Category Archives: Paleo

Dinner Time! Dinner Time! Dinner Time!

Happy Monday, fair readers! It’s a picture perfect day here in Chicago…..sunny with a slight breeze, and temperatures expected to be in the low 80s. Simply lovely June weather, indeed. Far better than the 50 and pouring rain with storms we had on June 1st. I’ll take it!

If it’s the beginning of the week, it must be time to be thinking about our meal plan! Our last weekly meal plan that was posted had some new recipes (some worked out beautifully, some will need some tweaking if they are to be made again) and we may try some new stuff out this week too.  Also, get ready, because grilling season is officially here and we are rocking it out! It is perfect weather for outdoor cooking and not heating up the kitchen.   Continue reading Dinner Time! Dinner Time! Dinner Time!

Summer Grillin’, Happens So Fast…

One of my favorite things about the warmer weather is firing up the grill. For so many different reasons — grilled food is awesome, it means I get to be outside enjoying the spring/summer air and light and time in the backyard, and I’m not heating up my house unnecessarily by using the stove or oven.  And, ever since we switched from a charcoal grill to a gas grill a few years ago (thank you for the bestest Christmas present ever, honey!), grilling is fast and easy, so it’s no longer relegated to being a weekend-only event.

So what’s a girl to do when weeknight dinner beckons and you don’t want to be bogged down in prep time? Why, grill peppers, onions, tomatoes and sausage! Here’s a super easy, super fast, and super yummy dinner that you can make in, literally, 10 minutes of grilling time!

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 Green Bell Peppers, cut into bite size pieces

2 Red Bell Peppers, cut into bite size pieces

1 Onion, cut in half and sliced (think half onion ring size)

1 Pint Grape tomatoes, halved (or cherry, whatever floats your boat)

1 Packet Mojito Lime seasoning

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Turkey Sausage (or any other sausage of your choosing)

The before cooking pictures:

(Note: I used Ekrich Skinless Turkey Sausage)

Instructions:

1. Get your grill going nice and hot. You’re going to need a veggie grilling basket for this meal, and I always toss mine on the grill while it’s warming up so that the basket is piping hot and ready too.

2. In a large bowl, toss the peppers, onion, tomato, Mojito Lime seasoning and olive oil, to ensure that everything is coated up.

3.  When your grill is ready (I usually let mine heat up for about 10 minutes), toss the pepper mixture into the grilling basket, and toss the sausages on the grill.

For the sausages, assuming they are pre-cooked, which most are, you can grill them over medium heat, 5 minutes per side. Key –> Be sure to poke a few holes in each sausage with a fork so that the juices can escape and you don’t have the sausage explode on you while cooking. For the veggies, I let them cook away in the basket over medium-high heat, and mix them around with tongs at the halfway mark of cooking (5 minutes) to ensure that they are evenly cooked.

4.  Once the cooking time is done, turn your grill off and enjoy your fabulous dinner.

Behold, the beauty of grilled veggies, piping hot:

And sausages, perfectly grilled as well:

What’s your favorite meal to toss on the grill in summer?

Breadless Cheesesteak Sandwiches with Peppers!

Happy Sunday, fair readers! I hope that you’ve all had a wonderful, relaxing and fun filled weekend, wherever you may be. Here in Chicago it’s been the weekend of the NATO invasion as dignitaries from more than 60 countries come together to discuss all manner of politics and wreak havoc on traffic, buses, trains and general life here. Not to worry, as NATO has not prevented us from having an activity packed weekend, from working in the garden (separate post to come on that this week), attending a going away party for friends moving to Vermont, and meeting new friends. Add in the 90+ degree heat here and it’s just been fun in da sun!

I’ve been toying with the idea of what recipe/meal to post next and share with you all….should it be a new creation? An old standby? Comfort food transformed into moderately healthy comfort food? And then I realized, it should be the Breadless Cheesesteak Sandwiches with Peppers! Why? Because it is DELICIOUS! And FAST! And EASY! And YUMMY! It’s the perfect weeknight meal for when you have to cook but don’t really want to, great to make before an evening out on the weekend and is even a quick lunch if you work from home or have the day off. Behold, I give you this wonder of taste:

Serving Size: 2

Ingredients:

2 Green Bell Peppers, sliced into pieces of your preferred size

2 Red Bell Peppers, sliced into pieces of your preferred size

1 Purple Onion, small, cut into thin slices

2 Tablespoons EVOO or butter (your choice, I personally use butter)

1 LB Deli roast beef (I used the Sara Lee Medium Roast Beef, low sodium)

Provolone Cheese, approximately 6 slices

Instructions:

1.  In a large sautee pan, melt your EVOO or butter (or other fat of your choosing) over medium-high. When the pan is nice and hot, add the onions and sautee them until they are starting to get tender, approximately 2-3 minutes.

2.  Add in the peppers and sautee until they are cooked through, but still a bit crunchy. I always find that cooking peppers is a matter of personal preference.  I want mine cooked through but still crunchy.  I made this meal for my parents on Friday and my mom prefers her peppers cooked a little bit more. It’s all just what YOU like.

3.  Once the peppers and onions are fully cooked, remove them from the pan and set them aside in a platter.

4.  Returning your pan to the heat, add your roast beef to the pan and cook it over medium heat for approximately 2-3 minutes.  Basically, you just want to warm the roast beef up and get it to brown a little bit. It’s already been fully cooked before being sold to you, so this is truly just to warm it up and let it soak up the peppery and onion flavor of the pan.  And believe me, you’ll be pleased that you did!

5.  Once the roast beef has been cooked to your satisfaction, scoot it to one side of the pan and add the peppers back in to warm them up.  I try to arrange my pan so that the peppers are the bottom layer, and the roast beef is then on top of them.  But there’s no right and wrong in this recipe, so if you want to mix it all up, go for it!

6.  Add the slices of provolone cheese to cover the peppers and beef in the pan and cover until the cheese is melted, approximately 1-2 minutes, depending on your stove.

7.  Eat and enjoy your delicious dinner without the bad carbiness of bread and gluten! You get so many vitamins from the veggies that this is truly a complete meal on its own. Or, you can add in a salad on the side if you’d like.

Chicken Alfredo with Zucchini and Yellow Squash Noodles!

Dear reader, as you know, one of the things that I love to do is find new recipes to try, to “paleofy” and fiddle with.  My husband is a huge fan of Reddit and follows all sorts of different Paleo/Keto/Health subreddits, and often we find some GREAT recipes there.  The base for this recipe was just that — a great link sent to me by hubby as an “I think we should try and make this sometime.”  Here is the link to the original Zucchini and Chicken Alfredo.  The first time I made this, I followed the recipe to the letter and it was very good. This is the picture of the finished product, first time around:

Personally, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Alfredo Sauce, as I find the jarred stuff too tart and chemical tasting and when we eat out I am drawn to pesto, which is my favorite. This meal was super quick and easy to make, and the jarred sauce DID deepen and became richer in flavor after cooking with the chicken and squash in it. After making it, though, I was still convinced I could make a version with a homemade sauce that I would like even more.  Challenge accepted!

Before this evening, I’d never made my own Alfredo Sauce, so I googled it and came across many recipes from which to choose — Alton Brown, Paula Deen, Giada, fake Olive Garden sauce. You name it, it was out there…..I didn’t like all of the ingredients in some of those sauces and found a pretty simple recipe to use as my base, here.

If you’ve made any type of a sauce in your kitchen before, you know that it usually requires that you use flour combined with butter to create the roux, or the base of the sauce. I have no problem with roux, and have made many in my day. The issue now is that we are eating Paleo and have cut out white flour from our diets…..is there a solution? Or am I totally screwed on this one? Nope, all is well.  Many people are unaware that there are a bazillion and one options for using flour that does not contain gluten and that is made from a variety of other bases…..coconut flour and almond flour are two of my favorites.  I’ve used them in baking many things since going Paleo and gluten-free and things taste even better.  This evening, I had to fiddle with the amount of coconut flour to use (and ultimately increased the amount called for in the recipe) in order to get the consistency in the roux that I needed.   Without further ado, I give you Fatty Girl’s recipe for Paleo friendly, gluten free Chicken Alfredo with Zucchini and Yellow Squash!

Ingredients for the chicken and veggie part:

  • 4-5 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2-3 Zucchini (I tried to get bigger, so I had longer noodles and more of them)
  • 2-3 Yellow Squash (Again, try to get bigger, so that you have longer noodles)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper

Instructions:

1.  Ready? Set? Go prepare your chicken! I sliced the chicken breasts into strips (think fajita size) and then cut the bigger pieces in half so that they were all the same size for even and quick cooking.  Sprinkle kosher salt, ground black pepper and italian seasoning onto the chicken (both sides) and you can set aside in the fridge for a little bit if you’re doing advance prep. Personally, I prepped my chicken about 5 hours before I started making dinner and just put the plate with saran wrap in the fridge. Or, you can cook right away.

2.  Next step? Prepare your zucchini and yellow squash! This is super easy and until this woman’s recipe I hadn’t thought to make faux pasta using zucchini.  Armed with the veggie peeler, and a cutting board, I got down to work. Just start peeling and don’t stop until you hit seeds on all sides of the zucchini.  Repeat with the yellow squash.  This will leave you with a gorgeous pile of vibrant, thin “noodles” and the smell of fresh veggies is intoxicating. (Note: after you’re done peeling the veggies for this recipe, you still have a lot of both squash left. I chopped mine up and put into the fridge for use in stir fry or scrambled eggs — last weekend’s yellow squash and zucchini scrambled eggs were DELISH!)

3.  Grab the pan of your choosing….you could use a cast iron skillet, a regular skillet, or your dutch oven. I made this in our Le Cruset dutch oven because I knew it would have to stay warm until hubby arrived home late. Over medium-high heat, melt the butter (2 Tablespoons) and cook the chicken. Mine cooked up in about 4 minutes on each side. So as not to crowd the pan, I cooked the chicken in two batches.

4.  Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the pan and set aside on a plate. Grab all your noodles and toss them into the dutch oven and cook them over medium heat. You want them to get tender and brown a little bit, but you don’t want them to burn or fall apart. Once the noodles are cooked, turn off the heat to the pan, toss the chicken back into the pot and mix it into the noodles. Oooh, and best part, don’t forget to add the chicken juices from the plate. They will taste really good.

Next up? The sauce. The sauce was very quick and easy to whip up, but because a roux based sauce with cheese requires some babysitting on the stove, I made it after I had finished the chicken and veggies so I didn’t have to babysit multiple pots and grow about 8 arms to make it all happen.

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 teaspoons coconut flour (we use Red Mill brand)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions:

1.  In your favorite saucepan (I used my purple Le Cruset sauce pan with the lid — one of the best gifts I’ve ever received for its versatility), melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the minced garlic and sautee it quickly until the garlic is a very light brown.

2.  Immediately add the 3 teaspoons coconut flour and whisk it into the butter and garlic mixture, until you don’t have any clumps and you’ve created a slightly thick sauce.  A roux should be thicker than regular liquid, without clumps, and requires constant whisking.

3.  Pour in the heavy cream and whole milk and whisk it until combined with the roux and thickened a bit.

4.  Add in the Parmesan cheese and stir until it is fully melted.

5.  Now comes the really fun part — taste testing. Grab your spoon and taste the sauce so you can add salt and pepper to your individual palette.  I found I just needed about two pinches of salt and a little pepper and the sauce was divine. This is a picture of the sauce that I made, before adding it to the chicken and veggies:

Note: this sauce is not a shocking white like most alfredo sauces you see, due to the fact that I used coconut flour. If you make your sauce with almond flour, or white flour, chances are it will be lighter in color. But what it lacks in traditional color, I can tell you this sauce makes up for in richness and depth.

6.  Pour the sauce into the pot with the chicken and veggies and warm it over medium heat and serve.  Or, cover the pot up and wait to serve it later! Whatever floats your boat. This recipe also made great leftovers and didn’t make it past the following lunchtime in our fridge.

The final product:

 

 

Paleofied Outback Alice Springs Chicken Recipe

I think that one of the most addictive websites that I’ve come across in recent history is Pinterest.  I’ve actually been on Pinterest since the beginning, after my friend Tina over at Squirrel Accorns sent me an invite. At first, I wasn’t sold on it, since the pictures didn’t link to the underlying articles that featured them and it was hard to find things. Well, fast forward about 8 months and the site has blown up and is apparently now the “hot new thing” on the Internet. I actually concur. It seems like everybody is pinning pictures of their favorite foods, crafts, books, sayings (I like this less and less, if I wanted to read your quotes I’d just look at your damn Facebook “about” page), exercises and the like. You can get lost for hours, and I do mean HOURS, just scrolling through the pretty pictures from people you know and people you don’t know, in every category of topic imaginable.

How does this relate to the title of this post? Well, one afternoon I was using my alotted 30 minutes of Pinterest time (gotta limit it, or it’ll be a baaaaad time suck) and I saw a picture for a chicken dish that was smothered in mushrooms, bacon and cheesy deliciousness.  “I love all those things,” I immediately thought. I immediately clicked on the pin, got to the link to the underlying page and read the recipe. You can find the original recipe here –> Original Alice Springs Chicken Dish.  The recipe looked awesome, I mean, look at this picture and tell me that you don’t want to immediately dive face first into this deliciousness:

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Interestingly, I’ve never actually had this meal at an Outback. I think I’ve only eaten at an Outback once or twice (they were never prominent where I grew up or lived, except while in college) but the meal still looked awesome.  The biggest problem that I had with the recipe, though, was the inclusion of massive amounts of honey, which has WAY TOO MUCH sugar for what I prefer to use and cook with, especially since we’ve been eating Paleo. But alas, I remembered that Agave Nectar can be a good substitute for honey in small doses. I looked up the substitution rates (thanks Google, what would I ever do without you?) and figured that I could make the recipe work and that the calorie count would just put it into the category of a “slightly special dinner treat.” I set off on making the dish, following the recipe pretty much to the letter with the exception of the substitution of Agave Nectar for honey.  The dish was a hit with my husband and our friend Jeremy who came over to enjoy a Sunday night dinner cooked by someone else. I personally thought that the dish tasted good, but was physically messy, and in my opinion still needed a bit of tweaking.  I also found that the marinade was a little bit sweeter than I generally would have preferred, as I am much more of a sour lover than a sweet.

A few days ago as I was planning out our meals for the week, I thought about what we had in the fridge and I realized that apart from mushrooms I had all the makings to do the chicken recipe again.  Only this time, I decided I wanted to set out to modify the recipe a bit to make it more Paleo friendly (read: I love cheese, but you do NOT need half a cup of cheese per chicken breast) and fiddle with the marinade recipe to make it a little bit more Dijon and a little less honey.  The end result, in my opinion, was pretty awesome, and I give you a Paleo friendly Outback Alice Springs Chicken Recipe:

First up, the marinade….let’s meet our cast of characters, shall we?

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Ingredients for Marinade:

1/2 Cup Dijon Mustard (I used 1/4 cup of one brand of dijon from Whole Foods, and then 1/4 cup French’s Dijon with champaign vinagrette…I didn’t have enough of the open dijon to do the recipe, but the resulting taste was great)

1/2 Cup Mayonnaise (I use Kraft Olive Oil Mayo)

1/8 Cup of Agave Nectar, or to your preferred taste

1/2 Teaspoon Lemon Juice

2 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry

1.  Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and whisk them together until you have a creamy marinade. Of course, it is essential to dip your finger in to taste test and ensure that the marinade meets your individual specifications:)

Side note: part of why it is always so important to taste test as you are cooking is to make sure that things don’t end up too sweet.  The original substitution rate that I saw for Agave and Honey was 3/4 of Agave to each 1 part of honey.  The original recipe called for 1 cup of honey.  Last night, I was cutting the recipe in half, and I started out by putting in less than 1/8 cup of Agave nectar, and taste tested it. Since I was going for a honey mustard taste for the marinade and sauce, there was a delicate balance to be sought. After 1/8 cup of Agave nectar had been added, the marinade tasted pretty good. I added about 1 Tablespoon more and found that I had reached the level of sweetness that I wanted, and was able to cut half a cup of Agave from the recipe AND the associated calories.

2.  Once the marinade is made, grab your chicken breasts and put them in a gallon size freezer ziploc bag.  Pour about 3/4 of the marinade into the bag with the chicken, seal it up and smush it around so that the chicken is all coated in the marinade. Then, just toss the bag in the fridge and let the chicken marinate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day, whatever you prefer. Put the remaining marinade into a small bowl and set it aside in the fridge.  Like so:

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3.  While your chicken is finishing marinating, but before you start cooking, you might want to get your remaining ingredients together and prepped.  I personally like to prep them before I start the chicken cooking so that everything goes smoothly and I can get dinner done more quickly. Or maybe I’m just too anal retentive on some things and doing it this way makes me happy. Let’s not overanalyze it.

Remaining Ingredients:

8 ounces White Mushrooms, sliced

4 strips bacon (I used Meijer low-sodium bacon, it’s awesome)

1/4 cup Colby Jack cheese, shredded

1/4 cup Super Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons butter

3.5.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In case you missed it, this is instruction 3.5. I forgot to tell you to preheat the oven, dear reader, and didn’t feel like renumbering the entire post.  Silly Kelly!

4.  After you slice up your mushrooms, heat a pan and add the olive oil.  Get the pan nice and hot, then add the mushrooms and sautee them up until they’re cooked through and a beautiful brown color.  I start the mushrooms on high heat and then reduce the flame to medium so that the mushrooms cook thoroughly but don’t burn.

5.  While the mushrooms are cooking, you can toss your bacon into the microwave to cook it.  Once it is cooked and patted to remove grease, roughly chop the bacon into small pieces. (The original recipe used the bacon in strips, but I found that doing that and then piling mushrooms and cheese on top made it all topple over and not everybody got bacon–blasphemy!).

6.  Shred your cheese and set it aside. Or, buy shredded cheese and just measure it out. Whatever floats your boat.

7.  Once your mushrooms are done cooking and have cooled a bit, transfer them to a cutting board and chop them roughly into smaller pieces.  They don’t have to be chopped or diced to perfection, just made a little bit smaller.

See how pretty all the ingredients look just waiting to be poured on top of chicken:

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8.  Time to cook the chicken.  In a cast iron skillet (or large pan of your choosing, I use my Le Crueset sauce pan since it is the perfect size) melt your butter over high heat.  Add the chicken breasts to the pan and cook 5 minutes on each size. The chicken breasts will be almost cooked through and the remainder of the cooking will be done in the oven.

9.  Transfer your chicken to a glass baking dish that you’ve sprayed with olive oil (or Pam or whatever cooking spray that you use so the chicken won’t stick to the bottom). Brush the remaining marinade onto the chicken breasts, distributing it evenly between them.

10.  Sprinkle the chopped bacon pieces onto the chicken breasts, ensuring that both get equal bacon lovin’.

11.  Pour the chopped mushroom pieces onto the chicken breasts, also ensuring that both get equal mushroom lovin’.

12.  Sprinkle the shredded cheese over both chicken breasts, you know, making sure it’s evenly divided between the two chicken breasts.

13.  Pop your dish into the oven for about 15-20 minutes. You want the chicken to finish cooking, and the cheese to have melted and gotten bubbly and maybe even a little brown (at least, I like my cheese a little bubbly and brown).

14.  Serve your deliciousness with the veggie of your choosing and voila! It tastes great, has tons less calories than the original recipe and has been made Paleo friendly by the exclusion of the honey.  We enjoyed ours with roasted broccoli.

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Slow-Cooker Pork Chops with Onions and Garlic and Herbs de Provance Oh My!

So, one of my favorite things to do is find new recipes for yum yums on the web and try them out. One of my other most favorite things to do is fiddle with the recipes and tweak them to make them more my taste and style, and, let’s face it, better. I’m also a firm believer that onions and garlic make everything better, and, when combined with the correct spice mixes, you can take something that could ordinarily be quite boring, like a chicken breast or pork chop, and transform it into something totally awesome.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve seen numerous recipes on the web that mixed pork chops with onions, but all called for cooking in a skillet. In my personal opinion, pork chops can be quite tough if they’re not given enough time to cook. They are also a blander cut of meat that need additional time to have flavors cook into them to get them all good and tasty. I prefer to cook pork chops in the slow cooker (assuming the grill is not available due to winter and all) and hence, after some fiddling (and use of the skillet for par-cooking) the following recipe was born!

Ingredients:

4-6 boneless pork loin chops sliced about an inch thick (I used 6 chops and they reheated as leftovers beautifully)

2 Large Sweet Yellow Onions (Halved and sliced thinly)

3 Large Garlic Cloves (minced)

Salt + Pepper, to taste

1 Tablespoon Onion Powder

1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder

The Spice House Lake Shore Drive Seasoning

1-2 Tablespoons Herbs de Provence

2 Tablespoons Fat of Your Choice (I used 1T butter and 1T olive oil)

Balsamic Vinegar

1/2 Cup Chicken Broth

Instructions:

1.  Rinse your pork chops in cool water and pat dry on paper towels.

2.  In a large skillet, heat the fat you’ve chosen to use on medium-high heat. While the skillet is heating, season your pork chops with the salt, pepper and Lake Shore Drive seasoning. Be liberal with your seasonings, the chops will taste better for it. Once the skillet is ready, add your chops and cook them 2 minutes on each side. You don’t want to cook them fully, you just want to get them started and give them a lovely brownish tinge. Remove the cooked chops and set aside on a platter.

Look at those gorgeous par-cooked chops!

3. To the still hot skillet, add 1-2 Tablespoons butter and let it melt.  Add the onions and garlic and cook thoroughly in the butter, letting them brown and start to sweat and be beautiful. Kind of like the onions in this picture.

4.   As the onions and garlic keep cooking, season them with the onion powder and garlic powder, and then add your Herbs de Provence. Stir everything in well and let the mixture continue to cook on medium heat. You don’t want your onions or garlic to get blackened, just to continue cooking down and looking gorgeous.

5.  After about 20-25 minutes of cooking, add balsamic vinegar to the cooking mixture and mix it in. You can use as much or as little balsamic as you prefer, based on your personal tastes. I used approximately 2 Tablespoons.  Stir the vinegar into the cooking onions, and they should look like this:

6.  Now, to the slow cooker! Put your slow cooker on LOW, and using tongs place your pork chops on the bottom.  Whatever you do, save the juices from the pork chop plate for later use. Then, pour all the onions and garlic from the skillet into the slow cooker on top of the chops. The onions are going to do a magnificent job of cooking down onto the chops and adding all sorts of wonderful flavors to them.

7.  Your skillet will likely have lots of little bits of pork and onion and garlic stuck to the bottom of it.  We are going to deglaze the pan to get those yummy bits into a quick sauce to also add to the slow cooker.  Put the skillet back on the stove, and over high heat, add the juices from the pork chops plate and add 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Turn that baby up to the highest heat you have and bring it to a gorgeous boil. You’ll want to use your wooden spoon to stir it and get all the bits off the bottom of the pan.

8.  Let the broth boil until it has reduced by about half.  Taste test it, of course, and if needed add a pinch of salt or pepper to your personal taste preferences.  Once the sauce has reduced by half, turn your heat off and pour over the chops and onions in the slow cooker.

9.  Cover and cook for 4-6 hours, mixing occasionally if you’re around to do so. Serve the chops with a good heaping of the onions on top, and the veggie of your choice.

As I said above, since I made 6 thin chops with this recipe we had plenty of leftovers. I stored it in the fridge in regular Tupperware and reheated in the microwave. The chops reheated deliciously and made a great lunch the following day.

Hope everyone enjoys!

Thai Chicken Soup – Paleo Friendly!

As addressed in my previous post (which I’m sure everyone has read since you, fair reader, want to scoop up my every word) my husband and I have been following a (slightly modified, dairy friendly) Paleo diet. Essentially, we eat fruit, veggies and proteins, and have cut out simple carbs like pasta, potatoes, white rice, bread and processed foods. Cooking in the Paleo lifestyle hasn’t really been a challenge, since there are so many AMAZING recipes that don’t require the bad things, and we love protein, especially meat.

The other evening, I made a LOVELY Thai Chicken Soup, the base recipe from which I got from America’s Test Kitchen. To find the original recipe, you can click on the phrase “America’s Test Kitchen” to the left, OR, you can buy the wonderful book, America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution. The book is very much worth the price of admission, as it has MANY wonderful recipes that are just plain delicious. As with all recipes, I slightly modified this one to suit my own tastes and preferences and needs.

If you’re looking for a filling, but not too hearty, soup with lovely Thai flavors that won’t burn your nose hairs out, I highly suggest giving this one a whirl. I made it in the slow cooker, but did start the chicken cooking in a skillet. I will give instructions for both the “quick prep” and the slow cooker way.

Ingredients:

2 Small Onions, minced

6 Garlic cloves, minced

2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, grated (we store our fresh ginger in the freezer and I just pulled it out and grated it frozen)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I used my homemade chicken stock) (4 cups = 24 ounces)

2 14-ounce cans of coconut milk (I actually use boxed coconut milk from Whole Foods as opposed to the canned Thai Style brand, for no reason other than we use a lot of coconut milk in our house and I buy it in bulk)

2 stalks Lemon Grass (just save yourself the time and go to Whole Foods to get it, as I couldn’t find it anywhere else in Chicago) You only want the bottom 5 inches of the lemon grass, rinsed. To prep the lemon grass and release its wonderful flavor, using the back of your chef’s knife, create indentations in the stalks about 1 inch apart (do not CUT them, just create bruised indentations)

2 Medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick

3 Tablespoons fish sauce (you can find this in any Asian aisle at the grocery store.)

10 Cilantro stems, tied together with twine

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed

8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced thin

Juice from 2 limes

2 Teaspoons Thai red curry Paste

Instructions:

1.  Turn your slow cooker on to high. I always turn mine on before I start doing the food prep, so that it’s ready to actually start cooking once my ingredients are ready.

2.  Grab your food processor and combine the onions (halved) and garlic and pulse it until they are in small, small pieces. (This was a much faster prospect for me than hand mincing everything, especially when I needed to get the soup going in the slow cooker if I had any hope of serving it for dinner the night I made it).

3.  After you’ve food processed your onions and garlic, toss them into a medium sized glass bowl that is microwave safe, add the ginger and the olive oil.  Microwave for 3-5 minutes, until the onions are softened, stopping approximately each minute to stir the mixture.  When done microwaving, throw these ingredients in the slow cooker.

4.  Add the following to the slow cooker after tossing in the onions/garlic/ginger — all the chicken broth, 1 can (or 14 ounces) of coconut milk, 1 Tablespoon of the fish sauce and the cilantro stems.  Stir around a bit so it’s all mixed together and then put the lid on. You’re going to prep the chicken now.

5(a).  *Fast-Cook Chicken Prep* — Time was an issue for me the day I made this recipe, so I needed to get the chicken on it’s way to being cooked BEFORE I put it in the slow cooker. Here’s how I did that. Got my trusty skillet out and put in 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil and heated it up on medium-high heat. Make sure your olive oil coats the entire bottom of the pan. While the pan is heating, salt and pepper both sides of your chicken thighs. You can add additional seasonings to your personal taste. Once the pan is ready, lay the chicken thighs into the pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side. This will lightly brown the exterior of the chicken and start it cooking so that it only has to finish in the slow cooker. ONLY 2 MINUTES PER SIDE. The chicken will still be visibly pink inside. It doesn’t matter. It WILL finish cooking in the slow cooker. Due to the size of my pan, I had to cook the chicken in 2 batches. No biggie. Once the first batch is done, remove from the skillet and put on a plate while you’re cooking the remaining chicken. Once all the chicken has been cooked, 2 minutes each side, put it into the slow cooker and make sure it is submerged into the soup. It will finish cooking in there.  If you’re like me and you love all the little bits of chicken that got stuck to the bottom of your skillet and think they add flavor, you can do a quick deglaze of the pan using either 1/4 cup water or chicken broth, boil on a high heat until the pan is deglazed and then add that minimal liquid to your soup. I did that, and the soup was still delish.  Cook the soup mixture, with chicken, for 4 hours on high, or 6 hours on low.

5(b) *I’ve Got All Day Chicken Prep* — If time isn’t an issue for you on the preparation of this soup, after step 4, just salt and pepper your chicken thighs and toss them in the slow cooker, making sure they’re submerged in the soup. Cook the soup mixture, with chicken, for 4 hours on high, or 6 hours on low.

6.  After 4-6 hours of cooking time, and some excellent smells from your soup, grab a slotted spoon and a cutting board. Remove the chicken from the mixture and place onto a cutting board.  Let it cook for a few minutes and then you’ll be cutting it into bite-sized pieces. At this point, my chicken was so tender it pretty much cut with just a fork.

7.  While your chicken is cooling on the cutting board, add the mushrooms to the soup and keep the soup cooking on low.

8.  In a microwave safe glass bowl (I used the same bowl from earlier), microwave the remaining 14 ounces of coconut milk (approximately 2-3 minutes depending on the power of your microwave).  Remove the bowl from the microwave and whisk in the remaining 2 Tablespoons of fish sauce, the lime juice, and the curry paste.  Whisk gently, just enough to combine everything and have the curry paste dissolve. Your mixture will be a beautiful orange hue now.  Add to the slow cooker and stir it in.

9.  After cutting your chicken up, add it back to the slow cooker and let everything cook about 30 minutes more. You want the mushrooms to be tender but not falling apart, and to have had everything combine together beautifully to be hot.

10.  Using tongs, remove the 2 stalks of lemon grass and the cilantro stems and toss in the trash.

11.  Serve the soup in the bowl of your choice. If you so desire, you can garnish the soup with fresh cilantro leaves (that’s what I did), scallions, or lime wedges or peppers. All to your taste!

Leftovers Note –> This recipe is going to create leftovers, unless you’re cooking for a small army.  I refrigerated the leftovers in standard Ziploc tupperware and the soup reheated beautifully the following 3 days.

Pictures Note –> I LOVE pictures on cooking blogs, not only because it’s food porn to me, but because I like to see how things should look when I’m trying to replicate the recipe. My camera was charging and I forgot to take pictures of this soup, but starting with my next recipe (Pork Chops with faux Onion Jam) there will be lots of pictures as we go along. Yay!

Paleo Eating, It’s What We Do!

Since January, Patrick and I have made a concerted effort to cut out simple carbs and eat “paleo.” It’s also been called eating primal, caveman, etc. It’s actually a pretty simple theory for how to model your food — cut out simple carbs in the form of bread, wheats, white rice, pasta, white and red potatoes and the like, and focus instead on eating protein, veggies, nuts and fruit (in moderation). If we were eating “true 100%” Paleo, we would cut out dairy 100%, but that is really just too difficult for me. I need my cheese. And as long as it is in moderation and isn’t soy cheese or low-fat cheese it is fine.

Why are we doing this you might ask? Primarily for health and weight loss benefits. Both of us should lose weight (especially before we have kids) and we want to feel better. Now that we are in our mid-30’s, we were both starting to feel more creaky and found we weren’t feeling good after we would fill up on some of our favorite foods like pizza and pasta and breads and potatoes. I also have a slight gluten sensitivity, and when I avoid foods with gluten, my stomach thanks me greatly. But most importantly, oh my God do we feel better and younger and faster and stronger eating this way! It’s hard to believe that changing how you eat on what is ultimately a minute level (we usually cooked at home before too) can promote a bunch of bigger and better feelings. When my blood sugar levels aren’t spiking after eating foods so high in starch like potatoes and pastas, I don’t feel the need to nap after eating.

I wish I could explain it other than just saying “I feel good” but it’s true. I feel good. My blood sugar levels are solid, my water intake is up, my joints feel good, my stomach feels GREAT and I’m sleeping better. By cutting out processed foods, increasing water intake and eating healthy foods for me, my skin has improved and frankly, when you have extra weight you’re carrying around, it kind of starts to melt off. The added bonus, of course, is that when you don’t need to nap after every meal or lay on the ground in the fetal position clutching your stomach, you can actually exercise too!

What CAN You Eat? This is a question I get a lot…..”sputter, sputter, if you’re not eating bread and grains and pasta, what the hell are you eating?” Well, first off, we are eating like kings lately! The general rule of thumb for our plates is half protein, half veggies/fruits/nuts. If it’s an animal? You can eat it. If it’s a vegetable? You can eat it. If it’s a nut? You can eat it. If it’s fruit? You can eat it in moderation. I love all those things! Nom nom nom. And when you fill your house with good foods, as I tell my mom all the time, it’s that much harder to eat the bad food.  I have a heroin-like addiction to pretzels. BUT, if I do not buy them, and I’m craving them, it’s a lot of effort to get up, get shoes on, go to the store, run in to get the pretzels, and then return home to eat them. That’s a 30 minute time commitment I have to make to getting junk food when if I wait 15 minutes at home, the craving will probably pass.

My saving grace for eating in the “Paleo” lifestyle, though, is meal planning. Course, I’ve always done meal planning since we live in an apartment with a regular sized refrigerator and not 3 fridges and 2 freezers tucked into a basement somewhere. We have somewhat limited storage space in our pantry and while we store all of our “staples”, fresh fruits and veggies need to be bought at least weekly and I buy our meat in bulk about once a month. Sundays for me is the day to sit down with the paper and see what’s on sale (have I mentioned I’m an avid coupon clipper), check out the specials at the store, and sort through the recipes I’ve found during the week that I earmarked for trying. We figure out our schedules for the week, who will be home for which meals and start the planning there. My theory is always if I know what I’m going to be eating each night for dinner, AND I know that I have the ingredients all ready to make the meal, I’m not going to be as tempted to sit down and order take out on my way home or grab a frozen pizza. Because let’s face it, pork chops on the slow cooker sound AND taste way better than take out or a frozen pizza.

 

If you’re at all interested in reading up on the Paleo lifestyle, and/or looking for yummy Paleo recipes, here are a few blogs that I follow that make finding new and yummy foods easy:













I set my blog subscriptions up in Google Reader and then log on each morning to see what’s new!
Happy Eating!

Kick Ass Red Wine Reduction Sauce

Hello Fair Readers! Yes, I know, it’s been so long since I’ve blogged. I wish I had some really awesome excuse as to why I hadn’t been online (like, winning the lottery and sailing the world in my new yacht) but no such luck. Sometimes, it’s just laziness. I’ve got ideas. I’ve got posts rolling around in my head. It always just seemed, though, that when the time came to put pen to paper, or in this case, fingertips to keyboard, something else always came up. I had wanted to change the theme of the blog up a bit, and update the world on our eating style (paleo, awesome, loving it). All will come in due time, I swear.

For now, though, I wanted to publish a quick recipe that after many, many, many, many, many attempts at perfecting I finally perfected. This one is also a special shout out to Meme Bennett, the mother of one of my dearest college friends. And sort of a follow-up to my last post about Wildfire Restaurant.

At Wildfire, some of their steaks have this AH-MAZING red wine reduction sauce drizzled so lovingly over the top of the steak you order. It is rich and sumptuous and is so good it makes you want to cry. Literally. I’ve tried for years to perfect it, and couldn’t get it right. I had pretty much given up on it altogether….UNTIL, Friday evening, I ACCIDENTALLY stumbled across the perfection that it is. I wasn’t even trying to replicate the Wildfire sauce, it just happened.  The key that I had been missing for all these years? Demi-glace sauce! That was my missing ingredient. Had I known to use a demi-glace sauce for the base of my reduction, I’d have been eating this deliciousness for the last several years.

Now, I warn you, it is time consuming to make your own demi-glace….not much work at all, but you have to be home to check on it so you can watch the stovetop. I’m also giving you the “quick” demi-glace recipe and not the one that requires you to go out and slaughter your own cow and butcher it and then take 2 small bones from it and use them as a base.

Easy Demi-Glace:

Ingredients:

2 Quarts Beef Stock (I used Meijer 99% Fat Free Organic Beef Broth)

3 Tablespoons red wine of your choice (I used some cheap Meijer Merlot that came in a box [shame face], but it’s going to cook out)

Instructions:

In a stock pot, pour in your beef broth and your red wine, and bring to a rolling boil. Once you’re at the boiling point, reduce the heat on the stove to the lowest possible setting and let the sauce simmer away for about 3-4 hours. Yup. Just let it simmer away, filling your house with amazing smells. You want it to reduce down to about 1-2 cups of liquid. It’s going to get thicker and you’ll know the demi-glace is done when it coats the back of a spoon.

Store your demi-glace in Mason jars and refrigerate after cooking.

Once you’ve got your demi-glace made, it’s time to make your red wine reduction sauce.

Red Wine Reduction Sauce Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1 Small Shallot, super finely minced (I actually food processed the hell out of mine)

1/2 cup red wine of your choice (again, I used cheap Merlot)

1/4 cup of your Demi-Glace sauce that you made

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1.I made my red wine reduction sauce in the same large skillet that I cooked my steaks in, to give it that wonderful flavor. So, in your large skillet that you cooked your meat, toss in the shallot after you’ve removed your meat and cook it in the leftover juices of your meat. You only want to get it tender, so cook for about 2-3 minutes.

2.  Add in the red wine, demi-glace, and red-wine vinegar. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat and add your salt and pepper. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to taste test the entire time you’re cooking this:) If the sauce tastes too astringent for your personal comfort, add in beef broth in 1 Tablespoon increments. This will help cut away the acidity of the red wine a bit.

3. Let the sauce just boil away, reducing until it’s to your preferred level of thickness. Once you’ve got the sauce to the thickness you desire, add in the tablespoon of butter and stir it into the sauce with your spoon. Once it’s all melted in, turn off the stove (this is an important step, believe me) and pour it lovingly over the steak of your choosing. Or pork chops. Or chicken even. It’ll be great on everything!

After I realized the perfection that I had stumbled upon while making this sauce (demi-glace, demi-glace), I tried it a second time, this time with some herbs to make it an herb and red wine reduction sauce. You can add whatever herbs you like to your personal taste palete. Personally, I used the following:

2 Teaspoons minced chives (I used garlic chives I had from last summer’s garden)

2 Teaspoons fresh minced parsley leaves

1 Teaspoon fresh minced tarragon leaves

Add the herbs into the sauce when you add the liquids and let them cook in as you simmer away.

Enjoy!