Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Paleo Tilapia Tacos

Since coming home, I have been doing so much cooking, which has made me so happy! It's nice to take a little break and do those activities that make me really happy. One recipe I prepared this week was a variation from The Paleo Diet Cookbook by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. It's a wonderful cookbook because a lot of the recipes seem light and fresh, which is the perfect remedy to counter those heavy holiday foods. I made his Paleo Tilapia Tacos with some alterations because my parents don't like really spicy foods. I changed the seasonings to accommodate and added more vegetables as well. I also altered the methodology too, mainly because the pan I was using did not allow for me to just move the vegetables over to cook the fish in a single layer.. I also didn't want the garlic to burn! It was a really great recipe, but what really made it even better for me is adding some lime juice on top of the fish. I think it really needed acidity, because I'm trying to follow his advice and really cut back on the salt, which can be difficult but necessary.

Paleo Tilapia Tacos (adapted from The Paleo Diet Cookbook)
Printable Recipe

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 orange bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
4 scallions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
24 oz tilapia fillets
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
8 large iceberg lettuce leaves
1 large avocado, diced
2 roma tomato, diced
lime juice (or lime wedges)

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Add the bell pepper and scallions and saute about 3 minutes before adding the garlic. Continue to cook until the peppers are tender-crisp. Remove them from the pan and set aside.
2. Blend the cumin, coriander, paprika, and pepper together and rub a pinch of the mixture onto each side of the fish fillets. In the same pan the vegetables were cooked in, heat the remaining olive oil, then add in the fish fillets in a single layer. Cook the fillets until they are white and opaque. Break the fish into large chunks, then toss the vegetables back into the pan to re-heat them. Toss in the cilantro as well.
3. Serve the fish inside the lettuce leaves, topped with avocado, tomato, and lime juice.

  • Servings per recipe: 6
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 228.2
  • Fat: 11.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 55 mg
  • Sodium: 69 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 9.6 g
  • Fiber: 3.6 g
  • Sugar: 0.7 g
  • Protein: 24.6 g

Twice-Baked Honey Nut Acorn Squash

Even though I had to get up early for my flight back home on Saturday, I had enough energy to cook my family and myself a nice meal. I have been so devoted to studying for finals that I hadn't cooked anything elaborate in weeks! I was having cooking withdrawal!

I wrote down what I wanted to prepare before going shopping once we got back to my hometown, but of course I  had to get some seasonal ingredients! We got an acorn squash, which I hadn't prepared in a really long time. My dad likes to roast squash them whip them with spices, so I used that premise to make roasted acorn squash. After extracting the seeds of the halved squash, I put honey, butter, pecans, and pumpkin pie spice into the center and roasted the halves at high heat to caramelize and cook the squash and also help the nuts become coated with sticky honey and butter. I mashed the squash and the filling in the shells, then re-baked the mixture, kind of like a twice-baked potato. It smelled so much like pumpkin pie but was much easier and a lot healthier than pie because there was no crust or excess sugar (however is still a great treat). I can't wait to make more of this squash!

 This would be the perfect holiday side dish because not only does it make a unique presentation, but all the roasting spices smell really good!

Don't forget to save the seeds to roast alongside the squash! Just coat with a little olive oil and spices of your choice and roast them at 450 degrees F until they are toasted and browned.

Twice-Baked Honey Nut Acorn Squash
Printable Recipe

1 medium acorn squash, cut from the stem to the bottom, seeds scraped out
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp honey
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Place the squash cut-side up inside a baking dish such as a 13"x9" glass cake pan.
3. Divide the butter, honey, pecans, and spices evenly between the squash halves, placing all ingredients in the hollowed-out space.
4. Bake for 50 min-1 hr, our until a fork easily pierces the flesh of the squash. Remove the squash and drop the temperature to 350 degrees F.
5. Use a fork to mash the squash and seasonings together inside the squash shell. Be careful not to piece the squash shell. Use an oven mitt on your second hand to help hold the squash steady. Smooth the top of the mashed squash-seasoning mixture and place back in the oven and bake until lightly browned and caramelized, about 20-30 minutes. Serve immediately, scooping the mashed squash out of the squash shells to serve.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 178.2
  • Fat: 13 g
  • Saturated fat: 4.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 15 mg
  • Sodium: 147.8 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 16.8 g
  • Fiber: 2.8 g
  • Sugar: 11.8 g
  • Protein: 1.4 g

Spiced Cran-Apple Sauce

What's a roasted turkey without cranberry sauce? I personally love cranberries, just not the jelled stuff with the ridges from the can on the sides. I like whole-berry cranberry sauce, but it's a bit one-dimensional because there's no spices. I also love orange and cranberry together, so I wanted to make my own version with oranges. It's so easy to make your own! Most recipes call for a lot of sugar, but to cup back on using granulated sugar, I used chopped apple, apple cider, and agave nectar. Honey or maple syrup are also great options instead of the agave nectar. This is not the super sweet type of canned cranberry sauce, so it may take a bit of getting used to, but I really liked it. Plus all the bubbling spices fill the house with holiday fragrance.

Spiced Cran-Apple Sauce
Printable Recipe

12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
1 large or 2 medium sweet cooking apples, such as Rome Beauty or McIntosh, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
This looks like tomato sauce, but I promise it's cranberries
1 cup apple cider
peel of half an orange, removed with a vegetable peeler
5 whole cloves
2 green cardamom pods, lightly cracked open
1 5-inch long piece of cinnamon stick
1/3 cup light agave nectar

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the berries, apple, and cider and bring to a simmer.
2. Stick the cloves into the orange peel.
3. Once the berries start to pop open, submerge the orange peel, cardamom, and cinnamon. Lower the heat to medium low and allow the sauce to cook until all the berries are popped and the apple is completely soft, about 15-20 minutes.
4. Stir in the agave nectar and remove the sauce from heat. Once it has completely cooled, chill in the refrigerator. Remove the spices and orange peel before serving.

  • Servings per recipe: 8
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 72.6
  • Fat: 0.1 g
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 1 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 18.2 g
  • Fiber: 1.5 g
  • Sugars: 13.6 g
  • Protein: 0.1 g

Superstuffed Deviled Eggs

 Here's another dish I served at Thanksgiving, but of course everyone knows that deviled eggs are perfect for any party any time of the year. What's special about these was actually part of an accident: as my mom and I were peeling the eggs, a chunk of one of the whites came off, so I decided instead of potentially wasting it, I would add it to the bag I was squishing the filling mixture in, which resulted in a lot of filling! I liked how each appetizer looked so generous, which of course is the perfect theme to set for the holiday season! I served deviled eggs to go alongside the salad, which was sweet, and these were savory, so they were a great compliment. Plus I was serving a grain-free Thanksgiving so I wanted at least one thing that was familiar to everyone to be served.

These were a great make-ahead appetizer. Also, because I used a plastic bag to make the filling with, clean up was really easy and the results were tidy-looking.

Perfect hard-cooked eggs:
I used my stand-by method for hard cooking eggs, adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe. This recipe helps prevent that gross grey ring around the yolk and sulfur smell that comes from over-cooking the eggs. The secret to hard-boiled eggs is not to actually boil them. What you want to do is add your eggs (using the freshest you can find so that they are easy to peel) to a saucepan of water just large enough to accommodate them all. I used eggs from barn-roaming chickens. Cover the eggs with at least 1/2-1 inch of water and place them on the burner over high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, immediately turn off the heat but leave the pan on the burner and cover with a lid. Allow the eggs to sit in the water to gently cook. For 1-2 eggs, I cook them for 10 minutes, but for 6-8 14 minutes is perfect. Once the time is up, immediately plunge the eggs into cold-even iced-water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, store them in the refrigerator until you need to use them. I often store them in the cold water I used to cool them with, but not for any particular reason. If you use this method, you will be ensured a silky, not hard, egg white and a bright yellow and creamy, not powdery and grossly-colored, yolk.

Superstuffed Deviled Eggs
Printable Recipe

7 eggs, hard cooked (method above)
4 tbsp mayonnaise made with olive oil
1 tsp coarse brown mustard
4 gherkins or "midget" pickles, minced
1 tsp pickle juice
2 tsp minced shallots
1 1/2 tbsp minced celery (I actually took the time to peel off the stringy parts with a vegetable peeler before minching)
salt and pepper, to taste
paprika, sliced gherkins, and sliced green olives for garnish

1. Cut all but one egg in half from the narrow end to the wide end. Extract the yolk and add them to a quart-sized zip-top bag. Chop the remaining egg and add it to the bag.
2. Arrange the egg whites on their sides on a platter, like little boats.
3. Add the mayo, mustard, pickle, pickle juice, shallot, celery, and salt and pepper to the bag, remove the air from the bag, seal, and mash together with your hands.
4. Push all the filling to one corner and snip with scissors to make a pastry bag. Squirt a little bit of the filling into each egg white cavity. Sprinkle each egg with paprika and top each one with a garnish, either pickle slice or olive slices. Can be made a day ahead, except add garnishes at the last minute.

  • Servings per recipe: 12
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 77.2
  • Fat: 6.8 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 125.3 mg
  • Sodium:  112.5 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1 g
  • Sugar: 0.5 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 3.8 g

Monday, December 19, 2011

Grain-Free Sweet Potato Crisp

I'm so glad to be back in Indiana with my family. I haven't been home in a long time, and I really deserved a break. I made it through my tough semester, doing really well, if I might add. I got my dissertation proposal and plan of study approved by my committee and finished off 2 difficult classes: biochem and plant physiology. I feel like I deserve a break after all that work and I also need to start getting back to eating a cleaner diet because of course around finals time things get a little off-routine. I've been reading Loren Cordain's Paleo Diet Cookbook and have prepared a few wonderful dishes from it that I hope to share, including all my alterations.

Here is a holiday dish that is a huge favorite in my family. I managed to make it grain-free! I prepared it for Thanksgiving (way back then!) but it's great for Christmas dinner too. I used my old sweet potato crisp recipe, but altered the filling to use maple syrup instead of granulated sugar. I double the topping recipe from my Paleo Peach Crisp to make a thick, crunchy top. I think I might like this new version even more, because my sweet tooth has been dwindling these past few months. What's even better is the sugar per serving in this new recipe is about half of what it was in the old recipe!

Grain-Free Sweet Potato Crisp
Printable Recipe

For the sweet potato mash:
5 medium sweet potatoes 
1/4 c maple syrup
4 tsp unsalted butter, softened
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon

For the crumble:
3 tbsp room temperature unsalted butter
1/2 cup  golden raisins
1/2 c chopped pecans
1/2 chopped almonds
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon

more unsalted butter to butter the dish with

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub the potatoes and wrap them in foil. Place in the oven and roast for about 1 hour or until soft.
2. Remove the potatoes and allow them to cool so that you can handle them (alternatively, cool them to room temperature and leave in the fridge till the next day). Reduce (or preheat) the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the flesh from the potatoes; discard the skin. Mash the potatoes with a fork or potato masher, then add the rest of the "mash" ingredients. For a smoother consistency, whip with a hand mixer. If using warm potatoes, add the egg slowly while blending it into the potato mash to prevent curdling.
3. Butter a 1.5 qt baking dish. Pour in the potato mash.
4. In a mini food processor, pulse the butter with the raisins. Then, add the nuts and pulse until roughly chopped. Finally, pulse in the honey and cinnamon. If you don't have a food processor, chopped the raisins and nuts by hand, then cut the honey, butter, and cinnamon in with a fork. Pour the crumb mixture all over the potato mash to the edge of the dish.
5. Bake for 35 minutes or until it is browned on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

  • Servings per recipe: 10
  • Per serving:
  • Calories:245
  • Fat: 9.6 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.7 g
  • Sodium: 68 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 38.9 g
  • Fiber: 4.8 g
  • Sugar: 10.9 g
  • Protein 2.8 g

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Easy Green Beans with Caramelized Onions

This is my first recipe of many from my Thanksgiving holiday. As I said in my previous post, I tried to make delicious recipes that wouldn't make me feel so stressed that I would want to pull my hair out. This green bean side dish was much easier to prepare than green bean casserole made with the canned soup, and I don't even need to mention its so much better for you than salty green bean casserole with the fried onions, canned green beans and canned soup that has crazy artificial ingredients. This side dish came together easily because I used a little help from my produce section and got ready-trimmed green beans that steam in their own bag. While they were microwaving, I quickly caramelized some onions with orange juice and combined them all together. The onions are really special because they become sweet and wrap around each bean in such a pretty way. It's important to have a lot of onions for this dish---they're more than a garnish. Another great thing about this side dish is, during busy holiday times, it frees up valuable oven space!

Easy Green Beans with Caramelized Onions
Printable Recipe

1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sliced brown onion (they have a lot of sweetness once cooked), thinly sliced
1 12-oz package ready-to-steam fresh green beans
1 tbsp orange juice
salt, to taste

1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
2. Add the onions, season with a pinch of salt, and toss them in the oil. Start the green beans in the microwave according to package directions.
3. When the onions start to become translucent, pour in the orange juice and keep sauteeing until they become very soft and light brown. If the beans finish cooking before the onions are brown, set them aside.
4. Toss the green beans into the caramelized onions and serve immediately.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 35
  • Fat: 1.8 g
  • Saturated fat: 0.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 41.7 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 4.6 g
  • Fiber: 1.7 g
  • Sugars: 0.3 g
  • Protein: 0.9 g
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