“Peanut” Satay Chicken

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Last night I had a real craving for peanut satay chicken. There are two problems with this when you are adhering to Whole 30. First, you aren’t supposed to have peanuts. Second, traditional satay has a whole lot of brown sugar in it. So, I decided to get creative. By using sunflower butter, I found the nutty flavor I was looking for, and the coconut milk added the touch of sweetness it needed without actually adding a sweetener! I’ll be honest, it’s not the perfect replica, but it was pretty darn close! I served it over fried cauliflower rice, which was the perfect compliment!

(Serves 2)

  • 1/3 cup sunflower butter
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teas dried minced onion
  • ½ teas garlic powder
  • ¼ – ½ teas cayenne powder
  • ¼ teas ancho chili powder
  • ½ teas lemongrass
  • ¾ teas salt
  • 1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbls coconut oil
  • Cilantro for garnish

For the rice:

  • ½ head cauliflower, whirled in a food processor to create rice like consistency
  • 1 Tbls coconut oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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  1. Slice your chicken breast across the grain into very thin slices
  2. Put your sunflower butter, coconut milk, onion, garlic, cayenne, ancho, lemongrass and salt into a medium sized sauce pot and whisk together. It may look grainy with the coconut milk, but do not fear! Heat over medium heat whisking occasionally.
  3. While your sauce is warming, melt your coconut oil in a frying / sauté pan over med high heat.
  4. Add the chicken to the coconut oil and cook just through while stirring, approximately 4 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken directly to the sauce and let it simmer while you make your cauliflower rice, or up to 45 minutes with the lid on and the head turned down low.
  6. Make your cauliflower rice by melting the coconut oil over med high heat, adding the cauliflower, salt and pepper.   Stir and flip occasionally until your rice is cooked and browned to your liking.
  7. Serve the chicken over the cauliflower and garnish with the cilantro.

Comfort Fusion

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Occasionally, I will make a pot roast, which is a bit excessive since I live alone, but sometimes, a girl needs comfort food. Invariably, I will have left overs – a LOT of them. I like left over pot roast, but I like figuring out ways to make my left overs into brand new things even more! So when it was only 15 degrees outside tonight, and soup really sounded like the best idea, (even though I really needed to eat left over pot roast), I decided to raid my pantry to see what I could figure out. My creativity was rewarded with some of the best fusion comfort food I’ve ever had. I added a poached egg to enjoy the creamy yolk in the soup, but it is totally optional if you don’t feel like going through the trouble of poaching an egg.

Pot Roast Ramen

(serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 2 servings of dry ramen noodles (you can get them at the Asian market, or use packaged ramen without the flavor seasonings)
  • approximately 6 oz of left over pot roast meat (2 small fists worth), shredded
  • 4 cups stock or broth (I used chicken because that’s what I had on hand)
  • 2 baby bella mushrooms sliced paper thin
  • 4 baby carrots sliced paper thin
  • 1 scallion sliced
  • 2 Tbls vinegar (for the poached egg)
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Directions:

  1. The soup will come together very quickly, so start by prepping your vegetables and shredding your meat.
  2. Pour boiling water over the noodles and soak for 4-5 minutes while making the rest of the soup.
  3. Heat your stock and meat on med high in a sauce pot. Add all the vegetables.
  4. In a separate pot, boil water and set to simmer. Add the vinegar. Use a spoon to swirl the water around to create a funnel or vortex in the middle and crack the two eggs into the water. Allow them to cook for approximately 2 1/2 minutes for a soft poached egg.
  5. Season your soup with salt and pepper and continue to heat.
  6. Drain your noodles and put into 2 bowls
  7. When the soup has started to simmer and the meat is heated through, ladle the soup into the bowls over the noodles.
  8. Use a slotted spoon to put one egg one the top of each bowl of soup.
  9. I sprinkled some rosemary sea salt over the top to finish it. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary if you’d like.

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My Banh Mi

My Banh Mi

I have discovered, that in my mind, there is always one classic dish or drink that defines a country or region for me. For Mexico, it’s street tacos. For Italy, it’s limoncello, espresso and gnocchi. For San Francisco, it’s sour dough bread. For Vietnam, it’s a banh mi sandwich. Invariably, there are a million ways to make that dish and every restaurant has their own “way” of doing it.

I dream of going to Vietnam someday, mostly for the food. I would eat my way across the country, taking cooking classes from the locals as I go. The banh mi sandwich was originally very simple, peasant food, really, just pate smeared on a baguette. Today, the traditional banh mi sandwich is usually pickled vegetables, chilies, sauce and a protein on a baguette. (For a much fuller history of the banh mi sandwich, I recommend visiting Andrea Nguyen’s site here.) Someday, I will get to Vietnam, and I will eat a hundred different versions of a banh mi sandwich while I’m there, but until then, I made up my own, which is not particularly authentic at all, (whoever heard of putting a brie like cheese on a banh mi sandwich?)  But I figure there is room for interpretation – it is a sandwich after all. And at the end of the day, it sure is tasty.

(Note: if you are making the baba ganouch, grilled chicken, and pickled cucumbers in order to specifically make the sandwich, it is a fair amount of time and effort to make your meal. However, if you’ve made these things previously, and your sandwich is really just “leftovers”, it will come together in a snap.)

 

Sandwich Ingredients:

  • Baguette
  • Baba ganouch (recipe below)
  • Pickled Cucumbers (recipe below)
  • Grilled chicken breast – sliced
  • Tomme Crayeuse (a cheese similar to brie)
  • Fresh cilantro

 

Baba Ganoush

Part of the beauty of baba ganoush is the flavor of grilled char that comes from cooking the eggplant on a grill. Do not underestimate the importance of grilling your eggplant – you won’t be disappointed. Also, traditionally, baba ganoush is made only with tahini, but one particular day, when I simply had to have baba ganoush, and I didn’t realize I was almost out of tahini, I substituted additional sunflower seed butter at the last moment – it turned out divine. I don’t actually measure the tahini or sunflower seed butter – since eggplants are never a consistent size either, the measurements below are “guidelines”. The point is that I used about the same amount of tahini and sunflower seed butter, but if I erred, it was on the side of adding a touch more sunflower seed butter. Don’t worry, this is a very forgiving recipe.

Baba Ganoush Ingredients:

  • 2 Eggplant (med to large sized)
  • 1/8 cup of tahini (found in Mediterranean markets or most health food stores)
  • 1/8 – 1/6 cup of sunflower seed butter (you can find at most health food stores)
  • 4 Tbls lemon juice
  • ½ – ¾ teas cumin powder
  • ¼ teas cayenne
  • 1 teas salt
  • ½ teas ancho chili powder
  • 3 cloves garlic, very roughly chopped

Baba Ganoush Directions:

Heat your grill on high for 5-10 minutes – it should be about 550 degrees. Once the grill is hot, make sure you’ve oiled the grate. Cut each eggplant in half vertically and use your knife to cut 3-4 slits in the white meat of the vegetable. Do not salt or oil the eggplant, but place the eggplant face down over direct heat, closing the lid of the grill for 5-7 minutes. Turn the eggplant over so that it is sitting on the purple skin, close the lid and let it continue to cook for an additional 10-12 minutes. If you use tongs, the eggplant should be fairly soft at this point. Take the eggplant off the grill and allow it to cool enough to handle. Scoop the flesh out of the skin, or conversely, peel the skin off the flesh, and discard the skin. Place all the eggplant in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and whirl on high until fully pureed, approximately 45-60 seconds. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. This will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for one week.

 

Pickled Cucumbers:

Pickling is making resurgence, and you can pickle just about anything. This recipe is for a quick pickle, but one that will also keep in your fridge for several days.

Pickled Cucumber Ingredients:

  • Cucumber
  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbls sesame oil
  • 1 ½ Tbls sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Pickled Cucumber Directions:

You can peel or not peel the cucumber as you like. I actually half peel mine, meaning I peel stripes of skin off, leaving some of the dark green skin on. In addition to keeping some great nutrients found in the skin, I just think it’s prettier. Slice the cucumber into coins and set aside.

Whisk the vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl and taste – it should be tangy with just a hint of sweetness. Add additional salt if needed. Add the cucumber coins to the bowl – the pickling liquid should nearly cover the cucumber. Let it sit for at least ten minutes, before using. The cucumbers will keep in their pickling liquid in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

 

Sandwich Construction:

Tear off the amount of bread you want for your sandwich. Of course, you can use a knife to neatly cut the right amount, but I love the rustic look. (True confession, I did use a knife to slice the baguette in half, the top from the bottom.) Smear a healthy amount of baba ganouch over both top and bottom pieces of bread. Building from the bottom, add your layer of sliced grilled chicken breast, the cheese, pickled cucumbers and cilantro before adding the top of the baguette.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin with a Maple Chipotle Glaze

Plated Pork

Today started out beautiful, clear, and warm enough to run while watching the sun rise.  It seemed to hold such promise!  Somewhere after lunch, though, it got cold, gray, and started to snow.  Here is my answer to the gloomy day – something a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy, a little bit creamy, and wrapped in bacon.  Everything is better with bacon.

Peanut Butter Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin with a Maple Chipotle Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 1 pork loin roast (approximately 3 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon minced rosemary (fresh if you have it)
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter *
  • ¾ – 1 pound of sliced bacon
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ½ teas chipotle powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbls water
  • Additional rosemary for garnish

*If you’d like to make this in a Paleo version, substitute ½ cup of Sunflower Butter and ½ cup of Cashew Butter for the peanut butter.

Pork Roast

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the rosemary into the peanut butter and set aside.  (I use natural unsalted peanut butter to keep the sugar intake low.)
  3. Pat the pork loin dry and generously salt and pepper the meat.
  4. Lay enough strips of bacon for the length of your pork loin on your prep board, slightly overlapping each slice.
  5. Slather the peanut butter mixture all over the pork loin and lay on top of the bacon.  Wrap the bacon around the pork and set seam side down in a roasting pan.
  6. Mix maple syrup and chipotle powder together and drizzle over the pork.  (You can also add a bit more rosemary to the top of the roast at this point if you’d like.)  Add the water to the pan.
  7. Roast pork loin uncovered for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.  Spoon sauce over the pork and enjoy!

Spicy Crispy Chicken Fingers

Spicy Crispy Chicken Fingers

When I embarked on the Whole 30 experience, I was convinced that I was going to go back to cheese and grains and everything else I had given up when my 30 days were done.  After all, this was just a way to start out my year with some discipline.

Well, yesterday was the Super Bowl, and I did, in fact, have cheese, and grains, and alcohol and pretty much anything that is on the “do not have on a paleo diet” list.  And last night, I slept horribly.  I think I might sort of like how my body responds to this new lifestyle.  I’m not convinced that I’m sticking to it necessarily, but on the other hand, I didn’t really want any cheese today.  Hmmmm.

So tonight I was inspired to create spicy crispy chicken fingers.  I served them over a pan-fried cake of left over whipped cauliflower and a side salad of roasted beets and greens.  It was sort of like elegant Super Bowl food….only healthy and tasty.

Spicy Crunchy Chicken Fingers

(serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into “fingers” (4-5 per breast)
  • ½ bag of sweet potato chips (I used Terra Chips)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • parsley for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Whirl the sweet potato chips in a food processor to create a panko type texture.  Add the salt and cayenne and spread onto a plate.  To bread the chicken, dip each piece in the egg and then immediately roll in the sweet potato crumbs.

Heat the coconut oil in a pan over med high heat until the oil is shimmering.  Add the chicken to the pan, but do not crowd.   Do this in two batches if necessary.  Pan fry for 4 minutes on each side so that the chicken cooks and the crumbs brown, but do not burn, a total of approximately 8 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pan, drain on some paper towel and put in an oven safe dish.  After all chicken is fried, place the chicken in the oven for an additional 10 minutes to finish cooking any larger pieces and ensure that everything is hot before serving.

PanFrying

Serve over whipped cauliflower, a green salad, or make them into exotic lettuce wrap sandwiches.  Slices of avocado will take these over the top.

Left overs will keep in the fridge for several days, but will be better re-heated in an oven to retain the crispy breading than to re-heat in a microwave.

Thai Inspired Butternut Squash Soup

Thai Inspired Butternut Squash Soup

The rest of the country has been fighting off arctic cold and/or blizzard conditions, while Colorado has enjoyed a couple of days up into the high 40s and low 50s this week!  Apparently that is about to change tonight with a forecast of 5-10 inches of snow in the city over night and even more up in the mountains.  Fine, I give in.  I will hunker down with one of my favorite soups!

The sweetness of the butternut squash marries nicely with the spice of the curry, and the creamy coconut milk give the soup a silky texture.  Adding a touch of fresh cilantro and the tang of lime juice take the soup to a new level.  If you want to leave it as a vegetarian dish, omit shredded chicken as a topping and thin your soup with water.  Invite a friend over, cozy up to the fire, and don’t forget to lick the bowl when you’re done.

Thai Inspired Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

  • Olive Oil
  • 2 small – medium sized butternut squash
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 -3 cups chicken broth or water
  • 2-3 teas salt
  • 1 Tbls Sweet Curry Powder
  • 1 Tbls Maharaja Curry Powder from Penzey’s (a spicier curry blend)

Directions….Sort of:

Sometimes directions are more like guidelines….

Split the squash in half length-wise and remove all seeds.  Peel and chunk the onion into 1 inch cubes and toss with garlic and a bit of olive oil.  Drizzle some olive oil on a jelly roll pan and lay the squash face down, add the onion in all the open space on the pan.

Place the pan in the oven to roast until squash is very tender and onions are somewhat caramelized, approximately 40-50 minutes at 375 degrees.  (You don’t need to preheat your oven if you don’t want to.)  To see if it’s done, you should be able to easily pierce through the skin of the squash around the “neck” area where it is thickest, to ensure the roasting is done.

Take the roasted veggies out of the oven and let cool enough so you can handle.

Scoop out the flesh of the squash into a soup pot, add the onions, coconut milk, and chicken broth or water and puree using a stick mixer.  You can also use a blender or food processor if you don’t have a stick mixer.  Add salt and taste for balance.  Add more water or broth to thin the soup to your desired consistency.  Add spices and taste for balance.  Add more curry or chili pepper flakes as needed.  This soup is better under-salted in the pot as you can always add a touch more when you serve it.

I served mine with shredded chicken, lime and fresh cilantro, but it’s up to you – be creative and have fun!

Garnish with any of the following:

  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Shredded chicken breast
  • Chopped macadamia nuts
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Fresh spinach leaves

Sweet Slow Cooker Pork Loin

Sweet Pork Loin

There are some nights when it’s chilly outside and I want the feel of Comfort Food, especially when I’ve had a long day at work.  This dish is great for nights like that because it only takes about 10 minutes to throw together, and then it cooks all day while I’m away from the house.  As a bonus, my whole house smells great the moment I walk in the door.  I just have to steam some cauliflower and whirl it in my processor.

Sweet Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Apples and Onion

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb pork loin
  • 3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • 6 oz mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 cups organic apple cider
  • 1 Tbls dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 additional apple

Salt and pepper the pork loin.  Place half the onions and peeled apples on the bottom of the slow cooker to create a bed for the pork.  Top with the remaining onions, peeled apples and mushrooms.  Add the cider and sprinkle the thyme over the top.  Set to low and cook 9-10 hours.

After 9 hours or so, the pork should break apart into large chunks very easily.  If it doesn’t, use a knife and cut the loin into thick slices, and then place the pork back in the juices of the slow cooker.  Peel the final apple, core and slice it and add it to the top of the pork for 1 more hour.  For a paleo friendly dinner, serve with whipped cauliflower.  Otherwise, it’s great with whipped or roasted potatoes.

Brisket Chili

Brisket Chili

One of my greatest joys in life is cooking and sharing food with friends.  So when a friend wanted to come over for an evening of “girly time”, I am never going to turn that down.  However, it is a little more challenging to stick to my Whole 30 plan, and still have fun doing it.  I made a mock-tini for myself and she had a real-tini…..and then I made chili out of left over slow cooked brisket.  It wasn’t quite as thick as my normal chili, and I have to confess, I missed the corn bread a little bit, but chunks of avocado in the chili was a pretty decent substitute.

I realized that the discipline part of sticking to the Whole 30 plan was do-able for me tonight because I’d already made the decision to stick with it.  Sure, I look forward to my rea-tini next time, but the laughter was just as genuine tonight, and that’s really what the girls get together for anyway.

To make the brisket, make a spice rub of smoked paprika, cumin, salt, cayenne pepper and garlic powder.  Rub the brisket generously and let sit over night in the refrigerator.  Slice up one onion and place the brisket on top.  Add 2 cups of beef broth and turn the slow cooker on for 10 hours.  It will fall apart.

Brisket Chili

(serves 6)

Ingredients:
1 lb left over shredded beef brisket

2 cans petit diced fire roasted tomatoes

1 med onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ red bell pepper, small dice

½ yellow bell pepper, small dice

½ green pepper, small dice

2 Tbls Penzeys medium chili powder

1 teas Penzeys chili con carne powder

1 teas cumin

1 teas oregano

1 teas salt

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced

 

Avocado for garnish

Extra cilantro for garnish

 

Sweat the onions and garlic over med low heat until they are soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the bell peppers and continue to cook for about 3 minutes.  Add all remaining ingredients except the avocado, mix, and taste for seasonings.  Add a bit of water if it is too thick, turn heat down to low and let simmer for at least 20 minutes.  Flavors will continue to develop and it will be even better as leftovers the next day.