Sunday, June 7, 2015

Strawberry Rocket Salad


I always look forward to summer for the explosion of fresh garden fruits and veggies. It's no fun buying ingredients in their off-season, so I tend to wait until the warmer weather before purchasing berries and the like. And oh these honeys were worth the wait!

One of my favorite lettuce leaves is arugula, also known as "rocket". It's in the same family as mustard greens and has a nice peppery flavor. I love pairing it with sweet ingredients like strawberries, cranberries, and almonds and a simple dressing of lemon and olive oil for a summer hit!

Ingredients

  • Fresh washed baby arugula (rocket!)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • Sliced almonds
  • Dried cranberries (juice-sweetened of course, no processed sugars added!)
  1. Season your lettuce before adding in the chunky bits. Depending on how much salad you want to make, you should adjust the amount of oil, lemon, and salt/pepper to taste.
  2. Toss your seasoned lettuce and now add in the chunky bits! Toss in the strawberries, almonds, and cranberries and there you have it!
Note: Want to turn this into an entree salad? Add some grilled chicken. Boom!


Summer berries for the win!

I find it's easier to toss lettuce by putting in all the seasonings before adding in the rest.


If you can't find cranberries seasoned with fruit juice instead of processed sugars
like this one from Made in Nature, you can substitute for dried currants or raisins.

Ahhh... freshness 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Shrimp Scampi



This is a great meal that's perfect for summer when we have to be wary of heating up the house with the oven. And shrimp cooks so quickly that this whole meal can be on the table in no time - with only one pan to clean!!!

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoon almond flour or almond meal (if you have some Italian Seasoned "Bread" Crumbs pre-pared - use those!)
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil + 1 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp
  • 1 Tbsp clarified butter (if you don't use butter, substitute with more olive oil or grapeseed oil)
  • 1 lb large shrimp (cleaned, peeled and de-veined)
  • 2 Tbsp clarified butter (or olive oil for dairy-free)
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, slivered
  • 1 lemon; juiced
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 10oz bags baby spinach
  1. Heat your almond flour in a large non-stick frying pan on medium high heat and drizzle with the 1 tsp of olive oil. The goal is to toast the almond flour into browned crumbs. The oil will help them stick together a bit. Remove from the heat when done and place in a small bowl off to the side.
  2. Place your frying pan back on the stove on medium high heat and add your 1 Tbsp of oil and 1 Tbsp of butter (or more oil). When the pan is warm enough, add in your garlic slivers and saute for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Don't brown your garlic just yet because it still has longer to go in the pan.
  3. Add the shrimp to your pan (make sure you dried them as best you can before tossing them in) and saute until just cooked through. Stir periodically to ensure even cooking. They'll take on a light pink color when done. You know you overcooked your shrimp if they curl into a super tight ring. No bueno.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and add the parsley and lemon juice to the pan. Stir well before removing the shrimp from the heat to a bowl off to the side.
  5. Return your pan to the heat and add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil. Add your spinach to the pan and saute a few minutes until just wilted. Stir occasionally to ensure the leaves on top cook evenly with the leaves on the bottom. When done, drain excess liquid from the pan.
  6. Plate by layering a helping of spinach and arrange your shrimp on top. You can spoon on some of the butter/oil/lemon juices from the shrimp bowl and then sprinkle with the toasted almond flour crumbs.
Toasting that almond flour into crumbs

Nothing like fresh ingredients!

About 30 seconds on the garlic is all you need.
If you fry your garlic for too long, it will get a burnt metallic taste.

Toss in them scrimps!

Careful not to overcook your shrimp or they'll become tough and chewy!


You may be questioning why so much spinach, well...

...spinach sure does shrink!

Plate by layering in a helping of spinach and arranging your shrimp on top;
sprinkle with your toasted almond flour crumbs and serve!

Yum!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dirty Dozen (Plus) & Clean 15 2015

Source: http://www.ewg.org/

Did you know that 64% of produce samples analyzed tested positive for pesticide residue of at least one or more different types of pesticides? EVEN IF YOU WASH OR (IN CERTAIN CASES) PEEL IT!?!?!

Every year I share the Environmental Working Group's findings for the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15.(I know, I skimped on you in 2014 but to be fair I was focused on moving into my new house. Sorry.)

Let's face it, buying organic can be tough on the budget. That's why I really appreciate the Dirty Dozen list, because it gives you the 12 fruits and vegetables that test for the highest amounts of pesticide residues that are harmful to the human body. So maybe you want to prioritize the organic option of these foods where your budget allows.

Conversely, the Clean 15 are the 15 fruits and veggies with the lowest pesticide residue levels. So you can buy these traditionally-farmed with little worry.

Whatever you decide, at the end of the day it is important to get a balanced and healthy diet. If you cannot get organic foods in your location, or you just cannot afford them, it may be better to still eat some of these traditionally-farmed foods over avoiding them completely. That's a personal decision every individual has to make, so I hope I've given you the start of the information you need in order to make that choice. I recommend reading the Environmental Working Group's website for more information.

See previous lists:
2013's Dirty Dozen and Clean 15
2012's Dirty Dozen and Clean 15
2011's Dirty Dozen and Clean 15


Monday, February 2, 2015

Mint Cauliflower "CousCous"


Cauliflower is our token grain replacement for Paleo eaters. It makes a great rice or couscous, and mashes nicely like a potato. This incredibly simple recipe has hints of mint and lime and pairs excellently with lamb.

Ingredients
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • 3-4 scallions, sliced thin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F and grease a foil-lined sided baking sheet with a bit of oil.
  2. Core the cauliflower and cut it into florets. Pulse in the food processor in batches until your cauliflower has a couscous or rice-like shape and consistency. (Don't overload or some pieces won't hit the blade.) If you don't have a food processor, you can use a box grater.
  3. Spread the cauli-rice evenly on the pre-greased foil-lined pan and drizzle with a bit more oil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until slightly golden. Don't brown it. Stir halfway through baking to ensure even cooking.
  4. Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl and mix in the scallions, 1/2 cup mint, and juice from two of the lime wedges. Add a pinch of salt, a bit of pepper, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil to lightly coat. (Don't soak with oil!) Mix it up and check for flavor. Depending on the size of your head of cauliflower, you may need to add more mint or more lime, or salt/pepper, etc. 
  5. Adjust the seasonings to your liking and serve!


Don't overload your food processor

Nice rice-like consistency

Ready for the oven!

Take it out before it browns. It should be soft enough to eat.

Cauliflower ranges in size, so adjust your seasonings as needed.

τέλος!
(FIN!)

Friday, January 16, 2015

How to: Make Chicken Stock (Clean - Free - Healthy!)

Ok - question one. What the heck is the difference between stock and broth? 

We tend to use the terms interchangeably, but they are definitely not the same thing. Stock is made from the bones and cartilage of the animal, while broth is typically made from the meat. Both have their uses, and only in certain recipes would you really tell a difference. I personally appreciate stock a bit more - especially where it takes center stage like in a chicken soup. For me, taste-wise the flavor is deeper, and health-wise the benefits are immense. Just do an internet search on the health benefits of "bone broth" and there you go.

The big difference you will note is that stock will generally be darker, richer, and thicker. Because of all the gelatin released by the bones, it can also turn into a jelly-like consistency when cooled. 

Now, there are many ways to make stock, and it is a recipe that is truly ageless as humans have been making stock from the bones of animals for hundreds of years. This method is what I call "Garbage Stock". I didn't put that in the title because you might have gone ewwww and not have clicked on it. But I call it garbage stock because I make it from the unwanted or inedible leftovers and scraps in my kitchen. This is great for those of us on a budget, because it costs little to no money to make.

Take this chicken carcass, for example. We ate a roast chicken, and I tossed the picked-clean carcass in a freezer bag and left it in my freezer. I also made roasted bone-in chicken thighs for dinner one night and saved all the bones. Sometimes we're lazy and buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. And guess what... that carcass goes into the freezer as well!

I also save vegetable scraps - onion ends, bases or tops of celery, etc. Sometimes there's a bag of carrots in the fridge that has seen better days and rather than throw it away, I add it to my stash in the freezer. Same thing if you have some veggies getting a little droopy or leftover fresh herbs that are about to turn bad. Don't ever throw food away! In this way we can reduce our waste and save ourselves money. You'll be cobbling together the future building blocks of this delicious and healthy stock essentially for free.
Onion ends, celery base - better to go
in the stock pot than the garbage!
Just keep a stash in the freezer, and toss it
in the pot when you're ready to make stock.
If you don't have enough, just supplement with some fresh veggies.
So what goes into the stock? Generally I get 2-3 carcasses at a time, toss in my frozen veggie pieces I've squirreled away and supplement with some fresh veggies/herbs as needed. Then I cover it all with cold water and simmer the crap out of it all day. I choose not to add salt and pepper to the pot as I'll add them to whatever recipe later on that the stock is used for.

Ingredients
  • 2-3 chicken carcasses (or bones, or chicken feet!)
  • 1TBSP white or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves and other assorted fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, rosemary, etc.
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 ribs of celery, cut in large pieces
  • 2 carrots, cut in large pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, whole

  1. Add the carcasses/bones to the pot and toss in the veggies and herbs. Add the vinegar. This will help draw the nutrients out of the bones. There is no exact science to how many veggies you need versus bones. And you can add whatever veggies you have lying about in your fridge. Just be mindful of using anything with too strong of a taste in large quantities (e.g. fennel, sundried tomatoes, etc). You don't want it to overpower your stock.
  2. Cover everything in the pot with cold water and bring it to a boil on the stove. Once boiling, lower the heat to simmer and let it go for at least 6 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Fat and yucky stuff will float to the top. You can skim it off, if desired.
  4. Once done simmering, strain the contents through a colander or mesh sieve covered with cheesecloth. Discard the solids.
  5. Place the stock in a container(s) in the fridge overnight. Skim the congealed fat off the top in the morning. 
  6. Store by refrigerating, freezing, or canning.




Sometimes I like to use chicken feet for my bones.
They're super cheap and you get the BEST stock out of them.

Scrub 'em well, and if there are any yucky patches, cut that
part off  with your kitchen shears.

To get all that gelatin to come out of the feet,
snip off the toes at the first knuckle with your shears.

Luckily, my feet come pre-prepped with that yucky
yellow outer membrane already blanched off.
I also buy a pack of chicken backs and cut off the fat,
then add in whatever carcasses I have sitting in the freezer.
Then I'll add all the veggies and stuff.
Grammie's big aluminum saucepot makes another appearance...

While simmering, fat and other yucky stuff will accumulate along the top. You can
skim it off as you simmer, or much of it will come out when strained
through cheesecloth Otherwise, the fat will congeal on the top when
refrigerated and you can scrape it off the next day.
You could also leave this in the slow cooker on low overnight!

Skimming off the congealed fat - YUCK!
Getting down to that beautiful gelatinous stock.
You can freeze this stock, refrigerate it, can it, etc. You could also
freeze some in an ice cube tray in approximate 1 Tbsp proportions.
Once the cubes freeze, pop them in a freezer bag and take them out
to flavor your recipes when only a small amount of stock is needed.
On the left is homemade stock, middle is my favorite store-bought brand,
and on the right is one of the most popular brands of chicken broth in the US.
You can see the stocks are a much deeper/richer color. I prefer stock to broth.

You could heat up a mug of stock on a brisk day and
season lightly with some salt, pepper, maybe some
dried herbs. Delicious and healthy!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Hot Spiced Apples (In under 4 minutes!)



We went apple picking at the very end of the season and took home a pretty good haul of Fuji, Rome, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious apples.

The orchard was like a dream... an oil painting come to life.

But, as always, the dream ends and reality sets in that you have a full bushel of apples sitting on your table - and what the heck are you going to do with all of them?

Just like last year, I made a huge pot of homemade applesauce. (Yes, that's grammie's big saucepot from my last post about meatballs.)

And I may have another apple-based recipe in the works soon. :)  But this morning I had a craving for a sweet, hot treat. I love baked apples, but I'm not always in the mood to do the prep and wait for the oven. This recipe for hot spiced apples is a shortcut recipe for traditional baked apples.

Ingredients

  • 1 apple (any kind)
  • Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice (or any warm, earthy spice like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, etc.)
  1. Place the apple in the center of a microwave-safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel.
  2. Microwave for 2 and a half minutes, up to three and a half minutes, until the apple is completely soft.
  3. Use a knife to cut through the waxy skin around the stem and slice across the apple from one side to the other to spread the skin open and expose the soft apple meat inside.
  4. Sprinkle your spice over the apple, to taste.
  5. Enjoy!


The apple will usually burst at some point while microwaving
and some juice will seep out. I use this slit as one of the incisions
to open the apple up.


Take care when serving to small children - the apple seeds
will still be in there.
I love the Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice. Lots of other
spice brands have their own version of this, but
you can also just use your own combo of
warm and earthy spices.