue to do this until eggs are cooked through. On a plate, layer first the scrambled eggs. Fluff the salmon into chunks over the eggs. Top with sour cream and another dash of dill.

*You can choose skinned or skin intact. Ever since my older brother recently informed me about the deliciousness and healthiness of salmon skin, I love to eat it! It tastes great when you cook it all crispy like chicken skin. If you choose skin intact, my recommendation is to season the skin side lightly with cajun seasoning and then the meat side with dill and ground pepper. Then let the cooking fat get pretty hot before placing the skin side down in the pan. Once the skin is nice and crispy (2-3 minutes), flip and finish cooking your salmon to your preference. Lower the heat some if you prefer your salmon cooked more well done so that the outside doesn't burn. You can choose to use the skin in the recipe, but I preferred it without. I just snacked on the skin while the eggs were cooking.

I based my recipe off a salmon dish I found on Herb Companion. You can find the original recipe here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Over-loaded French Fries

There are just some days when all you want is comfort food. You slept through your alarm. You were late for work. Your boss wrote you up a bad review. Your significant other broke up with you during your lunch break. You had to reprint, re-assemble, and refile all your afternoon paperwork. And then you come home to discover your roommate stole all your gin. Yeah, it's been one of those days. And when you need a carb splurge, this is the dish for you.

How to Make Paleo-friendly-ish* Over-loaded French Fries:
1. Fry french fries in hot bacon fat. When they look done, cook a little longer for extra crispyness. 
2. Season with sea salt and paprika. 
3. Add triple cheddar cheese (hey, if you're gonna splurge--SPLURGE)
4. Ask sister if she believes in such a thing as 'too much cheese'. Ignore horrified stare and add more cheese anyways. 
5. Add bacon bits. 
6. Repeat question to sister but this time about bacon. Again, ignore horrified stare and add more bacon anyways. 
7. Pop in preheated oven until cheese is melty. 
8. Top with a generous ladle of sour cream (who really eats just a dollop?!) and a sprinkle of fresh parsley. 
9. Enjoy the wonderful adventure in your mouth. 
10. Consider seconds. Or thirds.

Note: *This is definitely what I like to call a Splurge Dish. You wouldn't want to eat this once a week. Maybe once a month to every other month. But if you're not avoiding dairy, go for it. Just stick to full-fat sour cream and aged cheddar cheese. Go nitrate-free bacon if you can get it. If you're really going all out, cut and slice all your own potatoes for the fries. Most frozen french fries contain some amounts of vegetable oil. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Huevos Rancheros Locos

I created this dish because I kept craving Huevos Rancheros but I didn't want to give in and eat the corn tortillas. So instead, plantain chips! You have two options with the plantain chips: serious primal by making your own or buy a bag and settle for the fact that you'll be consuming a little bit of vegetable oil. The decision is completely up to you, but it all comes down to ideal health or convenience. If you decide to make your own plantain chips, they're great fried in coconut oil.

And now the recipe. This makes one serving.

Huevos Rancheros Locos
Small can of El Pato salsa de jalapeño*
14 oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes**
3 tbsp of diced canned chiles
3 tbsp canned chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped or diced (use the adobo sauce too)
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
2-3 eggs
Butter (or other healthy fat for frying the eggs)
Handful or two of plantain chips (thicker cut works better than paper thin)
Cheese (optional)

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine the salsa de jalapeño, fire roasted diced tomatoes, diced chiles, chipotles and adobo sauce, cumin, and chili powder. Let simmer while preparing the rest of the dish and stir occasionally. Heat butter in a small skillet. Add your desired number of eggs to the skillet. Salt, pepper, and paprika the eggs and cook to your preference. (If you like your eggs runny, this is perfect for this dish!) When eggs are almost ready, spread a small amount of sauce onto a plate--spread enough sauce about the size of a corn tortilla. Top with a handful or two of plantain chips to form an even layer. Top with finished eggs. Cover with sauce--use a little, use a lot, your choice! Top with a small sprinkle of cheese if you're not avoiding dairy and a couple more plantain chips.

Let me know what you think!

*If you can't find El Pato brand, find a similar restaurant style salsa that's basically tomatoes, jalapeños, and cilantro. You're looking for something that's a more authentic taste than your typical jarred salsa.
**I use Muir Glen. They're organic and supposedly most of their cans are switched to the new BPA-free lining. Also, you'll be adding the amount of tomatoes you want to cut the spiciness in the salsa de jalapeño. If you like a lot of heat, use less of the tomatoes. If you want medium heat, add the whole can. If you want mild heat, add the whole can and don't use all of the salsa de jalapeño. It's pretty spicy stuff. Additionally, this is going to make it chunky. If you like chunky, use as is. If you prefer smooth, throw these in the blender or food processor to purée these up.