Monday, October 17, 2011

Tagine Tuesday?

I am always on the lookout for new and interesting ways to cook things, my family (who knows this) gave me a very cool birthday gift this year (aka a new way to cook stuff), a tagine.  Tagines are a North African/Moroccan earthen ware pot that traditionally is made out of heavy clay.  Not all tagines are glazed but some are beautifully painted and some are glazed, thankfully mine is, it made clean up a breeze.  These days you can find a fantastic tagine at any good kitchen store in material ranging from clay to enameled cast iron.  Tagines are great for braising tougher cuts of meat, they slowly let the contents simmer away in their juices while the dome provides a crock-pot like environment where the steam stays trapped inside the dish.  The result: deliciousness!  

Image from Emily Avila

Last week I was feeling inspired (and needed to use a whole chicken I'd purchased) and cut up a chicken and veggies and seasoned it before I went to CrossFit.  There is nothing better than walking in the door after a hard-fought workout to the smells of a simmering dinner.  The possibilties for the tagine are endless, the spice, protien and veggie combos are infinite, I can't wait to cook up something else new, I have a feeling that I might start seeing the tagine in action a lot more.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 chicken, 3-4 lbs, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 lemon, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 cup green olives, pitted
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dried apricots

1. Combine all the spices in a large bowl. Pat dry the chicken pieces and put in the bowl, coat well with the spice mixture. Let the chicken stand for one hour in the spices.
2. In a large, heavy bottomed skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Add the chicken pieces, sprinkle lightly with salt (go easy on the salt, the olives and lemons are salty), and brown, skin side down for five minutes. (If you are using a clay tagine, you will skip the browning step, and bring oven up to 325F.) Lower the heat to medium-low, add the garlic, onion, apricot and liquids.  If using clay tagine, bake in oven for 3 hours instead of simmering.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sweet treats for grain-free birthdays

Going without grain has gotten spuer easy, on very rare occasions do I lament the loss of it, however, knowing that my sister's birthday would create some serious temptation I tried to find something that would be a suitable alternative. So this Saturday while I was watching my poor Longhorns get schooled by a team I do not care for (don't worry, I've never liked the Sooners, my dislike isn't anything news), I made these declisious Paleo Cocoa Bites.

Paleo Cocoa Bites
1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder
1/2 Cup Almond Meal
1/2 Cup Dessicated Coconut
2 Tbsp Coconut Butter
2 Cups Dates, Pitted

1. Soak the dates in just enough water to cover them for 4-6 hours, drain water off
2. Blend in blender with remaining ingredients
3. Roll into balls, chill and serve

These are so good, the don't even taste like they have dates (I'm new to even wanting to eat dates, much less liking them), I can't wait to try other variations on this theme! 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Apologies and Smothered Chicken...

While I really want to dive into discussing my favorite fall treat or tell you how I have had Halloween decor up way too long already (it's one of my favorite holidays) I first should apologize for what has been a lack-luster ability (on my part) to keep a regular schedule for posting on my blog.  I feel like I go through these phases where I post like crazy and read everyone else's fabulous blogs and comment and then I end up on the other end of the pendulum and post infrequently (at best) and get really behind on reading about other people's exploits. Life makes things tough but it's not even really my schedule that has cause my absence of late, it's more been a problem of writers block. 

As I mentioned earlier this summer, I have gotten involved with a local CrossFit gym, well that's an understatement, I love the place!  I love the challenge of each day's WOD, I love the people, I love the way I feel when I walk away knowing just how strong I am and how much stronger I've become since starting CrossFit in May.   I adore every aspect of CrossFit and have learned so much about myself being involved in this sport, the other thing that has been a natural evolution from my involvement is an overhaul of my diet.  Through our gym's six week challenge this summer I became very closely acquainted with Paleo-Zone eating, after the challenge I told myself there was no going back and for the most part I haven't.  I have cheated occasionally (had a bite of traditional b-day cake on my was really really sweet tasting), made some gluten-free (not grain free) mac 'n cheese but really on the whole I have been good.  Why does this matter, because it means I haven't really been sure what to post.  This blog started out being my sounding board for ideas and more often than not feats of deliciousness but delicious things that are outside the realm of my new eating, with a different perspective on things I struggle with what recipes to post, what is interesting enough to share.

I'm learning that interesting enough isn't the right phrase anymore, I will share things that might not be as 'interesting' as what I used to think blog-worthy recipes were.  I'm sorry if my recently rekindled health-nut side isn't appealing, I'll apologize now but it's where I've been lately and where I see myself in the future.

Lately I've been looking for recipes that are quick enough to make on my only non-CrossFit weeknight (read as the only night I have time to cook a slightly more time-consuming meal) but also suited to my grain-free, dairy-free (mostly), legume-free diet...I've been making a lot of spaghetti squash, a lot of chicken and a lot of stir-fry lately.

What I wanted to share today is pretty basic (technique-wise) but was a delicious weeknight dinner and is something I've repeated at least three times with different proteins (yea for seafood and chicken!). 
Heirloom Tomato Smothered Chicken
4 Large Heirloom Tomaotes, cut into cubes
1/2 Cup Fresh Basil, corn
4 Slices Bacon
1 Small Onion, chopped
1 Tsp Minced Garlic
1 Tsp Olive Oil
3 Chicken Breasts
Salt & Pepper to taste
*1/2 Cup Dry White Wine or Chicken Stock
1. Cook bacon in a medium/large cast iron skillet until crisp.  Once crisp remove from pan and keep 2 Tsp of rendered bacon fat.
2. Season chicken with salt and pepper then brown in skillet.  Remove chicken from skillet and saute onions and garlic until onions are tender and starting to brown, add olive oil if extra oil is needed.
3. Add chicken back into skillet and add tomatoes and wine/stock.  Bring to a boil and then let simmer until chicken is cooked through.
This recipe produces plenty of extra veggie/sauce, it's great re-used the second day as a sauce for spaghetti squash or over another protien like snapper, scallops, shrimp or pork chops.
Bell Pepper Slaw 
2 Ribs Celery, sliced into thin, match-stick like pieces
1 Each, Orange, Red and Yellow Bell Pepper, thinly sliced to match celery
1/4 Cup Fresh Basil (or other herbs), chopped
1/2 Cup Champagne Vinegar
4 Tbsp Truffle Mustard (or Dijon Mustard)
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Whisk vinegar and mustard together to combine.
2. Toss sliced celery, bell peppers and basil with vinegarette, season to taste.

*This salad would also be super tasty with sliced, fresh fennel in it.