Typically I start a post saying something like "sorry I haven't posted in a long time, I've been busy working on my dissertation." Well, I'm pleased to announce that I've finished my dissertation, defended it, and passed so I'm officially Dr. Plank! Now I just need to complete writing my publications, graduate, and land my dream job (not necessarily in that particular order).
Now I have a little bit more free time. I had my first weekend of food prep in a few months. I've actually been subsisting on foods that I prepped earlier in the year and froze, which worked out really well. Now I'm ready to get back in the kitchen. This weekend, I prepped some Thai red curry (which I am getting pretty good at...I found the secret is to not add the coconut milk too soon, otherwise the coconut flavor will cook out!), some enchiladas verde---well, basically the insides of the enchiladas that I baked as a sort of casserole. Finally, I made a recipe I've been wanting to try for a while! I saw a post on Pinterest which featured bread boats filled with eggs, sausage, and cheese. I wanted to make a Paleo version with sweet potatoes, which worked out perfectly! The scooped out sweet potatoes make the perfect vessel for eggs and sausage. You could top them with cheese a few minutes before pulling them out of the oven if you want a Primal version. They're pretty convenient too because they re-heat well and you have your starchy carbs and protein all in one. You could use larger potatoes for bigger appetites, but you will just have to cook them longer. One thing to note is that cold pre-cooked sweet potatoes worked out really well, because they are easier to handle than a hot potato and they stay intact a lot better when you scoop them out compared to a hot sweet potato.
4 sweet potatoes, baked in the skin and cooled...choose ones that are smaller and more round as opposed to thin and long sweet potatoes
4 oz cooked and crumbled sausage
1 sliced scallions
4 eggs, beaten
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cut a thin horizontal slice off the top of each sweet potato. Using a spoon or melon baller, remove some of the sweet potato flesh, leaving about 1/3" rim inside to hold the egg mixture. Be careful not to pierce through the ends or bottom of the potato. Reserve the flesh for another use (instant side dish for dinner the next night!)
3. Blend the sausage and scallion with the eggs. Divide among the potato shells.
4. Bake 22-25 minutes,or until lightly brown on top and the eggs have set.
Long time, no post! I guess that's what happens when you are trying to finish a Ph.D...your hobbies fall by the wayside. As it looks now, I will be wrapping up my dissertation soon and will be able to turn my attention back to more enjoyable things, like cooking with some level of creativity. I actually have a lot of ideas, but finding the time to execute them is challenging. But, instead of staying in the lab nearly the entire day, I've been editing my dissertation at home. That means I have some levity to be creative in the kitchen. Lately, I've been wanting some sushi so the other day I was at home I put together this tasty wrap that has some of the flavors of sushi and some of a traditional tuna sandwich. Since the nori tends to get soft rather quickly, it's best to make this right before serving.
1/2 large haas avocado, mashed
1 tsp wasabi paste, or to taste
1 tbsp Paleo mayonnaise
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
pinch of salt
1 5-oz canned tuna, drained
approximately 1 cup each julienned cucumber and bell pepper, or other favorite veggies
2 sheets toasted nori
1. Blend the avocado, wasabi, mayonnaise, lime juice, and sal t in a small bowl. Fold in the tuna.
2. Place one nori sheet shiny side down. Spread half of the tuna salad inside, leaving about 1 in bare on the sides closest and farthest away from you.
3. Lay down the veggies in a wide row on the end towards you and on top of the salad. Start gently rolling the sheet away from you, using the salad to help everything stick. Wet your fingers and dampen the spare edge you left and then press the roll on top to seal. Cut in half, carefully, and serve immediately.
Homemade mayonnaise is one key ingredient to take paleo meals to the next level. A plate of meat and veggies becomes something special when you top them off with a delicious mayo-based sauce. The good news is, successfully making mayo is easier than you think! I like this recipe posted on the Whole 30 website. After you master it, you can start making your own crazy concoctions. I also have to agree with the link above: an immersion blender is the best tool for making mayo not only because it easily emulsifies the mixture, but also because I find on larger equipment I end up wasting a good bit on the blades.
I recently made an aioli, which is a garlicky mayo, to top off some steak and veggies, which might have otherwise been boring. A word of caution: be careful how much garlic you add, because it can easily overpower the entire sauce. At least you won't have to worry about vampires bothering you.
1 1/4 cups light olive oil, divided
1 egg, at room temperature (or place in a cup of hot water for about 15 min)
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
generous dash of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp (half a small) garlic clove, grated
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp dried tarragon (or about 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, minced)
1. Add 1/4 cup of the olive, the egg, mustard powder, salt, cayenne, and garlic to the cup that comes with the immersion blender (or food processor bowl, blender base, etc...). Blend until bubbles form.
2. Drizzle in the remaining oil very slowly in a thin stream. If it gets to the point that the mayo is thick enough that the oil starts pooling on top, just keep moving the immersion blender until it is incorporated before proceeding.
3. Once the mixture is emulsified, stir in the lemon juice and tarragon with a spoon.
There hasn't been a lot of activity on this blog because I've been spending my summer preparing for a conference in Austin, Texas. While there last week I decided to keep track of the restaurants I went to so I could give some pseudo-paleo restaurant suggestions. These are paleo-ish because, as this food was not prepared in my home, I can't confirm the ingredients. I was not too worried about vegetable oils being used because it's difficult to get around that when eating out, especially when finding restaurants in a town you are unfamiliar with. Plus there may have been some cheese, wine, and quinoa (scandalous!) consumption, which are all paleo grey areas...the quinoa especially. But I figure, if quinoa is the worst thing I had, then that's not too shabby!
Melissa at The Clothes Make the Girl already has a helpful list of restaurants in Austin to try, which I referred to several times. I did find some of my own unique contributions, so I hope this list is helpful for anyone traveling in Austin.
I couldn't check into my hotel till 3, and my pork jerky breakfast wasn't going to hold me till then, so I walked down to Hopdoddy burger bar...apparently this place is popular, because it was packed! And for good reason...the burger I ordered was as perfect as a burger could be. I ordered the classic burger plus and requested no bun, and the girl taking my order suggested I do a lettuce wrap. They provided a nice stack of lettuce so I could keep re-wrapping as I ran out of lettuce. I asked if they had side salads, and they didn't, but she suggested the quinoa salad...and I decided to try it! The salad was pretty good...it had chopped fresh veggies, sundried tomatoes, and fresh basil, though for my taste I would have liked a tangier dressing. I also had a hard cider to cool me off since it was a particularly humid day.
For dinner I went to 24 Diner and had roasted chicken and the veggie of the day, which was zucchini and summer squash. The chicken came with mashed potatoes, but I asked to sub a side salad which they did for a little extra. The portion was huge...I actually turned the leftovers into a snack. I had their roasted shallot vinaigrette on my salad, which was very good, and it inspired me to try and re-create it when I got home. I had McPherson Cellar's viognier---had to support Texas High Plains winemaking!
I don't have a lot to report on breakfast because I went to Whole Foods and picked up some seasonal produce, nut butter, and some other things to have at the hotel in the morning instead of going out. My hotel, the quirky vintage Austin Motel, didn't offer a breakfast like some hotels do, and those breakfasts are typically pastry-heavy anyway. I did go to Jo's Coffee which was on the corner near my hotel for a couple of lattes, but otherwise breakfast was just sort of snack stuff. I did eat out breakfast at the Hyatt on my second day, which was the hotel at the conference. This was pretty pricey (as to be expected), but the omelet was pretty close to what I would cook at home if I had leftover chicken! It was a smoked chicken omelet with tomatoes, and there was some jack cheese in it (whoops!) and served with hash browns and toast. Of course, I didn't eat the toast, but I may have eaten all of sampled the hash browns.
After such a heavy breakfast, I had a later lunch and chose to have a salad to balance out my breakfast. I went to Magnolia Cafe and had the California salad, without the cheese, with their cilantro vinaigrette. The portion was huge and the chicken was nicely seasoned. The dressing was delicious---I'm going to have to figure out my own version. It was almost like a pesto, but with cilantro flavor.
I have an honorable mention that I didn't really eat at, but stopped by to do a little work. I went to the coffee shop called Dominican Joe, which had the perfect coffee shop atmosphere---the kind that makes you feel like you are at your favorite coffee place back home, except you are actually in a different city altogether.
Dinner was at Snack Bar, which was right next to my hotel. When I ordered my food, I had planned to eat alone. Then a group of people came in and I noticed they had conference badges so I introduced myself and we all ended up eating together, which was really great. I had the Farm Salad, which had melon as the "seasonal addition." I wanted to try the brussels sprouts with aioli, but the portion looked pretty big and at the time of ordering I didn't have anyone to share with. Guess that means I will just have to go back!
The next day was my presentation, so afterward I went for a nice lunch at Kerbey Lane. Luckily it was not too hot out, so was able to eat outside and read all about how the soccer team did because I missed the game since my talk overlapped the game. I had the Bacon Pesto Chicken, and for some reason I missed the fact that there was cheese melted all over it...I think I was distracted by the word "bacon." Thankfully cheese doesn't cause me problems, unlike wheat. The pesto and tomato sauces on the chicken were really good...the tomatoes tasted really fresh. The veggie of the day was broccoli, so I asked for an extra portion in place of the mashed potatoes. I ended up getting a double portion of broccoli, but they still gave me mashed potatoes. It wasn't a big deal, I just ate around them. I also got the hand-cut sweet potato fries with aioli, which were really good because they weren't greasy at all! This meal filled me up for the rest of the day. I was heading to my car, when I saw a cute vintage clothing store called Uptown Cheapskate. I went in and treated myself to a vintage dress and top.
That sums up my paleo-ish suggestions for Austin. One of the best parts of visiting Austin is the focus on using local ingredients. Plus most places seem to be compromising for various dietary restrictions, and offer a lot of gluten-free options.
This salmon recipe, which seems like a hodge podge of ingredients, originated from the fact that I was tired of my usual balsamic, olive oil, and rosemary salmon. Plus, I am on a ginger kick right now. I figure, if I like all the ingredients individually, they should all taste good together, right? I love the piquant flavor the ginger, garlic, and Dijon lend to the glaze. I paired this with Sesame Apple Kale Salad, which made for a nice dinner.
I was aiming for this to be a sweetner-free recipe, but I think the glaze would be terrific with a little bit of honey or maple syrup mixed in. A microplane works well to grate the ginger and garlic because it creates a fine pulp that adds thickness to the glaze that you otherwise would not achieve if you minced it by hand (unless your Jacques Pepin...).
1 1/2 lbs salmon, cut into 6-8 portions, depending on your preference
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little more for the pan
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp coconut aminos (or wheat-free tamari or a scant tbsp fish sauce)
black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking tray lined with foil. Place the salmon portions on the pan.
2. Blend the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl, and with the back of a spoon or a pastry brush, glaze each piece of salmon.
4. Bake for 15-18 min, depending on the thickness of the salmon, or until the fish just barely starts to flake. Be careful not to overcook or the fish will be dry. Remove from the oven and rest a few minutes before serving.
I'm an Indiana native living in Texas going to school for my doctorate in viticulture. As a graduate student, I am no stranger to stress, and I use cooking as a way to escape from my busy weeks. Through food, I am on a journey to optimum health.