Monday, August 27, 2012

Farmers Market Finds

Finally, the town I live in is starting to have a more active Farmers Market. I have been trying to find one since I moved here nearly 2 years ago. I went to one last summer only to find nothing being sold even though it was supposed to be a market day. In the last couple of weeks, I found two different markets. I drove past one as it was winding down while I was driving to a concert last Friday. Then, I was checking out the community calendar this Friday and I found an advertisement for a market that's every two weeks. One market happened to be this Saturday, so my friends and I went. Not only did they have fruits and vegetables, but also crafts, soap, and breads. I bought a cute pair of rosebud earrings in a color I wear frequently (grey!), but there were loads of different earrings I wanted. I hope the same vendor will be back in the next market times, but luckily she also has an Etsy account.

I bought most of my vegetables from some folks who own a local apple orchard. I got a pint of local, raw honey, four unwaxed apples (though I ate one on the car ride home), and three avocados. Luckily, living in Texas, avocados are more of a local crop compared to other states in the US. From another vendor, I got two bell peppers and four zephyr squash. The stand owner said I was the only person so far who knew what zephyr squash were. I hadn't had any since I lived in Georgia, and I love them because they taste like butter. They will make an excellent saute with butter, onion, and salt and pepper! I'd like to add the peppers to chili, then garnish with the avocado. I love that the farmer's market inspires me because there is a limit of seasonal produce, not like at the store where you have pretty much any fruit or vegetable any time you want. The honey is going to last a long time and go into grain-free baked goods and treats, and the apples will make a great snack.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pizza Night!

I recently posted a grain-free pizza crust recipe as well as a meaty tomato sauce recipe, and I combined them to make an amazing pizza! I didn't even miss the flour-based crust because my squash crust highlighted the toppings to well! Here's what I put on my pizza and how I made it:

After making the crust, I topped the pizza with about 1 cup of the meat sauce, which happened to be cold from the refrigerator. I then topped the sauce with thin slices from about a 6-inch piece of Pederson's nitrite-free kielbasa sausage to simulate pepperoni. They are a good pepperoni substitute because they are so peppery and spicy. I also diced about 1/4 of a red bell pepper, and drained 1 small can of black olives. After topping the crust with the sauce, meat, and vegetables, I placed the whole thing in the oven heated to 350 degrees (a lower temperature than the crust was baked in) for 8 minutes. The time is based on my mom's tried-and-true homemade pizza recipe. A lot of times the cheese is placed directly on the sauce, then the toppings, but we found the veggies didn't cook in time before the cheese became melted, and we didn't enjoy biting into the semi-raw veggies. The 8 min gives the pizza a head-start! Then I used the remainder of my block of Organic Creamery mozzarella cheese to top the pizza, placed the pizza about 8 inches from the broiler and broiled the pizza until the cheese was golden brown and bubbly.

While there are many ways to top a pizza, this is the way I chose that particular night! This recipe is a real treat, considering I hadn't had real pizza since last fall. Speaking of which, I helped with a new student orientation this year, and we had pizza for lunch (read: that's no "real pizza" for nearly an entire year!). I indulged in 2 pieces because I didn't think I could fast from lunch or escape and gobble down something else while staying on track with the students. I knew I would get a wheat belly, but this was probably one of the worst wheat bellies ever! And, I got a hive on my stomach that was super itchy. This is why treating myself with wheat is not a treat; it makes me feel bad. I try to be strict with my diet, but even for me life happens and grains can slip back in. The most important thing I find is to not beat myself up and to remember that the day is not completely blown because of one slip. I try not to wait until the next day to get back on track; rather I do it as soon as possible. I don't like to get into the mentality like "I cheated once, oh well, guess the whole day is shot!" then fall face-first into a gallon of ice cream! I also don't like to think of it as a re-start because healthy eating is a lifestyle or journey. Re-starts can be such a downer, but if you think of your way of eating as a meandering path, than a few deviations or bumps in the road are normal, and you can accept them much more easily.

Thankfully, there are many healthy grain-free recipes to help get over modern food cravings, such as this pizza recipe here. I can also recommend the pizza recipe from The Food Lovers Make it Paleo cookbook, which has an eggplant-based crust. I made this the first time this February and it was fantastic! I love the cracker-like crust.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Creamy Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Soup

Classes are about to start again, so my mind is already on fall, which is my favorite season. I can't wait to get my boots and sweaters out to wear again. I've also been thinking of my favorite fall foods, like pumpkin and butternut squash. In my pre-wheat belly days, one of my favorite uses for squash or pumpkin was a pasta sauce. It was my low-fat alternative to fettuccine alfredo. I thought of that recipe the other day, and while I won't eat the pasta part now, I didn't want to lose out on the delicious sauce recipe. Therefore I transformed it into a creamy, dairy-free soup that is even vegan. I have made several butternut squash soups on this blog before, but just some small alterations can totally transform a recipe. I love the pungent garlic with the sweet squash. This is a perfect autumn meal with a nice salad on the side or would make a great starter for a formal meal, such as with Thanksgiving dinner. Actually, because of the garlic and orange color I think it would be great for a themed Halloween menu...vampire-fighting butternut squash soup!

Creamy Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Soup
Printable Recipe

1 3-lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed into 3/4" pieces
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
8-10 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/4 cup olive oil
32 oz broth, either chicken or vegetable, preferably homemade
1/2 cup well-shaken canned coconut milk
dash nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Toss the butternut squash, garlic, and thyme with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place on a baking tray (lined with foil for easier clean-up). Roast for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the squash is soft and beginning to brown.
3. Puree the squash in a food processor or blender, adding enough broth to allow the squash to puree. Transfer to a stock pot or large saucepan. Alternatively, you can place the squash in your stock pot and add some of the broth and puree with an immersion blender.
4. Add the broth, coconut milk, and nutmeg. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Taste for seasoning, and serve once the soup is warm.
  • Servings per recipe: 4 main course servings
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 272.4
  • Fat: 15.5 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 5 mg
  • Sodium: 196.5 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 35.1 g
  • Fiber: 9.1 g
  • Sugars: 1 g
  • Protein: 4.5 g

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Primal Yellow Summer Squash Pizza Crust

The other day I got some summer squash for free from the greenhouse at work. They were kind of pithy in the middle and the skin on the outside was tough, so I didn't want to just saute them. I remembered some great veggie-based pizza crusts from the blog Your Lighter Side, so I headed over to that website and tried to find something adaptable to squash. I found a zucchini pizza crust recipe, which was perfect. I just subbed in the squash, altered the proportions, and added some herbs for flavor, and it tasted great! Granted, it wasn't firm enough to hold up a slice of pizza, but it had great cheese flavor. It sort of tasted like a casserole to me, and baked even thicker it would be a great pasta substitute too.

I used a really fantastic organic mozzarella cheese from Organic Creamery for this recipe. It was pretty pricey, but luckily I had a store coupon. I don't know if it's because it was made with organic milk or perhaps better technique than your standard mozzarella, but this was the best mozz I have ever had in my life! It wasn't like a rubber ball the way most conventional mozz is, and, surprisingly, it had a lot of flavor! I thought mozzarella was just bland, but this reminded me of havarti cheese. Plus, it was super creamy---so creamy in fact that when I was washing the dishes, any bits of mozzarella left in the mixing bowl melted with just the heat of the tap water. I was concerned the creaminess would make it difficult to grate, so I put it in the freezer for about 30 min and it grated pretty well. I think it wouldn't have hurt to have gone for 45 min in the freezer, because the heat from the food processor made the last little piece too creamy to grate. I also think it would have been better to cook on parchment than on foil, because I had a little sticking despite having greased the pan a lot.

Primal Yellow Summer Squash Pizza Crust
Printable Recipe

1 medium yellow summer squash
1 cup grated mozzarella, preferably organic
1 egg, preferably cage-free, beaten
1/4 tsp dried oregano
pinch of salt and pepper
oil of choice, for greasing

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Line a pizza pan or baking sheet with parchment paper (can put foil underneath for easy cleanup) and grease with about 1 tbsp of oil.
3. Grate the squash on the coarse side of a box grater or food processor. Place the grate squash in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out the excess moisture until you are left with about 1 cup of squash. Add it to a medium mixing bowl along with the cheese, egg, oregano, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
4. Spread the squash mixture onto the pizza pan and evenly press out until you have a disk about 14" across. Make sure the edges are smooth.
5. Bake the crust for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and top as desired.

For the toppings: add sauce, meats, and vegetables of your choice. Reduce oven temperature to 350, then bake for 8 min. Remove the pizza, top with cheese, them place about 8" from the broiler and broil until the cheese is browned and bubbly and the toppings are cooked and lightly browned.

  • Servings per recipe: 8 (1 slice each)
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 63.8
  • Fat: 4.6 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 31.3 mg
  • Sodium: 94.7 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 1.3 g
  • Fiber: 0.3 g
  • Sugars: 0.5 g
  • Protein: 4.5 g

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Julia Child's Chicken Supremes with Mushrooms and Cream and Green Beans

Happy 100th Birthday Julia Child! I like to try and remember Julia's birthday every year because she had such a big influence in modern cooking. She changed the way Americans cooked and part of her legacy is bringing us cooking on television. So far I have made her Mustard Marinade with Pork and Casserole-Roasted Chicken with Tarragon. This year, I made a main course and a side from her recipes. The main course was her Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms and Cream (Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons), which was posted on the blog Sugar & Spice by Celeste. I had to make some adaptions based on limited cooking supplies, which I will write about in the recipe. I also made her perfect green beans from a recipe on The French Chef which I saw on youtube.

First, for the chicken, I made an adaptation because I didn't have an stove and oven-proof casserole. Therefore I used an oven-proof pan. I then also had to alter the recipe because the chicken breasts produced a lot of juice, and I found that I didn't need the broth or as much cream as the original. Not that omitting a little cream will keep this dish from being so rich. It's a Primal treat and low-carb delight, however. The richness helped me keep my portion down, by the way. I figured I'd want seconds because it was only a half breast, but this recipe is really satisfying. It would be perfect for dinner guests, too.

Finally, her green beans aren't tough to make. There are just some steps that help make them taste maximally good, such as cooking the beans in a lot of water so they have plenty of room to move. Also, they can come back to boil rapidly in the huge amount of water so they cook evenly.

One other adaptation that I was not happy about was I used dried parsley instead of fresh because the store didn't have any fresh. When I found out I was pretty surprised and wanted to say "it's Julia Child's birthday and you don't have any fresh parsley?!" but then I realized how it would make me sound like the crazy over-worked graduate student that I am and refrained.

Julia Child's Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms and Cream (Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons)
Printable Recipe

5 tbsp unsalted butter, preferably grass-fed
1 tbsp minced shallot or green onion
1/4 lb sliced mushrooms
2 chicken breasts, filleted (or supremed) into 4 pieces, preferably free-range
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine (port, Madeira, or dry white vermouth would work too)
1/2 cup whipping cream
pinch of dried parsley or 2 tbsp fresh parsley
lemon juice, salt, and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat the butter in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat.
2. Add the shallot and saute a moment without browning. Add the mushrooms and again saute without browning. Remove the shallots and mushrooms to the side, leaving some butter in the bottom of the pan.
3. While the vegetables cook, drizzle the chicken fillets with the lemon and add some salt and pepper.
4. Add the seasoned chicken fillets in a single layer in the buttered pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove the chicken to the side and tent with foil to keep warm.
5. Return the skillet the chicken was cooked in to a burner over high heat. Add the wine to the pan juices (should be about 1/3 cup of juices) and bring to a rapid boil, cooking the mixture down until it becomes syrupy. Add the cream, return to the boil and allow the sauce to slightly thicken. Season with the parsley and taste to see if more salt and pepper are needed. Sprinkle in more lemon juice, if desired.
6. Return the chicken to the pan and coat both sides with sauce. Serve immediately.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 311.3
  • Fat: 26.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 16 g
  • Cholesterol: 113.9 mg
  • Sodium: 93.2 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 2.1 g
  • Fiber: 0.3 g
  • Sugars: 0.4 g
  • Protein: 15.1 g

Julia Child's Green Beans
Printable Recipe

1 lb haricots verts, or thin green beans, ends and strings removed and washed in hot water right before cooking
4 qts boiling water
2 tbsp unsalted butter, preferably grass-fed
lemon juice, salt, and pepper, to taste
pinch of parsley

1. Add the green beans to the rapidly boiling water. Boil for about 5 min, or until tender to your liking.
2. Drain the beans immediately once they are to your taste, and plunge them into cold water to stop the cooking process.
3. Allow the beans to become dry before seasoning by draining them thoroughly. I found them to dry quickly once I return them to the hot pan they were cooked in. Toss the dried beans in butter, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parsley. You can garnish with more parsley before serving, if desired.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 85.5
  • Fat: 5.9 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 15.5 g
  • Sodium: 46.3 g
  • Carbohydrate: 8 g
  • Fiber: 3.8 g
  • Sugars: 0 g
  • Protein: 2.1 g

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hearty Meat Sauce with Garlic and Herbs

I made a hearty meat sauce the night before last because I didn't have anything to take with me to work for lunch the next day. I made a similar thick meat sauce when I was doing Whole 30 and needed some protein one night. I use the word "sauce" liberally here, because there's more meat than liquid, mainly from cooking the mixture down for a while. I like to eat this by itself as my protein, or it can be used in recipes. For instance, I used this as a sauce for a pizza recipe that I made tonight! I will post the recipe soon.

As with any recipe where you reduce any sauce, I suggest seasoning with salt towards the end because what may taste salty enough in the beginning may become too salty once reduced. Also, I use one of my secrets for making good meat sauce: instead of adding sugar to balance the sauce flavor, add balsamic vinegar because it adds a different kind of sweetness without actually adding sugar.

Hearty Meat Sauce with Garlic and Herbs
Printable Recipe

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb ground beef, preferably grass-fed
4 cloves garlic, grated
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the beef and cook, crumbling it into small pieces with your spoon or spatula.
2. When the meat is cooked, add the garlic and herbs and cook until the garlic becomes fragrant.
3. Add the tomatoes and reduce heat to medium low. Season with pepper, but be careful with adding salt because the sauce will reduce and may make the mixture too salty. Simmer about an hour, stirring occasionally. If the mixture sticks to the bottom, lower the heat instead of adding water. The point is to cook the sauce down and concentrate the tomato flavor.
4. Finally, when the mixture is very thick, add the vinegar, season to taste with salt and pepper, simmer a few more minutes to combine, then serve.

  • Servings depend on whether this is used as a sauce or main course.
  • For 8 servings:
  • Calories:178.4
  • Fat: 13.5 g
  • Saturated fat: 4.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 42.5 mg
  • Sodium: 136.2 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 3.1 g
  • Fiber: 0.7 g
  • Sugars: 1.6 g
  • Protein: 10.7 g

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Paleo Thai Food at Home

My dinner the other night turned out to be so pretty and tasty, that I took some pics. These recipes are not my own, they're from the Food Lovers Make it Paleo cookbook. I made their Chicken Satay and Satay Sauce. I didn't grill the chicken, but instead pan-cooked it with the marinade and then broiled it for a grilled taste. I only made half a batch of the sauce, but ended up tweaking it a little to suit my taste. Thai food is all about balance, so I added more lime plus some ginger, which it didn't call for. Also, the sauce was really missing some fish sauce; the coconut aminos, while good, didn't give the right kind of salinity. So I added a few dashes of fish sauce, too. I served the chicken and sauce with some cauliflower rice: grated cauliflower cooked in coconut oil until tender and rice-like. This meal wasn't only pleasing to the taste, but also to the eyes!

Smokey Bacon Meatloaf

I finally got tired of my trips to the salad bar (pretty much the only thing I've been eating lately are homemade salad or salads made from the bar at my local grocery store!) and made a real meal the other night! I have been avoiding trying to heat my oven a lot, which would make my apartment uncomfortably warm, thus forcing my AC to work even harder. Also, I have been busy with work and I don't want to take the time to clean up my kitchen after eating. Well, there is nothing like a home-cooked meal when you are stressed, so I finally broke down and made a real meal. A spicy, smokey meatloaf with the ever-delicious bacon! This is definitely not your standard, dried-out meatloaf! Not only is this meal comforting, cooking for me is such a great stress reliever, so there were multiple benefits to preparing this! On the side was just buttered, steamed broccoli.

Smokey Bacon Meatloaf
Printable Recipe

4 slices nitrite-free bacon, chopped
2/3 cup finely chopped onion, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 1/4 lb ground beef (preferably grass-fed)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tsp paprika, regular or smoked paprika
1 tsp chili powder, such as ancho chili powder or any other sweet and smokey chili powder blend
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup water
1 tsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Add the chopped bacon to a small saucepan and cook the bacon until it is opaque and has just begun to brown and has rendered fat. Using a slotted spoon, extract the bacon pieces and add them to a medium bowl. Keep the saucepan warm to make the sauce later.
3. Mix the cooked bacon, when cool enough to handles, with the beef, half the onion, the bell pepper, egg, almond meal, paprika, chili powder, oregano, cumin and black pepper. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Blend until just mixed; do not over-mix of the meat will be tough.
4. Press the meat mixture into a loaf pan. You can also shape the mixture into a loaf shape on a rimmed sheet pan or glass baking pan. You can line the pan with parchment or parchment-lined foil for easier cleanup and to help remove the meatloaf.
5. Bake the meatloaf for 45 minutes.
6. While the meatloaf is baking, start the sauce. In the saucepan with the reserved bacon drippings over medium heat, add the remaining onion and cook until lightly brown, about 5 min. Add the tomatoes and water and lower heat to simmer for the remaining time the meatloaf cooks.
7. After the meatloaf has cooked 45 min, add the syrup and vinegar to the sauce, season to taste with salt and pepper, and spoon it over the meat. Return the meatloaf to the oven for 5 min for the sauce to set and for the meat to cook all the way through.
8. Allow the meatloaf to rest a full 10 min before attempting to remove it from the pan or to cut it. Serve slices of meatloaf with the pan drippings at the bottom.

  • Recipe makes 8 slices
  • Per slice:
  • Calories: 226.5
  • Fat: 16.3 g
  • Saturated fat: 5.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 69.8 g
  • Sodium: 154.0 g
  • Carbohydrate: 4.8 g
  • Fiber: 1.6 g
  • Sugar: 1.5 g
  • Protein: 15.5 g

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What I've Been Cooking Lately

Though I haven't spent a lot of time making up my own recipes lately, I have been taking the time to cook some recipes from others! I am fortunate enough to have a lot of nice cookbooks, and sometimes I forget to cook from them because I get busy with my own tangents. When I get really busy, I notice that inspiration doesn't come to me so easily, so my cookbooks help a lot. Here's what I've been making:

I have been doing some stress-relieving baking! I made some banana bread muffins from the blog With Style and Grace. They were a really great version and I imagine they'd please even people who like to eat grains! The only alteration I made with this recipe is that I omitted the honey and olive oil and instead added the same volume of melted coconut oil. I like the taste of coconut oil, plus I find bananas to be sweet enough without the added sweetener. I was able to get 8 muffins out of this recipe.

I also went all-out and made the cheesecake recipe from The Food Lovers Make it Paleo cookbook. It was a birthday cake, so I decorated the cake with sliced strawberries and a candle. It wasn't for a one-year-old, it's just that if I put all the candles for the birthday boy's age, I thought it would catch on fire and all my work would be ruined : P The custard part of the cake was so light and lemony! It was a bit of a splurge, as the authors admit, but was it ever worth it!

My only comments on the recipe are that, I don't agree that it's necessary to double the crust. I found it to be way too thick, and I saw several people who ate the cake leave the outer edge of the crust because it was just too much. It was hard to cut with a fork, and I think it would be weird to serve the cake with a steak knife to cut the crust. I would definitely make this again, but instead of doubling the crust, next time I will make 1.5x's the amount and see if that is better. Also, I think they should have mentioned that the ingredients for the cheesecake custard part should be at room temp. Room temp cream cheese and eggs are one of the cardinal rules of cheesecake making if you want a well-blended batter. Finally, they suggest serving the cheesecake with strawberry preserves. In their picture, they preserves look like a nice sauce. However if you follow the instructions for the preserves, you end up with a stiff jam. I had to stir the jam up really well and microwave it for a minute to get it to pouring consistency. It's not a big deal, but I think it would be a helpful thing to mention. 

I also made the pot roast recipe from Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint Cookbook, which was really sensational. I used his slow cooker instructions, so it was easy to put together. He offers a lot of alternative ingredients in his recipe, so here's what I did: the morning I set up the slow cooker, I used the bacon drippings from the bacon I had just made for breakfast to sear the meat in. Instead of making his seasoning rub, I used my Roasted Chicken Seasoning because it was just so much easier than measuring out all the spices. I used red wine that I had thawed from the freezer to provide the liquid for braising. I like to freeze small amounts of leftover wine so I don't waste and so that I don't have to open a whole bottle whenever I need a little bit for a recipe. In the end, the wine cooked down with the meat juices to make a richly-flavored jus (I poured some in a small cup and had it as soup with dinner!). The meat had a nice garlic-y flavor, too, and was fork tender. Leftovers were really good too.

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