Sunday, January 25, 2015

Roasted Beet and Mandarin Salad

Since starting to eat according to a Paleo template July 2011, I have grown an appreciation for several foods that I didn't really care for all that much before. One of those much detested foods was beets! The first time I tasted a beet that didn't totally gross me out was in one of my guilty-ish pleasures, Terra sweets and beets chips. I started to like the sweet earthiness.

On busy nights during the week, I make a salad at the salad bar at the grocery store. They have several ready-made salads, and one I have fallen in love with is a baby beet salad. Sometimes they put orange wedges in it, and other times canned mandarin oranges. Truth be told, though I know they are in sugary syrup, I prefer the version with the mandarin oranges. The regular oranges are a bit pithy and flavorless. I know pre-made salads are sub-optimal because of the veggies oils in the dressing, but it's one of my allowances. I get so excited when I see this salad on the bar that I typically say "ooh beets!" out loud like a weirdo...I don't care I love the stuff! I have come up with my own version that I absolutely adore. It's pretty easy to make and is a perfect substitute for the store version. If you have disliked beets most of your life, like I did, you should give this one a try. The mandarins and balsamic dressing give the beets a lot of character and detract from their earthiness. Plus, roasting veggies takes their flavor to the next level. I really love the shades of red and pink in the salad.

Roasted Beet and Mandarin Salad
Printable Recipe

4 medium beets (about 1.25-1.5 lbs), scrubbed clean and greens removed
a little water
9 seedless mandarin oranges (aka: "Cuties" or "Halos")
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp pure maple syrup (optional)
 salt and pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, cut into slivers
1 cup chopped pecans

1. Roast the beets. There are lots of methods, and I used this one. I added a little water to the foil to keep the beets from scorching and to build up some steam. They took about 1.25 hrs (a good time for prepping other food for the week!). You could also steam them. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut them into chunks.
2. Meanwhile, juice one of the mandarins. Blend in the mustard, syrup, and some salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil. As an optional step, soak the onion slivers in cold water to remove some of their heat. Peel and section all the mandarins.
3. In a large bowl, toss the beets, mandarin wedges, drained onions, pecans, and dressing. Toss well and chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Maple, Balsamic and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin Medallions

I'm back with another recipe. Things have settled down since graduation, and now that I am done writing my dissertation I hope to get back to regular posting. With all the stress of finishing my Ph.D., I barely had time to think of new recipes. I've been cooking recipes from some of my favorite cookbooks in the meantime. I've also been working on organizing my apartment.

Tonight's dinner was inspired by a recipe I posted a long time ago, Honey-Lemon Glazed Pork Tenderloin Medallions. I was feeling kind of frustrated because I didn't have any breakthrough recipe inspiration for a while, but sometimes you just need to look back at what you've already done and tweak things a little bit. This version is a little more wintery, which is perfect because I think we're about to have some bad winter weather roll through my town....

Maple, Balsamic and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin Medallions
Printable Recipe

1 1-lb pork tenderloin, cut across the grain into rounds or large chunks
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp crushed dried rosemary
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat.
2. Season the meat with salt, pepper, and rosemary.
3. Heat the oil and butter in the skillet until the butter melts, then add the seasoned pork pieces. Brown on the first side, then flip and brown on the second side.
4. When the pork is about 90% done, add the garlic into the bottom of the pan and cook until fragrant, tossing the meat with the garlic, about 2 min.
5. Add the honey and vinegar. Toss the pork in the honey and vinegar, and cook until the juice is nearly evaporated and a thick sauce glosses the meat.

Servings per recipe: 4

Monday, October 20, 2014

Breakfast Sweet Potato Boats

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.

Breakfast Sweet Potato Boats
Printable Recipe

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.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Nori Wraps with Avocado-Wasabi Tuna Salad

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. 

Nori Wraps with Avocado-Wasabi Tuna Salad
Printable Recipe

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.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tarragon Aioli

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.

Tarragon Aioli
Printable Recipe

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.
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