Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Missing the bread? Nope...

Forget the mac 'n cheese, leave the french toast behind and jettison the baked goodies.  Wow, that sounds pretty scary doesn't it?  Well, truth be told once you get away from  legumes, dairy, grains and sugars you go through some withdrawal, and then as Whole9's Robin Strathdee says, you grieve. After the grieving and the withdrawal the first time I did this I went down the path of trying to paleo-ify everything....yea another bad idea.  If you want to understand why that's a bad idea, again I'd direct you to the smart smart folks at Whole9/Whole30, they are definitely opinionated on the subject.

So this time, as I wander back down the path of another Paleo Challenge with Milestone Crossfit I am fighting some serious desires to lapse, go get a block of cheese and say forget it!  Instead of doing that I'm trying to find ways to keep making tasty and diverse meals (yes, I get bored easily).  Thank God I've got a lot of other folks around to lean on when I'm struggling, and truth is, it's early to be struggling, I'm only in day 4 of an 8 week stint!  So last night, coming out of a WOD that beat me up pretty good (yes, I'm slow like a 90 year old today) I was looking for a little good old fashioned comfort food, what's more comforting and meat stuffed with goodies, baked sweet potato and stuffing?  Nothing, that's right, nothing!

Paleo Stuffed Pork with Mushroom Stuffing

1lb Pork Cutlet, pounded until thin
1 Granny Smith Apple, chopped
1/2 Large Sweet Onion, chopped
12-14oz Whole Roasted Chestnuts, packed in water (if canned)
1/2 Cup Dried Cherries, chopped
3/4 Cup Dried Apricots, chopped
4 Portobella Mushrooms, chopped
4 Tsp Dried Garlic
4 Tsp Dried Rosemary
5 Tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Chicken Broth
Salt & Pepper to Taste

1. Mix apple, chestnuts, cherries, apricots, 2 teaspoons of the garlic and rosemary together in a medium sized bowl.  Lay pork on a cutting board and put about 1 cup of fruit/herb/chestnut mixture inside pork and wrap pork up to look like a tenderloin.  Once pork is wrapped, it's best to tie it up with twine/kitchen string.  I'm not super fancy with this step, I tie it so it won't all come out as it's cooking but there are great videos, like this one, that show you how to tie it up all pretty.
2. Place pork in an oven safe baking dish.  Drizzle remaining garlic, rosemary and 2 tsp olive oil over the top of the pork and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 until cooked and brown (30-45 minutes).
3. While pork is baking, saute onion with 1 tsp olive oil until begins to caramelize, add remaining fruit/chestnut/herb mixture to pan and saute for about five minutes.  Add mushrooms and broth to pan and cook until broth has reduced to almost nothing.  Stir regularly.
4. When pork is cooked remove from pan and let it rest for a few minutes, slice and serve with stuffing and baked sweet potato.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chilly Nights of Chili

I've ranted and raved before about what it takes to be "chili" ok so technically that was about the use of chile in chili...guess that means I can rant about the perfect Texas chili now.   What is Texas chili you ask?  Well let's see, it is not:
  • Something that contains beans
  • Served on a bun
  • Eaten over spaghetti
  • Something that has celery, rice, or other funny ingredients in it
Ok, so I'm sure you have some reason why I'm wrong, why? Because everyone who likes chili is passionate about what it contains/doesn't contain, how it's served or what you should eat it with.  How can one food inspire such strong feelings, after all it's just a meat stew right? Well it might have something to do with the fact that there are so many regional variations on the dish ranging from ingredients (the aforementioned beans, celery, rice, etc.) to how it's served, in Cincinnati for instance it's served over spaghetti ?!? (if you could only see the alarm on my face!)  Generally speaking here in Texas (aka God's Country) we've accepted there are no beans in chili, it isn't served over spaghetti, it's not a sloppy joe and really unless you're in a Tex-Mex restaurant it doesn't go over tortillas/tamales/burritos, etc. It is socially acceptable to serve it over/with Fritos and cheese or cornbread but beware, doing something else will definitely mark you as a non-Texan.

Spicy Whiskey Chili

1/4 cup good quality whiskey
4 teaspoons dried oregano
4 teaspoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons cocoa powder
4 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2½ cups beef broth
2 medium onions, cut into ¾-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
3 red or orange bell peppers, stems and seeds removed, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Chalula chipotle hot sauce
2 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons backstrap molasses
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2½ pounds sirloin steak, ground on 'chili' grade grinder
3-4 slices of bacon (3 if it's thicker cut) cut into ½-inch pieces
salt and pepper to taste

1. Saute onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil until they are translucent in a large, heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven. Add bacon once onions turn translucent and let bacon get nearly fully crisped. Add garlic and bell peppers with bacon.
2. Add ground sirloin and let it brown, mixing in  2 teaspoons of oregano, cumin, cocoa powder, and coriander.
3. Add tomatoes with juices to pot along with 2 teaspoons of molasses and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. Add whiskey and beef broth and let it come up to a boil.
4. Once boiling add remainder of dried spices and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to pot as well as hot sauce.  Taste for flavoring and add salt/pepper as needed.
5. Let simmer, stirring occasionally for at least 1 hour, if chili is not at your desired thickness add tomato paste to adjust. 
6. Serve with sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream (or greek yogurt) and avocado to top.

While I usually try to stick to a pretty 'paleo' diet anyway, our crossfit box is holding an eight-week paleo challenge starting this Saturday....eight weeks is a long time so I decided it was ok to let myself enjoy some cheese and sour cream with my chili :)  If you were to leave those dairy items off the list you'd have a paleo pot of Texas Chili...quite tasty for a chilly winter night! 

Note about chili, it's tasty the day of but it gets better with a little sitting around...read as: leftovers are worth fighting for!
Good Old Fashioned Beanless Texas Red Chili

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Duo of Resolutions

While the New Year is upon us and so many of my friends and family are resolving to be healthier and active I am renewing my commitment to my healthy lifestyle.  I am already fairly active, crossfitting (yes its a verb!) pretty much four days a week and running the other three, I found myself slipping back into bad nutritional habits over the week between Christmas and New Years.  While I don't feel guilty cheating occasionally I also know the difference between doing whatever and having a bit of discipline, which I had none of during that week!  In an effort to right myself and get back on track I decided to pull together a few salads that are combinations of my Farmhouse Delivery box goodies and my favorite Asian flavors. 

Beyond my continued resolution of being healthier I wanted to find other self-improvement type resolutions, this year I've decided to get more organized (granted I'm completely inspired by all the fun organization boards and pins on Pintrest) and second, I will get my sweet puppy Sam trained, actually trained not just haphazardly making him sit when need be.  Sam is now 10 months old and while he's really good natured and relatively well-behaved we had a scare last week that has made getting him trained all the more necessary.  Last week Sammy had to have an unscheduled abdominal exploratory surgery to remove pieces of two dog toys he had eaten along with some garbage....he's doing well now but I have since removed all plush and rope toys from the house, switched all the trash cans to the type that require you to step on them to open them and am watching him like a hawk.   Sam now is learning how to live with a nice plastic cone hat, so stylish!  He'll have that off on January 13 but until then he's busy running into things with it.
He's ok just sleeping it all off anyway!

First up, a take on a recipe that was featured on the Farmhouse Delivery blog (such a great place for ways to use the fabulous produce I get from them week after week).

Vietnamese Chopped Cabbage Salad

2 chicken breasts, bones and skin removed
1/2 head cabbage, finely shredded
1 small bunch green onion, sliced thin
1 handful cilantro leaves
1 handful mint leaves
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
1 apple, julienned
2-3 radishes, sliced or julienned
juice of 1 lime
4 Tbs. grapeseed or sesame oil
1 Tbs. soy sauce
3-4 Tbs. fish sauce
1 tsp. siracha chili sauce (substitute chili flakes or tabasco sauce)
2 Tbs. rice wine vinegar

1. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and either broil or saute in sesame oil until cooked.
2. Whisk lime juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and siracha into a dressing.
3. Toss cabbage, green onion, cilantro, mint, apple and radishes, dress with vinaigrette and top with sliced chicken and toasted sesame seeds.

The second recipe is inspired by one of my favorite sandwiches, a Vietnamese Bahn Mi.  I don't typically miss bread, etc. much but this sandwich is one of those things I do miss when I see them.  Typically featured on a baguette and stuffed with tasty meats, pickled diakon radish and carrot, lettuce, mayo and spiciness they are heavenly!  So, after seeing a recipe (thanks Serious Eats!) that looked evil and good for a Bacon Bahn Mi I decided I needed to make a Bahn Mi salad to quell my cravings.

Chicken Bahn Mi Salad

Pickled Veggies (courtesy of Bahn Mi Battle)
1/2 lb. carrots -shredded in food processor, sliced in thin rounds or thin match-like strips.
1/2 lb. daikon radish – cut same as carrots.
3 cups warm water
3 Tablespoons distilled or rice vinegar
2-3 tablespoons sugar, depending on how sweet you want your pickles
2 tablespoons salt

Salad Ingredients
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and torn
1/2 medium red onion, sliced
Broiled or Grilled Chicken Tenders
1/2 cup Cilantro, washed and chopped

4 tablespoons almond butter
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon siracha (or more to taste)
1 to 2 tablespoons water
To make veggies:
1. Mix warm water, vinegar, sugar and salt until everything is dissolved. Choose a pitcher or bowl with a lip that can be used for pouring mixture.
2. Peel, wash and cut daikon & carrots to desired size. Combine both together in bowl and blot dry with paper towel.
3. Fill carrot & daikon mixture into a tight lid jar, bowl or similar container.
4. Pour liquid salt mixture into carrot & daikon container till full. Close lid and let it pickle for about 3-5 days, or till desired sourness. For immediate use, let marinade for about 1 hour.

To make salad:
1. Whisk almond butter, rice vinegar, siracha and water together to create dressing.
2. Toss all salad veggies in dressing, top with chicken strips.