Thursday, October 27, 2016

Paleo Halloween Dinner: Quick Braised Red Cabbage with Green Apple

I've given you a couple of Dracula-inspired Paleo-approved main courses (check em out here and here!) so it's about time I gave you a side dish that would be perfect with these Eastern-European dishes.

I imagine the peasants in Bram Stoker's Dracula cooking cabbage. The scent of cabbage wafting through the Romanian countryside...ok not so romantic. But the color of this dish is! I love how Halloween decor is not only including black and orange now, but also purple and green! I left the peel on the green apple in this dish, and the cabbage and red onion provide lots of color, kept vibrant by the acid in the apple and the apple cider vinegar. This is a sweet and tangy cabbage with a little caraway to boost the tart factor. I was hesitant to call this a braise because it cooks so fast, but it kind of is!

Quick Braised Red Cabbage with Green Apple
Printable Recipe

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced
1 large green apple, julienned
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth (more, as needed)
4 cup shredded red cabbage (half a small cabbage)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add onion and apple. Cook until tender. Add remaining ingredients, stir, cover, and cook about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Taste for seasoning and serve. Good warm or room temperature.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Paleo Halloween Dinner: Eggplant Impletata Inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula

I have lots of fresh eggplant from my garden to help me with this next recipe!

Part two of my recipes inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula is Eggplant Impletata, or stuffed eggplant, which has quite a few interpretations across cultures. As described in the text:

"I had for breakfast more paprika, and a sort of porridge of maize flour which they said was 'mamaliga', and egg-plant stuffed with forcemeat, a very excellent dish, which they call 'impletata'. (Mem., get recipe for this also.)"

I love Harker's memo to remember the recipe.

From a quick Google search, I found quite a few interpretations of this dish (as well as fellow Dracula enthusiasts), many of which involve a sausage stuffing. I wanted to make my own interpretation and highlight some of the Eastern European spices I've been loving lately. I modeled this after a Turkish stuffed eggplant dish I made many years ago from a cookbook I no longer have. Basically, you prep the eggplants like you would twice baked potatoes. The trick is to salt the eggplant to remove the brown, bitter juices. As these eggplant were small and fresh from my garden that wasn't much of an issue. Then you need to cook them until the center is soft and silky, which is used in the stuffing. My interpretation of "forcemeat" has sweetness from the tomato and paprika but also some herb flavor and a nice chili kick. I bet it would also be awesome stuffed inside a baked sweet potato!

Eggplant Impletata
Printable Recipe

3 small eggplants (about 1/2 lb each)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
chili flakes, to taste
1 lb ground beef
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tsp Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp dried savory
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
Salt and pepper, to taste
Minced fresh parsley for garnish

1. Trim the stem of the eggplant so it's very short. Pull back on the leaves to remove them. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Using the tip of a paring knife, score the eggplant flesh, in a cross-hatch pattern, being careful not to pierce through the skin. Sprinkle cut-side with salt and place cut-side down on several layers of paper towel to catch the bitter juices that will come out, about 30-60 minutes. Afterwards, rinse salt away and pat dry. Turn upside down on more paper towels to dry further while you finish the filling.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the "forcemeat": heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and chili flakes and cook until translucent. Add the ground beef and cook, crumbling, until cooked through. Add all the seasonings, tomatoes, and tomato paste along with salt and pepper. Stir in until combined, and simmer uncovered 20-30 minutes or until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. This can be done a day or two ahead.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place dried eggplant cut-side up on a baking tray (line with foil for easy clean up). Brush each half with remaining olive oil. Roast for 40 minutes or until the flesh is fork tender.

4. Using a fork, remove some of the flesh leaving a shell for the filling, being careful not to pierce the skin. Blend the eggplant flesh with the meat mixture. Stuff each eggplant half generously with filling. Place in a greased 13x9" baking dish. Bake for 20-30 minutes more, making sure the eggplant is fork tender all the way to the skin and the filling has set on top. Rest 10 minutes before removing. Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Paleo Halloween Dinner: Stake Steaks Inspired by Robber Steaks from Bram Stoker's Dracula

Halloween is my favorite holiday, and considering my goals for October's Happiness Project I have lots of spooky recipes coming at you this week! I thought of this one back in December. When it was more appropriate to be reading A Christmas Carol, I was reading Bram Stoker's Dracula (just call me a non-conformist). It has been one of my favorite stories since reading it in 9th grade English class. In the story, Jonathan Harker describes in his diary the food he is eating, including "Robber Steaks". Is it weird that I found Harker's character instantly likable because he described the food on his journey (before all hell breaks loose)?

Here's the passage:

"There are many odd things to put down, and, lest who reads them may fancy that I dined too well before I left Bistritz, let me put down my dinner exactly. I dined on what they call "robber steak"-bits of bacon, onion, and beef, seasoned with red pepper, and strung on sticks, and roasted over the fire, in simple style of the London cat's meat!"

So I tucked the idea of making this a Halloween recipe in my mind until now!

I took some creative liberty with the spice mix by researching spices typically used in Eastern European cuisine. Since I started reading about these spices, I've become fascinated with Eastern European cuisine. My palate typically slants towards Mediterranean cuisine, but I feel very inspired to start incorporating different herbs and spices. Because of the richness of beef, I think you can get away with a lot of spices. For instance, cloves may sound weird, but without the sugar of a baked good cloves add warmth rather than bakery flavors. I also wanted a nice garlicky flavor to scare away the vampires.

I am particular about how I cut up the vegetables and the meat for kebabs. The vegetables tend to take longer than the meat, so I cut the vegetables smaller than the chunks of meat and made sure not to cram too much on the skewer. A little space is needed between each piece of meat and vegetable or they don't cook all the way to the skewer. I like to cut my own steak cubes rather than getting stew meat because the pieces are so irregular and cooking is less even. Also you never know which cut of meat you're getting in stew meat and could be getting something that requires braising, meaning you're going to have chewy kebabs. As far as cooking meat wrapped in bacon, or in this case, a piece of bacon on the kebab, I like to pre-cook it because it will never get crisp otherwise. I think the extra effort is worth it.

As much as I love the silly Halloween foods, I wanted to make something for an elegant Halloween party meal (though I couldn't resist a silly name). However, smaller skewers with just one piece of each item would make great appetizers! What's even better is many of these steps can be done in advance, which is always helpful when you're having a party.

Keep checking in for the next recipe in my Paleo Halloween Dinner series!

Stake Steaks
Printable Recipe

6 slices bacon
1 1/2 lb thick-cut steak, cut into 24 cubes (good choices: top sirloin and tenderloin because they're easy to cut into uniform pieces and stay tender)
1/2 tsp dried savory
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp Hungarian paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground mustard seed
pinch of ground cloves
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, cut into square, leaves separated
1 large red bell pepper, cut into squares
Salt, to taste
Six kebab skewers

1. Par-cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat, about 3 minutes per side. Can be done a day or two ahead; refrigerate until use.
2. In a gallon-sized food storage bag, add steak cubes, savory, thyme, marjoram, paprika, pepper, mustard, cloves, and garlic. Massage the herbs and spices thoroughly into the meat. Allow to marinade 20 minutes at the minimum to overnight.
3. If using wooden skewers, soak 30 minutes in water.
4. Cut each strip of bacon into 4 pieces.
5. Skewer the steak, bacon, onions, and peppers, alternating, with 4 pieces of steak.
6. Skewers can be grilled, approximately 2 minutes per side, or until the outside is lightly charred and the onions are translucent. Alternatively, if you don't have a grill you can preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and roast the skewers until the onions are translucent but the meat is still slightly pink, about 18-20 minutes (Depending on how large your steak pieces are and cut of meat you chose). Broil to create a little charred flavor, watching carefully if using wooden skewers.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Slow Cooker Boeuf Bourguignon

I have made several posts in honor of Julia Child on her birthday August 15th. I missed it this year but I decided to still pay homage to Julia, but on the anniversary of the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in October 1961. I have just finished her autobiography, My Life in France, which was a wonderful book. She fascinates me because she is a mix of playfulness and intense focus. I love her respect for good ingredients as well as her delivery of information in that sing-song voice, which added an element of fun to her shows.

I decided to tackle a lovely French dinner to surprise my boyfriend. Since I work very long days during harvest, I decided to not only pre-prep but also finagle a slow-cooker version of the famous boeuf bourginon, beef stew in red wine, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I slightly altered the steps to work for the slow cooker, such as layering the pearl onions and mushrooms on top so they wouldn't get overcooked. I browned but didn't braise the pearl onions because they would braise slowly all day. I used arrowroot instead of flour for the final thickening of the sauce. Instead of cooking in the oven, I just substituted the slow cooker. With the exception of these few steps I stayed loyal to the original recipe. I think it came out really well!

I'm particularly proud of the fact that I peeled every one of those pearl onions! I planned to get frozen ones and then thaw and brown them, but apparently frozen pearl onions are no longer en vogue so I made them from scratch. I just followed the instructions in the book for blanching them until the skins became tender, then peeled them all while I was watching The Peanuts Movie. They had a much better flavor than frozen, so it was worth it. After browning the onions, I browned the mushrooms in the same pan, which pulled the flavor and color left behind by the onions. I did this step two days in advance. So much of this recipe can be done in advance, which is perfect for a dinner party or, if you're like me, and can't devote all the steps in one night.

Traditionally boeuf bourguignon is served with boiled potatoes, but I pulled out all the stops and made pommes boulangere, which are like scalloped potatoes but use broth instead of milk and/or cream. I had wanted to make these potatoes for such a long time!

I also made a simple green salad with what I call a southern French dressing: red wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice, a little garlic, fresh herbs, and good olive oil.

Dessert was a classic chocolate mousse! I hardly ever make dessert, so this was a real treat. I'm glad I used small cups instead of one serving bowl because it is so delicious we probably would have scarfed the whole thing down.

The wine I cooked with was a full-flavored young red Chianti, as suggested in the book. I wanted to serve a Burgundy or Pinot noir with dinner, but I went with this Chateau Bel-Air Bordeaux. My boyfriend likes Merlot and I like Cabernet Sauvignon (but I'm a Zinfandel girl at heart), so Bordeaux seemed like a nice compromise.

Slow Cooker Boeuf Bourguignon
Printable Recipe

Browned pearl onions and mushrooms:

1 1/2 tbsp butter
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided
10 oz fresh pearl onions or small onions, such as cipollini, or 1 frozen and thawed
1 lb quartered button mushrooms

1. Heat the butter and 1 1/2 tbsp of the oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add onions and brown, turning often. As said in the book "don't expect them to brown evenly."
2. Add half the remaining oil. Add mushrooms and brown, stirring often. They will first soak up the oil, then as their moisture yields the oil with return to the pan, along with mushroom juices. I did the mushrooms in two batches, which is why I divided the oil. If you pan is large enough, you can do one batch, but I wanted them to brown and not steam. "Don't crowd the mushrooms!" as Julia would say. This can be done a couple days ahead of time. Cool and then refrigerate, covered.

Blanching the bacon lardons:

6 oz bacon
2 quarts boiling water

1. My tip for cutting bacon is make sure it's very cold and your knife is sharp. I don't bother separating the pieces, I just keep them in the stack they came in and cut perpendicular to the length of the bacon.
2. Add bacon to boiling water in a large saucepan and cook 10 min. Remove with slotted spoon. Pat the bacon dry. Pour the water out of the pan. I used the same pan for the next steps. The lardons can also be made ahead. Just drain, pat dry, cool and then refrigerate, covered.

Browning the meat and vegetables, assembling the stew, making the sauce:

1 tbsp oil
bacon lardons from previous step
3 lbs lean stew meat, cut into 2 inch chunks and dried well with paper towel
1 diced carrot
1 diced onion
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt (adjust accordingly to the saltiness of your broth. The orignal recipe calls for 1 tsp but my broth was somewhat salty)
2 cups full-bodied, young red wine, such as Chianti, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, Bordeax-St. Emilion, Burgundy, or Pinot noir
1 cup beef broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, grated or mashed
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Previously cooked mushrooms and pearl onions
3 tbsp red wine, beef broth, or water
2 tbsp arrowroot starch
Minced parsley, for garnish

1. Add oil  to the saucepan over medium heat. Add lardons and saute until lightly brown, about 3 minutes. Remove to the slow cooker.
2. In the same fat, brown the beef, a few pieces at a time, being careful not to crowd the pan, which creates steam and prevents browning. Remove the pieces and add to the crock of your slow cooker.
3. Saute vegetables in the remaining fat. Cook until brown. Add to slow crock. Stir in wine, broth, tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Place mushrooms and pearl onions on top. Can be refrigerated at this point. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Before cooking, remove slow cooker crock at least 20 minutes, otherwise the cold crock may crack due to the heat of the slow cooker. Cook 8-10 hours on low or 6-8 hours on high.
4. To make the sauce, strain all liquid from the stew. Remove bay leaf. Add the stew meat and vegetables to your serving dish and cover to keep warm. Add to a saucepan, degreasing if necessary by spooning off excess oil, and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce liquid until slightly thickened, by about one-third. Blend the 3 tbsp of your preferred liquid with the arrowroot starch and add to boiling liquid. Stir well, seasoning to taste. You may need to add more salt, pepper, tomato paste, thyme, or an extra glug of red wine or broth, depending on your taste. I added a small pinch of extra thyme and extra black pepper. Pour sauce over the stew, sprinkle with parsley, and serve proudly.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Pommes de Terre Boulangère

Don't these potatoes look like autumn?

I have been on a French cuisine kick lately! I've been watching cooking videos with Julia Child and Jacques Pepin and imagining have time to throw dinner parties where I could cook whatever they were making. I did make a nice French dinner for my boyfriend recently. I got Mastering the Art of French Cooking from the library and made boeuf bourguinon and a potato recipe I saw in an episode of Jacques Pepin and Julia Child cooking in her kitchen. Jacques makes Pommes de Terre Boulangère, the lighter counterpart to Pommes de Terre Dauphinois. Pommes de Terre Dauphinois is the famous creamy gratin potatoes. Similarly prepared, Pommes de Terre Boulangère uses broth instead of milk or cream, so it's not as heavy. Plus the garlic and onion flavor stand out well against the lighter sauce.

Boiled potatoes are more traditional with boeuf bourguignon, but I made these fancy potatoes anyway. Also perfect with these potatoes would be any kind of roast: chicken, beef, lamb, pork. I can imagine these doing well on a holiday table.

Two important steps: don't use a floury potato, like Idaho, because the potatoes will disintegrate. Waxy boiling potatoes, such as Yukon gold or red potatoes are much better. Also, don't rinse the potato slices. The starch on the potatoes lightly thickens the sauce.

Stay tuned for the next post where I adapt MTAoFC's boeuf bourguignon to the slow cooker!

Pommes de Terre Boulangère
Printable Recipe

1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing
1.5 lbs waxy boiling potatoes, such as Yukon gold, peeled and cut into 1/8" slices with a mandolin or food processor
1 medium or 2 small onions, sliced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cups beef or chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Minced fresh parsley for garnish

1. Grease a 2.5-3 qt baking dish with olive oil. Lay slice potatoes into the dish.
2. Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a small saucepan and cook the onions until tender a lightly browned. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour over potatoes. Shift the potatoes around to tuck in some of the onions and garlic. Potatoes can be cooled, covered, and placed in the refrigerator to cook the next day. If using a glass pan be sure to allow it to warm at room temperature about 15 or 20 minutes to keep it from breaking due to the change in temperature. I put my glass dish on the pre-heating oven to help warm it.
3. Bake it at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Allow to rest 5 min before serving.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Green Beans with Mustard and Pine Nuts (21 Day Fix-Approved and Paleo)

I've been watching a lot of cooking shows lately, mainly anything I can find on YouTube featuring Julia Child. Videos from the show Two Fat Ladies were listed under my recommended videos so I decided to give them a try and ended up loving them. The show featured Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson making recipes in different locations. They typically made two recipes apiece per show. Unfortunately, during the filming of season 4, Paterson passed away due to lung cancer. I wish there could have been more episodes, because even though Dickson Wright and Paterson hadn't known each other long, they seemed like lifelong friends. Plus they were hilarious.

This is my interpretation of a more labor-intensive green bean side dish. I'm sure they wouldn't approve of me making a quick, healthy version of this recipe considering all the rich and sweet dishes they made, but it's still a delicious, fast, and different way to make green beans. I love the bits of pine nut, mustard seeds, and garlic coating the green beans. If you're looking for an elegant vegetable side dish, look no further.

Green Beans with Mustard and Pine Nuts (21 Day Fix-Approved and Paleo)
Printable Recipe

4 tbsp pine nuts
1 lb fresh green beans, stem ends trimmed
4 tsp olive oil
pinch red chili flakes (to taste, optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp coarse mustard

1. In a dry skillet, add pine nuts and toast over medium heat, tossing often. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Set aside to cool. Coarsely chop once cool.
2. Blanch the green beans: bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Stop the cooking processing by rinsing the beans in iced water.
3. In a large skillet over medium heat, add oil, chili, and garlic. Stir-fry about 1 minute, or until fragrant, being careful not to burn. Add green beans and mustard. Stir-fry to coat with mustard, about 3-4 minutes. Toss green beans with pine nuts and serve.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving:
1 tsp, 1 green, 1/2 orange

Monday, October 3, 2016

Monday Musings: Happiness Project, October

Another month of my Happiness Project is done! Some of my August resolutions, including making my bed every day, and following my to-do list. I still have the occasional clean-out. Actually I need to check my closet to get rid of fall/winter clothes.

Here were my September goals:

1. Exercise
2. Eat a salad
3. Practice a self-care ritual (Treat yo' self!)
4. Read a personal growth book
5. Meditate
6. Meal prep

This month I did a lot more personal care than normal. Nothing dramatic. Just putting on a sleeping mask at night for extra moisture. I created a lovely concoction to moisturize my feet at night: Dr. Teal's Pure Epsom Salt foot lotion and a few drops of mint essential oil. The mintiness of the oil helped relax the tired muscles of my legs and feet, plus epsom salt is great for muscle tension.

I ate a lot of salads with tomatoes from my garden---not every day, but most days. Much of my meal prep involved preparing my tomatoes from the garden for the freezer. I made roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, and picante sauce. I meal prepped mainly on the weekends.

Exercise dropped off the middle of the month because of winegrape harvest, but I picked back up in the end with yoga class, which felt divine on my stiff muscles. I stand or walk around the vineyard most days and my feet get sore and my hip flexors get stiff.

I meditated every night before going to bed by listening to youtube videos. Gentlewhispering on youtube has helped me so much on sleepless nights! She makes ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos, which give you a sensation of relaxation across your scalp and even down your back. I also practiced progressive muscle relaxation by tensing my muscles and breathing in for a count of 4, holding my breath for 5, and then releasing my breath and muscles for a count of six.

My personal growth book didn't end up being some sort of psychological book. I read My Life in France by Julia Child, which was extremely inspiring. I got Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. I and II and The French Chef cookbooks and started reading them, and creativity really flowed. I want to devote more time to cooking than I have been this summer!

I'm excited about October's resolutions, mainly because it's fall and I get really inspired by fall ingredients. Also, Halloween is my favorite holiday so that's enough to get me excited. This month is all about being fearless, taking on challenges, and trying new things.

Quote of the month:

"If you're offered a seat on a rocketship, don't ask what seat! Just get on." ~Sheryl Sandberg

1. Happy Blogtober! (blog at least once a week!)
2. Make a new recipe
3. Read a journal article (scientific journal article)
4. Read a book for fun.
5. Become a minor expert (I want to learn more about French cooking!)
6. 2 Duolingo lessons/day (I want to re-learn some French!)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Piperade Egg Cups (21 Day Fix-Approved and Paleo)

I recently read Julia Child's autobiography, My Life in France, which has been a great source of inspiration for me in the kitchen and for my life in general. I went to the library and got Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol I and II, and The French Chef Cookbook, which features the recipes from Julia's tv show. I've been sifting through the recipes and imagining fabulous dinner parties I could have.

In Julia's autobiography, she describes her correspondence with Avis DeVoto. They bonded over their love of French cuisine, and she talked about one of Avis' favorite dishes, an omelette piperade. Piperade is a vegetables mixture which includes peppers and onions. Omelette piperade is an open-faced omelette rather than one of the quick French omelettes and is similar to a frittata. Here is my portable version of piperade.

Piperade Egg Cups
Printable Recipe

2 tbsp olive oil
12 slices nitrite-free ham (no sugar added)
2 cups diced peppers
1 cup diced onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
10 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper, to taste
Coconut oil cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the peppers, and onions and cook until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned. Add and and saute a few minutes more. Add garlic and thyme and cook about 30 seconds. Set aside to cool slightly.
3. Blend the eggs, parsley, cooled pepper mixture, and salt and pepper together. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Divide the mixture into the tin using a 1/3 cup measuring cup. Bake 20-22 min or until slightly firm to the touch.

For 2 egg cups:
1/2 green, 1 red, 1 tsp

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