Monday, December 30, 2013

Tropical Green Smoothie (AIP)

Do you eat enough veggies? When it comes to not getting enough of those awesome greens, I'm guilty as charged. Sometimes it's pure laziness; other times is that I'm not impressed with the taste. More often than not, I get mad that I have to throw vegetables in the trash because of a combination of both previous reasons. So I'm trying to fix that, and when I say trying, I mean I think about it every day and some days I do very well, and other days...not so much.

But I have a new addition to my kitchen lineup that just might help change things! One of my Christmas presents this year was a much desired NutriBullet. I am in LOVE! I've used the little thing every day at least two or three times a day since I opened it (I waited until after the family left so I wouldn't have to share. Shh!). So far: green smoothies, dessert smoothies, cacao powder (made from organic cacao nibs), butternut squash soup, and chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting. Did I say cupcakes? Yes, yes, I did. But I digress. Veggies. That's the real reason. Green smoothies! Let's try one!

Tropical Green Smoothie
3 oz spinach leaves, packed
½ mango, peeled and chunked
¼ cup papaya chunks
1 in peeled ginger
⅓ cup grapes
4-5 large ice cubes 
Water kefir (I used mango-flavored) to max line (about ⅓-½ cup depending on how thin you want the smoothie or add more ice for a thicker smoothie).

Pack all the ingredients in the blender. Pulse a few times to get everything moving. Let it blend until smooth. Enjoy your veggies.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Olive Tapenade-Stuffed Chicken (AIP)

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Olive Tapenade-Stuffed Chicken
2-3 chicken breasts
1 cup olive tapenade, aproximately ⅓ cup per breast (see recipe below)
1-2 tbsp duck fat or FOC
Sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste (omit for AIP)
1½ cups balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Carefully cut a narrow opening in the short, chunky side of the breast. Being careful not to create any holes, slide the knife deep down through the middle of the breast to create a pouch. Stuff the chicken breast with the olive tapenade. Pack it as tightly as possible without tearing the pouch open. In a large cast iron skillet (or your favorite skillet), heat the duck fat on medium heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Sear both sides of the chicken breasts for approximately 2-3 minutes each. Transfer the chicken to a small oven-safe dish and place the dish into the oven for 15-20 minutes until a meat thermometer reads 160°F. While the chicken is cooking, reduce heat to medium low and add balsamic vinegar to pan, scraping up the brown bits. Slowly cook the balsamic vinegar until it reduces into a thick syrup. Adjust the temperature as needed to avoid burning; this can happen quickly so keep an eye on it and stir often. When the chicken is ready, remove from oven and allow to rest. Once balsamic vinegar thickens to a syrup, remove from heat. Plate your chicken and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Serve with a blanched and sautéed veggie like asparagus or fresh green beans.

Olive Tapenade
1 14-oz can green olives (or use a mixture of your favorites)
3 cloves fresh garlic
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Black pepper, to taste (omit for AIP)

Toss all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until blended. You want the ingredients finely minced but not pureed. If the mixture needs a little more spreadability, add the extra olive oil and mix well.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Basil Pesto (AIP)

My basil plants got a little out of control. And there's pretty much only one reason I even plant basil: PESTO! Except I started the Autoimmune Protocol 12 days ago (go me!) and how in the world do I make pesto without dairy and without pine nuts that still tastes deliciously like fresh pesto? There was the option of pistou (pretty much just basil, garlic, EVOO, and sea salt), but I was afraid that it wouldn't have the fullness of flavor without the nuts. I made it, and I was right; it was good, but it wasn't what I wanted. So what is nutty but isn't a nut? And it finally dawned on me: coconut! Hello, right?! AIP-appoved pesto!

Basil Pesto (AIP)
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
4 cloves garlic
½ - ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
⅓ cup dessicated coconut
Sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste (omit for AIP)

Place the basil leaves and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add ¼ cup of olive oil, lemon juice, and coconut, and start the food processor again. Drizzle the olive oil into the mixture until the desired consistency is reached. You are looking for it to hold together but also be a slightly runny paste. Add sea salt to taste and pepper if desired.

Not sure how to eat your new pesto? See my serving ideas:

Bacon-Wrapped Pesto Chicken
Pesto-topped Beef Heart Strips
Pesto Chicken
Pesto Burger

Bacon-Wrapped Pesto Chicken Breasts (AIP)

Who doesn't love Italian? Ok, I'm part Italian, so maybe it's just in my blood. But who doesn't love bacon? If you said "me," you are definitely in the wrong place! Everything's better with bacon! Especially freshly made pesto and chicken and zoodles. Feeling Italian? Feeling chicken? Feeling pesto-y, bacon-y, chicken-y goodness? Get cooking!

Bacon-Wrapped Pesto Chicken Breasts
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded flat or sliced thinly
4 tbsp pesto or AIP-friendly pesto, plus more for garnish
6-8 slices of bacon
Sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat a cast iron skillet or other oven-safe skillet. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with sea salt. Lay flat and spread 2 tbsp of pesto on inside of each breast. Roll up chicken breast carefully. Wrap 3-4 slices of bacon around chicken breast, using the bacon to hold the chicken roll-up tight. Place the chicken into the hot pan with the loose ends of the bacon facing downwards. Cook 2-4 minutes on each side until bacon is starting to crisp. Place the entire pan into the oven. Cook the breasts 15-20 minutes until meat thermometer reads 165°F. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5 minutes. Serve over lightly sauteed pappardelle- or spaghetti-style zoodles. Top with additional pesto for garnish if desired.

Banana Cream Pies (AIP)

Oh dessert. The autoimmune protocol has been an adjustment, but it hasn't been quite as hard as I thought it would be until it came to desserts. You can't have nuts or eggs or refined sugars. And let's face it, that eliminates a LOT of options. I don't HAVE to have dessert, but the first week isn't exactly the easiest. And if having an APPROVED dessert means it's easier to stick to the protocol and stay on track, then I say "Go for it!" Luckily someone posted the crust from Autoimmune Paleo on an AIP group I follow and banana pudding just popped into my head. Well, say hello to AIP-approved Banana Cream Pies.

Banana Cream Pies
1 batch of Autoimmune Paleo's coconut crust
2 tsp coconut oil
1 banana, chopped or sliced into bite-sized chunks
2 4oz jars of organic banana baby food*
1 coconut milk can's worth of cream**
1 tsp vanilla extract, optional
3 tbsp arrowroot powder
Dash of sea salt
Whipped coconut cream, optional

Prepare the crust from Autoimmune Paleo, including baking. You can prepare a full size crust or use cupcake liners in a cupcake pan for mini pies. Use a food processor if you don't have a pastry cutter or to speed things up! In a small saucepan over medium low heat, add coconut oil and melt. Add the chopped banana. Saute for 1-2 minutes until starting to heat through. Add 1 jar of banana baby food, coconut cream, and vanilla, if using. Mix well. Mix remaining jar of baby food with arrowroot powder until well-blended. Slowly add to saucepan and mix together well, trying to avoid clumps (some may still be inevitable; this is ok). Add a dash of sea salt. When mixture just starts to bubble, remove from heat and pour into pie crust(s). Refrigerate for 1-2 hours until banana filling is firm. Top with whipped coconut cream if using.

*You can also choose to use 8 oz of banana puree. I like being lazy and banana food is a great consistency for this recipe.
**If you've never made coconut cream using this method: place a can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight making sure the side that you open is upside down on the shelf. Flip the can over the next day and open. The watery part of the milk should now be on top. Pour this off and reserve it for drinking, smoothies, etc. Scoop the rest of the cream into saucepan for the recipe. Easy and done! If you can find coconut cream easily around you, the amount for the recipe is usually around ½ cup or so. I would recommend a rounded ½ cup for this recipe.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Roasted Rosemary & Orange Chicken (AIP)

I am a very big fan of Lemon Pepper Chicken. What's not to love about the nice, tart citrus flavor of lemon combined with a quick little kick of black pepper? Unfortunately, most Autoimmune Protocols don't allow for black pepper (or any other nightshades) during the elimination stage. So I'm experimenting with herbs this week to find new ways to incorporate lots of flavor. This turned out delicious! The dish has a nice punch of sweet citrus that is light yet flavorful and perfect for the transition from summer to fall. If you're sensitive to coconut or looking to change up the flavor profile, try making this dish with duck fat.

I have to clarify about the black pepper. It's been brought to my attention that black pepper is not a nightshade. I've done some additional research and have discovered that it's actually a dried berry. MOST versions of the autoimmune protocol allow for black pepper. There are some that recommend avoiding or being cautious with certain berries in the same family. These are: allspice, star anise, caraway, cardamom, juniper, black and white pepper, green and pink peppercorns, and vanilla beans (see Paleo Mom). This distinction in the protocol is clearly a personal decision. I've been doing great with avoiding these spices and am going to continue avoiding them for the rest of the elimination stage. But I am very glad to get this cleared up! And I'm glad that someone pointed out the error! The internet can be a very great learning environment.

Black pepper is definitely now OUT on the AIP. They can be the first to be reintroduced after 30 days, but should be avoided until reintroductions are made.

Roasted Rosemary & Orange Chicken
1 large navel orange
2 sprigs rosemary, stems removed and finely minced
1 sprig tarragon, stem removed and finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp sea salt
1 pkg 6-8 chicken drumsticks, skin on (or 1 pkg leg quarters)
Sea salt, to taste (pepper optional)
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion, sliced into strips or rings

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Zest the whole orange into a small bowl. Roll the orange around on the counter, pressing firmly to help release juices. Peel the remaining skin off with a paring knife. Cut the orange into chunks and set aside. Add rosemary, tarragon, garlic, and 1 tsp sea salt to the small bowl of orange zest. Mix thoroughly; this will form more of a rub than a dry spice mixture. Tuck a small amount of the mixture under the skin of the drumsticks or leg quarters, leaving a small amount set aside. Replace the skin and salt (and pepper, if using) the chicken skin to taste. Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in cast iron skillet (or other oven safe skillet). When hot, carefully add the chicken to the pan (WATCH FOR OIL SPLATTERS). Sear the skin of the chicken on each side 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle leftover herb mixture over chicken, add onions and oranges to the skillet and put in the preheated oven. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 180°F. If you prefer your chicken extra crispy, turn the broiler on and cook under the broiler for the last 3-5 minutes.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mushroom Stuffing (AIP)

Stress is definitely not a pretty thing. Between school and work and physical therapy appointments, I slowly let it get overwhelming. And when stress kicks in, stress-eating is usually quick to follow. I've always been good at maintaining my gluten free meals, but avoiding some of the other foods that I know make me sick isn't always as easy. So I was slowly letting in more and more junk and letting stress take over which meant my psoriasis started flaring up and got the worse that it's ever been. I had chunks of hair falling out. You can always imagine how traumatizing that can be, but let me tell you, I never really knew until it happened. The look of horror I saw in the mirror—I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I finally decided I had to make some changes. I started the Autoimmune Protocol (also known as Autoimmune Paleo) five days ago. The AIP is 30 days of strict limitations: in addition to no grains, legumes, sugars, and vegetable oils, there is also no nuts, seeds, nightshades, eggs, dairy, NSAIDs, coffee, chocolate, and alcohol. The charts that I am following can be found on Autoimmune Paleo. This means that for the next 30 days ALL of my recipes will be AIP-approved for the elimination stage of the protocol. Let's go!

Mushroom Stuffing
3 slices of bacon
½ onion, chopped* (I used yellow but experiment)
1 14-oz can straw mushrooms, drained and roughly chopped**
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh sage leaves
1 tbsp fresh parsley leaves
1½ tsp fresh lemon thyme leaves
½ tsp dried marjoram
½ cup chicken broth
Sea salt to taste

In a cast iron skillet preferably, cook bacon slices until super crispy. Remove bacon slices, crumble, and set aside. In still warm bacon fat on medium low heat, add onion and allow to cook most of the way through until mostly translucent. Turn heat to medium high and add mushrooms, garlic, and herbs. Saute 2-3 minutes. Then add chicken broth and salt. Allow to cook at medium high until most of the broth cooks off and condenses. Add bacon crumbles and mix thoroughly. Serve!

*Feel free to also throw everything into the food processor except for the chicken broth. Then you can throw everything into the pan at once. I prefer softer onions so I didn't go with this option, but it's there if you're in a hurry.
**You can also reserve the liquid and use in place of the chicken broth if you prefer. I used chicken broth because of its healing properties. It's good for your gut!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Baked Apples (AIP)

Although it may not look like it on my blog, I've been extra good lately with sticking to a pretty strict eating plan where even my "splurges" have been pretty healthy or at least very close to the guidelines. So I'm posting a dessert! A very simple, very healthy, wonderfully delicious dessert. I mean it. This one you can definitely splurge with a lot less guilt, but a whole lot of taste!

Baked Apples
Apples, core removed except for about 1 inch at the bottom
1 tbsp coconut oil, per apple
Spices: Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger (to taste)
1-2 tbsp coconut butter or coconut milk ice cream, per apple

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place your cored apples in a small casserole dish. Your apples should be mostly hollowed in the center but you want it to still remain intact at the bottom to collect all the juices and goodies. Place 1 tbsp coconut oil in the core of each apple. Dust apples with a mixture of your desired spices or use a simple apple pie spice mix; use a light dusting for a light flavor or heavy dusting for extra spicy apples. Place in the oven and cook 35-45 minutes or until apples are soft all the way through. Remove and transfer to serving dishes. Top with 1-2 tbsp coconut butter or coconut milk ice cream or whatever you have on hand.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Creamy Macadamia Nut Shrimp

Sometimes you find a recipe that is truly perfect all on its own. Except that you don't have this ingredient or you're out of that ingredient. Or it's a bit more complicated than you'd like and you're feeling a little bit lazier than usual. This is one of those recipes. The original credit goes to Mark Sisson; you can find the recipe here. His recipe is amazing; I know this because I've made it several times. The dish is a wonderful combination of flavors: shrimp, macadamia nuts, coconut, lime. Seriously, the lime makes the recipe. Don't skip! The reason for my own tweaks? I was missing shallots, and I really wasn't feeling the food processor. I love my food processor, but I don't like cleaning my food processor. So when I was overly tired the other night and looking for something simple to throw together, I realized I had most of the ingredients for this dish (and an extra ingredient or two) and figured with a little ingenuity, all I needed to do was create the lazy man's version!

Creamy Macadamia Nut Shrimp
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 large clove garlic, chopped
½ medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
½ cup macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tail off
2 tbsp coconut manna (aka coconut butter)
3 tbsp coconut cream or milk
Sea salt and pepper (to taste)
1 tbsp lime juice, roughly

Heat coconut oil in a wok or medium skillet on medium low heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until fragrant, but just before the garlic turns golden brown. Add macadamia nuts and toss gently for a minute to lightly toast. Turn up heat to medium. Add shrimp and allow to lightly sear. Add coconut manna and allow it to start to melt, then incorporate coconut cream. Salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp is thoroughly cooked. Transfer to serving dish(es). Top with lime juice to taste. Enjoy while hot!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Beer-Battered Chicken Tenders

OMG! I've created the perfect beer batter recipe! The perfect golden and crispy on the outside, but nice and bready and chewy on the inside. Let's go crazy! Fry everything! Chicken, fish, cheese, oreos! Ok, so maybe not everything. I started with chicken tenders. And then I went for mozzarella sticks. All good. Next stop: fish and chips! Yes, I'm headed out this week to buy some nice white fish. This is the perfect batter for those fish and chips cravings. Ok, so it's not perfect but it's pretty close. It's definitely nice and crispy but still a thicker batter, unlike the tempura types. And you can fry it in almost anything. I used a combination of beef tallow and bacon fat. Why not? It sounded good to me. And it worked like a charm. If you're one of those paleos/primals watching carbs, this may not be the best recipe for you. I've got several in the works that are lower carbs. My blog probably looks like that's all I eat, but it's definitely not the case. So my promise is that my next post will be low carb! And no dairy. I've been trying to cut back myself. And then I created this concoction and had a whole block of delicious whole milk mozzarella in the fridge just begging to be turned into crispy little mozzarella sticks dipped in marinara... But I digress. On with the recipe!

Beer-Battered Chicken Tenders
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp Redbridge beer (or another preferred gluten-free beer)
1 cup tapioca flour, more or less (plus more for coating)
¼ tsp paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
Oil or fat of choice for frying
1 lb chicken tenders, rinsed and gently patted dry

Combine the egg and baking powder in a medium bowl and mix together thoroughly. Add beer and mix. Add the seasonings in and then the tapioca flour slowly, stirring until the mixture becomes slightly thickened. Use more or less to get the right consistency. The batter might look very runny, but when it settles it will thicken quite a bit so stir thoroughly before adding more tapioca. Too thick and the batter won't cook all the way through. Too thin and the batter won't cover as well. The consistency of the batter will look very odd--science-experiment odd, like a strange mixture of a goopy gel and liquid all in one. Don't panic; this is normal. You're doing it right. Heat the oil/fat in a small, deep-sided skillet or wok; at least an inch and half or so. When you drop the food in, you will want at least two-thirds of it submerged. In a small shallow bowl, place about ⅓ - ½ cup of tapioca flour. Dredge a chicken tender through the flour and then in the batter. When fully-covered, quickly drop into the hot oil (it's runny so you have to work quick to try and avoid some drips). Cook 2-4 minutes and flip when the edges are golden brown. Cook another 2-4 minutes. Use a thermometer to check that the chicken is cooked to 160°F and remove from oil. Drain on paper towels if desired. Use the time to gauge how long the other tenders need to cook. Repeat until all tenders are fried. Serve with preferred dipping sauce!*

*For honey mustard pictured, use ⅓ cup all natural yellow mustard with 1-2 tsp local honey (more or less to taste). 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tequila Lime Chicken

I have this thing for all Latino-related food. I tell everybody that I must have been some form of Latina in a past life. Technically, I am part Portuguese, so maybe that's where all the strong cravings come from, but then again I'll never really know. Regardless, there's just something delicious about the combination of tomatoes and peppers and onions and citrus and salt that does something good for the soul. And then there's tequila... Yup, a girl's best friend (as long as it doesn't get her into trouble)! This recipe is adapted from an Ina Garten recipe. The original is good, but I decided to put my own flare to it (and this is coming from the girl who just a little over a year ago refused to make any recipe unless she followed it directly ingredient for ingredient, word for word)!

Tequila Lime Chicken
1-1.5 lbs chicken breast tenders or strips*
½ cup gold tequila
1 cup lime juice**
¼ cup lemon juice**
¼ cup orange juice**
1 tbsp chili powder
4 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp paprika

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. In a medium baggy or bowl, mix together the tequila and juices. Add the seasonings, jalapeño, and garlic and mix thoroughly. Add the chicken. Marinade at least 24 hours*** in the fridge. When time to cook, pull out the grill and cook 2-3 minutes per side until done. If you don't have a grill (like me, sadly), then put the oven on broil and place the top rack in the broil position. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place a cooling rack (for baking) on the sheet. Place chicken on top of the rack. When broiler is ready, place the pan in the oven and cook 2-3 minutes per side until done. Presto! Almost but not quite grilled chicken! Top with fresh salsa for extra flavor. I prefer homemade, but go with your favorite.

*You can use most types of chicken for this marinade, but cooking times will differ. Using a cut with the skin attached is also great. Grill skin side down first or broil skin side up first to get the skin nice and crispy.
**Freshly squeezed is best. If you can, you can, and if you can't, you can't. Don't sweat it!
***This is where meal prep comes into play. I made this dish in a baggy, zipped it up, labeled it, and threw it in the freezer. The morning of, I pulled it out and placed it in the fridge in a bowl of cold water (double check that the baggy is sealed) and went about my day. That night, I pulled the chicken out of the fridge and cooked it according to the recipe with no problems! And ready in less than 10 minutes to boot!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rice Shells & Cheese

Comfort foods are meant to be enjoyed with relish. And they can be a good thing on almost any diet provided that 1) they don't entirely deviate from your diet and 2) that they aren't one of your gateway foods. You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones where you can't stop at one bite? If you can control yourself, then comfort food can be a great thing! Enter macaroni and cheese. It's one of the ultimate comfort foods, and for good reason. The starch, the fat, the creamy delicious texture. Yep, this might be one of those gateway foods for some. In which case, halve the recipe and pop it in a 9 in pie dish. And then eat a serving and pass it along! Quick!

Rice Shells & Cheese
1 lb white rice pasta shells
¼ cup butter
1 cup shredded cheddar, divided
½ cup shredded Italian cheese mixture
⅓ cup ricotta cheese
½ cup full fat yogurt
½ tsp ground dry mustard
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Grease an 8x11" glass casserole dish with butter. Boil the rice pasta in a pot of salted water according to the directions on the package. Drain and return pasta to pot. Add butter, two-thirds of the cheddar cheese, and the Italian cheese and mix well. Add the ricotta and yogurt and mix well again. Add the remaining seasonings and mix thoroughly. Spread in the casserole dish. Top with remaining cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven 15-20 minutes until the cheese is slightly browned and bubbly.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Buffalo Wings

Party food is NEVER paleo/primal approved. Am I right???! WRONG! Sure, if all your other friends who think you're crazy for eating the way you do are throwing a party, then ok, the dishes probably aren't going to be the best choices for sticking to a good food regimen. But if you throw your own party, then there's no reason why you can't have all the good stuff and make it without all the bad stuff. And there's no reason why you can't make it taste GREAT while you're at it! Looks like you can have your cake and eat it too... Ok, so maybe not cake.

Buffalo Wings
2 lbs chicken wings and/or drummettes*
Salt, pepper, ground coriander, garlic powder and paprika (to taste)
Coconut oil
¼ cup butter
Preferred hot sauce

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large baking pan with foil. Rinse chicken in a colander and shake dry (just remove as much excess water as possible). Place chicken in baking pan. Season as desired with salt, pepper, ground coriander, garlic powder, and paprika. Generally, just a light sprinkle on each wing or leg. Bake in the oven 20-25 minutes until temp placed in thickest piece of chicken (not touching the bone) reads 160°F.

Heat a 1-1.5 inch layer of coconut oil in a deep skillet or wok on medium to medium high heat (I prefer the wok because you can get a deeper layer of oil without using as much). When hot but not smoking, place a single layer of chicken in the oil. BE CAREFUL: liquids from the chicken may cause the oil to splatter. Use a splatter guard or lid to avoid hot oil! The chicken should be a third to halfway submerged. Cook each side 3-5 minutes until crispy. Remove to plate and repeat with any additional chicken.

Melt butter in a medium dish with a tight lid. Add desired amount of hot sauce. Less for mild, more for hot, tons for super spicy (or even add in some sriracha or other spicier pepper or hot sauce!). Stir. Add in crispy chicken. Secure lid and toss thoroughly to coat. Open up and dig in!

*This is easily multiplied to serve as many people as you need. Just double, triple, quadruple, and so on!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Jicama Paleo Custard Cups

I've always wanted to try jicama. So I picked some up at the store the other week and brought it home and it sat on the counter for a few days before I realized that I had no idea how to prep or cook it. I looked up some different recipes and found one for a jicama pie. It was custard-based so I figured it would be easily adaptable. And so here we go: skip the crust, substitute a paleo-based dairy-free custard with jicama incorporated. Luckily, it turned out delicious. Yes, it's got a little bit of sugar in it (in this case, I used coconut sugar). But with all the protein from the eggs and the good healthy fat from the coconut, I figured a little bit of sugar wouldn't hurt for a nice little dessert or a splurge.

Jicama Paleo Custard Cups
1 medium-large jicama
½ cup sherry
½ cup water
2 cups canned coconut milk (full fat is a must!)
¼ cup coconut sugar or honey (or less depending on sweetness preference)
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Peel and shred the jicama (a food processor is perfect for shredding). In a medium saucepan, combine the jicama, sherry, and water. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 40-45 minutes or until most of the liquid is gone. Stir and drain, then set aside.

In a small saucepan, warm the coconut milk gently. Do not boil or scald or allow to get overly hot. While coconut milk is heating, scramble eggs in a medium bowl. Add coconut sugar (or desired sweetener), eggs, and vanilla extract. When thoroughly mixed, slowly add a little bit of the coconut milk (about 1-2 tbsp) while stirring constantly. Continue adding small amounts of coconut milk to the dish while stirring continuously until all the milk is incorporated. It's important to take your time and do this slowly, allowing the egg mixture to heat gently so that the egg mixture doesn't curdle. When thoroughly combined, add in the slightly cooled jicama shreds.

Assemble custard cups into a large baking dish. Pour the custard mixture into the custard cups. Add hot water into the baking dish around the custard cups (avoid getting water in the custard!) until the cups are about halfway submerged. Place in the oven and cook for 50-55 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Enjoy warm or refrigerate and allow to cool for a cold custard. I prefer it cold, but both ways are equally good.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Oopsie Bread Buns

Bread???? Yes, "bread"! Ok, ok, ok. It's definitely not bread in the traditional sense. It's grain-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, and very low carb. Sounds too good to be true? Ok, yes. But it's really mostly paleo/primal-approved unless you're avoiding dairy. It's also only 3 ingredients that happen to be common and easy to find: eggs, cream cheese, and cream of tartar. Wait! I know what you're thinking. That sounds terrible and cannot possibly even begin to be any form of palatable bread. I was highly skeptical myself. I found the recipe on Pinterest, and almost glossed over it. But the more and more I looked at it and the ingredients, the more I was tempted to try. I mean, it's three ingredients and not even a whole lot of each ingredient anyways. If it's terrible, it's not a huge waste to toss it out. I made it, and I am thoroughly impressed. This is not a bread and butter type of bread, and it's not going to be a good replacement for that. Instead, this is a great bread when you're dying to chow down on a burger or a chicken sandwich. I've even had it wrapped around a sausage. On it's own, the bread has a slightly odd taste and texture, but when combined with a nice meaty filling, it's a great reminder of a nice soft bun.

Oopsie Bread Buns
3 eggs
3 oz. cream cheese
⅛ tsp cream of tartar

Separate the eggs while cold. Whites should be placed in a glass or metal bowl (not plastic!) for beating. Yolks can remain in fridge until needed. Allow whites to come to room temperature (about 30 minutes). Preheat the oven to 350°F. Whip whites and cream of tartar into stiff peaks with a mixer. Combine cold cream cheese and egg yolks in a food processor until smooth. Slowly fold the egg yolk mixture into the whites until mostly combined, but being careful not to overmix the whites and lose the whipped texture. Pour the mixture onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Choose a size that works for the filling of choice, but make sure to leave room to allow them to expand and don't go overly thick or the texture isn't as good. Bake approximately 30 minutes or until tops look golden brown. Cool for a moment or two, then peel the corner of the parchment paper gently away from the bun.

Oopsie bread bun to make a delicious
buffalo chicken sandwich.
Oopsie bread bun used as base for
sausage, peppers, and onions.

I give credit where credit is due: The original recipe can be found here on The Baby Granny Chronicles. I found the original link on Pinterest but made a few adjustments to make the texture more pleasant for my tastes. I like a little bit of a fluffier texture and my recipes reflects a faster and fluffier meringue base for the egg whites.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Arrabiata Jambalaya

You HAVE to try this dish! I can't believe that I haven't posted it sooner. I have no idea how I let it slip under the radar. Doesn't matter because I am correcting the horrific error of my ways! I cannot possibly fully describe how delicious this dish is, but I am going to try. Even if you're tempted, do NOT change or substitute any of the ingredients. The combination may look odd, but it is an amazing melding of many great flavors into one perfect dish—meaty, saucy, full-bodied, flavorful. I could go on and on, but I won't. This one is a little bit of a splurge dish because it's a little of extra work, and it has a couple of unusual items that are a little more expensive and hard to find, but it's worth every second and every penny. If you try it, be sure to leave a comment and tell me what you think! And if you truly enjoyed the dish, than read about it's creator at the bottom of the page in the Credits section!

Arrabiata Jambalaya
½ lb boneless, skinless chicken
6 oz. salt pork (usually half a package)
10 cloves fresh garlic
8 leaves fresh basil
8 leaves fresh sage
2 tsp red pepper flakes*
1 tbsp anchovy paste or 3 anchovy filets, mashed
16 mini San Marzano or 12 Campari tomatoes**
½ cup water
2-3 tbsp butter or ghee
1 cup rice***
Salt and pepper, to taste

Each number is a separate process with a separate bowl.
  1. Chop salt pork into small pieces (no larger than a dime).
  2. Chop chicken into small bite-size pieces (no larger than a quarter). Add a little olive oil, then salt and pepper the chicken and mix thoroughly with your hands.
  3. Mince finely the garlic, basil, and sage; combine together with red pepper flakes in a bowl and let sit.
  4. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise (if mini San Marzanos) or in quarters (if Campari); basically roughly bite-sized pieces. Add anchovy paste and water and mix together; let sit.
  5. Cook the rice in a saucepan or rice cooker. 
  1. Heat the butter in a stainless steel pan (NO NON-STICK HERE!) on medium-low heat until melted.
  2. Add salt pork and cook on medium heat for 4 minutes, until cooked about halfway through.
  3. Turn heat to medium/medium-high and continue to cook for 1 minute, until oil is hot.
  4. Add seasoned chicken in a single layer. Cook for 2-3 minutes without touching the chicken/pork (very important). Then stir the chicken/pork around in the oil, then cook for for another 3-4 minutes without touching it.
  5. Leaving the pork fat/butter in the pan, remove the chicken/pork to a plate.
  1. Turn the heat down to low/medium-low. Add garlic/herbs/pepper mixture to pan in a single layer. Let sit in oil for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. You don't want to saute the mixture, especially not the garlic. It needs to be heated through to flavor the oil, but not cooked.
  2. Add the tomato/anchovy mixture to the pan, and turn heat up to medium-low. Cover pan and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and mashing the tomatoes. Sauce should simmer after a few minutes.
  3. Mix in chicken/pork and rice, and heat through for 1-2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
*Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes to determine the level of spiciness of the dish. A touch less for less spice or some extra teaspoons for some heat!
**If you cannot find fresh San Marzano tomatoes, then I recommend the very large can of whole San Marzano tomatoes. Chop the canned tomatoes up, reserving the juice. In step 4 of the Prep, add the chopped tomatoes and reserved juice and skip the water. If you cannot locate canned San Marzano tomatoes, then I would recommend fresh Campari tomatoes as the next substitute. I recommend in this order because San Marzano tomatoes are some of the best tasting tomatoes I have ever enjoyed. Even the canned tomatoes remind me of my summer in Italy, and that's a hard taste to match!
***I prefer Arborio for Italian-type dishes, but I've also used Asian rices in this recipe with great results. The regular white rice at most groceries, I don't really recommend because the texture isn't as great. You want a nice sticky rice as they hold up better to sauces and longer cooking times. Arborio or Asian rices will work much better in this recipe, in my opinion.

A very special thanks to my brother's good friend Ozzie for the recipe and permission to share. While I wish the recipe was mine, I have to give credit where credit is due. The dish is fantastic, and should be in every recipe book!

And another thanks to my brother, Kyle, for providing the first recipe suggestion! Also, I have to say thank you for typing it up and providing such an easy and readable format to keep everything in order.

And lastly, thanks to my dad for donating a few of the more expensive ingredients to make this dish happen so that it would be posted to the blog. I refuse to post any recipe until I've actually made the dish and tried it, so I couldn't have done it without his help!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins

It's been a long and crazy week so I'm going to keep things short and sweet. But it is time for my weekly Sunday recipe post, and it just so happens to be Super Bowl Sunday. I can't let Super Bowl Sunday just slip by unnoticed. I didn't have a party, but no matter how hard you try, it's simply impossible to watch the big game without craving some hot and greasy finger foods. I guess tradition is just tradition, and all that. Luckily (or maybe not?), I've been on Pinterest a lot lately, and I discovered several great recipes. Really, what is it about Pinterest? I'm on a 5 out of 5 streak here. The recipes have been easy and delicious! And that's basically how it works for this one too. I can't take credit for the recipe, so you'll find the link below.

Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins
6 medium baking potatoes, scrubbed clean
3 tbsp butter, melted
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
½ cup hot sauce (such as Frank's Red Hot)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup bleu cheese, crumbled (optional)
2 green onions, sliced
¼ cup bleu cheese dressing

These are the ingredients as I tweaked them to make it a little bit more paleo/primal-friendly. Minor changes, really. You can find the actual recipe here at Closet Cooking. I did make more potatoes because I wanted extras for lunch (also great for a party). I used melted butter instead of oil to brush the skins, and I salted and peppered before the second cooking step because I felt it would stick to the butter better. If the buffalo sauce is too mild, add more hot sauce; if it is too spicy, add more butter. I cut the chicken into small cubes because I prefer a chunky texture over the shreds. I tried the bleu cheese on some skins and kept other skins with just cheddar. I think the bleu cheese overpowers the skins and you loose some of the heat. Personally, I would skip the actual bleu cheese crumbles and just use a dip, but experiment and find what works for you. I did skip the green onions; I like them in stir frys, and that's about it! Overall, fantastic dish! And it's a perfect finger food for a party!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Vietnamese-Style Spring Rolls with Cashew Dipping Sauce

Lunch. Fast food. Food on the go. Grabbing a bite. Sometimes, it's not all that easy. I'm learning to get creative. I do happen to have the benefit of having a fridge and microwave at school during the lunch break, so I've got a significant advantage over a lot of individuals that work or go to school without these perks. And I take full of advantage of them when I can—without a doubt! But for those of you who don't have those options or would love to have some variety or would just love to have something quick and portable like a nice sandwich, well a sandwich or wrap can be hard to beat. There's a reason sandwiches are such an important mainstay in the SAD (Standard American Diet)—they're nifty little creations! Quick, endless possibilities that are easily thrown together, are quite portable and taste delicious. Now I'm not big on substitutions (almond flour bread, anyone? UGH! I think we've already covered my almond flour disgust here). But I will say that coming up with a different way of serving a traditional item can sometimes work out wonderfully. It just takes a little bit of ingenuity on occasion.

Vietnamese-Style Spring Rolls with Cashew Dipping Sauce
Cooked chicken or other meat of choice
Fresh veggies of choice, shredded or sliced into sticks
Vietnamese rice paper wraps
Cashew Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

These are the basic ingredients. Now let me elaborate:
—Chicken or meat: I cooked up a batch of chicken strips in my wok in some coconut oil. But this is a very versatile recipe. I've seen a lot of individuals on Instagram who buy whole rotisserie chickens and eat off the bird throughout the week just using the chicken in different dishes (on top of green salads, chicken salads, soups, etc). Love this idea and it works here. Any leftover meats? Sure, use that instead. I prefer chicken or shrimp in this dish because they taste the best without reheating, but if you aren't picky about that—use what you like.
—Veggies: I specifically used carrot sticks, cucumber, avocado, Napa cabbage, romaine lettuce, and sliced cherry tomatoes. But the possibilities are endless. Don't care for avocado? Take it out. Purple or regular green cabbage also does well in this dish. There are also great pickled radishes at Asian groceries to try too. Broccoli or other mixed greens? Go with what you like!
—Vietnamese rice papers: I've found these at World Market or occasionally Target. I prefer the ones that are simply rice flour and water. Simplest ingredients. If you're really lucky or in a good location with a great mix of cultures: ALWAYS shop Asian grocery. I've found such fantastic prices on certain goods; sometimes up to 3-4 times cheaper!

To assemble your spring roll: Prep all your meat and veggies into strips and matchsticks if you haven't already. When all the ingredients have been prepped, take one of the rice paper wraps out of the packaging and soak in warm water for 15-20 seconds until it softens. Lay on a cutting board or plate and dab off any excess moisture with a paper towel. It will start to get a little sticky. Fill your ingredients to the desired amount in the middle. Think of this like a burrito. Fold the top over the fillings, fold the two sides over the top to create an envelope-type shape. Roll the rest of the way closed. The rice papers are a little bit more delicate than say a flour or corn tortilla, but it's pretty much the same concept if you're gentle. And the best part is the rice pretty much sticks to itself so it's actually a little bit easier. Make as many rolls as you'd like and serve with the cashew dipping sauce!

Cashew Dipping Sauce
1 cup roasted, unsalted cashews
½-1 cup canned coconut milk (yes, it must be canned!)
3 tsp lime juice
2 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar
3-4 tsp fish sauce
2 large cloves garlic
1 tsp ginger
Dash or two of cayenne pepper (to taste)

In a food processor, blend cashews until fine. Add a rough tablespoon of coconut milk and continue to blend. Slowly add more coconut milk in small amounts and blend as you go until the mixture is still thick but dip-like. Add remaining ingredients (except for remaining coconut milk) and blend thoroughly. Taste and make adjustments if necessary: fish sauce for more salt (this replaces the soy sauce so it's soy and wheat free), lime juice for more tang, cayenne pepper for more spice. Blend again if needed. Slowly add small amounts of coconut milk to the dip until it reaches your desired consistency. More for a runny sauce; less for a dip. Keep in mind that refrigerating the dip will make it thicker so go a little bit runnier if you plan to refrigerate before serving. Check taste again and adjust any other spices as necessary. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tostones & Guac (AIP)

Let's face it: there are certain sacrifices we make when choosing to follow ancestral nutrition guidelines. And yep, most of the time it's worth it. But it still doesn't change the fact that occasionally we crave some of the more traditional foods from our old SAD. And honestly, there just aren't a whole lot of foods that satisfy that need to really crunch into something delicious like chips or crackers. Sure, I could always have a splurge day, but why tempt myself when I can find an equally delicious and much healthier option? Plantains have been a fantastic discovery for me. Except that plantain chips at the store are always fried in bad oils and to my taste preference—they are always prepared much too thin. I've made my own plantain chips before, and I can't lie, they're pretty good. But I'd like a bigger chip on occasion. Enter tostones! They are by far the best replacement I have found for tortilla chips and a still fairly easy way to prepare plantains. These have a little bit of crunch but are still thick enough to act as a nice conveyer for dip delivery.

Tostones & Guac (for one!)
1-2 green or yellow plantains, peeled and cut into thirds
Coconut oil (for frying)
Salt (season to taste)
Garlic powder (season to taste)
1 fresh Hass avocado, halved with skin and pit removed
1-2 tsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped or minced
1-2 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp EVOO
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp salt (or more to taste)
Dash or two of onion powder
Dash or two of garlic powder
Black pepper, to taste (omit for AIP)

Heat enough coconut oil in a medium frying pan(I've also used a wok with excellent results!). With heat on medium-low, fry the plantains about 3 minutes on each side until a light golden brown. Remove from pan. One by one, place between a folded piece of parchment paper (like a tower, not on its side) and use a glass or mason jar to smash the plantains flat. When all plantains are flattened, return pan to medium heat and fry the plantains in small batches until crispy on both sides.* Remove from pan (drain on paper towel if desired, but it's not really necessary). Sprinkle with salt and garlic powder. In a small to medium bowl, mash the avocado to desired consistency. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Dip plantains and enjoy!

*At this stage, you could also batch cook and place all the flattened plantains onto a parchment lined cookie sheet for freezing. Once frozen, place them all in a baggy and then pull them out individually to fry when needed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Paleo ER Bars

Paleos don't snack, right? Not really. And that's exactly why these aren't snack bars. These are paleo ER bars. Why? For those moments when you're starting to drag and the mental energy is draining and there are simply no paleo/primal-approved options around. Or you're on the run, and you know that a quick bite will really tide you over until a better meal comes along. Sure, there's always IF (intermittent fasting, for those who are just getting started). But IF isn't always for everyone nor is it always for every time. Sometimes you just have to have something on standby. And usually for me, it's got to be something that's going to prevent me from making a bad decision.

Enter the Paleo ER Bars! A little bit of fruit for a touch of sweetness and energy and then add a whole lot of protein and some fat to keep you going and safely tide you over until later. Pretty simple to make and just keep on hand in the freezer.

Paleo ER Bars*
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 cup almond butter (bring to room temp if you store in the fridge)
4.5 oz prunes, chopped (feel free to sub other dried fruits here)
½ cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
10 oz. roasted, unsalted almonds, roughly chopped (larger for more chunk factor)
4 tbsp coconut flour
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp honey, optional
Handful dark chocolate chips, optional
coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Melt 1-2 tbsp coconut oil and use to grease two 8x11" pans. In a large bowl, mix banana, eggs, 1 tbsp melted coconut oil, and almond butter (microwave briefly to soften if needed for better spreading and mixing). Add prunes, coconut flakes, almonds, flour, and salt (add honey here if using). Mix well to combine. If using chocolate chips, toss these in now and mix thoroughly or spread half the mixture into the first pan about 1 in. thick and mix a small handful of chocolate chips into the second pan batch only. Bake for about 15 min. The bars should rise slightly and will very lightly turn golden. The top will feel lightly crispy to touch. Let cool a few minutes. Loosen edges if necessary and cut bars into desired size and let finish cooling to room temp. Flip pan carefully to remove. I packaged mine by wrapping in wax paper like a candy bar and placing in a snack-sized baggy. Store in freezer. Pull out the day of to pack for ER situations and eat when needed (they defrost pretty quickly) or even enjoy frozen!

*Please ignore my fancy paper plate in the photo! I was in the middle of doing dishes. lol.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Insalata Caprese Burgers

I am a huge fan of Italian food. I mean, what's not to like? All the tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, the cheeses and meats—pure heaven! Sadly, most of the traditional Italian food we see here in the states (and even some parts of Italy) is pretty much pure gluten. So I've given up a lot of them except for the occasional rice pasta dish. Even then, I try not to go overboard because I know there are tons of healthier options. So sometimes, if you want to enjoy some traditional tastes, you just have to get a little creative with the preparation. I absolutely adore Caprese Salad. It's just pure heaven in my opinion. I love that it's pretty much a healthy option on it's own, but I was trying to jazz it up a little bit and incorporate some meat. Instead of making it a side dish or appetizer, I went ahead and went full entreè!

On a side note, I'm still trying to work out a schedule to post more consistently, and my aim is to try for at least once a week to get me back on track.

Insalata Caprese Burgers
Two raw burger patties (whatever size you prefer; recommend 80/20 or 85/15)
Grape, cherry, or Roma tomatoes, sliced
Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced (preferably full fat)
Fresh basil leaves, chopped
Balsamic vinegar
Steak or burger seasonings

Prepare the burger patties by flattening with your palm and creating a well in the middle for the toppings. Fill the middle of the bottom patty with the desired amount of tomatoes, cheese, and basil. Add a couple dashes (or a few more!) of balsamic vinegar. Top with other patty, pinch sides together, and reform if necessary. Season outside of patty with desired seasonings. I prefer a light seasoning of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Grill or heat up a small amount of fat or oil and cook on the stove. If using a stove top, you may want to sear both sides and then use a lid to cook the insides if the burger is too thick. If you really enjoy balsamic vinegar as much as I do, drizzle a little bit more over the top before serving. If you're looking to incorporate more veggies, this would be great served on top of a bed of lettuce and even a few more tomatoes.

The idea behind this recipe can originally be found here. I simply made a few changes to make it more to my preferences and of course, skipped the bun!