31 March 2012

West African Chicken with Cauli Rice

This is a recipe I have been meaning to try for a while.  It isn't as photogenic as some recipes, but the taste is worth it.  Or you could trot on over to Kalyn's Kitchen and check out her pictures (and recipe).  While you're at it, go on over to Elana's Pantry for the original cauli rice.  I made some edits to Kalyn's recipe to make it Paleo and fit what's in my freezer, and I simplified the cauli rice down to 3 ingredients.

Take one head of cauliflower and pulse it in a food processor until it is a rice-like consistency.
Saute an onion in coconut oil until translucent then add the cauliflower.  Saute for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When I first started cooking I remember recipes never told me what stove setting to use, so if you're a newbie, try something slightly higher than medium.  Feel free to add any spices to the cauli rice.
 In a medium pot, saute another onion (I think I actually put half in the cauli rice and half in the chicken sauce).  I didn't have any ginger to put in this dish, but if you do, I bet it will be awesome.  Add the fresh ginger, jalapeno, chili powder, and a cup of chicken stock.
Then add half a cup of almond butter, some diced tomatoes, and a splash of vinegar.  Let that come to a simmer/mild boil.  Add three cups of diced (cooked) chicken.
This dish is also good over regular rice, which is what Kyle ate.  And Kalyn is completely right - the green onions really make this dish.  They add some great flavor and texture.

West African Chicken with Almond Butter Sauce

  • 1-2 T coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 T finely minced ginger root
  • 2 tsp. finely minced jalapeno
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 T cider vinegar
  • 3 cups diced, cooked chicken
  • S&P to taste
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced diagonally

1.  Heat coconut oil in a medium pot, saute onion.  Add ginger and jalapenos and saute about 2 minutes. Add the chili powder, and saute about 1 minute more.

2.  Add chicken stock, almond butter, tomatoes, and apple cider vinegar, stir, and bring to a slight boil. As soon as it starts to boil, lower heat to a very gentle simmer, add chicken, and let simmer 10-15 minutes.

3.  While mixture simmers, slice green onions.  Serve hot over (cauli) rice, with a generous handful of green onion slices on each serving.

28 March 2012

Stuffed Red Peppers

This recipe is eye-catching and really easy to put together.  Serve it with rice to make it extra filling, or serve it by itself to keep it Paleo.
I used to be a very picky eater.  I've gotten a lot better about it - I'd describe my eating habits as "adventurous" these days - but there are still some things I don't do.  Dressings.  Mayo.  Eggs, unless they're packed with other tasty things.  Very salty things.  There are some things, however, that you will find all over my blog.  Anything that could be remotely classified as "Mexican."  Anything spicy.  Green peppers.  Chili.  Virtually any stir-fry.

I like to think of stuffed peppers as a tasty stir-fry all wrapped up in a pretty pepper package.  Say that three times fast. 

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbs EVOO
1 lb ground venison (or turkey)
1 cup of corn (or one can)
1 cup of chopped cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
S&P to taste
5 or 6 bell peppers, tops cut cleanly off and insides removed

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Saute the onion and garlic in EVOO.  Mostly because I like to make these flavors a little milder because I'm not a huge fan of either.  Feel free to skip this step.

3.  Mix up EVERYTHING but the peppers.  Put the peppers on a cookie sheet and stuff each pepper to the top of the cut.  Mine kept falling over so I used toothpicks to hold them in formation.  Put the tops on and bake for an hour.

The tops should stay on well.  If they come off, you risk the stuffing getting a little crispy
When they come out, the peppers should be tender and the stuffing should be juicy :)
Unless the tops are burnt, everything is edible but the stem!

26 March 2012

Super Paleo Snack

I have tried to find good Paleo appetizers and snacks, but I have to say, they are somewhat lacking.  There are plenty of guacamole recipes and dip recipes of all kinds...but what do you dip in them?  Almond crackers don't seem to quite fit (maybe if I salted them...), and dipping green peppers into guacamole seems a little redundant.  So let's change it up a little bit.  Let's expand our horizons.
Let me introduce you to Pizza Bites and/or Salami Chips.  Inspired by this recipe, I'm going to tell you right now that sometimes I just eat pizza bites for dinner.  They make a great appetizer, too - even if you're not on a Paleo diet!  The folks over at health-bent seem to be okay with cheese, although it is something I have chosen to abstain from (for Lent only, I promise - I'm not forgetting that cheese wheel I just made!).

Now, this really only works if you can find some good quality salami (the recipe I followed called for preservative-free pepperoni from Applegate farms).  These are a larger diameter than your regular pizza pepperoni.  Deli cut, if you will.  So take your salami or pepperoni and put it on a baking sheet.  Bake at 400* for four minutes, then take them out and flip them.  Bake for four more minutes.
They should get slightly crispy.  And if they're like the salami I used, they'll also form themselves into handy little bowls that you can fill with tomato sauce + pizza spices, your favorite pizza toppings, and cheese.  The ones in the photo below have red peppers, mushrooms and fennel. 
After you've added toppings, the salami will not get any crispier, so now you just need to bake the toppings to your preference - 5 to 10 minutes.  Such a great appetizer!

Or, if you are looking for something to dip into your guacamole, cut all the crispy salamis in half.  The thicker the cut, the more robust your "chips" will be.  But if they are thin, no worries - you can just spoon topping onto them.
So check that out!  Another 2-for-1 appetizer.  Once again, I will admit to eating salami chips with guac for dinner.
This is my 100th post!  And since having a couple recipes make it to pinterest, I've been seeing some decent traffic lately.  Maybe it's time to upgrade the blog and actually spend a little time on how it looks.  I'm also working on a recipe page, you can get a sneak peak HERE but thus far I...haven't figured out how to add it to my links sidebar.  Sorry, between work and cooking, this blog is really more of a hobby :)

23 March 2012

Double Chocolate Orange Torte

This recipe comes from Elana's Pantry, my go-to source for somewhat Paleo-friendly desserts.  Her picture is much prettier than mine, in case you're considering making this recipe.
The recipe is reposted below, along with my substitutions.

In the blender goes 1/2 a cup of dark chocolate chips, pulsed until coarsely ground.  Add 1/2 cup of almond flour and 1/4 cup cocoa powder. 
Thus far, it was a really appetizing mix - such a pretty brown.
Add to that a tsp of salt, 3 eggs, 1/2 a cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of sesame oil and coconut oil, and 1 tbs of orange zest.  I would count this photo among my favorites of all the food I've photographed.
After the batter is well mixed, add another half cup of chocolate chips.  Bake this at 350* for 20-25 minutes.  I used a pie plate and it worked very well.
For being gluten-free, this torte is very moist.  I recommend eating it warm :)

Double Chocolate Orange Torte
½ cup dark chocolate chips
½ cup blanched almond flour (or almond meal)
¼ cup cacao powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs
½ cup agave nectar (I used organic sugar)
½ cup grapeseed oil (I used half coconut oil and half sesame seed oil)
1 tablespoon orange zest
½ cup dark chocolate chips
  1. Place ½ cup chocolate chips in a blender and pulse until coarsely ground to the texture of gravel
  2. Pulse in almond meal, cacao powder and salt and process until well combined, about 10 seconds then put in mixing bowl
  3. Add eggs to mixing bowl and stir, then add in sugar, the oils and orange zest
  4. Stir all ingredients together until smooth
  5. Stir in second ½ cup of chocolate chips using a spoon or spatula
  6. Transfer batter into a pie plate
  7. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean

21 March 2012

Chili Cook-Off...Disaster

The first time my mom asked me to make chili, I was baffled.  “Isn’t there a recipe?” I asked her.  “No…you just add some of this and some of that,” she replied.  What could this mean?  What are the things that you put in chili?  This is back before I ever really started cooking, and I was comfortably oblivious – similar to the way you aren’t really sure how to get to Traverse City until you actually start driving.  Or your other favorite distant town.  So I would add an ingredient, per her instructions, then run back to where she was working to ask for the next item to add.  I’m a little ashamed to admit now that Mom always put the tomatoes and onions in the blender, because I really disliked both of them, and I refused to eat the chunks. 

How things have changed!  I never use a recipe.  If you want to know how many tomatoes or the quantity of jalapeno I put in the chili, I could never tell you.  It turns out almost exactly the same every time though.  I even have a secret ingredient now!  And a secret process. 

Or maybe you’d rather hear about where this chili took a wrong turn and ended up in Disasterville.  There’s nothing quite like making a disaster dish, and then serving it to your family, or entering it into a cook-off and serving it to all your coworkers.  I have one HUGE piece of advice regarding that.  Make a practice round first.  If you’re making something for the first time ever, don’t wait until the day before you’re contributing to a big meal.  I truly considered a practice round of chili, but I didn’t want to spend all the money on ingredients, and I didn’t want to end up eating chili for weeks on end.

Alright.  Enough talk.  Let’s get down and dirty.
EVOO and chili vegetables (you know, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and for some heat, peperoncinis).  Roast 'em in the oven for half an hour at 400*.  Actually, roast them for more than half an hour.  Wrong Turn #1 - didn't roast long enough.
This saves actual working time because then I didn't have to chop everything up.  After roasting, I threw these bad boys (in small batches) into the blender.
I got a hunk of meat.  MAJOR Wrong Turn #2.  I never ever cook with beef because a) I don't like it, b) it's hard to find grass-fed and c) it's really fatty.  I must have gotten the cheapest cut in the world because I have never seen so much fatty fat in my life.
So I threw that disgusting beast in the crockpot and covered him with my pureed roasted veggies and turned the crockpot on low for eight hours.  Don't forget to add spices!  Cumin, coriander, chili powder, lime-chili powder, garlic powder...and the secret ingredient - a hint of cinnamon.
Next step:  "shred" the beef.  There were so many veins of fat it was less shredding and more cutting.  I almost cried.  This was the most disgusting thing I have done in a while, and I am so ashamed that I even bought such an unsustainable, unhealthy, and mistreated piece of meat.  I'm not going to lie, I compromised my values to save money.  If I buy expensive meat, I want to put it into something that I'll actually get to eat.
Wrong Turn #3:  Underestimating the size of the crockpot.  With all the meat and veggies (and a can of kidney beans), it was only about half full.  Panic time.  Unfreeze a ton of tomatoes, chop up more peppers, add MORE tomatoes...
Look at the sheen of the fat on the top.  Wow.  So I mixed all that crap together and left it in the crockpot on low until morning.  I delivered it to the lunchroom at around 10:30am and added half a cup of chopped cilantro.

Wrong turn #4:  never cooking chili in a crockpot before.  All the spicy peppers I put in there were neutralized.  The roasted flavor was neutralized.  The cilantro, even in that short time, was mostly neutralized.  Luckily the cinnamon was neutralized, because I'd added too much.

Holy crap!  Four wrong turns?  How did I ever win first place?  Just kidding.  I didn't place at all.  I didn't even like my own chili.  LESSONS LEARNED. 

Just for the record, I made an amazing roasted chili a couple months ago with the perfect roasting time, venison burger, and NO crockpot.  It was the best chili I've ever had, which is probably why I was so cocky about this chili cook-off.  Oh well.  I guess there's always next year...

19 March 2012

St. Patrick's Day

It's one of my favorite holidays!  Despite that, I didn't really have any particular plans for this Saturday.  I would like to go to Chicago some year and see the river turn green.  So make yourself a Shamrock Shake, and let's talk about how utterly fantastic the weather has been this March.

This is the lake on the 14th.  It was about 70 degrees out, but the lake was still frozen over.  The fog was crazy.
On the 17th, my parents wanted to go out to Golden Rule Farms to pick up some summer gardening supplies (as well as some hoophouse materials).  Golden Rule supplies to a restaurant up in Traverse, so we decided to head up there for lunch.  Trattoria Stella at The Commons - you might recall that Kyle and I went to The Commons for Valentine's.  And as it turns out, we were just in time to see the parade.
I think it goes without saying that my favorite float was the one that supplied the crowd with Irish flags!
It was about 80 degrees out - more than just a balmy March day in Northern Michigan!  So we walked on down to the bay to stick our toes in the water.  Here's Mom, right after she lost feeling in her ankles...
Pick your favorite shade of blue-green, Traverse has them all.
And after enjoying the sun, we headed up to the Jolly Pumpkin for some beers.  The centerpiece on our table was a shamrock plant - I'd never seen one before.  The manager didn't know where they had gotten it, so I offered to buy it...but he said I could just take it!
Free Irish flags and shamrocks?  Does life get any better than that?
Yes, it does.  When we got home, the lake had nearly melted.  In fact, it was one of the first great sunsets of the year.  And on Sunday, the rest of the ice disappeared.  Happy St. Pat's, everyone!

17 March 2012

Greek Style Meatballs with Tomato Fennel Stew

I bought a fennel bulb while grocery shopping.  I've never done fennel before, so I scavenged the internet for the perfect recipe.  These meatballs sounded perfect.
Adapted recipe posted below.  It calls for a small eggplant, which is another ingredient I've never used before.  So I had no idea what a "small" was, but I'm really doubting that this fits the bill:
However, it was all I had, so I sliced it up and roasted it with the fennel bulb (400* for 12 minutes)
After sauteing some onions and garlic, I added the fennel along with 2 cans of diced tomatoes and 1/2 a cup of chicken stock to make the stew.
In the meantime, I mixed the juice and zest of one lemon, an egg, 2 tbs of fresh mint, the mashed eggplant, and a pound of turkey burger in a bowl.  Apparently the juice was supposed to go in the stew, and it made my meatballs a little...more liquidy.
Bake at 400* for 15 minutes.  While they're in the oven, simmer the stew.  The meatballs created a really nice broth to add the stew.
Add the meatballs to the stew and simmer for a few minutes longer, then serve up!
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 egg
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 3 T fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 medium fennel bulb
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans crushed, fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 c chicken stock
  • S&P

1. Skin the eggplant and slice it the long way.  Slice the fennel bulb thinly and remove the core.  Place both of these on a baking sheet with liberal use of evoo and S&P and bake at 400* for 12 minutes.  Remove the eggplant and put the fennel back in for another ten minutes.  Slice or mash up the eggplant and mix it with the turkey.  Add to the turkey mixture the mint, egg, and lemon zest (ZEST - NOT the juice).

2.  Saute the onion and garlic in a soup pot.  Throw a couple scoops of it in with the turkey.  When the fennel comes out of the oven, add it to the soup pot, along with the lemon juice, cans of tomatoes and chicken stock.

3.  Use the fennel baking sheet and form meatballs.  Bake them for 15 minutes, all the while simmering the stew.  When the meatballs come out of the oven, add them to the stew and simmer for a few more minutes.  Then plate it up and serve with a garnish of fennel greens.