Monday, April 30, 2012

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette

The other day I had a massive craving for ranch dressing, but because most commercial ranch dressing is made with poor-quality oils, like soybean oil, I stopped buying it a long time ago. As a substitute, I made a balsamic dressing, but it was almost a thin mayonnaise. To make the dressing creamy, I simply used a fresh egg, just as I would for mayonnaise, and whipped the dressing with  my immersion blender. It turned out to be a nice, rich dressing!

I poured this over a big salad of baby field greens, broccoli florets and shredded stems, grated carrots, a little purple cabbage, grape tomatoes, and some avocado. I also had a turkey burger with this. You can see the the veggie:protein ratio of my usual meals. My goal is to have a preponderance of vegetables, with a much smaller serving of protein...unless we're talking about barbeque, then I turn into a total cave girl :)

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette
Printable Recipe

1 very fresh large egg, preferably free-range, at room temperature*
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine the egg, vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic, and some salt and pepper in a bowl, if you want to make the dressing by hand. You can also use a blender, food processor, or immersion blender. Just choose something that will allow you the ability to slowly stream the oil into the container. Pulse these first few ingredients together to combine.
2. Slowly, while mixing, start streaming in the oil. It should take several minutes to add the oil in. Blend until fully emulsified and creamy. Serve with any of your favorite salads. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days for best results.

*Though the vinegar denatures the protein of the egg and essentially "cooks" the egg, to avoid any food-borne illness it is important to use a fresh egg that has been stored properly. It is best to use a clean grade A or AA eggs and to avoid contact of the yolk and egg white with the outside part of the shell.

  • Servings per recipe: 10
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 106
  • Fat: 11.3 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 18.5 mg
  • Sodium: 30.1
  • Carbohydrate2: 0.8 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Sugar: 0.1 g
  • Protein: 0.6 g

Sage Pork Breakfast Sausage

I've been on a kick to make my breakfasts more interesting lately because I usually eat nitrate-free bacon and eggs. I've been trying to vary my protein by adding sausage, but sometimes the ingredients in store-bought sausage can be questionable. One way to ensure the quality of the breakfast sausage you eat is to simply make your own! The possibilities of herbs and spices you can use are endless. The recipe that I prefer reminds me of the sage sausage I remember eating when I was little. I think the real trick to making homemade sausage is to not be afraid to be heavy-handed with the seasonings. Otherwise, the meat will taste like a seasoned burger instead of sausage.

To grind the meat, I used my Kitchen-Aid meat grinder attachment. You can also use a food processor. I suggest freezing the meat for 30 minutes beforehand to make it easier to work with.

Sausage to go with my nice big breakfast of roasted sweet potatoes and over easy eggs!

Sage Pork Breakfast Sausage
Printable Recipe

2 1/2 lbs semi-lean boneless pork, such as sirloin (use something inexpensive, not something expensive like loin, which is also too lean)
1 1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage
1 1/2 tsp dried minced onion
1 1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 1/4 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp whole fennel seeds
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

1. Grind the meat with a meat grinder or food processor fitted with a blade. You can also start out with pre-ground meat.
2. Place the meat in a layer about and inch high on a cutting board and evenly sprinkle all the herbs and spices over top. I used a large knife to "chop" the spices into the meat until they are homogeneously combined.
3. At this point, you can immediately cook the sausage. I split mine into half-pound parcels wrapped in parchment. They can then be placed in a freezer container or kept in the refrigerator and used over the next few days. My sausage happened to be really lean, so I cooked up the patties in a little rendered nitrate-free bacon grease.

  • Servings per recipe: 10
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 171.7
  • Fat: 7.7 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 67.2 mg
  • Sodium: 347.1 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 0.6 g
  • Fiber: 0.2 g
  • Sugars: 0 g
  • Protein: 23.5 g

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kale and Sausage Hash, Two Ways

One of my latest goals has been to eat more vegetables at breakfast. It's easy for me to grab an apple in the morning to go with my breakfast, but I would like to add more variety than that. Plus green leafy vegetables have a higher nutrient content. Therefore I used the technique of prepping an easy dish ahead of time early last week and ate it two different ways in order to make veggies easy to include in the morning. I made a two ingredient hash and used it in a scramble and also simply topped it with over easy eggs. This really did make breakfast prep easy! Here is the recipe for the hash, along with two different serving suggestions.

Kale and Sausage Hash
Printable Recipe

1 lb nitrate-free bulk sausage, I used pork but you can use any you prefer
1 bunch of kale, cleaned, tough stems removed, and leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

1. Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat until opaque. If the sausage is very greasy, you can drain the excess grease. Mine was lean, so I didn't have to do this step.
2. Add the kale to the skillet and cook, stirring until the kale is wilted and the sausage has browned slightly.

Kale and Sausage Scramble

For one serving, scoop a quarter of the sausage-kale mixture into a small skillet. If you are using the hash cold from the refrigerator, warm it over medium heat. In a small bowl, beat 2 free-range eggs together. Add the eggs to the warmed sausage-kale mixture and scramble until the eggs are cooked through. Serve.

I had this with a small banana topped with sunflower seed butter. I had spent the morning taking soil samples in the vineyard so I needed a big breakfast!

Kale and Sausage Hash with Over Easy Eggs

For one serving, heat a quarter of the sausage-kale mixture in a small skillet. Heat another medium skillet over medium-low heat and add about a tbsp of your favorite cooking oil. I like reserved bacon grease from nitrite-free bacon. Once the oil is warm, gently add two eggs and cook a couple minutes on one side, then gently flip and cook another couple of minutes. Serve the eggs on top of the hash. You can also use poached or regular fried eggs, however over easy are my favorite.

I had this with sliced tomatoes and also some sliced strawberries, which are not pictured.
What a great bite...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sweet and Savory Pork Loin with Pears and Onions

This is the pork recipe I was making the other day when I had my kitchen mishap where I broke one of my spice jars. Despite my rough morning, at least this recipe turned out well! I was inspired to make this simply because I had a pork loin in the freezer that I needed to use and also pears were on sale recently and I had a few extra that needed to be used up. Pork and fruit marry well together, so I combined them to make a slow cooker recipe. Because of my recent interest in spice mixes, I went to the Penzeys website and found two spice mixes, their Krakow Nights (Polish sausage seasoning) and Tsardust Memories (Russian sausage seasoning), that I thought would taste nice with the pear and pork combination. Just from their list of ingredients, I mixed together a spice blend based on both the sausage seasonings. The mixture is both herbal and spicy and was apparent even after hours of cooking. I have observed that slow cooked foods can become bland if I use my usual amount of seasoning if I were to cook the same recipe on the stove, therefore I purposefully over-season slow-cooked foods. This spice blend would be nice in homemade sausage, I think. The pears break down and create a spiced sauce, which goes excellently with pork.

Sweet and Savory Pork Loin with Pears and Onions
Printable Recipe

1 2-lb pork loin
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp marjoram
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
2 pears, peeled, cored, and sliced (I used bosc, but use any pear that is relatively firm)
1/4 cup water or chicken broth
1 bay leaf
salt, to taste

1. Pat the surface of the pork loin dry with paper towels. Blend the sage, marjoram, garlic, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, white and black peppers, and salt, to taste, in a small bowl. Rub the spices all over the pork.
2. Place the onion, pears, broth or water, and bay leaf in the bottom of the crockpot slow cooker. Place the pork on top. Cook 6-8 hrs on high or 8-10 hrs on low.

  • Servings per recipe: 6
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 281
  • Fat: 8.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 67.2 mg
  • Sodium: 444.8 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 28.2 g
  • Fiber: 4.6 g
  • Sugars: 5.7 g
  • Protein: 24.5 g

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Homemade Salt-Free Old Bay-Style Seasoning

Here's the second spice mix in my series of homemade seasoning blends. The first one was Roasted Chicken Seasoning, which is actually a good all-purpose seasoning with poultry and pork. Now I've moved onto a fish seasoning for seafood. This is my version of Old Bay seasoning, which was inspired by an recipe. I removed the salt-containing spices in their recipe and altered some of the proportions of some of the spices and/or herbs to my taste. I first used this when making some trout that I crusted with macadamia nuts. I won't be posting that recipe for now because it was one of those cases where is tasted a lot better than it looked. The nuts wouldn't stick to the fillets, so I scooped them out of the pan on top of each serving of fish. The taste was amazing, but the look left something to be desired. If I figure out a more manageable way to make that recipe that does not compromise the flavor, I will post it.

The good thing about this spice blend is that it is salt-free, so you can control the amount of salt that goes into the recipe. The allspice, cardamom, and cloves go well with the sweet flavor of fish, but I bet this recipe would make an awesome brisket rub too!

To help me make this mix, I used a coffee grinder that I've devoted to be used only for spice mix making. I got this earlier in the year when the United grocery stores in my town were doing a sticker collection event where if you collected a certain number of sticker you could receive Grundig kitchen supplies. 

The one tragedy that occurred with this recipe is that the container I held it in broke. It was one of my brand new spice jars from World Market. You might have heard about my tough morning on my facebook post, but here's the story again: I was preparing a pork loin to go in my crockpot, and as I was putting the spices away the jar holding this spice mix fell off the shelf, and in a freak accident landed on the rim of the crockpot, then the backsplash of my counter, and then broke on the countertop. There was a hole in the side of the jar and the spices poured out. At least the pork loin wasn't harmed...I had just finished preparing it and I was afraid it would be ruined by glass but it was totally fine upon my inspection because the jar hit the outer edge of the crock and not the inside rim....thankfully! While I was cleaning up the mess, I realized that my arm hurt and it was then that I noticed a needle-like shard of glass sticking out of my arm. It's weird how the mess was pretty well contained in a pile of spice and a few pieces of glass but nothing major, yet I still ended up with a cut. I don't know how that one happened. So, to conclude the story I lost my spices and spice jar, but I know I will make this mix again because it was delicious! I can't wait to sprinkle it on some shrimp and grill them!

Homemade Salt-Free Old Bay-Style Seasoning
Printable Recipe

1 tbsp ground bay leaves*
2 tsp celery seeds
2 tsp sweet or smoked paprika
2 tsp dried parsley
1 1/2 tsp ground mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne pepper)
1/8 ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground allspice

1. *I ground the bay leaves myself. I used about 10 dried leaves, or half a jar, and placed them in a coffee grinder I use just for the purpose of spice grinding. I ground them until they were mainly fine pieces, but because I planned to give the grind one final spin in the coffee grinder I didn't worry about large pieces. If you have pre-ground bay leaves you can skip this step.
2. Blend all the spices in a small bowl. Return them to the coffee grinder or mini chopper and pulse about 3 times to mix and crush the larger spices. Store in a sealed container in a cool, dry place.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Egg Muffins with Chicken Sausage and Vegetables

The semester is almost over, which means it's crunch time for me to study for my final exams. On top of that, I have already started getting out into the vineyard to prep for my upcoming field season. Seeing as that I am so busy, this week I prepped some little egg muffins with sausage and various vegetables to re-heat in the microwave in the morning. To make the process of preparing these easier, I used my new silicon muffin liners I got in a recent World Market haul. Not a crumb stuck to them! Eggs and Paleo muffins tend to stick to the paper muffin liners and the tin, so they will speed up future baking projects because I will have no need to work so hard to clean my pans.

This recipe is more a method because you can use any ground meat you like as well as any vegetables. These muffins also help me reach my new personal goal of including vegetables with breakfast because I struggle with cooking veggies quickly in the morning. When I include vegetables with breakfast I feel considerably fuller longer, not to mention they provide more nutrients to my breakfast.

To reheat these, I just remove the silicon liner and then microwave individually for 30 seconds of 45 seconds for 2 to 4 muffins. I also like these at room temperature. These are a great snack, too, because I struggle to include protein in snacks. They help add variety from my usual snacks of celery and seed or nut butter, nuts and dried or fresh fruit. Plus they help me to have more veggies when I snack, too.

Egg Muffins with Chicken Sausage and Vegetables
Printable Recipe

2 tsp oil or fat of your choice (I used bacon grease rendered from nitrate-free bacon)
3/4 lb chicken breakfast sausage, casings removed (can use turkey or pork, however if you substitute with pork sausage, omit the cooking oil)
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
6 green onions, sliced thinly
5 oz frozen spinach, thawed
6 eggs, beaten
salt, to taste, depending on the saltiness of the sausage, and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet.
2. Add the chicken sausage and cook until opaque. If the pan has a lot of oil in it, drain the excess oil, then add the sage, bell pepper, and green onion. Cook until the vegetables are tender, being sure that any excess vegetable liquid that accumulates is allowed to steam away, otherwise the muffins will be soggy.
3. Meanwhile, place the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and drain away any excess moisture. Transfer it to a cutting board and chop it into smaller pieces to ensure it will mix homogeneously into the meat mixture. Stir it into the cooked meat and vegetables. At this point you can cool the mixture and then refrigerate it to use in the morning, or place the cooled meat and vegetable mixture into a bowl. If you make these in the morning using cold sausage mixture, wait until morning to add the eggs. If you are making these directly after cooking the sausage mixture, add the slightly cooled sausage/vegetable mixture to the eggs and mix thoroughly.
4. Divide the mixture evenly amongst 12 3" muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees F for 20-22 min or until the eggs are set all the way through.

  • Per muffin:
  • Calories: 73.6
  • Fat: 4.8 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 105.7 mg
  • Sodium: 170.6 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1.3 g
  • Fiber: 0.5 g
  • Sugar: 0.2 g
  • Protein: 6.5 g

Friday, April 20, 2012

More Snacks and Dinner the Other Night

I received my order of nuts, dried fruit, and teas from Nuts Online this week, and I wanted to post all the stuff I got. I ordered some stuff in the beginning of February, but I ran out of most of those things and I wanted to try some new things. Below are pictures of the items I received:

I got only two samples this time. I re-ordered a sample of chia seeds because I like to add those to Greek yogurt. I had half a bag left, but I didn't want to run out by the time I place other order. I also purchased a sample of dried pears. The sample had four pear halves. Sometimes when you get dried pears they are rubbery and not to flavorful, but these had a lot of flavor and had a gooey pear center, sort of like a prune's center. They were really good. I like that they don't add sugar to their dried pears, so I might get a full size in my next order.

I got crunchy almond butter and sunflower butter. I haven't tried the almond butter, but the sunflower butter tastes just as good as the Sunbutter I usually get.

I decided to try their teas and I also ordered their sprouted pumpkin seeds. The tea on the left is oolong, with the seeds in the center, and jasmine green tea on the left. The pumpkin seeds came in an 8-oz package. I haven't tried them yet because I have been working on the other snacks. Each of the teas came in a quarter pound package. I was really impressed with the jasmine green tea because it had real jasmine flowers in it and did not taste as if it were artificially flavored. The oolong tea is good, however it sort of tastes like a generic black tea; it was missing the characteristic flavor notes of other brands of oolong tea I have tried.

Here are the 1-pound packages I received, from left to right: dry-roasted sunflower seeds, coconut chips, dry-roasted cashews, dried unsweetened pineapple (a re-order because they were awesome!), and dates. The price of the dates were extremely cheap compared to what they are at my local health food store. The cashews were particularly awesome because they were not too salty and they are probably the largest cashews I have ever seen. The sunflower seeds were also very lightly salted and very good. I have not tired the coconut or dates yet.

So those are my latest goodies! These are my honest opinion on these products because I am not sponsored by this company. I just really love their products and how quick they ship their items!

Also, I wanted to show a picture of my dinner from the other  night, where I used my Roasted Chicken Seasoning mix on some chicken thighs. It really is convenient to have a spice mix at hand! I also wanted to show another application for it besides roasting a whole chicken. I roasted the chicken on a foil-lined sheet at 400 degrees F for about 45 minutes, basting them twice with any juices that came from the meat. I also roasted some broccoli seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, on another pan at the same temperature for about 20 minutes---basically until the florets became a little crunchy. It was a great dinner and so easy to throw together!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Italian Sausage and Kale Soup

On Easter Monday, when I didn't have any classes, I prepared some soup for lunch with the intention of having it to eat all week. I am finding that preparing foods with the goal of having leftovers makes my weeks a lot easier. Also, I have a huge amount of homemade broth made from chicken and turkey bones that I really needed to use up. I have no room in my freezer for anything else! Normally I save poultry bones to make broth but I don't even have room to save them. Therefore, making some soup was in order! It happened to be a breezy day on Monday, so I opened the kitchen window while I prepared this soup, which made for a relaxing experience.

I had some Italian chicken sausage that I got on sale from Sprouts and they helped flavor the soup with very little effort on my part. I love kale, and because it's one of the most nutritionally-dense foods available, I chose to include it along with the standard mirepoix of celery, carrots, and onions. There are a lot of health benefits to consuming homemade bone broth compared to the stuff in a can, because homemade broth contains the nutrient extracts from the bones, including collagen, gelatin, and glucosamine, which are important to retain skin rigidity and joint health. Also, homemade bone broth may help folks with digestive issues.

I have actually made this soup a variety of times with different greens, but had yet to document the ingredient proportions! Kale is my favorite of all the green, but you can add any sturdy green you like. Spinach can be added as well, but only cook it 1-2 minutes. Of course, you can change the flavor of this by adding any sausage you like, such as smoked sausage or breakfast sausage. I have used poultry meat before, but find that it needs a lot more seasoning so sausage is an easier addition. This is a versatile's more of a method than a recipe, actually. I find it to be a soothing meal and a good replacement for chicken noodle soup.

Italian Sausage and Kale Soup
Printable Recipe

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 large stalk of celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs Italian sausage (about 4-5 links; I used chicken Italian sausage), casings removed
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 qts. broth---choose one that corresponds with the meat of your Italian sausage (I used my homemade turkey-chicken bone broth)
1 bunch kale (about 4 cups chopped kale; can substitute another sturdy green, like collards or Swiss chard...chop the chard stems and add them with the onions, carrots, and celery)

1. Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook until the onions are translucent. Stir in the garlic about 1 minute, being careful not to burn it, then add the sausage in. Crumbled the sausage with a spoon and cook all the way through.
2. Stir the tomato paste into the cooked vegetable and sausage mixture; season with basil and pepper.
3. Add the broth and simmer for about 15 minutes over medium to medium-high heat, to allow the flavors to blend.
4. Wash the kale and remove the tough stems. Chop the leaves up and add them to the simmering broth. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, add the kale, then reduce to simmer. Cook until the kale wilts and becomes tender, about 4-5 minutes.

  • Servings per recipe: 6
  • Per serving: 
  • Calories: 191.4
  • Fat: 9.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 56.7 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 13.1 g
  • Fiber: 3.3 g
  • Sugar: 5.1 g
  • Protein: 16 g

Easter Weekend Eats

I didn't do anything too eventful for the Easter weekend. On Friday I had dinner with friends and shopped at World Market. Saturday was an errand-running day, but I had a lot of fun around town, including grocery shopping at Sprouts and going to World Market again to buy three more of the glass containers I got on Saturday, as well as peruse more carefully than I did on Friday night. Next door to World Market is Ross, and I got a US women's Nike soccer jersey for only $7.99! It was such a great bargain and it really kept me cool at the gym (plus I felt extra motivated to work...when you play a team sport, you have to earn the jersey, so I felt like I should really "bring it" while on my recumbent bike and lifting.)

Sunday was a bit more leisurely and I did a bit of reading my Viticulture management book. I split a Lindt dark chocolate bunny with my boyfriend, but other than that I didn't do anything too Easter-y.

Monday was fun because I didn't have class, though I did do some work at Starbuck's. I also made some soup to eat over the course of the week, and I will have to post the recipe soon!

Also on Monday, we fired up the new grill for the first time and made some Persian kebabs. They were really delicious, but they were sort of version 1.0 because I think I need to improve my method before writing the recipe. The meat we chose was a little too lean, and also, even though it goes against the meatloaf-making instructions my mom gave me years ago, you do need to mix the meat until it gets a little "overmixed" by meatloaf standards. Otherwise, it doesn't stick to the skewers and there is a gap between the meat and the skewer. In fact, one of them fell apart on the grill and I had to eat it (you can see the bare skewer below) wasn't an easy job, but someone had to do it : P

Luckily, we were able to get blade-shaped skewers from World Market, which worked out really well. One major problem we had was we got the worst charcoal would not light and took a lot of coaxing. Eventually it got hot enough and we were able to grill, though we did not get to grill the big batch of chicken breasts that we wanted for eating throughout the whole week. We also had some pork brats from Sprouts, grilled roma tomatoes, and some coleslaw I made using homemade mayo. It was the best mayo I have ever made because I tried it with my immersion blender for the first time, which made it super thick and fluffy. I will never go back to my blender again! All-in-all, it was a great weekend!

It's a bit blurry, probably because I was so hungry and I was rushing to eat!

Coleslaw, kebab, bratwurst (I could only eat half of it!) and grilled tomato

Saturday, April 7, 2012

World Market Haul

I'm so thankful to have made it to the weekend! I needed a break really badly. I could feel myself sort of burning out towards the end of the week. Plus, I really needed to take the time to pay attention to my apartment, which needed some tidying up. Luckily, it's a three-day weekend because of Easter Monday. When I was an undergrad and master's student, we never had Easter Monday, but I guess we get the day off because students will want to travel home for the holiday, and seeing as Texas is such a big state, they need a little extra time for traveling. At least, that is my hypothesis.

In other exciting news, I made some new kitchen purchases. Well, the first one isn't exactly for the kitchen; it's a new grill. Actually, my first grill ever. I  have so many different ideas to start cooking! Also, after dinner with my friends last night I went to World Market and picked up some things I have been wanting really badly. One, some new canisters for the bulk items I get from Sprouts. My cabinets are littered with plastic bags containing nuts and dried fruit, so these will help organize my pantry. Also, I don't think a bag with a twist tie can keep my ingredients as fresh as a gasket-lined lid of a container.  The coolest part about these canisters is that they have a little oval where you can write the name of the item it contains with chalk. I don't always have the same fruits and nuts each week, so writing the item's name will be handy. Of course, I could always see what the item is through the clear glass, but the chalk writing is extra cute. I might go back and get another set because once I got them home I realized how much stuff I wanted to store! I got some silicone muffin cup liners because Paleo muffins and mini frittatas tend to stick to the pan or the paper liners, so these should be great for easy cleanup. Also, because I want to have a series on spice blends, I got a set of four spice shakers. They have revolving tops with three different sized shaker tops, which will be good for letting out larger spices like dried parsley and dried minced onion. I can't wait to make new spices mixes! I also picked up four bags of spices: ginger, chipotle chili powder, dried cilantro, and sesame seeds. I re-filled some of my spice containers last night. I haven't cooked with dried cilantro or chipotle chili powder, so these should be fun additions to my repertoire.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Dinner the Other Night

Lucky for me I had a couple of classes cancelled this week so I got to spend some more time at home. This week has been much more cool out compared to some of the 90 degree days we've already had in west Texas. I've been enjoying having my windows open to let the fresh air into my apartment. On the day my 8 am class was cancelled, I had initially planned to go to a coffee shop to work on a day off, however from my kitchen window I could hear the birds singing, so I thought it would be pleasant to work at home.

While I was making breakfast, I also put together some chili to go into my slow cooker. I had seen an amazing recipe for chili a couple of weeks ago on the site The Clothes Make the Girl. Consequently, this site is managed by Melissa Joulwan the author of Well Fed, a Paleo recipe cookbook. I haven't had a chance to check out the book yet because it hasn't been at my local bookstore, but I have read a lot of recipes on the site and they are really amazing. I like her nickname for her food "dino chow."

Even though the recipe didn't require a slow cooker, I prepared the recipe through step 1, then added everything to my slow cooker and simmered it all day. The secret to the thick, rich sauce of this chili has to be the simmer!

While I was sitting and studying the aroma of this cooking chili was beyond amazing. I was tempted to have some for lunch instead of dinner, but I opted to wait and let it simmer longer. I'm so glad I did. The only deviations I took from the recipe was adding a red bell pepper, for extra veggie goodness, and also some black pepper, which the recipe did not call for but I thought would be really good.

This was the perfect dinner for a slightly cool spring evening! I topped my serving with some avocado for some healthy fat. I can't wait to make this again! Please follow the link above to the recipe if you are interested.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Momma's Blackberry Dumplings (Paleo-Style)

At my local Sprouts market, blackberries were only $0.88 cents/6 oz container, so I took the opportunity to stock up this weekend. I got 6 packages of blackberries and used them all to create a Paleo version of my all-time favorite dessert, blackberry dumplings. My mom's recipe is the best in the world, and I used her methods along with a recipe for grain-free dumplings. I have a lot of good memories eating her blackberry dumplings. Of course the best part was the dumplings, which were basically drop biscuits. What was so good about them was that they had 3 textures: berry-soaked on the bottom, fluffy in the middle, and flaky golden-brown on top. She never over-sweetened the berries---I liked how they were always pleasantly tart. They were good with vanilla ice cream but I had no problem eating them plain as well. Nine times out of ten I would be happy passing up a piece of chocolate cake for those dumplings!
The dumpling recipe I came up with was inspired by two recipes from the Paleo Comfort Foods cookbook. I used a combination of their biscuit and shortcake recipes to come up with a sturdy dumpling that could withstand being cooked with one surface submerged in the berry liquid. Their shortcake recipe is based on almond flour, however the biscuit recipe has both almond and coconut. I thought the mixture of flours would be more sturdy, however the flavorings of the shortcake was more what I had in mind: more butter than the biscuits, and some vanilla and honey. So after starting with the biscuit recipe and adding cinnamon for a bit of spice, I increased the butter and proceeded with the shortcake recipe. Deciding whether to add the 6 egg whites of the biscuit recipe or the 2 eggs from the shortcake recipe was only slightly more difficult. I thought the 6 egg whites would make the texture too light; I wanted a slightly dense dumpling. The egg yolks would provide more density and creaminess, so I went with the two eggs. I am really happy with the results of this recipe. You can see the three distinct layers, just like my mom's blackberry dumplings. The dumplings are just sweet enough and stood up against having both been cooked in the blackberry juices and with the heat of the oven. Another bonus is they helped thicken the fruit without my needing to be worried about adding a thickener to the berry juices. The honey does provide a bit more flavor than just granulated sugar, which is also nice. These were such a great treat and a special way to celebrate berry season. I can't wait to try this method with other seasonal fruits...peach season can't come soon enough!

Momma's Blackberry Dumplings (Paleo-Style)
Printable Recipe

For the fruit:

36 oz fresh or frozen blackberries (can use black raspberries)
1/4-1/2 cup honey, depending on how sweet the berries are

For the dumplings:

1/4 cup coconut flour, sifted
3/4 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
dash salt
3 tbsp cold unsalted butter (I like Kerrygold), cut into cubes
2 eggs
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

butter, for the dish

1. In a medium saucepan, add the berries and 1/4 cup of the honey (you can always add the remaining 1/4 cup later). Bring to simmer over medium heat and simmer until the volume of the fruit is approximately one-half, the juices are thickened, and the berries are about 50% pulp, 50% whole. This should take approximately 30 min. Taste to see if you need more honey and adjust accordingly.

2. While the berries cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Also, start to make the dumplings: in a small bowl, add the coconut and almond flours along with the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the cold butter and cut it in using a pastry cutter, butter knife, a fork, or, your fingertips. Blend until you have small crumbs. Place the crumb mixture into the refrigerator to chill for at least 20 min.
3. After the berries are cooked, transfer them to a buttered 1.5-qt casserole dish. Place them in the over to keep warm; they must be bubbling hot when you add the dumplings.
4. After placing the berries in the oven, in a medium bowl beat the eggs, honey, and vanilla together (I used a fork for this). Retrieve the dry ingredients from the refrigerator and fold them in with the egg mixture (again I used a fork).
5. Pull the berries out of the oven and, working quickly, drop 8 even-sized dumplings onto the surface of the berries and place back into the oven and bake for 15-18 min or until the tops of the dumplings are golden and are cooked through---test with a toothpick to make sure they are solid. Serve hot or room temperature.

  • Servings per recipe: 8
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 233.6
  • Fat: 11.9 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 57.9 mg
  • Sodium: 102.7 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 30.4 g
  • Fiber: 5.4 g
  • Sugar: 17.8 g
  • Protein: 4.9 g
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