Monday, September 5, 2011

Roast Pork with Orange (Arrosto all'arancia)

Today we had our first glimpse of autumn here in West Texas. It was a pleasant 63 degrees most of the day. It was so nice to get out into the field and work without sweating like crazy. I turned off the air conditioning in my apartment and opened the windows to let the cool breeze in. I know I will be sleeping well tonight with all the fresh air in my apartment instead of stagnant air conditioned air.

Fall is my favorite season. I love getting out my sweaters and boots and having a hot cup of tea on a cool night. This will be my first fall in Texas, and I'm not sure what to expect. I hope the leaves change color, unlike most of the trees in southeast Georgia, which stayed green year round. I always miss the vibrant fall leaves of Indiana. I have also been turning my mind to classical fall foods like roasts and soups. One roast recipe that I recently prepared was based off a recipe in the Italian cookbook, The Silver Spoon, which is one of the best Italian home-cooking books around, in my opinion. This recipe was for a succulent roast pork (the recipe called for pork loin, but I used sirloin, which has a bit more flavor and is a little more cost effective) covered in a rich orange sauce scented with chili powder and oregano. This is an easy, elegant meal. I imagine this would be a great recipe to keep in your repertoire to impress any guest at your table.

Roast Pork with Orange (Arrosto all'arancia)
Printable Recipe

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup pulp-free orange juice
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch chili powder
pinch dried oregano
1 3/4 lb pork sirloin
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Melt butter in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the orange juice, zest, garlic, chili powder, and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Continue to heat the sauce over medium.
3. Season the meat on all sides with salt and pepper. Add to the skillet and pour some sauce over. Place the skillet in the oven and bake for about 1-1 1/4 hour, basting frequently. The meat should be opaque all the way through. The sauce should be reduced and the meat should be golden brown on top.

4. Remove the roast to a cutting board and tent with aluminum foil to keep it warm. Rest the meat for at least 5 minutes before carving. If the sauce was not reduced to your liking, you could place the skillet over medium-high heat and reduce it while the meat rests. Serve slices of the meat with the sauce.

  • Servings per recipe: 6
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 229.9
  • Fat: 10.6 g
  • Saturated fat: 4.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 94.2 mg
  • Sodium: 111 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 4.5 g
  • Fiber: 0.2 g
  • Sugars: 3.7 g
  • Protein: 27.2 g


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Chocolate-Coconut Bars

Classes are in full swing and while I have had time to cook, I have not had time to post the recipes. And, perhaps some of you noticed I have had some technical difficulties with this site, but I resolved those problems and I think everything is working as it should be.

I thought my field work would be done before school started, but I guess the grapes decided to go on a different schedule so I'm not only taking classes but I am also in the field pretty much every moment of the week I am not on campus. Needless to say it's pretty exhausting. I'm to the point where I am flipping through my quick cooking recipe cookbooks, because sadly, I don't have the same amount of time for food preparation that I had in the summer. This is my first semester where I am also eating Paleo/Primal, so it's a challenge to think of new, quick snacks. I used to eat a lot of high-carb, psuedo-processed stuff because they're easy to eat in between classes. Now I have the challenge of finding grain-free snacks, which to be honest are either not shelf-stable or are trail mix. I'm sure I'll figure out some new ideas as I go along, but for now it seems pretty boring. However, I have devised one really good snack that was actually suggested in my facebook feed. I had made some Coconut, Date, and Walnut bars a few weeks ago, which were so good---like cookie dough. A reader indicated that cocoa powder dusted on the outside of the bars would keep them from sticking. I am not one to complain about adding chocolate to anything, so I wanted to try it. About that time, I had a coconut chocolate chew Larabar for the first time, which was ridiculously delicious. So I devised my own recipe and am extremely pleased with the results. It's sort of like the love child of a gluten-free brownie and a chocolate truffle: fudgy, chewy chocolate with bitter cocoa powder on the outside, just like a truffle. So good in the afternoon, especially with coffee. It seems like a real indulgence, but it's really a simple recipe with whole ingredients. I have kept these stashed in my fridge, but they do well in my backpack too. I even take them out in the field with me, and they survive the 103+ temperatures just fine.

I know these seem just like a dessert, but they actually have some good nutrition. Because each type of nut has a different nutritional profile, I added two different kinds here: almonds and walnuts. Walnuts are a good source of alpha linoleic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid. Research suggest ALAs can be beneficial to combat heart disease. Almonds are a good source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Cocoa also has antioxidant properties. Finally, coconut has gotten a bad rap for a while because of the high saturated fat content, but that fat is primarity a medium chain triglyceride. Triglyceride may seem like a bad word nowadays, however this form does not raise blood cholesterol levels nor does it contribute to heart disease. Your body can readily digest medium chain fatty acids in the liver, and because of rapid digestion they may elevate your metabolism. These are all very good things! Of course, using organic ingredients in this recipe makes these bars even more optimal for your health.

Chocolate-Coconut Bars
Printable Recipe

30 pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped unsalted raw walnuts
1/4 cup chopped unsalted raw almonds
1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut
4 tbsp cocoa powder, divided

1. Add add the ingredients, reserving 1 tbsp of the cocoa powder, to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade and pulse. When the mixture breaks down a little bit, turn on the machine to run until the mixture sticks together when you press it with your fingers.

2. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap. Add the nut mixture to the pan, using the overhanging wrap to help you press the mixture into a smooth layer. Cover completely with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.
3. Cut into 8 bars and with a pastry brush, dust all sides of each bar with the reserved cocoa powder. Wrap each in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

  • Servings per recipe: 8
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 176.1
  • Fat: 8.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 2 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 2 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 26.9 g
  • Fiber: 4.5 g
  • Sugars: 20.2 g
  • Protein: 3.2 g


Friday, September 2, 2011

Most Delicious Smoothie Ever! (aka: Banana Nut Bread Smoothie)

For some reason I go through phases where I can't get enough of a certain food or I get dependent on a certain food because it's easy (basically, I get stuck in a food rut). For the past few weeks, my mainstay breakfast has been a couple of DHA-enhanced eggs, over easy, and some fresh fruit. Good, but boring. I made a frittata one day to change things up, but that wasn't enough to switch up my breakfast. I love smoothies when I'm in a real hurry, so I tried some to make one with the goal of lots of protein and great taste. Whey protein powder is a great source of protein, so a smoothie is a great option to up my protein intake for the day. The one that I have fallen in love with recently tastes exactly like banana nut bread. It's like I get to eat dessert for breakfast when I am really getting a good dose of protein, potassium from the banana (something I need a lot of, because I work outside in the heat and need to restore my electrolytes), and for more protein and healthy fats, pecans and flax seeds. One special touch to this recipe is adding frozen Greek yogurt, which makes the smoothie nice and thick, almost like a milkshake.

I am still eating primal/paleo. I'm still including fermented dairy. I have been reading a lot of different sources and viewpoints on the diet, and some consume whey protein. It's milk derived, of course, but I don't use it every day. I think it's good to eat a variety of foods no matter what eating plan you're on. When you allow yourself to get bored, as I have with my breakfasts, that's when trouble starts and you indulge too frequently and before you know it, you've completely fallen off the wagon.

Banana Nut Bread Smoothie
Printable Recipe

1/2 cup sliced banana
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (you can use full fat or nonfat, but it will change the nutrition profile. I use nonfat because that's all I had available)
1 cup unsweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk
1 scoop naturally-sweetened vanilla whey protein powder
2 tbsp chopped pecans
1 tbsp ground flax seeds

1. The night before, peel the banana and cut it into rounds about 1/8-inch thick. Place in a freezer bag or reusable container and freeze. Take an empty ice cube tray and spoon the yogurt into the slots. Cover the tray with plastic wrap and freeze.

2. Add the frozen ingredients to the blender along with all the rest. Blend until very smooth. Serve immediately.

  • Servings per recipe: 1
  • Per serving: 
  • Calories: 380.7
  • Fat: 16.9 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 220.7 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 29.8 g
  • Fiber: 6.2 g
  • Sugars: 13.9 g
  • Protein: 31.7 g
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