Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Balsamic Vegetable Compote

It's been a while friends.  I wish I had a really good excuse..oh wait, I do.  I have been really, and fortunately so, busy with my photography business.  I really am lucky that people want me to take their pictures. I love it.  I love getting to know people and I love having the opportunity to capture special moments in their lives.  Maybe you can tell by my food pictures as well.  There really isn't anything that doesn't capture my eye.  I believe beauty can be found in all things.  So much so that I have a special project that I am starting in January.  I'll share more later, but you really came here for food.  And I promise, even though I have been busy editing, I have still had time to cook and have come up with some wonderful new recipes to post!  Starting with this one...

I love warm mixtures of vegetables in the winter.  Don't get me wrong, vegetables are good anytime of year, but there is something comforting about vegetables in winter.   I don't know why that is, but I love that we have a great variety available now a days than we used to.

This compote, an idea I got from my fruit compote, would be perfect with almost anything.  The night I made it I served it with salmon, and then had it the next day by its self.  A delicious combination of flavors that you will love.  Promise.

Balsamic Vegetable Compote

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 c. onion, medium dice
2 c. zucchini, medium dice
2 c. eggplant, medium dice
1 c. tomato, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, whole
1 tsp. thyme, rosemary, and oregano (dried-if you want to use fresh, that is perfectly fine but you will need to increase the quantities to 3 tsp. each and put them in at the very end!)
2 tsp. mushroom salt
1/4 c. excellent quality balsamic
freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove the cloves and set them aside to cool.

Add the onion to the pan, cook until tender and translucent, 5-7 minutes.  Add the zucchini and eggplant, stir to to coat.  Cover and increase heat to medium high.  Stir often and cook about 10 minutes or until vegetables start to soften and moisture from vegetables has been almost absorbed. 

While the vegetables are cooking, press the cooled garlic.  Add the garlic, tomatoes, spices, salt and pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the balsamic and allow to reduce.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Finish with fresh thyme.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Maple Bacon Scones

The weather is changing...the bitter bite of winter is making its appearance.  That means warms drinks start the day out.  One morning I was going to make a Maple Bacon muffin but I decided to make a scone instead.  First, you have to actually like scones, which for a lot of people, isn't so.  But you can't go wrong when said scone can be lightly dipped in a chai.  Now that, my friends, along with an extra side of bacon, is a perfect morning.

Anyway, I have a few friends who are my testers.  The first one came by and gave them an A+. The second one was delivered three and texted me shortly thereafter to say all three were gone.  And that is was the best bakery item I have ever made.  Even better than my Samoa's and Cake Balls...WHAT?  Anyway, there isn't much more to say when you get those kind of reviews.  

Oh yeah there is.  And that would this....this was my first experiment and I nailed it.  Sometimes even I amaze myself.  And the second, I just wanted to brag a bit, show you the picture and then tell you I'm not even posting the recipe.   But you can buy them from me if you are in Des Moines!  


Monday, November 11, 2013

The Perfect Pulled Pork

One thing I really, really enjoy is a good, and I mean GOOD pulled pork.  There are so many options with a big 'ol pot of pulled pork.  But I am also simplistic in that I want to enjoy the flavor of the pork or add sauces later.  I am a master, and I kid you not, at ribs.  Best ribs ever.  Really.  But I have always found pork roasts to be dry and hard to chew.  I want it soft, tender and moist. 

So this is what I did...and frankly, I nailed it.  If you don't have a big smoker, and I don't, this is great because you can get the same result.  

The Perfect Pulled Pork

1 5-7 pound pork shoulder roast
3 tbsp. hickory salt (my favorite is from Williams Sonoma)
1 1/2 tbsp. freshly ground pepper

Make sure the pork roast is room temperature.  This is key.  It allows for even cooking and allows the fat to render slowly.  

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Generously coat the pork shoulder with the salt and pepper and rub it evenly.

Place the pork in a stock pot large enough to hold it and put a lid on.  Place the lid on and cook in it in the oven for 8 hours.  Remove and allow to cool. the pork in the fridge for a day.  Turn the pork roast one or twice during that time to allow juices/fat to redistribute into the pork.

A day later, preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Put the pork back in the oven and cook an additional 4-6 hours depending on the size of your roast.  You'll know it is done when it is falling off the bone.

I promise it will take every bit of restraint you have to not eat every little piece.  Really. 

And what do you do with the pork now?

Well, last night I tested a tamale recipe.  Testers are trying them today, so we'll see!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chicken and Greens Rolls

One of the favorite things of my week is my delivery of Prudent Produce.  I love getting a variety of organic produce delivered to my door.   Plus, it challenges my menu for the week, forcing me to come up with new, creative ways to enjoy the produce I get!

That was the case for me last week...I had leeks, collard greens, and swiss chard to name a few.  It's easy to cook the greens down and have them accompany a dish, but I wanted them to be the star.  Add a little protein in the way of chicken and bacon, and, really, you couldn't go wrong!

So here is a new, unique way to eat your greens!

Chicken & Greens Rolls

6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2' pieces
2 leeks, sliced into rounds
1 bunch swiss chard, roughly chopped, cutting at the end of leaving and reserving stems (should you choose to.  I use them when I make vegetable broth)
1 bunch collard greens, roughly chopped, green removed from vein
4 chicken breasts
2 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large saute pan, cook bacon over medium heat.  When it is golden brown, about 5-7 minutes, remove the bacon but not the grease, from the pan.  Add leeks, and cook until they soften, about 5 minutes.  Then add the remaining greens and reduce heat to low, stirring every few minutes, until the greens are cooked down and soft, about 15-20 minutes.  

While the greens are cooking, pound the chicken breasts so they are thin and evenly thick.  Generously salt and pepper.

When the greens are done, add back in the bacon and mix well.  Scoop green mixture onto each chicken breast and spread evenly.  Roll the chicken and then secure with toothpicks.

In a large fry pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and sear chicken until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.  

Put pan in oven and bake between 15-25 minutes until the chicken is done.  

Allow to rest for a few minutes and then slice and serve.  Drizzle with a splash of balsamic if you are so inclined!

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Honey Mustard Pork

My last order of pork chops from a local pork producer were beautiful.  They were thick cut and fatty, which makes them easy to bake without getting overdone.  The best thing about pork is that it can be accompanied by a variety of sauces and still taste great.  One such sauce is honey mustard.  Especially honey mustard that is roasted on to create more of a crust, so to speak, on the outside of the pork chop.  Give this recipe a try soon.  You won't be disappointed.  I promise.

Honey Mustard Pork Chops

4 center cut pork chops, 2" thick
1/4 c. honey
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  When I cook pork, unless it is ground, I always have it at room temperature, especially a thick cut chop.  This allows it to cook more evenly so you don't have edges that are done and centers that are not.

In a bowl, combine honey, mustard and olive oil.  Pat pork chops dry using a paper towel and then generously coat each side of the chop with honey mustard.

Place a cooling rack inside of a sheet pan and then put the pork chops, spaced evenly, on the cooling rack.

Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.  Turn the pork and cook an additional 10-15 minutes until done.  You can check with a thermometer if you are not sure.  The temperature should read 145 degrees.  I usually pull the pork out when the temperature is at 135-140, allow it rest for about 5-10 minutes, then check the temperature again.  Allowing it to rest will finish the cooking and seal in the juices.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Twice Baked Sweet Potato

How can you go wrong with a sweet potato?  They are almost the perfect food.  

Someone at the gym has an infatuation with some twice baked sweet potatoes in the ready to eat foods at our local grocery store and when he found out what the ingredients were he wasn't
too happy that he'd have to give up this "out of this world" sweet potato.

Of course I knew I needed to adapt it.  He said I nailed it...and that it was even better.  Can't beat that praise, especially when it's healthier!

Brian's Twice Baked Sweet Potato

1 lb. baked sweet potato flesh
2 ounces raw honey
6 oz. mascarpone, room temperature
1/8 tsp. ground clove
1/4 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mash sweet potato with a fork in a large bowl.  Add the honey and mascarpone and mix with a hand mixer until well blended.  Add the spices and then fold into mixture.

Put the mixture in ramekins, sprinkle lightly with additional cinnamon, and bake for about 20 minutes. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Salmon Bites

The other day I was taking some photos for a local CrossFitter friend who has developed a line of clothing call BroFit Box Apparel.  Even though they decided to target men, which is obvious by the name, they thought they better add a few ladies items as well.  So a couple of ladies from my box came by one afternoon to do a few photos.  

One of them happened to mention that they wouldn't be opposed to taste testing anything I had going on in the kitchen.  Luckily for her I happened to know she loves brie so I whipped these little tasty treats together.  

That morning I had roasted some of my grape tomatoes to have on hand for salads, sauces, eggs, etc. and I knew they would go perfect.

 This is a quick and easy dish and is a perfect afternoon snack!

Salmon Bites

1 can wild caught salmon, drained
1/2 round brie, room temperature
salt and pepper
splash of fresh lemon juice
1 cucumber, peeled and then sliced in rounds about 1/2 " thick
roasted grape tomatoes

Put brie in a medium bowl.  Smash up using a fork and then add in the salmon.  Mix well, continuing to smash the mixture with a fork if necessary.   Generously salt and pepper to taste and then add a splash of lemon.

Place the brie mixture by tablespoon full onto each cucumber round and then top with one roasted grape tomato. Garnish with fresh ground pepper.


And yes, she loved them!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Herb Pesto/Summer Vegetable Salad

What do you do when you have a lot, and I mean, a lot of herbs?  Make an herb pesto to go with a cold summer salad of course.  This combination was perfect with the mild cucumber and sweet tomato. Yeah, I have an abundance of those too.  Another subtle flavor in my summer herb pesto is lemon olive oil.  It definitely is worth it, so seek one out.  If you live in the Des Moines area, go visit AllSpice and pick up a bottle of their Eureka Lemon Olive Oil.

Herb Pesto

4 cloves garlic, blanched
4 c. mixed herbs (2 c. basil, 1/2 c. Italian parsley, 1/4 c. thyme, 1/4 c. oregano, 1/4 c. chive and 1/4 c. mint)
1/4 c. lemon olive oil
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste

Put the garlic, herbs and pine nuts in a food processor.  Pulse until the pine nuts are broken down to small crumb size, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Mix the lemon olive oil and olive oil together and then slowly drizzle into processor while blade is moving.  Continue to scrape down sides and mix until the pesto is creamy.

Fold with your favorite summer vegetables.

You can freeze this as well.  Put in a jar and lightly cold with olive oil, leaving about 1/2" space at the top to allow for expanding in the freezer.

Summer flavors all year around are a plus in my book!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Grilled Veal Chop/Herb Butter

I enjoy veal.  The flavor is so delicious and it's versatility, one you don't get with a mature cow, is quite a benefit.  

One of my favorite dishes is a grilled veal chop with herb butter. This type of veal cut, like beef, should be at room temperature before you cook it.  That way you can cook it perfectly medium rare, as it should be, in my personal opinion (law), be served.

Grilled Veal Chop/Herb Butter

4 veal chops, 1" thick
1/2 c. butter, softened (not melted!)
1/4 c. mixed herbs, minced
salt and pepper

Preheat a grill to high.  Generously salt and pepper the veal chop on both sides.  Place chop on grill and cook for 3 minutes.  Turn the chop over and cook an additional 3 minutes.  Rotate the chop, turn and cook for 3 minutes.  Repeat.  Total cooking time should be between 12-15 minutes for a perfect medium rare.

Mix the butter with the herbs.  Add 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, mixing again.

Top with one tablespoon scoop of the herb butter as soon as you remove it from the grill, allowing the veal chop to rest and the butter to melt.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sesame Seared Tuna

I know I recently posted another tuna recipe, but they had some yellow fin the other day that looked pretty decent for Iowa (mind you, not the blood red you get when it comes fresh out of the ocean, but hey, beggars can't be choosey).  Turns out, I am glad I got it.  It was delicious.  Fresh, mild and slightly sweet like yellowfin should be.  Yellow fin, if fresh enough, doesn't need anything to make it taste better.  Simplicity is best.  The ONLY exception would be when it is used in a spicy tuna roll.  I mean, really, you can't go wrong when you are adding mayo and sriracha, right?

Anyway, I need seared tuna with a sesame crust would be perfect.  This is how I make mine.

Sesame Seared Tuna

1 tbsp. coconut aminos
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/4 c. sesame seeds
2 yellow fin tuna steaks

Preheat your grill to high.  The temperature on my grill usually overs around 700 degrees.

Whisk the aminos and oil together.  Lightly dry the tuna steaks with a paper towel to remove any built up moisture.  Brush one side with the amino and oil mixture and then coat with sesame seeds, pressing the seeds slightly with your hand.  Lightly salt and then turn over and repeat on the other side.  

Place the tuna on the grill and sear 3-5 minutes.  This all depends on the thickness of your tuna steak.  About 1/8 of the edge all around should be cooked, leaving the majority of the steak rare.  You can cook it more if you aren't used to a rare tuna, but I wouldn't cook it anymore than having the edges around 1/4.  If you can't eat yellow fin rare, or medium rare at best, don't even waste your money buying it.  Capiche?

Dip in some coconut aminos if you choose.  

Sublimely delicious and foodgasmic this is.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sweet and Spicy Green Beans

My green beans are slowly wilting.  It has been too hot for them.  Blast this September you would think it's July weather.  I haven't even planted my late season greens for fear that they wouldn't even sprout or would die shortly thereafter.  You know it's bad when you go to the tanning bed to get some vitamin D because it's too dang hot to lay in your hammock outside.  This heat is ruining all of my fall plans thus far.  

Anyway, I was craving something spicy to help clear up a little throat/sinus issue I was having and this is what I came up with.  Said throat/sinus issue has also made me miss two WOD's this week.  Now I'm just ticked.  Yucky weather + no WOD + throat/sinus crap = effing PO'ed.

These made me feel a little did some awesome super spicy Tom Yum from my favorite Thai restaurant...that stuff will cure anything!

Sweet and Spicy Green Beans

1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 lb. green beans, ends removed
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. raw honey
1-4 tsp. sriracha, or to taste depending on your tolerance
black sesame seeds

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over media heat.  Add the green beans, stirring so they coat with the melted oil, and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the water and cover, cooking the beans until they are crisp tender, about 5-10 minutes depending on the size of your green beans.  (Crisp tender means that they have turned a different color green and are tender on the bean but still slightly crisp).  Add the honey and sriracha, stirring until the honey has melted.  Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking and stirring intermittently until the honey and water have made a glaze, about an additional 3-7 minutes.

Season with salt to taste and finish with black sesame seeds.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Asparagus Salad

Even though it is late in the season, there was some late asparagus available from the Iowa Food Co-op that I am a member of.   I couldn't pass up on making my favorite cold asparagus salad for dinner one night.  You could also add protein and make a complete meal if you wanted too.  This is perfect for those super hot days in September.  (Insert sarcastic tone).

Asparagus Salad

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
1/2 lb. grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 c. pine nuts
zest of one lemon
2-3 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c. good olive oil
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a grill to around 400 degrees. Steam the asparagus so it is al dente.  Quickly remove the asparagus and place in a grill basket with the tomatoes.  Grill until the asparagus is tender and the tomatoes start to blister.  Remove and allow to cool.

Mix the lemon juice, olive oil and mustard with a whisk, adding additional lemon juice to taste.  Then salt and pepper to taste.

 Place the asparagus, tomatoes, pine nuts and lemon zest in a large long bowl.  Pour dressing over the top and using hands fold the mixture together so the dressing evenly coats the asparagus.

Friday, September 6, 2013

NOT Paleo...

This not even close to paleo, but it turned out so cute that I had to post it.  A friend at the gym has the most darling little girl and I loved making this cake for her.  They are a lot of work but so worth it when you see how excited someone is after they look at it for the first time!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cauliflower Hummus

Let's just start this post off by saying there are probably quite a few hummus recipes out there that more than likely mine will mirror one.  But, knowing the basic components of hummus made it easy to just add ingredients and taste until I got it right.  In this case, I substituted cauliflower to make it paleo friendly and it worked like a charm.  It also got even better the next couple of days.  Today is day four and I wanted to lick what was left in the bowl it was so good.  Cauliflower really needs time for the flavors to really develop, so try making this a day or two ahead of time before serving it.  Taste it again just before serving to make any last minute additions.

I promise, you won't even know there aren't chickpeas in there!

Cauliflower Hummus

One small head of cauliflower, core taken out and cut into quarters
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c. plus 2-3 tbsp. tahini
2 tsp. sweet paprika
salt and pepper to taste

In a saute pan with a lid, put in the cauliflower and garlic.  Add enough water to come up 1/2 in. on the side of pan.  I prefer to cook the cauliflower this way because it also helps soften the taste of the garlic.  Cover and cook over medium until the cauliflower is soft.

Drain the cauliflower and garlic and then add it to a food processor.  Pulse to break the cauliflower down so it looks like rice.  Add the tahini (starting with 1/4c. and then adding more to your preferred tastes) and oil, and pulse until the texture is smooth and mixed well.  Add paprika, salt and pepper to taste.

When I am really craving something hot, I add a little Sriracha to it.  Wow!  That's all I am saying.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cabbage Salad

One of the more difficult things about eating real food is grocery shopping.  Grocery stores are designed to make people buy prepackaged, GMO'ed, artificial and preservative full foods.  Even places like Whole Foods can be tricky.  The are a couple of ways to go to the market without filling your cart full of crap.  Just avoid boxed food and your good to go.  Most of the time.  

One of the many perks to places like Whole Foods is their ready made options.  The pre made foods look delicious, smell wonderful and should be healthy, right?  Not so fast...take the time to look at the ingredients listed and you'll soon realize that even though they appear healthy, the reality is that cheap ingredients are usually used.  

Once in a while though, you'll find something that tastes good and is good for you.  They have this detox salad that I love.  Easy and quick.  Another one is the cabbage salad...unfortunately it is made with canola oil so I knew I had to adapt it at home.  And quite frankly, my version is better tasting...and better for you.


Cabbage Salad

2 stalks celery, slice in half lengthwise, then slice diagonally in 1/4" pieces
1/2 head red and 1/2 head green cabbage, core removed and sliced thin
1 c. sliced almonds
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. champagne vinegar
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Mix celery, cabbage and almonds together in large bowl.  In a small bowl, mix oil, vinegar and mustard until cohesive.  Salt and pepper to taste.  This might taste a little tangy to you, but trust me, it works well with the cabbage.  Fold the mixed dressing into the cabbage.  Cover the bowl and allow flavors to marinate in the fridge, stirring about every hour, for at least four hours.  Salt and pepper to taste when serving.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Seared Albacore Tuna/Smokey Tomatillo Sauce

Even though we aren't on the coast, we are fortunate enough to have a couple of places that get good quality fish once in awhile.  Albacore happened to be the catch of the day and I couldn't pass it up.

Tomatillos were also calling my name and I knew a smokey tomatillo sauce would go perfectly with the tuna.

If you have a problem with raw fish, this might not be for you.  You absolutely cannot eat tuna well done.  It has to be rare or medium rare.  The tuna will get too dry and you will loose the delicate flavor.

Seared Tuna w/Smokey Tomatillo Sauce

1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 lb. tomatillos, quartered
2 -4 tsp. cumin
1-2 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
6 tuna steaks

In a saute pan over medium heat, add the oil and onion.  Cook the onion until it starts to caramelize, about 7-10 minutes.  Add the tomatillos and continue cooking until they are soft and tender.  Remove the onions and tomatillos and place in a blenders.  Increase the heat to medium high and add an additional 1 tbsp. olive oil.  Add the cumin and coriander, stirring frequently, until fragrant.  Return the onion mixture back to the pan and stir well.  Put the mixture back in the blender and mix until a smooth sauce.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add additional cumin if you prefer.

When the sauce is finish, heat a grill pan (or grill) over high heat.  Coat the grill with coconut oil.  When the grill is to temperature, add the tuna steaks and cook about 3-5 minutes, or until you see about 1/4 inch of cooked tuna,  Turn the steak over and sear an additional 3-5 minutes so it is evenly cooked on the other side.

Serve immediately with a dollop of the tomatillo sauce and fresh squeezed lime.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Garlic Mushrooms

I can't imagine there are people out there that don't like mushrooms.  Boy are you missing out.  I suggest you learn to like them.  Once you do, you'll wonder how you ever ate without ever enjoying them.

Don't think that is possible?  Let me tell you, it is!  When I graduated high school last year (ha ha), I liked carrots, celery, and potatoes.  That's it.  Pretty simple.  But I LEARNED to like everything else.  And now there really is only one thing I don't like.  Olives.  Have over 15 different olive oils, but hate olives.  You figure that one out.

Anyway, I was craving steak last night and nothing goes better with steak than either mushrooms or a nice Roquefort sauce.  But right now I am on Day 4 of the 21 day sugar detox and I can't have dairy (which, on a side note, as a mostly paleo follower I do have raw dairy on occasion).  So mushrooms it was.

And delicious they were!

Garlic Mushrooms

1 tbsp. olive oil
12 cloves garlic, whole
16 ounces baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and stem removed*
1/4 c. brandy
2 tbsp. ghee
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, minced

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium low heat.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until the garlic turns golden brown.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Increase the heat to medium high and then add the mushrooms.  Stirring often, cook about 7-10 minutes or until the mushrooms are almost cooked and are caramelized.  

Reduce heat to medium and slowly add the brandy (especially if you have a gas stove).  Cook until the brandy is almost reduced.  While the brandy is reducing, mince the garlic.

When the brandy is almost reduced, reduce the heat to low and add the garlic, ghee and thyme.  Cook and stir until the ghee is melted and blended with the remaining brandy.

Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

*A note on mushrooms.  I do not wash mine, but I used a lightly damped towel to clean them off.  I have found that when you wash them with water, they take on the added moisture and then it takes too long to caramelize them and makes them too soft and mushy.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lemon Pepper Chicken

I often talk about favorites, but lemon is really at the top of my list.  It's so versatile.  I am still in search of the perfect lemon dessert.  Might have to work on that this week.  

But in the meantime, chicken is a perfect match for lemon and pepper.  You could add spices to this, or other accompaniments, but honestly, the minimal flavors in this dish are what make it so perfect.  They don't contend with one another, but compliment each other.  And you really can't beat a dish that is made in one pan.

The key to this dish is not only the correct amount of seasoning, but also the technique in cooking the chicken.  I probably shouldn't admit it, but I love chicken skin..turkey and duck too.  There is something about the salty, fatty taste of crisp skin that is comforting.  Maybe nostalgia from days gone by of big family holiday dinners and fighting over who gets the skin.  Luckily in my house, nobody else quite appreciates it the way I do.  Anyways, I cook them uncovered.  They are perfectly moist and the skin is perfectly crisp.  

Lemon Pepper Roasted Chicken

2 lbs. chicken thighs
3 lemons, cut into slices (about 2 inches thick) and then cut in half
6 shallots, sliced into quarters
fleur de sel
freshly ground pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place chicken thighs in the pan.  Place the lemons and shallots evenly over the chicken, lightly squeezing the lemons before you place them in.  Generously salt and pepper and then lightly drizzle with olive oil.

Place in oven and cook for about 20 minutes, then rotate the thighs so they cook evenly.  Cook an additional 20-25 minutes or until the thighs are done, around 160 degrees if using a meat thermometer.  If you don't have one, 40 minutes really should be sufficient, especially if your oven temperature is correct.

Remove thighs and scoop out some of the shallots to enjoy with them.

Salt and pepper additionally if you choose.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Grilled Peaches/Vanilla Mascarpone

I have a love affair with chocolate, but there is one dessert that I think takes the blue ribbon.  Period.  No questions.  No discussion.  

It's that good.  Seriously.

Just asked anybody who I have ever made them for.  They are coveted.

And I will hunt you down and kill you if you try to pass this off as your own.  Got it?

This is MOSTLY the recipe I use in my home, but I am leaving out a couple of ingredients, but these still are delicious.  If you want to try the real thing, you'll have to be invited over for dinner.

One more thing, I know it's not strictly paleo, but the mascarpone is from grass fed cows.  So there.  

Grilled Peaches with Vanilla Mascarpone

4 peaches, cut in half and pit removed
1 c. hot water
1/3 c. raw honey
1 vanilla bean, cut in half and seeds scrapped out.  
4 ounces mascarpone
2 tbsp. raw honey
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed

In a 9 x 13 pan, lay peaches cut side down.  In a small bowl, whisk together water, honey and vanilla seeds.  Cut the two bean halves into 1 inch pieces and then put in marinade.  Pour over the peaches and allow to marinate for about four hours, turning the peaches about every hour.

Preheat grill to medium heat.  While grill is heating, mix mascarpone, honey and vanilla seeds with hand mixer until well blended.  

When the grill is ready, remove peaches from marinade and place cut side down on grill.  Grill about 3-5 minutes or until they have caramelized grill marks.  While they are grilling, brush peaches with marinade.  Turn peaches and brush cut sides with marinade, and grill about 2 minutes.  Turn the peaches one more time and grill about 2 more minutes.

Remove and set on a serving plate.  Scoop about 1 tbsp. of the mascarpone filling in each peach center.  Allow to set for a couple of minutes so the cheese starts to soften.

You're welcome.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Perfect Caprese

Summer just wouldn't be summer without a Caprese salad.  You really can't go wrong with a mixture of perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella and balsamic.  Such simplicity for a meal, but it can easily be ruined by under or overly ripe tomatoes, cheap cheese and store brand balsamic.

I love quality ingredients, and although I know not every one will understand the importance of them, there are a few things in your cooking arsenal that can't be compromised.  Balsamic Vinegar is one of them.  It should be smooth, with slight fruit and woodsy undertones, as well as having a light sweetness, without an overly powerful tartness.  It will be hard to find one, but my recommendation is to find a place where you can taste the varieties on hand.  Don't ruin it by using bread to try it.  You should use a small sample cup and sip the balsamic alone, without anything marring the true taste of the vinegar.

This is one of my favorites, Giuseppe Giusti.  It's perfection.  Truly.

3 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into large dice
1 ball fresh mozzarella, cut into large dice
1/2 c. basil, chiffonade
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1-2 tsps. Maldon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil together in a large bowl.  Drizzle the vinegar and fold into the tomato mixture until evenly distributed.  Allow to set for at least 15 minutes so the flavors combine with one another, then salt and pepper to taste.  

Caprese, in my humble opinion, is best eaten at room temperature.  


Monday, July 29, 2013

Frozen Strawberry Tart

I love strawberries.  Especially fresh garden strawberries.  Mine have already had one bearing and are full of flowers right now just waiting to turn into berries.  I can't wait.  But to enjoy them when I don't have them growing in my garden is difficult because it is hard to come by organic strawberries that aren't $6.00 a container.  Luckily Whole Foods had a special one day for 1.99 each!  You can probably guess, but I bought $50.00 worth.  I froze them and I am hoping come winter there will still be plenty in my freezer to enjoy when berries are out of season.

I decided to try out a no bake strawberry tart, perfect for a hot afternoon, with some of them.  I loved it and after my fabulous taste testers gave their approval I knew it was a hit!

2 c. pecans
1/2 c. raw honey
2 tbsp. coconut butter
1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. salt
2 c. pureed strawberries
1 c. coconut whip cream (using canned coconut milk that has been set in the refrigerator overnight)
1 c. strawberries, small dice

In a food processor, chop pecans until they resemble meal.  Add the honey, coconut butter, coconut oil and salt until the mixture starts to form a ball.  Put the mixture in a tart pan (with removable base).  Using fingers, press so the mixture evenly coats the bottoms and sides of the tart pan.  Place in refrigerator while you are working on the filling.

In a processor, chop strawberries until they pureed   Pour the puree into a bowl and then fold in the coconut whip cream.  
(I use an iSi Gourmet Whip, but if you don't have one you can scoop out the cream at the top of the can that has been chilled and whip it with your hand mixer.  However, an iSi is a tool I would tell you to invest in.  LOVE mine!)  
Once the strawberry puree and coconut whip cream are mixed, fold in the diced strawberries.  Pour the mixture in the tart mold and put in freezer for about an hour so that it starts to harden.  Remove, cover with  plastic wrap and then return to freezer until you are read to serve it.  


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Peppered Green Beans/Smoked Pancetta

My first planting of green beans is finally ready.  This year I opted for Haricot Vert.  Thin pods with a soft vein and small beans makes for a tender, mild and delicious green bean.  Plus, they are perfect for canning dilly beans.  I am hoping to do some of those with my second planting.  I plant about every two weeks until late fall so I can enjoy fresh green beans weekly.  

A quick stop at the Cheese Shop on Saturday for some smoked pancetta and I knew I couldn't pass up on one of my favorite summer dishes.

And besides, pretty much everything is better with bacon.  (And you can substitute bacon for the pancetta, but why when The Cheese Shop carries a smoked version by La Quercia!)

1/2 lb. smoked pancetta (thick cut), diced
1 lb. green beans
1 tbsp. fresh cracked pepper

Boil water in a 6 quart container.  While you are waiting for water to boil, set aside a bowl with ice water.  When water comes to a boil, add green beans and blanch, about 3 minutes.  Quickly take off of heat, drain and add beans to ice water to stop cooking.

In a medium saute pan over medium, cook pancetta until fat starts to render, about 3-5 minutes.  

Drain cooled green beans and try to dry as best as possible.

Add beans to pancetta and increase heat to medium high, cooking until the beans are tender, and pancetta turns golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.

Remove and fold with freshly cracked pepper and lightly salt to taste.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Grilled Chicken Salad/Herb Dressing

My garden greens are plentiful this year.  I also decided to put all of my herbs in my garden because the last couple of years they haven't grown overly well in pots.  Well, let's just say they runneth over.  My oregano, basil, parsley and chives are huge!  Honestly, I can't keep up.  Anybody need some herbs and lettuce greens?

You really can't go wrong with some grilled vegetables and chicken and this dressing made it that much better.  


I'm serious about the herbs.  Call me.

1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded to even thickness
1 lb. asparagus
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
2 c. mixed lettuce greens
2 c. mixed herbs, minced (Tonight I used chives, basil, Italian parsley, oregano and thyme)
2-3 tbsp. champagne vinegar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Coat chicken, asparagus and tomatoes with 2 tbsp. olive oil.  Generously salt and pepper the chicken breasts.  Preheat grill.  Grill chicken over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.  While chicken is grilling, clean lettuce greens and set aside.  Mix remaining olive oil, vinegar, salt and mustard until cohesive.  Fold in herbs and then salt and pepper to taste.  You can add more vinegar if necessary.  Set aside.  Set one side of grill to higher heat. After chicken has cooked for about 10 minutes, turn to finish cooking.  Add asparagus and tomatoes to grill with the high heat, turning as necessary.  Cook chicken an additional 5-10 minutes or until done.  Remove chicken from grill and allow to set for about 10 minutes to lock in the juices.  Remove tomatoes about the same time as chicken and then asparagus a few minutes later, or until done.

Slice chicken and then serve over greens with asparagus and tomatoes and then top with herb dressing and freshly ground pepper.  (Make sure dressing hasn't started to separate before serving.)

Friday, July 12, 2013

5 Course Paleo Dinner for Four

One of the many positive aspects of the CrossFit gym I attend, CrossFit Primal, is the charitable functions they have. This past February they held an awards banquet called the "Woddy Awards".  It was a fun night.  Dressing up, dinner and dancing.  They also held a silent auction to benefit a local charity so I decided to donate a 5 course paleo dinner.  The winners and I were finally able to get a date that worked for everyone and this is what I served:

Amuse Bouche
Scallop and Shrimp Tequila Citrus Ceviche

4 sea scallops, rinsed, cleaned and sliced into strips
4 jumbo shrimp, deveined, shelled and sliced in 1/2 inch thin pieces
2 limes, juiced
zest of 1 lime
1/2 orange,  juiced, using half of the juice
zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp. quality tequila 
salt to taste

Mix the citrus juices, zest, and tequila together.  Fold into the scallops and shrimp.  Refrigerate, stirring once in a while, until the scallops turn opaque and the shrimp is pink, at least six hours.  Salt to taste.  Drain most of the liquid and serve with a leaf of cilantro.

 Second Course
Raw Vegetable Salad/Cilantro Dressing

1/2 lb. asparagus,  4 carrots and one jicama, cut into thin strips using a peeler
1/2 c. cilantro, minced
1/2 c. olive oil
3-4 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. honey
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together and then, using an immersion blender, mix until the dressing is thick.  Fold into vegetables.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Third Course
Gazpacho/Avocado Crema

10-12 Roma tomatoes, seeded
1 red bell pepper, seeded
1 green bell pepper, seeded
1 small cucumber
1/4 red onion
1/2 jalapeño
juice of one lime
1 avocado
1/2 coconut milk, canned

Cut all of the vegetables into similar sizes.  In a vitamix or food processor, place onions, peppers, cucumber and tomatoes.  Use attachment, turn onto low and push down vegetables as they start to blend while gradually increasing speed.  Mix until blended to desired consistency.  Add lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

For the crema, mix the avocado and coconut milk with an immersion blender until smooth, but not overly thick.  Serve a dollop in the center of the gazpacho.

Fourth Course
Chicken/Chipotle Butter Sauce and Roasted Mixed Peppers

2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 chicken breasts, pounded to same thickness 
1 c. white wine
1 chipotle in adobo, minced
4 tbsp. butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. variety of mixed peppers and tomatillos (cut into fourths), roasted (Coat each pepper and tomatillo in oil and the grill until charred slightly on each side)

Heat large saute pan over medium high heat until butter oil mix starts to brown.  Add chicken, cooking until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes and then turn.  Finish cooking and set in a warm oven while you make the sauce.

Increase the heat in the pan to high and add the wine and allow it to reduce by half.  Add the chipotle and cook for a few minutes, then slowly whisk in the butter so it mixes into the wine and becomes cohesive.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the chicken from oven and return it to the pan, as well as any accumulated juices.  Turn chicken a few times to coat in sauce.  Remove and slice into slices.

While the chicken is cooking, slice the peppers and remove the seeds.  Then return to a small saute pan and cook over medium until they are heated again.

Place pepper mixtures on plate, then add chicken slices, and top with a couple of spoonfuls of the butter sauce.

Raspberry Pot de Creme

5 ounces dark chocolate, at least 60%.  
6 tbsp. Chambord
3 egg yolks
1/2 c. raw honey
3/4 c. coconut milk

Melt the chocolate with the Chamord in a bowl over a pan of almost boiling water.  One the chocolate starts to melt, stir consistently until it is all melted and then remove from heat.

Meanwhile, in a food processor add the egg yolks and honey, mixing well.  Scrape down sides and pulse again a time or two.  While the processor is going, slowly add the chocolate, scraping down sides about half way through and finish adding remaining chocolate.  Slowly add coconut milk until the mixture is blended well.

Pour into serving size dishes (or one large dish, right Yoder?) and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and continue to refrigerate until they are set, at least four hours.  Remove about 15 minutes prior to serving, taking off plastic.  Serve with a dollop of coconut whip cream.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cucumber Salad

How can something so simple taste so delicious?  That is how I feel about cucumber salad.  Cucumber, often overlooked or used as a garnish, is the highlight in this simple summer salad.  Fresh from the garden cucumbers, tomatoes and chives make it even better.  After a long, hot and humid day, this salad  hits the spot!  This night I used a coconut vinegar because my meal was centered around coconut, but feel free to use any vinegar you like!

Get your cucumber on!

1 large cucumber, cut diagonally and the sliced in fourths
3 roma tomatoes, seeded and cut into fourths
1/2 c. chives, chopped
2 tbsp. coconut vinegar
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. raw honey
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the vinegar, oil and honey together.  In a large bowl, mix the cucumber, tomato and chives.  Add the dressing, and then salt and pepper to taste.  Make sure you fold the dressing into the vegetables.  Cover with wrap and the allow to refrigerate at least four hours, or preferably overnight.  Every so so often, stir the mixture.

Garnish with fresh pepper!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Quick Garlic/Pepper Beef

Summer heat means that you don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  It is really easy to just make a salad and call it good, but one can only eat so much.  Tonight I decided to spend a bit of time at the stove and whip up a quick stir fry.  One of my favorite dishes at a local Thai restaurant is their Garlic Pepper Shrimp, so I decided to make my own creation with garlic and pepper.  Add in some sweet basil and mint, and the flavor combination was perfectly light.  You could even do this on the grill (using pans) so you can stay outdoors and enjoy the sun!

1/2 c. garlic, pressed
2 tbsp. Chinese peppercorn, ground
2 tbsp. coconut oil
6 c. mixed vegetables (I used cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, sugar snap peas, celery and onion)
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 c. minced basil
1/2 c. minced mint
Sea salt to taste

Over medium heat in large saute pan melt coconut oil.  Add onion and cauliflower and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add remaining vegetables, keeping heat on medium, cover with lid and cook for about 10 minutes until they are crisp tender.

Meanwhile, cook ground beef over medium high heat until done, remove from pan and set aside.  Add an additional 1 tbsp. coconut oil into ground beef pan.  Then add garlic and pepper, cooking and stirring constantly until it gets fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add basil and mint, cooking an additional minutes.  Add beef to vegetables, mixing well, and cook a few more minutes if needed.  Salt to taste. 


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Taste of Toronto Part 1

Sorry for not posting any recipes last week, but I headed out of town again to Toronto.  I hadn't been to this part of Canada before, so it was fun to see it.  Toronto is an interesting city.  But the food was the highlight of the trip.  I actually am pretty impressed with myself, as most of the time I did eat paleo...until I found a cupcake shop.  Ah well, nobody's perfect.

The Shore Club was my first stop.  This swank restaurant was located right next to the Ritz Carlton in the Entertainment District of downtown Toronto.

First up was the Amuse Bouche.  The chef sent out a ceviche of shrimp and scallops with citrus and cilantro.  The mixture of the citrus and cilantro was delicious.  You can never go wrong when you put citrus and cilantro together, as long as you are light handed with the cilantro.  The little sprig was perfect for this bite size gift from the chef that promised good things to come.  And did they ever. 

I opted for the Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio as my starter.  Perfectly rare, thin slices of beef were topped with arugula, Parmesan and a tangy Dijon peppercorn glaze.  The peppercorn was mild enough in the sauce to allow the peppery taste of the arugula shine in combination with the Parmesan.  Quite possible that this was my favorite dish of the whole trip.

The Grilled Marinated Mushrooms were another appetizer that I tried.  A perfect combination of wild mushrooms was ensconced in a lovely lemon and fresh herb sauce.  The mushrooms were cooked perfectly, seared with a caramelized exterior and a soft bite.

And finally, the Lobster Bisque was quite good.  Not the typical thick, creamy consistency that one may expect from a bisque, but the flavor was delicious, and the splash of sherry when served helped bring the flavors of the fish stock and spices together.  There were only a few little bites of lobster, so that impacted what might have been.

My main course was a Herb dusted Sea Bass with with Mixed Beans and an Ancho Chili Aoili.  The sea bass, my favorite fish hands downs, was baked perfectly.  Moist, but firm, this fish was perfectly season with salt and pepper.  The herb crust was interesting.  It didn't quite taste like herb, in fact, I could have sworn it was ground pistachio.  It didn't work well with the other flavor combinations in this dish.  Had it been a chive or tarragon crust, the dish would have been lovely.  The aioli was spiced with the right amount of ancho chili and went well with the bean salsa.

Dessert!  The Terrine of Sorbet was a wonderful way to finish this meal.  Raspberry, Lime and Mango sorbet were on top of a raspberry puree.  The flavors worked quite well together.  The sorbet was smooth, tart and sweet.  

I also had a bite of a different take on Coconut Cream Pie.  If you are expecting the overly sweet, fake coconut pudding filled pie, this is not for you.  However, if you enjoy real coconut cream and freshly toasted coconut, then this one might be perfect.  The filling was dense and surrounded by a layer of cake and topped with whip cream.  I really can't expand on this was simple and effective at imparting a delicate coconut flavor.  My only thought is that it could have been a bit sweeter, but I did appreciate the difference in this pie compared to others.

Cafe Crepe, near Chinatown, was my stop for breakfast the next morning.  I think when it comes to crepe restaurants you really need to look for one offering a variety of fillings.  Cafe Crepe specializes in Parisian style crepes, offering both sweet and savory.  Of course I had to go with both!  My savory crepe was a traditional Florentine (spinach, egg, Swiss cheese and tomato) with added Prosciutto.  The fresh spinach and tomato made this wonderful.  The crepe was thin and slightly crisp, allowing the ingredients to stay in the crepe without falling apart.  The Prosciutto was a more like a ham than the traditional dry cured Italian variety that I am used to, but it was still good.

My sweet crepe was a Dark Chocolate and Coconut, which would have worked quite well together had the coconut filling been a creme instead of shredded.  The pieces of coconut didn't go well with the soft crepe and smooth chocolate.

Lunch was at the Canyon Creek Restaurant.  This little cozy downstairs restaurant was lovely.  Dark woods and stone with local black and white photography adorning the walls made it simple but elegant.  In downtown, this restaurantt is the perfect locale for a quick business lunch.

My choice?  Grilled Salmon Salad.  Let me first start by saying that anytime a waiter starts by saying that the Chef prefers the salmon to be medium knows what they are doing.

One may think a salmon salad is simple and boring, but this variation is definitely neither.  The salmon was cooked perfectly.  The char on the exterior was lightly done, thus not overtaking the flavor of the sweet and delicate salmon.  The romaine was crisp and perfectly dressed with Miso Caesar.  But what made this salad even more unique was the addition of pickled ginger, edamame, and wasabi guacamole.  The bites of ginger combined with the dressing and guacamole made for the perfection combination of sweet and savory.

Turf Lounge.  This was a nice little restaurant/bar that draws the lucky crowd.  Or, better said, those who prefer little games of chance.  This seems to be an after work stop for those who want a drink, watch a game, and bet on a horse race of two.  I didn't bet, but I told everyone to go with the pink, who  happened to have the words odds.  No one listened, and guess who one?  Pink!  I go by color.  I do that for March Madness too and it serves me well.

Anyway, the food was very good.

I started with a Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Lemon Cream.  This was not a traditional Roasted Red Pepper.  It was a roasted dry red pepper mixed with a broth base.  This made the soup pretty spicy, but the lemon cream helped, albeit lightly, take away the strong cayenne flavor.

The main dish was a Roasted Chicken Breast with Porcini dusted Quinoa, Grilled Shitakes and a Citrus Jus.  The bone in chicken had a seared, crisp and well seasoned skin and the meat was moist. The grilled shitakes really accented this dish quite well, and the quinoa was nicely cooked, without being too moist, and had a light mushroom flavor from being cooked in porcini broth.  I really enjoyed the addition of the citrus jus in this dish.  It lighted the earthly flavor of the mushrooms and accented the simple roasted root vegetables perfectly.

My dessert choice was a Lemon Tart.  I love, love, love lemon and am always on the hunt for the perfect lemon dish.  This was high on my list.  The tart lemon curd was smooth and creamy.  It held well in the shortbread base.  Very rarely do I find a lemon curd that is done well, but they nailed it.