Archives for the month of: February, 2012

Hey everyone! Come check out my new blog over at www.thecleanplatechef.com

 

You can still view all the old wild and free posts along with new content!

-Nikki

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A beautiful morning at my house.

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.

One of my favorite flavor combos!

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.

There's my broccoli!

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)
2 eggs
1/2 avocado
cooking fat
spices

  1. In a small skillet, melt some coconut oil (good) or bacon fat (better!) over medium heat.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. As the second side cooks, add your smoked salmon and avocado slices to one side of the egg circle.
  5. 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).

Yum!

Portobello Breakfast Sandwich

1 large Portobello mushroom, sliced in half like a hamburger bun
1 egg
1 oz. smoked salmon
1/4 avocado, sliced or mashed
1/4 c. sautéed onions
1 Tbsp. melted bacon fat

Remove the stem and gills with a spoon

  1. In a skillet, melt the bacon fat and dip mushroom buns into the oil. Take out ans set aside.
  2. Over low heat, saute onions until soft and a bit caramelized.
  3. Heat up your BBQ grill and over medium heat, grill mushroom halves  until tender.

    Post-grill Portobello

  4. Remove sautéed onion from the skillet and fry up an egg. I like mine a bit runny so this goes pretty fast.
  5. 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.

O Great Bearded One... or Colin.

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
pinch cayenne

Topping

1/2 onion, caramelized
1 large kabocha squash (about 3 cups of flesh)

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. 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
  3.  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.
  4. Let the squash cool and then scoop out flesh into a food processor.

    mash it up!

  5. Add caramelized onions and some salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth and set aside.
  6. Lower oven temp to 300.
  7. In a cast iron dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat,  saute onion, celery, and mushrooms for 2-3 min. Add beef.

    celery, pepper, and eggplant

  8. Stir until beef begins to brown.
  9. Add bell pepper, eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, and spices.
  10. Heat until beef is cooked through and vegetables are beginning to get soft.

    gettin steamy

  11. 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.

    Rustic

  12. 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!

I mean I really, REALLY love it

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…

Live Simply

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”:

Chilled to Perfection

Salted Caramel Pot de Creme with a Chocolate Cap

Caramel Custard
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

  1. Warm 1/2 cup sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Moisten the sugar with just a few drops of water.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Preheat oven to 300.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

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

  1. In a small saucepan, bring coconut milk with coffee to a near boil.
  2. Pour through a sieve over chocolate and stir until smooth.
  3. Add some vanilla and sea salt.
  4. Pour ganache into cooled ramekins over the custard. Make the chocolate cap about 1/4 as thick as the custard.
  5. 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:

Cyprus
Traditional breakfast includes Haloumi cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and fruit juice.

The UK
A “full english” breakfast will have bacon and sausage, baked beans, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, and toast with butter.

Turkey
Boiled eggs, salami and cured meats, with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, local cheese and fresh sourdough bread.

Japan
Almost always have rice, seafood and fermented foods. Oftentimes breakfast will just be leftovers from the day before.

Afghanistan
Oftentimes includes omlettes, boiled eggs, rice with meat (beef) or spinach. They also have breakfast cakes or biscuits.

Uganda
A typical breakfast would be tea with cooked bananas in a stew with meat or vegetable sauce.

Mexico
“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).

Much like a crustless Quiche

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
12 eggs
1 c. coconut milk
1 tsp. dill
a pinch or two of crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
avocado for garnish

  1. Grease crock pot with coconut oil, butter, ghee, or bacon fat.
  2. Mix grated sweet potato with a little crushed red pepper
  3. In a skillet, heat coconut oil or fat and saute onion, garlic, and pepper until onions begin to sweat.
  4. 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.
  5. In a bowl, whisk eggs with coconut milk and seasonings. Pour the egg over all the layers in the crock pot.
  6. 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.
  7. Cut into squares (or rectangles) and store leftovers for breakfast the next day!