June 22, 2014

Cookies with a Kick


 Sorry for the length between posts these days. This summer apparently had its own agenda which substantially deviated from the agenda I created. I moved last week and have not had the chance to take pictures of much of what I've been making.

Anyway, I moved in with a wonderful couple; and, the wife was telling me that she loves Cayenne with dark chocolate... a combination I had never heard of, let alone tried. She's really into Crossfit and eating healthy; so, naturally, I looked for a paleo dark chocolate cookie recipe. I settled on this one: Dark Chocolate Chunk Macadamia Nut Cookies

Once the dough was mixed and before I added the chocolate chips or macadamia nuts, I split the dough in half. I baked one-half without any modifications, a/k/a spice, and added 1 tsp. to the other half. So, if you're making the whole batch spicy, add about 2 tsp. cayenne. The taste will be strong if you taste the dough, but remember you're still adding chocolate chips and nuts.

The dough does not rise or flatten much at all. I used a spatula to flatten the tops of the second batch because the first batch came out still in the shape of the cookie scoop.

I have to say I was skeptical of the cayenne and scared it would ruin a perfectly good dark chocolate cookie, but it doesn't at all! You really can't even taste it until afterwards when you're left with a subtly increasing aftertaste of a little kick.

With or without the cayenne, this recipe is great. I had forgotten what paleo cookies tasted/felt like because I haven't baked in a while and there's basically no paleo around here. It was nice to have a sweet treat after a great dinner without the guilt. And, I love the macadamia nuts!

June 12, 2014

Summer Weeknight Baby Backs

There is nothing like baby back ribs and corn-on-the-cob on the back porch on a summer evening. Nothing.

I think today may be the day that "ribs" were revolutionized. Up until today, ribs have been an all-day venture in my family which only happens once in a while for a big event or special occasion. My mom bakes them all day, turning them periodically and then grills them to perfection with BBQ sauce. And these days can only happen when we can be at home all day for her to flip them at just the right times. I was lucky enough to have my mom's and my aunt's ribs (who takes almost the same approach and started baking them at 4:30am) within a two-week period this summer. This is not something I've attempted to do on my own and have rendered Baby Back Ribs as something I leave to Mom.

So as I was still in the ribs craze and just moving into my summer town, I noticed that baby back ribs were on sale at the local grocery store. I thought this would be great. I'll just buy enough for one night's dinner and will totally love having that after work one night. Well, that was a great idea until I realized - as I was planning this week's meals and cooking the ribs became reality - that I work all day. I don't have the time to execute what needs to be done to make them even edible compared to my mom's, or aunt's. Then it hit me.

The key is moisture and time... ding, ding ding! Crock pot! I have to say... these Summer Weeknight Baby Backs come darn close to meeting the standard.

Summer Weeknight Baby Backs
Baby Back Pork Ribs
garlic powder
onion powder
bay leaf
water
Gluten-Free BBQ sauce

Rub the ribs with garlic powder and onion powder - or any of your favorite spices. Place in the bottom of the crock pot. Fill the crock pot with water until the ribs are completely covered by the water, with at least an inch to spare. Throw in a bay leaf - or two, if you're making a decent amount of ribs. I only made 1 serving. Put the crock pot on low for about 8 hours (or your day at work).

When you get home, heat up the grill. Carefully (they're going to be falling off!) take the ribs out of the crock pot and put them on the grill. Slather with BBQ sauce and heat just enough so the BBQ sauce and ribs become one. DONE! 

Seriously, I had to eat mine with a fork because they fell off the bone. I made mine with Roasted Sweet Potatoes (Recipe Book) and Sauteed Kale which is just sauteed with coconut oil and drizzled with red wine vinegar.

June 10, 2014

Sweet Potato Sliders

My mind was on food all day at work today, for some reason. I haven't been cooking anything too exciting lately, but my juices were flowing today. This has to be one of the most exciting meals I've made; and, it's in this crappy apartment which makes it even more exciting. I pulled a pre-formed turkey burger out of the freezer this morning and planned on making that with roasted sweet potatoes... plain as plain can be. All of sudden, BAM! This idea hit me... SWEET POTATO SLIDERS & Kale Chips!


Here's how it went. I sliced part of my huge sweet potato into 8 slices about 1/4" thick and layed them in a single layer of an 8x8 cake dish lined with aluminum foil. Coat each side of each slice with coconut oil. Then sprinkle with sea salt. Roast at 400 for about 20 minutes. I put mine in as the oven was still heating.

Meanwhile, prepare the Kale Chips as in this recipe. Once 20 minutes have passed for the sweet potatoes, drop the oven temperature to 350 and put the kale chips in, leaving the sweet potatoes to finish.

Take one turkey burger, or the equivalent amount of ground turkey, and divide it into 4 pieces. Add a sprinkle of Rosemary and re-form each piece into its own patty. Heat a table-top grill or skillet with 1 tbsp. coconut oil. Cook the patties like you would the whole burger... but they won't take nearly as long. When the potatoes are done, take them out and put them in a single layer on a napkin or paper towel to dry off the excess oil. Put on a plate and top each one with a sliver of avocado. Top each with a slider. Crumble goat cheese over each one and top with the other 4 sweet potato slices.

Take the kale chips out - it should have been about 20 minutes since they went in now - and put in a single layer on a new paper towel or napkin to rid the excess oil. Serve with your sliders!

The sweet potatoes are firm enough to hold everything together but soft enough to make for two bites of so many flavors melded together!

Sweet Potato Sliders (1 serving of 4 Sliders)
8 sweet potato slices, 1/4" thick
coconut oil

1 turkey burger, or the equivalent of ground turkey
~1 tsp. crushed rosemary
~1/4 avocado
~1 tbsp. goat cheese

Heat oven to 400. Coat both sides of sweet potato slices with coconut oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, add rosemary to the turkey burger or ground turkey and form into 4 smaller patties. When there is about 5 minutes left on the sweet potatoes, grill or fry the patties until cooked. This won't take long because of how small they are.

Take the sweet potatoes out of the oven and place in a single layer on a paper towel or napkin to drain the excess oil. Place 4 on a plate and top with small slivers of avocado. Top each with a slider patty. Crumble goat cheese over each slider. Top with the other 4 sweet potato slices.

June 9, 2014

Baltimore Farmers' Market

On Sunday, my Uncle showed me heaven. Seriously, it was paleo heaven. All of the vendors were from local farms and offered unique products. It was so heavenly that I spent wayy too much money and didn't even think twice. Nor did I have any regrets. If you're ever driving through Baltimore or the surrounding area on a Sunday morning, you're making a mistake if you don't stop to visit this market.

I came home with 1.1 lbs. of Ground Bison ($10.75), 12 farm-fresh eggs ($3.00), pecan butter ($7.00) and cashew butter ($6.00), dog treats to report back to my mom for my babies at home ($2.00) and a tummy full of AMAZING samples, including Sheep's Milk cheese.  Have you ever tried this? Do we know if it's paleo?

My Uncle got even cooler stuff! He bought a container of Cranberry Horseradish Goat Cheese ($12.00) which is so yummy, Gouda Goat Cheese & locally grown and made hard cider as well as cashew butter, farm-fresh eggs & ground bison. I can't wait to have it with a burger!

The produce seemed to be over-priced and no different than that which I can find in a grocery store. What products do you bring home from your favorite Farmers' Market?

June 8, 2014

Blackberry Syrup

I'm really into alliterations lately. Considering today's breakfast menu, I really wanted to come up with an obnoxious one for the title of this post - so many "B" words were running through my mind... Breakfast, Blackberries, Bananas, Beautiful. You get my drift. I figured I'd save myself the embarrassment and this page its dignity.

 Either way, I had blackberries on the verge of spoiling, a banana that was either getting frozen or used and 2 eggs left. That means... banana pancakes and blackberry syrup.

Usually when I make banana pancakes, I use a banana that's been frozen. Today I used a fresh banana and used an electric mixer instead of a hand whisk which I usually use. The batter looked a little runny, so I added a few things. Here's what I did.

Fresh Banana Pancakes
2 eggs
1 banana
1/4 cup cashew flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Mix all ingredients together and fry in coconut oil.

Blackberry Syrup
1/4 cup blackberries
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat blackberries, water and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat until boiling, stirring frequently. Once berries have softened, smash with a fork as much as possible. Continue stirring. Once it has boiled down, add vanilla extract and reduce heat. Simmer until pancakes are finished.

June 7, 2014

Clean Cajun

I've been having serious WholeFoods withdrawals lately, so I stopped at the WholeFoods downtown Baltimore today on my way to my aunt and uncle's for the night. I didn't have any plans for dinner, so I picked just starting grabbing things with a skeleton of an idea in mind. Here's the list:

1 squash
1 zucchini
1 tomato
1 red bell pepper
1/2 red onion
1/4 lb. Large shrimp
1 link Pork Andoille sausage

That's all you need for a great meal with so much flavor and no added ingredients.

Chop all of the vegetables into large chunks. Heat about a tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the veggies. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Cover and stir occasionally. 


Peel the shrimp and slice the sausage (leaving the case on). Heat about 1.5 tablespoons olive oil in a separate skillet. Add the sausage and sautee until almost fully cooked. They should brown and crisp on the edges. Sprinkle the vegetables with garlic powder. Add the shrimp and cook until pink on both sides. The vegetables should be tender and stewed by this point. 

Serve in a bowl with the shrimp and sausage over the vegetables. 


June 6, 2014

Paleo Cereal

There's no fruitbowl this week - I'm sorry! This job has me so busy, and I'm really not making anything exciting these days.

Cereal is one of the things that is almost completely cut out when your diet is paleo. But, there's something comforting about a bowl of yumminess and a spoon in the mornings. Some companies make products that are similar to cereal, but they're usually expensive and, obviously, not fresh.

So, I've come up with a way to circumvent the grains in most mainstream cereals. You can do this with almost any berry or chopped fruit and chopped nuts. Here's what I've done recently to make "paleo cereal."
  • Bananas & Chocolate - 1/2 banana sliced, raw cashews (broken into pieces), pecans (broken into pieces), cacao nibs and almond milk
  • Nuts.com Kale Granola, raisins, sliced almonds and coconut milk
  • Almond milk over blueberries, sliced almonds and chopped pecans

June 5, 2014

Kale Chips

Kale chips are an awesome snack that satisfies that craving for something crispy!

I just made my first ever batch of homemade kale chips! All I did was dry the kale with a paper towel, drizzle and toss with coconut oil, sprinkle with sea salt and bake at 350 until crispy - about 12 minutes. When they came out of the oven, I put them on a napkin over a plate to soak up the extra oil.

They come out crispy and delicious! I'm thinking next time I'll experiment with some garlic powder, or maybe some vinegar to do a play on salt and vinegar.

If you've made kale chips, how do you make them?

June 4, 2014

Cheddar's

My uncle and I both experienced - yes, it was an experience - Cheddar's for the first time last night. I saw it as I was driving aimlessly around town last week and texted him about it. So, we decided to go when he was here visiting me.

For your purposes, the food was great. For our purposes, it was quite interesting. The server had no idea what he was doing, and I ended up with a bee in my first salad.

My order: Grilled Tilapia & Shrimp with Mango Salsa - no rice - with Double Broccoli (no butter) and House Salad (no croutons) with Balsamic Vinaigrette on the side.

Other options: salmon (grilled, blackened), steak, salad, etc. Their menu was pretty paleo-friendly. Just make sure you stay away from butter and sauces as much as possible. They have a pretty decent menu for very reasonable prices!


Cheddar's Menu

June 2, 2014

Summer Grilling, 3

My aunt and uncle were out for the afternoon as I slaved away writing a paper for school yesterday. We had tossed around several ideas for dinner - paleo chicken Tikka Masala, chicken skewers on the grill, spaghetti squash - but ended up not making it to the grocery store... which meant I got to come up with something with what was already in the kitchen: my favorite! I used up a lot of fresh vegetables that were going to go bad because they weren't going to use them in time.

And, we all know I "Don't Throw Anything Away!"

I'm convinced, just like the theory that throwing all fresh ingredients you have in the kitchen into a bowl will be delicious, that anything fresh on the grill is great.

I made a Paleo Cobb Salad with:
  • butter lettuce, chopped
  • romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped
  • 2 slices turkey bacon, crumbled
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
Part of my reasoning for making such a big salad was for leftovers for my uncle who's been craving a cobb salad. He grilled a few extra chicken breast too which will be AWESOME on top of the salad the next few days.

We thawed chicken breast, so I knew that had to be the main ingredient. As time wore down to dinner-time and I realized we actually didn't have skewers, I decided it would be easiest to grill the breasts whole. So, I made a sauce similar to the Baked Tilapia (Recipe Book) sauce which can basically be used on anything - salad dressing, spaghetti squash, tilapia, salmon, chicken, etc. This sauce was actually perfect for grilling because the honey caramelized onto the chicken. Here's what I whisked together:
  • 2 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 jumbo clove garlic, pressed (2 small cloves is fine; for some reason, this clove was abnormally large!)
  • 1 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • dash cayenne pepper
 Then, I chopped:
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
and tossed them with EVOO and the grillmaster (my uncle) grilled them. This is our new favorite thing!

If you have a grill and don't have one of these baskets, you need to get one! I think they mentioned that it was fairly inexpensive, and it has proved to be one of the most useful kitchen items... there are so many possibilities! Saturday night we had a very similar combination of vegetables which we grilled the same way. Except, after they came off of the grill, my aunt tossed them with Balsamic Vinegar. I think this was great, especially with the mushrooms we used.

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June 1, 2014

Summer Grilling, 2

My aunt requested my Avocado-Stuffed Burgers for dinner last night. I re-purposed hamburger patties they had in their fridge and mashed them all together with garlic powder, onion powder, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, sea salt & pepper. Then, I mashed an avocado and a half with garlic powder and onion powder. I formed the burgers the same way as in the linked recipe, and my uncle grilled them to perfection. We topped them with sliced tomato, butter lettuce leaves, mayo (small amount) and dijon mustard.

On the side, my aunt made Balsamic-Tossed Grilled Vegetables. These were AMAZING!

brussel sprouts, halved
yellow bell pepper, chopped
green bell pepper, chopped
cherry tomatoes
baby portabello mushrooms, chopped
red onion, sliced
olive oil
~1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Put all of the vegetables into a grilling basket. Lightly drizzle with olive oil. Grill, stirring occasionally, until tender - about 15 minutes. Toss with balsamic vinegar.


Other fresh summer grilling ideas here! 
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