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Paleo lunches for the week!  2 hardboiled eggs and about an ounce and a half of beef summer sausage, chopped.  Both mixed with a little mustard and then topped with homemade kimchi.  Trust me—it’s yummier than you’d expect, and the perfect paleo meal!

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Last weekend I hosted a housewarming/congratulations on your new baby/going away party with several of my close friends.  (Why not multi-task, right?)  

The dinner was Mexican-themed:

Appetizers:

Pomegranate guacamole

Roasted tomatillo salsa

Red salsa

Mahi-Mahi ceviche

Pan-fried yucca chips

Mains:

Flank steak with cilantro-parsley chimichurri, taco-style

Shrimp fajitas

Green salad with creamy avocado dressing

Dessert:

Dairy-free flan

I didn’t manage to get pictures of everything, as my kitchen was a whirlwind as I tried to pull everything together.  (Many thanks to Vinnie for his help and major props for his chimichurri, which is consistently amazing—much better than any I’ve made!)  But I did get pictures of some of the items:

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Gluten-free chocolate cupcakes filled with dairy-free dark chocolate ganache and topped with buttercream frosting for the boyfriend’s 30th birthday!  So much deliciousness!  So late in the blogging—he’s been 30 for 16 days!  AACK!

You might think gluten-free, dairy-free desserts sound nasty.  You’d be wrong.  These were startlingly delicious.  These are clearly not paleo, because they aren’t sugar-free, but one makes exceptions for 30th birthdays.  And since we’re already 16 days late with this, without further ado:

Ingredients:


1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten free flour mix

1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

3/4 cup warm water

3/4 cup coconut milk

3 tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  

Add wet ingredients and mix until combined.

Fill cupcake papers 2/3 full.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until cupcakes spring back when touched.

On to the ganache!

This was quite simple:  Chop 16 ounces of dark chocolate.  Combine 2 c. coconut cream, 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar, and 1/8 t. salt in a saucepan and bring to boil.  Pour over chocolate and whisk.

I used an injecting tool to inject about 1 T. of ganache into the center of each cupcake.

Onto the frosting!

Ingredients:

2 c. butter

4 c. confectioners’ sugar

1/2 t. vanilla extract

food coloring

To prepare:

Mix butter until uniformly creamy.  Add sugar, 1/2 c. at a time, until combined.  Add vanilla and mix.  Add food coloring until desired color is achieved.  (Also, don’t ever, EVER, EVER substitute lard for butter in a dessert… I speak from near-disastrous experience.)  ;)

I served these with homemade, dairy-free vanilla gelato with a dairy-free caramel swirl—to rave reviews.  I started a 30-day sugar detox today, but I’m almost getting my sugar fix just thinking about these!

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I got a food dehydrator this past Christmas, and this past week I FINALLY got around to making beef jerky in it.  Jerky, as it turns out, is extraordinarily easy to make, with an extraordinarily delicious payoff.  Read on.

Ingredients:

1 lb. grass fed london broil (or other lean cut)

2/3 c. worcestershire sauce

2/3 c. tamari (or soy sauce, if you wish)

1 T. grade B maple syrup

2 t. freshly ground black pepper

2 t. onion powder

1 t. liquid smoke

1 t. crushed red pepper

To prepare:

To make it easier to slice, place meat in freezer for about 30 minutes before slicing.  

Slice thinly, with the grain, into long strips about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

Whisk marinade ingredients together.  

Pour marinade over beef strips (I like ziplock bags for this) and refrigerate overnight.  

Although the directions on my dehydrator recommended 4-14 hours of drying time at 160 degrees, I found that far too long; my first batch was terribly over-dried.  Just 2 hours made my next batch just right.

Simple and delicious paleo snack!  And it’s so gratifying to make it yourself.  No preservatives, the choicest beef… you can’t beat this!

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I get a little carried away in the grocery store.  Especially one filled with exciting and exotic ingredients, like my local Asian market.  Some people spend their extra bucks on shoes or gadgets; mine goes right in my fridge—fodder for the laboratory.  But sometimes  (okay, many times) I get carried away and end up with tons of extra ingredients on hand that I have to use before they spoil.  (Looking in my fridge you’d never know I live alone.)  The following recipe comes from one of those times:  so many extra ingredients just waiting to be transformed.  

I had gotten carried away in the produce section of the Tai Nam Market and ended up with purple basil, Thai spicy basil, and jalapenos—in bulk.  Can I make something coherent and delicious out of that?  I say of course!  I went for a spicy, Thai-inspired pesto.  The results were delicious.

Ingredients:

2 packed cups fresh basil leaves (I used purple and thai basil)

8 jalapenos, roasted, peeled and seeded (instructions below)

4-5 cloves of garlic

1/4 medium onion

1/3 cup nuts (usually pinenuts or walnuts are used for pesto; I had hazelnuts on hand, so that’s what I used)

the juice of one lime

1/4 c. coconut milk

3/4 c. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

To prepare:

First, roast your jalapenos.  Having a gas oven with a real (open flame) broiler makes this really easy, but it’s not necessary.  Broil peppers directly under broiler (on top rack) or stovetop, right on the burner, turning at intervals until the skin blackens and blisters.

The easiest way to peel the peppers is to put them into a paper bag for 5-10 minutes while they are still hot before peeling.  This loosens the skins, making them easy to remove.  After peeling them, seed them, making sure to remove all seeds, or else this will be too spicy to eat!

Now you’re ready to assemble your pesto.  Combine basil, peppers, garlic, onion and nuts in food processor and pulse until it forms a paste.
Add lime juice, coconut milk, salt and pepper and mix.  With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil.
The resulting bright green pesto is delicious and versatile.  I ate this on spaghetti squash, as a dip for carrots, and on my eggs.  Yum!
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To go with my so-very-Italian entree, I wanted a so-very-Italian dessert.  And what’s more Italian—and more suitable for summer in an un-air-conditioned apartment—than gelato? This particular gelato was dense, creamy, rich, and delicious.  Read on.

Ingredients:

For hazelnut paste:

3/4 c. hazelnuts, toasted and skinned (plus extra, coarsely chopped, for garnish, if desired)

1 T. coconut oil

1 T. sugar

pinch of salt

Prepare: To make the hazelnut paste, simply pulse nuts, oil, sugar and salt in food processor until combined into a paste—about 2 minutes.  This yields about 1/3 cup.

For the gelato:

3 c. coconut milk

4 egg yolks

1/2 c. coconut cream

3/4 c. sugar

pinch of salt

4-5 oz. of dark chocolate, chopped

To prepare:

Combine milk and hazelnut paste in medium saucepan over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges—about 5 minutes.  Do not allow to boil.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar, coconut cream, and salt.  Whisk until smooth and sugar begins to dissolve.

Remove milk from heat and gradually whisk about 1/2 cup into egg mixture to temper the eggs.  Next, pour the tempered egg mixture into saucepan with milk mixture, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Keep the custard at a low simmer until it thickens enough so that you can draw a line in it on the back of your spoon—around 5 minutes.  Do not allow it to boil.

Next, in a heatproof bowl, pour custard over chopped chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted.

Cover custard with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate 4-24 hours before freezing in an ice cream maker, according to the maker’s instructions (about 20-25 minutes for mine).  Makes about 1 delicious quart.
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My gentleman friend’s family is Italian.  Quite.  His maternal, Neapolitan grandmother used to make genovese sauce which, as some internet research informed me, is the traditional pasta sauce of Naples.  Not tomato-based, not cream-based, not basil-based, genovese is… wait for it… onion-based.  And oh-so-delicious.

How a Genovese dish became the customary dish of Naples appears to be a bit of a mystery, but there are internet murmurings about the private chefs of Genovese merchants…  but really, who knows.

All of the recipes I found called for beef, but Vinnie doesn’t remember his grandmother ever cooking it that way; he remembers it as primarily onions.  I did find an internet article that said meat was a more recent addition in the long history of the Neapolitan sauce, that onions, less expensive, were the primary ingredient with just a little beef, or scraps of salami or whatever was on hand thrown in as flavoring.

I imagine that, just as American mothers will make a casserole out of whatever leftovers are in the fridge, and Chinese mothers might throw whatever is on hand in the stir-fry, there are probably as many little variations of genovese sauce as there are Neapolitan mothers.  At any rate, I consulted several recipes and combined what seemed to be their best elements for a truly delicious dinner.

Ingredients:

2 lbs. grass-fed top round, tied with twine at intervals to form a log

7 yellow onions, thinly sliced

1-2 oz, each: salami, pancetta, proscuitto

2 cloves of garlic

2 carrots

2 ribs celery

1 c. white wine

1 T. tomato paste (or just the juice from 1 can of tomatoes—I had no tomato paste on hand)—but the addition of any tomato paste/juice is entirely optional!

1/4 c. + 2 T. olive oil

salt & pepper

Preparation:

Heat 1/4 c. olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over low heat.  Add the onions.  

Mince the salami, pancetta, and proscuitto together with the garlic to form a paste.  (I used my food processor for this.)  Heat 2 T. olive oil in cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add pork paste to soften.  Add beef log and brown on all sides.  

Add the beef to the onion pot and cover with onions.  Add a bit of the wine to the skillet to deglaze the pan and pour the contents, along with the browned pork bits, into the pot with the beef and onions.  
Make sure the heat is on very low and your patience quotient is very high.  Now it is time to simmer for 3-5 hours.  Dice the celery and carrots.
After about an hour, add the carrots, celery, and a bit more wine.  Flip the meat, stir things around, re-cover the beef with onions, go watch some TV, or better, get in a workout.
Come back, stir things around, add tomato paste/juice if using, salt and pepper, and some more wine.  Let it cook some more.  Slowly.  Be careful not to burn your sauce!
About an hour before you’re ready to eat, prepare the spaghetti squash.  (You can do this any number of ways.  I prefer to halve and [olive] oil the squash and roast, cut side down, in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes before scooping out with a fork.)
About 20 minutes before you’re ready to eat, remove the beef and let it rest.  
Remove the twine and cut the beef into bite-sized chunks before returning it to the sauce.
Final step: savor the delectable deliciousness.  This was really wonderful, definitely repeatable and infinitely experiment-worthy.  I’d love to try it with just/mostly onions—they are so sweet after cooking so long and slow!
And one wonderful thing about Paleo?  Spaghetti squash tastes SO much better cold than pasta does!  This is all so delicious cold, I haven’t even tried the leftovers warm yet!
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It’s still deliciously sweltering in Chicago and I’m still making delicious swelter-alleviating treats with my ice cream maker.  (Best gift ever?  Sure seems that way this week!)

When culinary inspiration hits, I often have a hard time resisting it.  Maple-bacon ice cream?  Now THAT is inspired.  Pretty simple, too.

Ingredients:

3/4 c. maple-candied bacon (instructions to follow—about 3/4 lb. bacon + 1/3 c. maple syrup)

1/3+ c. MORE maple syrup (grade B is better for you and just as tasty)

1 15oz. can of coconut cream

Method:

For the bacon:  Spread bacon slices on a cookie sheet and brush with maple syrup.  Cook in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes, turning and basting halfway through.  Keep an eye on it toward the end; it will burn quickly once it reaches a certain point.

For the base:  Whisk coconut cream with a generous 1/3 c. of maple syrup.  Refrigerate while bacon is cooking.

Once bacon has reached desired crispness, remove it from the oven, chop or crumble it, and stick it in the freezer for a few minutes to bring it back down to room temperature or cooler—otherwise your ice cream won’t freeze as it should.

Combine the bacon with the base and follow the instructions on your ice cream maker.  This took about 20 minutes in the maker for me.

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It’s hot.  I made—and quickly drank—some lemonade.

3 lemons, juiced, 2 T. sugar, 1.5 c. cold water.  Mmmm.

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One of the dinnertime staples of my childhood was Thai fried rice.  We had it often, and I never grew tired of it.  Instead, I eventually mastered it and it remained one of my go-to dishes for a long time—I even have former roommates who’ve said how much they missed that about living with me.  (To be fair, I also have former roommates who couldn’t abide the strong smell of fish sauce, which is absolutely crucial to Thai fried rice.  Unlike Chinese fried rice, the Thai variety does NOT use ginger, and fish sauce is a non-negotiable.  I also make mine with Thai spicy basil.)  

I moved to a new apartment recently, and now live quite near the Vietnamese neighborhood and thus have several GREAT East Asian grocery stores nearby.  So many of my favorite ingredients, formerly hard for me to come by, are suddenly available, and on the cheap!  Hooray!

I’ve made riced cauliflower dishes since going Paleo just over a year ago, but I believe this is the first time I’ve tried my fried rice with it, and oh, how I’ve missed it.  What follows is my basic Thai fried rice recipe, made paleo by using riced cauliflower rather than basmati rice, and tamari rather than soy sauce.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get many pictures.  But now that I know how successful this is, I’m sure I’ll make it again—and take pictures next time!

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower, raw and riced in the food processor

3 chicken breasts, diced into bite-size pieces

2 small-medium onions, diced

1.5 bell peppers, diced

2 jalapenos, seeded and diced

2 carrots, peeled and grated

2 eggs, beaten

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/3 c. fish sauce (or to taste—I added a bit more)

1 T. tamari

2 T. oyster sauce

2 T. sugar (gasp!  but it’s just a little considering how much rice this makes.)

2 t. white pepper

2-3 green onions, sliced 

1 c. spicy Thai basil, roughly chopped

1 lime, sliced for garnish

Olive oil, for cooking (about 2-3 T.)

(You can obviously sub in your favorite veggies and/or protein, but this is my basic combination.)

Method:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken, cooking until no longer pink.  Add onions, garlic, peppers, and carrot, cooking to soften.  Make a well in the center of the skillet and pour in beaten eggs, stirring to scramble.  Give everything a good stir to combine before adding cauliflower, fish sauce, tamari, oyster sauce, sugar and pepper.  Stir to mix and heat through and until cauliflower softens.  Note that the cauliflower gives off a lot of water, unlike rice, so you may want to turn up the heat to cook some of the moisture off.  Or just use a slotted spoon.  Your call.  Next, add green onions and basil and combine.  Serve with a slice of lime.

The flavor combination of this is delicious and unique—very different from chinese-style fried rice.  It’s also delicious cold as leftovers!  Enjoy.