Monthly Archives: August 2016

“Ringing” in Sweetness for Dinner

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Tonight I was able to bust out my spiralizer again and have some fun with a Paleo-friendly food: the sweet potato.  This beautiful gem of nature provides the body good doses of vitamins and minerals while gently impacting blood sugar levels (compared to regular potatoes).  It made for an easy meal to prepare and cook-my mom even enjoyed it and she is not a big veggie eater.  I wouldn’t call this dish a pasta in the typical sense because the sauce I made for it was free of tomatoes and garlic, stuff you normally find in your typical Italian fare.  It was a brown “butter” sauce because this usually goes well with sweet veggies like sweet potatoes and squash.  The “butter” comes from ghee to keep it dairy-free and Paleo.  Just a few simple ingredients: sweet potatoes, organic Italian chicken sausage, fresh sage, ghee, salt and pepper.  

To start, my daughter helped me peel three large sweet potatoes to get them ready for my attachment.  If you don’t have a spiralizer, no worries here.  Just use your vegetable peeler and make ribbons instead of rings!  Same taste, just a different shape.  After the potatoes were prepped and ready, I sliced four chicken sausages and sauteéd them in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil.  Once the sausage  was browned I took it out of the skillet and set it aside.  I then scooped about two large tablespoons of ghee and cooked it in the skillet over medium heat for about four or five minutes, then I threw in the fresh sage leaves and let them cook until slightly browned on the edges.  Add a dash of sea salt and cracked black pepper and there is your sauce!

I had to pre-cook the potatoes in some boiling water to soften it up a bit.  If you make ribbons, just toss them in the skillet with your brown “butter” sauce.  I think the next time I make this dish I will use a different blade on my spiralizer. The potato could have been a tad thinner. But practice makes perfect and mistakes can be masterpieces!  

Once all my ingredients were ready I tossed them all together then served in bowls.  I broke away from the true paleo rules and added fresh grated Parmesan cheese.  Just omit if you are sensitive to dairy.  If you eat cheese from sheep you could throw in some grated Manchego.  For an extra boost of Omega 3’s you could also add some walnuts to your sauce (I think I will next time!). 

If you want a wine with this meal, I would stick with something light.  I am still enjoying my crisp white and rosé wines.  The heat outside steers me away from my beloved reds, so I always have some great whites on hand.  Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Grigios, Unoaked Chardonnays and any Rosé that is dry and full of summer fruit flavors (think anything from raspberries to watermelon).  These are no-brainier choices for me! And I usually stick within the $15 to $20 range so I don’t feel like I break the bank. So if you are trying to find some new ideas in the kitchen, try this spin on a healthy dish that will hopefully leave your tastebuds wanting more.  Sip, savor and enjoy!

Until next time, cheers!

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Asian Fried Rice, without the Rice? How Paleo can reinvent the wheel.

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In my quest to continue cooking in the kitchen, I have been trying more and more recipes and personal “culinary” experimentations.  Something that keeps intriguing my taste buds is one of the latest trends in the health and nutrition industry, the Paleo diet.  I find numerous cookbooks, iPhone apps, and websites centered around this ideology.  I am always intrigued about new “diets.”  After reading the books about the Whole 30 program I wanted to dig deeper into the principles behind it.  To become “Paleo” means you eat foods lacking harmful additives and preservatives and have been minimally processed (close to the source).  Basically, you eat as our ancient hunter-gather ancestors ate (Fred Flinstone probably indulged in a few of Wilma’s Paleo dinners).  This diet includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, proteins, nuts, healthy oils and coconut derivatives.  The foods you avoid are all forms of dairy, grains (yes, even whole grain), legumes (think peanuts, beans, and peas), processed sugars and all foods containing additives of any kind.  So long and farewell to Hostess cupcakes and harmful food dyes.  So why would someone want to cut out entire food groups, such as heart-healthy whole grain or protein-packed edamame?  The reasoning behind eliminating these items out of your diet is to reduce digestive issues normally caused by these foods.

So why would someone want to cut out entire food groups, such as heart-healthy whole grain or protein-packed edamame?  The reasoning behind cutting these items out of your diet is to reduce digestive issues normally caused by these foods.

Digestive inflammation is a leading cause of certain health issues.  The problem is many people walking around today don’t even realize they suffer from inflammatory reactions due to dairy (lactose) or gluten.  Simply eliminating foods that contain inflammatory triggers can improve someone’s health in a matter of weeks.  It has also been touted to help some people with their weight loss journeys or improve the autoimmune problems of others.  Paleo has also been linked with aiding some people with their weight loss journeys.  Foods that can trigger inflammation in the body can also add on pounds despite the person calorie counting or exercising every day.  Some researchers go on to say Paleo diets can also help improve cardiovascular health, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and certain autoimmune problems.

Whatever your choice may be, if you decide to go Paleo you will need to clean out the pantry, fridge and freezer and re-stock with Paleo-friendly ingredients.  You may also find yourself doing some cooking and whipping up things like paleo mayonnaise (extremely simple and delicious) or cashew cream (which can be made sweet or savory).   Eggs are also another large staple in the Paleo diet, but individuals with an egg allergy have to get creative on certain recipes.  Other must-haves are good cooking oils such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil or any other nut oil (no peanuts, please).  You will need to avoid things with soy or made with corn-based products (canola oil is a biggie), so be aware of what are in the condiments you keep in your fridge (think soy lecithin).  Just start label reading and you will get the hang of watching out for Paleo sabotagers.

If this all sounds too intimidating and time-consuming, there are more and more products coming out on the market geared towards a Paleo lifestyle.  Some items I use at home I found off Amazon or at my local health food store.  If you think this diet would be for you then I highly recommend browsing some good Paleo websites, cookbooks, and magazines.  Find a game-plan to make your major and minor switches in the kitchen easier.  Lifestyle changes are not always easy and these sources contain helpful tips and recipes.  One of my go-to apps on my phone is Nom Nom Paleo (nomnompaleo.com).  You can get step-by-step recipes ranging anywhere from desserts to main courses.

Tonight I made dinner from one of the recipes I thought looked tasty.  It is a new version of Asian “fried rice.”  How do you have fried rice without actually using rice?  The answer is cauliflower.  Put it through a food processor and your taste buds won’t miss this grain one bit.  Some grocery stores may even carry a packaged grated cauliflower that is easy to use in the recipe, which is what I ended up doing tonight.  Cauliflower plays a perfect second fiddle to its carbohydrate counterpart, just watch how long you cook it so the vegetable doesn’t become too mushy.  The meal tonight was new for my husband and I, but he was pleasantly surprised with how good it tasted!

The actual recipe, with pictures and step-by-step instructions, for Asian Cauliflower Fried Rice is posted below.

 

If you wonder what it is you can and can’t drink on a Paleo diet, the options are actually quite good.  Besides water, there are plenty of healthy drinks available, so long as you avoid those bad sugars forbidden by the Paleo Police.  As for alcohol, well there is hope in that area too.  Vodkas made without potatoes or grains are absolutely fine, as are red and white wines (they are made from grapes) and brandy (made from wine).  Avoid things that are made using grain products, such as scotch or beer.  I would drink a nice white wine, maybe a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough region of Australia with the fried rice recipe.  Something that would match the lightness of the meal.  You can eat, drink and be merry all while fueling your body with healthy alternatives.

I highly recommend trying it if you haven’t before, you might be surprised at how easy and tasty going Paleo can be for you.  As I continue to research and experiment with Paleo I hope to let you in on helpful tips or pass on other great eats to make your own journey a little bit tastier.

Until next time, cheers!

 

#backtoschool and In the Kitchen!

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Summer is the time to kick back, relax and enjoy lazy days by the pool.  With it also comes sporadic schedules, sleeping in and a lack of motivation to plan evening meals.  For me, summer with the kids changes on a weekly basis.  Different camps each week means our mealtimes are random and totally unplanned.  That is not exactly a healthy recipe for nutrient-dense meals, so when school starts back up I like to try and get back into the kitchen and focus on healthy and wholesome meals.  Tonight I began my quest to gain my creativity again while using fresh ingredients.

I tend to not usually follow recipes in a book, but like to use them as inspiration to make my own meals.  I will substitute this or add in that to make the meal fit my own dietary needs and create something my husband will eat and enjoy.  It is fun to experiment with different foods and seasonings; I find it as a way to tap into my “left brain” tendencies when I lack the time to focus on writing.  And bottom line is, I love food, especially when it fuels my body and keeps me on track with my health goals.

Tonight I used Instagram and Facebook to post my first attempt to get back to clean eating with an off-the-cuff zucchini ribbon bowl.  I was trying to use up a few things in the fridge before it spoiled, and it turned into something I think I could definitely eat again.  Here is my “recipe.”

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You will need a few simple ingredients:  3 small zucchini, 1/4 of a red onion (diced), minced garlic, some good olive oil, 4 to 5 pieces of crumbled bacon (I try and stick to a brand that is organic), 1 cup of cherry tomatoes (I used yellow since I had them on hand), 1 avocado (diced), 1/2 cup crushed walnuts, 2 or 3 oz. of feta cheese (this is a sheep milk cheese).

To start off, use a spiralizer on the zucchini and set it aside in a bowl.  I have a spiralizer set for my Kitchen Aid mixer which is very easy to use.  Best. Gift. Ever!  I also cooked my bacon in the oven for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees.  So much easier than a skillet and microwave.  After it cooled I crumbled it and set the bacon aside.  Watch out for bacon lovers in your home, they will try and devour your ingredient because the smell waifs throughout the house while it cooks in the oven.

The next step was getting my “sauce” created for the ribbons.  I used around 2 tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil and turned the skillet on a medium-high heat.  After the oil heated up I added my diced red onion and garlic.  It only takes a couple of minutes for the onion and garlic to soften and open up, so when this happens you want to add your bacon bits and let the flavors start to mesh together.  This is when I added my spices:  a good pinch of cracked black pepper and around 1/3 to a 1/2 teaspoon of Beau Monde seasoning.  You don’t really need salt for this dish because the bacon gives you enough seasoning for that ingredient.  I gently stirred everything together before adding in my tomatoes.   You want to stir them in and let them saute a bit to soften up the skins.  Once this was all combined and heated through I threw in my zucchini ribbons to warm them up in the skillet and coat it with my olive oil sauce.  I actually added a little more olive oil because some of my liquid had evaporated during the cooking process.

After the ribbons heated thoroughly I tossed in the walnuts, feta and avocado then plated it up for my husband and myself.  It was light, not overly acidic and low in carbohydrates.  The avocado and walnuts added in some healthy fat and Omega-3s too.  This is just my own creation, but with zucchini noodles, you can let your creativity flow with whatever your kitchen has to offer.  Last, but not least, finding a wine to pair with the meal (if you are not completely eating clean).  I would choose a nice, crisp Sauvignon Blanc or summer Rose.  Either would nicely compliment the freshness of the ribbons.  Sit, sip and hopefully you enjoy this light and healthy meal while getting back into the groove of #backtoschool.