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We are definitely creatures of habit. No doubt about it. Even as a chef, I find my household grocery list looking pretty repetitive week to week. This doesn’t happen as much with produce because I like to shop seasonally. For example, during the fall/winter months, hard squashes were always in my reusable totes, but since its turing spring I haven’t bought a squash for a month or so. When it comes to my staples… ground beef, bacon, eggs, coconut milk, etc, I tend to be very unadventurous. So every once in a while, I like to purchase something new and different. This past week I picked up some smoked salmon. I LOVE salmon. I usually buy it in frozen steaks but smoked salmon is pretty freaking amazing. When I used to work at trader joe’s, one of my favorite paleo breakfasts during the early shift was a package of smoked salmon and an avocado.
In remembrance of those days, I recently made a delicious omelette containing those two wonderful items. Healthy fats from all these ingredients, especially the omega 3’s from the wild salmon!
Side note: I also purchased some broccoli, which is a rarity for me. This strikes me as amusing since all I hear from most paleo folks is that they are bored from eating chicken and broccoli all the time. I think to myself, ” How have I managed to sustain paleo cooking for a year without eating broccoli every week?” No joke, I probably have it once or twice in a six month period. So… yeah. I guess that makes me a paleo anomaly.
Salmon and Avocado Omelette
1 oz. smoked coho salmon (from Trader Joes in the beige packaging. It has no sugar added during the smoking process)
- In a small skillet, melt some coconut oil (good) or bacon fat (better!) over medium heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the two eggs and season with black pepper, red pepper flakes, and some garlic powder (I don’t add salt because the salmon is pretty salty).
- Pour egg mix in the skillet. Cook one side and flip to cook the other. This takes practice to do without a spatula. Practice by yourself so you don’t embarrass yourself in front of other people. Then, when you are a proficient omelette flipper, invite friends over for breakfast and impress them with your crazy skillz.
- As the second side cooks, add your smoked salmon and avocado slices to one side of the egg circle.
- Slide onto a plate and fold over the filling with the empty side of the egg.
See, I told you I like breakfast sandwiches (check my Almond Flour Biscuit post)! This a great alternative to using bread as a vehicle for your food, it’s also another good Paleo breakfast item.
I couldn’t resist trying a new version, especially since it’s nut-free. Nuts and I have a complicated relationship. Actually, I make it complicated. The nuts really hold no blame in this scenario. I tend to have an addictive personality. Okay… okay, not tend. I DO have an addictive personality. I find something I like and I go CRAZY over it. My coconut hiatus last week was an attempt at reigning in that obsession. Unfortunately, when I shut down one obsession, another one starts up. Enter my friend (foe), the NUT.
I found myself going back to my nut dependence that I originally steered away from by introducing more coconut products. Here’s the bottom line: Too much of anything is not good. As a person with life-long digestive problems, nut consumption presents quite an obstacle to “feeling well” in a gastrointestinal context. Not to mention, nuts are relatively high in Omega 6 fats which will sabotage the hallowed Paleo goal of evening out your O3:O6 ratio.
In newbie Paleo-eaters, I almost always hear or see the tendency to over-consume nuts. They are fast, easy and tend to be filling. For me, I could eat nuts until I burst. They really do not make me feel full or satiated… which presents a problem. So my solution is to try not to have nuts around the house. If I do eat them, it’s usually in the form of a “condiment” on salads or in sauces or I will make a dessert-type item OCCASIONALLY (everybody’s favorite diet-related word used to cover up over consumption of questionable items. HEAR YE, HEAR YE! Occasionally means: Not habitual; infrequent).
Portobello Breakfast Sandwich
1 large Portobello mushroom, sliced in half like a hamburger bun
1 oz. smoked salmon
1/4 avocado, sliced or mashed
1/4 c. sautéed onions
1 Tbsp. melted bacon fat
- In a skillet, melt the bacon fat and dip mushroom buns into the oil. Take out ans set aside.
- Over low heat, saute onions until soft and a bit caramelized.
- Heat up your BBQ grill and over medium heat, grill mushroom halves until tender.
- Remove sautéed onion from the skillet and fry up an egg. I like mine a bit runny so this goes pretty fast.
- Layer salmon and onions over bottom “bun” add fried egg and avocado and top with the other “bun”.
Wedding gifts are amazing.
A cast iron dutch oven is a prime example of why wedding gifts are amazing.
So, here’s a quick shout out to our friend Colin who purchased said item in honor of our nuptials! Putting it to use was simple enough. I set out to create a delicious Paleo-fied Shepherd’s Pie. Below are the fruits (or pie) of my labor.
This particular pie was topped with a kabocha squash mash, but you could use any squash (or yam) you have on hand.
Kabocha Shepherd’s Pie
1 1/2 lbs. grass-fed ground beef
1 c. diced eggplant
1/2 bell pepper, diced
3 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
2 shiitake mushrooms, diced
4 whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 onion, caramelized
1 large kabocha squash (about 3 cups of flesh)
- Preheat oven to 350
- Caramelize onions by slicing thin half moons and cooking on LOW heat for 20 mins or until onions are soft and brown (not brown and crispy). Stir occasionally
- Cut squash in half and take out the seeds. Place face down on a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 mins. Done when skin gives easily when pressed.
- Let the squash cool and then scoop out flesh into a food processor.
- Add caramelized onions and some salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth and set aside.
- Lower oven temp to 300.
- In a cast iron dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat, saute onion, celery, and mushrooms for 2-3 min. Add beef.
- Stir until beef begins to brown.
- Add bell pepper, eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, and spices.
- Heat until beef is cooked through and vegetables are beginning to get soft.
- Spread topping over the top of the meat mixture in the dutch oven. If using a baking pan, transfer meat mixture to baking pan first, then spread the topping on the meat.
- Bake for 20 mins or until squash topping begins to brown.
Another honeymoon delight and re-creation of an Urban Solace dish. I think it was a pretty successful attempt, though the custard to chocolate ratio was off a bit (there should have been more custard). This version of the pot de creme is dairy-free but it is certainly not sugar-free. Which makes this recipe a once or twice a year venture for us.
Grocery shopping tips:
Make sure to buy some good quality chocolate for the ganache cap. I really like Valrhona 85% and Endgangered Species 88%.. If you want chocolate without soy lecithin then check out Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips. For coconut milk, look for the Native Forest brand of coconut milk. The cans are BPA free… hard to find these days. For more information about the harms of overconsuming canned coconut milk, check out Chris Kresser’s little article about my favorite food: COCONUT!
Recently I’ve been a bit startled at the sheer amount of coconut products that I consume. I mean really? How many kinds of coconut can one paleo adherent eat? Try coconut milk, coconut butter, coconut flour, coconut water, coconut meat (mature and young), coconut sugar, shredded coconut, flaked coconut, coconut oil…. AHHH! I decided enough was enough and that too much of a good thing (that thing being COCONUT) is not good at all. So, in an effort to steer away from my obsession I am abstaining from coconut for this week. It’s the final week of my Whole 30 program and I thought it only appropriate to use this week as an excuse to really clear away the excess items from the diet.
When I began paleo, my only real coconut exposure was in the form of coconut oil (for cooking) and coconut water (for drinking). Since then, my knowledge of all things paleo has expanded and I’ve become more familiar with alternative ingredients for baking and cooking. Knowledge is good if you use it wisely. One of the most attractive things about “ancestral living” is the simplicity of it. In the beginning, it was easy to be simple because I was also ignorant to all the possibilities of nut flours and coconut sugars and date pastes. One of the most attractive things about “ancestral living” is the simplicity of the OG plan…
It’s easy to get excited about new knowledge and employ new food strategies to cope with the loss of familiar SAD diet favorites like pancakes, cookies, pies, and dairy-based items like Pot de Creme. I strive to be a healthy, balanced person but I also want to be a creative and innovative chef. There’s a time and place for the substitutes but there’s a great deal of value in the simplicity of the Paleo Diet. That being said, here I am, sans coconut, trying to strike a balance and reign in my addiction.
Here’s the innovative “yin” to my simplistic “yang”:
Salted Caramel Pot de Creme with a Chocolate Cap
3/4 cup coconut sugar, divided (1/2 cup for the caramel, 1/4 cup for the custard)
Pinch of sea salt
1 1/4 cup coconut milk (full fat)
5 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Warm 1/2 cup sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Moisten the sugar with just a few drops of water.
- Stirring constantly, cook sugar until it caramelizes. The sugar will liquefy, bubble and eventually thicken. Once the caramel turns a rich tan color, remove from the heat and add the cream and whole milk, constantly stirring to combine. It’ll get crazy bubbly… just keep stirring.
- Return the pan to the heat and keep stirring until smooth. At first, the caramel will have some lumps, but don’t worry, these will eventually smooth out. Once it is smooth, turn off the heat let it cool.
- Preheat oven to 300.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla until thick. Slowly, whisk in the cooled caramel until fully combined. Let the mixture sit for a minute then skim off any foam that has developed on the surface.
- Fill ramekins with the custard and place in a baking pan. Fill the pan with boiling water halfway up the ramekins. Cover with aluminum foil and poke some holes in the foil.
- Carefully place in the oven and cook for 30—35 minutes. They are finished once they are wobbly in the center but completely firm to the touch. Let sit 10 minutes covered. Refrigerate for 1 1/2 – 2 hours before adding the chocolate cap.
1/2 c. coconut milk
1 tsp. ground coffee
1/2 c. chocolate, broken into pieces
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch sea salt
- In a small saucepan, bring coconut milk with coffee to a near boil.
- Pour through a sieve over chocolate and stir until smooth.
- Add some vanilla and sea salt.
- Pour ganache into cooled ramekins over the custard. Make the chocolate cap about 1/4 as thick as the custard.
- Chill until ganache has hardened and garnish with sea salt flakes.
I frequently get questions about breakfast. I guess our American breakfast culture hasn’t done much to encourage paleo-friendly type foods. Between breakfast cereal (Captain Crunch to Barbara’s Puffins), waffles, pancakes, grits, muffins (i.e. cake for breakfast… Jim Gaffigan anyone?!), donuts, scones, english muffins, and the ever-popular “toast”; its understandable that newbie Paleo followers have a hard time with their morning meal. Especially in the athletic community which almost always proclaims OATMEAL! for breakfast (gotta get those complex carbohydrates).
Interestingly enough, people in other countries eat all kinds of things for breakfast that don’t include oats, flour or sugar. Here are a few examples:
Traditional breakfast includes Haloumi cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and fruit juice.
A “full english” breakfast will have bacon and sausage, baked beans, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, and toast with butter.
Boiled eggs, salami and cured meats, with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, local cheese and fresh sourdough bread.
Almost always have rice, seafood and fermented foods. Oftentimes breakfast will just be leftovers from the day before.
Oftentimes includes omlettes, boiled eggs, rice with meat (beef) or spinach. They also have breakfast cakes or biscuits.
A typical breakfast would be tea with cooked bananas in a stew with meat or vegetable sauce.
“El desayuno” as it’s called, contains tortillas with spicy eggs and sausage, often accompanied by local fruits.
As you can probably tell, breakfast choices are not limited by the grocery store aisles of the United States, your toaster, or a gallon of milk. So try branching out. Take a hint from the cultures of the world and eat your leftovers, grill up some sausages, and reach into your produce drawer. It’s hard to change your food culture, but paleo breakfast doesn’t have to be an arid desert of scrambled eggs and bacon. And while both of those items are quite delicious, the monotony will get a bit taxing after a while. Especially when you go out to brunch with the fam and everyone’s got a stack of pancakes and french toast next to your little a la carte portions of eggs, bacon, and tomatoes (which unfortunately end up costing 4-5x more than if you had made them yourself).
When it comes to MY breakfast, there really is no standard. I generally fast between 8 pm and 12 pm the next day (16 hours). I’m not super committed to it, but left to my own devices it’s what happens more often than not. This is because I don’t like to eat before I work out and I usually work out in the morning. I’ll wake up, have some coffee with coconut cream, and go about my usual morning routine. The coconut cream is dense enough that I usually don’t get hungry. After my workout, I’ll either run errands or come home to cook. It’s around noontime by then so it becomes more of a lunchtime breakfast.
So here’s my (not so typical) typical breakfast:
I’ll usually have eggs (scrambled or over easy) with a bunch of vegetables sautéed in coconut oil (peppers, onions, mushrooms, greens). Sometimes I’ll have some fruit but not too often. I usually eat fruit by itself if I need something on the go. Many times I will make sweet potatoes or yams, either grated or sliced and baked with some coconut oil. Every once in a while I’ll get into a smoothie phase in which case I’ll blend up some variation of coconut juice, coconut meat, avocado, cocoa, kale, tahini, half a banana, and cinnamon.
I also have some breakfast ideas posted on my recipes page and today’s recipe is an excellent suggestion for people who don’t have time to cook in the morning. It employs the celebrated yet often neglected “crock pot” or slow cooker. Prepare this dish the night before and wake up to a pot full of breakfast for 2 or 3 days (depending on who’s eating… and how much they eat).
Crockpot Egg Casserole (original idea from Sweet Cheeks)
1 lb. of bacon, cooked and chopped
1 red onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 Tbsp. coconut oil or bacon fat
2 medium-large yams, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. coconut milk
1 tsp. dill
a pinch or two of crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
avocado for garnish
- Grease crock pot with coconut oil, butter, ghee, or bacon fat.
- Mix grated sweet potato with a little crushed red pepper
- In a skillet, heat coconut oil or fat and saute onion, garlic, and pepper until onions begin to sweat.
- Begin your casserole in the crock pot by first layering 1/3 of the grated sweet potatoes, then 1/3 of the onion mixture, then 1/3 of the bacon. Repeat 2 more times.
- In a bowl, whisk eggs with coconut milk and seasonings. Pour the egg over all the layers in the crock pot.
- Cook on low for 8-10 hours. It’s done when the internal temp is 160 or it doesn’t “jiggle”when you shake the pot.
- Cut into squares (or rectangles) and store leftovers for breakfast the next day!
This is an amazing recipe for those who want a “sweet” treat without completely derailing their sugar detox/cleanse/general avoidance. The combination of sweet potato or yam, spices, and coconut creates a really savory and finger-licking taste. No guilt involved, I promise. Even more, when you freeze these puppies, it’s almost like a little open faced ice cream sandwich! Say WHAAAT!? yup. Muy delicioso. So have fun with it… play with the spices, and while you’re at it, play with the filling too! It could be garnet yam, sweet potato, kabocha squash, okinowan sweet potato, butternut squash, etc.
In addition to being awesome, these are also NUT-free, SOY-free, GLUTEN-free, DAIRY-free, EGG-free, and SUGAR-free.
Coconut-Crusted Yam Tart
3 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 1/2 c. unsweetened dried coconut
2 c. yams, mashed
1 c. coconut milk (full fat)
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. orange zest
1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed
- Preheat oven to 325.
- In a food processor, pulse oil and coconut until thoroughly crushed into the consistancy of sand.
- Press crust mixture into a tart pan or muffin cups.
- Bake for 15-20 mins. Check it near the end to make sure it’s not burning.
- Make the filling by mixing flaxseed and coconut milk together in the food processor. Don’t process, just let them sit for 5 mins or so.
- Add remaining ingredients and process…. and process… and more processing. The longer it goes the better the texture.
- Once the crust is done, pour the filling over the crust and chill (or FREEZE!) until firm.
- I topped one batch with some sliced almonds, making it not NUT-free. Toppings are optional, feel free to express yourself.
- EAT… NOM NOM NOM NOM.
ALTERNATIVE FILLING ALERT! (AFA for short)
2 c. hawaiian purple potatoes (aka okinowan sweet potato)
1 c. coconut milk
1 tsp. cardamom
1 1/2 tsp. lime zest
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
- Same directions as above. Expect pretty purple tarts.
- Add some zest and shredded coconut for garnish.
Another great vegetable side dish for a BBQ. This is more of a summer recipe, so keep it in mind as you’re doing all your ab work to get a ROCKIN beach body! I made this dish along with Peruvian Ceviche and Raw Pear and Blackberry Tart.
When grilling the vegetables remember a few things:
- charring food is bad. The charred portion becomes carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in our bodies. Try to keep flare-ups to a minimum and keep those “grill marks” light.
- along the same lines it’s better to use a higher heat oil when grilling. Olive oil and other medium-low heat oils will oxidize and change chemical structure in high heat… making them unsuitable for our bodies. Coconut oil can drip into the grill and cause flare-ups sometimes, so I used grapeseed oil in this recipe.
Grilled Vegetables with Salsa Verde
1 eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 3/4″ strips
2 bell peppers
3-4 zucchini, sliced lengthwise same as eggplant
- Heat grill to medium high.
- Place whole bell peppers on the grill, turn occasionally until skin is slightly blistering and soft.
- Brush zucchini and eggplant slices with some grapeseed oil and dust with pepper and salt.
- Grill slices until soft with slight grill marks
- Remove bell peppers when ready. Cool in cold water and remove skin and seeds.
- Slice bell pepper into strips like the eggplant and zucchini.
- Serve on a platter with Salsa Verde
1/2 c. cilantro leaves
1/2 c. parsley leaves
1/2 c. olive oil
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
Juice from a half of lemon
2-3 garlic cloves
1 tsp. salt
sprinkle of paprika
- In a blender or small food processor chop garlic and ginger
- Add parsley and cilantro and chop until well combined. Scrape down the sides with a spatula when necessary
- Add remaining ingredients and season to taste
- Serve sauce over grilled vegetables or on the side.
My husband used to work at a restaurant in San Diego. Not gonna lie, this restaurant makes some pretty delicious meals and my man is one of their biggest fans. He loves many a dish on their menu… Beef cheeks, fig meatloaf, ahi tuna chop chop… I could go on forever. Not being one to back down from a challenge, I sometimes try to recreate his favorite meals with a paleo-friendly ingredient list.
Apparently, I succeeded in my quest and now hubby has a new favorite home cooked meal. So much so that he mourned the impending end of this meal while he was halfway through his cup of soup. Just the thought of it being over made him sad. I’m pretty sure he would have hooked up a soup IV if he could.
So with that introduction I give you (Duh Duh DA DA!!!)
Tomato and Roasted Fennel Soup
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
3 c. stock
1 sweet onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
4-5 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp. duck fat, divided
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1/4 c. pine nuts
olive oil to drizzle
- Preheat oven to 375
- In a bowl, coat the fennel, garlic, and parsnips with 1 Tbsp. of fat and season with some salt and pepper
- Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 mins
- In a soup pot, over medium heat, sauté the shallots and onions until translucent
- Once the fennel mixture is done roasting, add it to the soup pot, sautéing for another 5 mins
- Add stock and simmer for 10 mins
- Add tomatoes and continue to simmer for 5 mins adding basil
- With an immersion blender (or regular blender) puree the contents of the soup until all chunks are gone, add salt and pepper to taste
- In a blender or spice grinder, grind pine nuts with sea salt until it becomes a fine dust like grated parmesan
- Add half the nuts to the soup pot and stir
- Serve with a garnish of olive oil and a dusting of pine nuts