Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More Food Processor Love

The love affair with my food processor certainly isn't dying anytime soon. In fact, day by day our love grows (ha, now you know I've taken a dive off the deep end!). I've been using my new gizmo for everything, from turning my paleo cocoa bites into something even more delicious to stuffing dates with "almond cream cheese" to making paleo "rice."  Ahh the marvels of the food processor.  So, to start off (and no, there's no picture of these), two Saturday's ago we had a 1/2 way mark potluck at Milestone Crossfit, it was a little paleo celebration of being half way through our eight week challenge.  Since we've all sworn off sugar and everyone else was bringing meat and veggies I decided to do a variation on my paleo cocoa bites.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Truffles
2 6oz Bags of Pitted Dates (nothing added to them)
1 5oz Bag, Unsweetened Coconut
2 Cups Cashews
1 Cup Pistachios
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
2 Teaspoons Chipotle Pepper Powder
1 Tablespoon Mexican Vanilla
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

This one is easy - it's really one step...throw everything in the food processor and pulse until it's chopped up nice and tiny and can be formed into balls, bars, etc. If your mixture needs a little moisture to come together, add hot water by the tablespoonful slowly (1 tbsp at a time).

These were a huge hit at the potluck, once of our coaches swore it was better than chocolate and one of my fellow challenge members told me 'bless you' for bringing them.  Ha, guess we are all surprised at how much we missed the sweet goodies!

My next feat from the food processor was to make some paleo 'rice' - using the fabulous instructions on Nom Nom Paleos' post about cauliflower rice, I  whipped up a big batch of 'rice' with one of the monstrous heads of cabbage in my weekly Farmhouse Delivery box.  I was really surprised at how simple it was to create rice.

A slightly blurry photo of just the rice:

What did I eat with my 'rice' you ask?  Well some amazing and quick Chicken Tikka Masala!  That recipe will be coming along shortly, I promise :)

Finally, to round off my food processor related creations, almond stuffed dates.  Nope it's not just an almond stuffed in a date.  In an effort to keep the book club snacks paleo, healthy and tasty I keep trying to find something interesting to take along.  With a few of the leftover dates from my truffles I searched for inspiration.  Interestingly, the vegan nut 'cream cheese' recipes I've seen provided just the right inspiration.

There are tons of variations on how to soak nuts and turn them into a cream cheese type texture, this is just the way I did it, I can't wait to experiment though to find new ways to do this and new flavors.

1 Cup Raw Almonds, soaked overnight in water
1-2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
3-4 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Pepper

1. Soak almonds overnight in water. After they have soaked, blanch them for 5 minutes in very hot water.
2. Pour off the hot water, pinch off the almond skin and set aside the almond meat.
3. Blend almonds with all remaining ingredients in a food processor.

*If it does not reach the texture you want, add a little bit of water (teaspoonfuls) until it does.  I added basil infused sunflower oil at this step to give it a little basil flavor.

Bacon-Wrapped, Almond Cream Cheese Stuffed Dates
1/2 Cup Almond Cream Cheese
14 Dates, Pitted
7 Strips Thinly Sliced Bacon

1. Split a date in half like a hot dog bun, leaving it intact.  Fill with a teaspoon or two of the almond cream cheese and freeze for at least one hour.
2. Remove from freezer and turn oven to 375 F.
3. Cut bacon into halves, use one half strip of bacon per date and wrap around.
4. Place dates on a baking rack (raised above cookie sheet) on a foil-lined (easier clean up) jelly roll pan.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until bacon is crisp or close to done, if bacon is not yet ready feel free to crisp it under the broiler.

Monday, February 20, 2012

When A Girl Loves A Cuisinart

Like most things people tell me I need, a food processor was always a useless object in my mind.  Why on earth would I want an industrial capacity to shred things, mix things, etc. when I have a box grater, microplane, blender, immersion blender, hand mixer and stand mixer? No, I definitely don't lack for kitchen gadgets.  In fact I technically own a little 3 cup food processor, Kitchen Aid is smart and makes a cool little 'duo' that uses the same motor/base for the blender and food processor.  Until this past month I could have counted the number of times my 3 cup food processor was used on one hand...well three fingers to be exact. 

What changed?  Have I become the slaw queen of the south?  Or am I making french fries in such volume that I need to shred them in 7-cup increments?  No, not really.  I know, it's all the pie crusts I'm whipping up on my grain-free diet...again, no.  As I have gotten deeper and deeper into paleo cooking and have started looking to what all the other proclaimed paleo-types on the web do, I've noticed the food process is ubiquitous.   Want mayo that doesn't have a bunch of strange scientific-sounding ingredients in it? Food Processor.  Love coconut butter but hate the price? Food Processor.  Miss rice? Food Processor.  I suspect you're seeing the pattern.   Anyway, there are a lot of skilled paleo folks out there who do amazing things with food processors and I was tired of being left out of the party.  I started small, used my little 3 cup processor about twenty times in one week, started ogling the bigger ones online and in stores and finally made a purchase last week.

This beauty arrived on 2/13:

I'm in love.  Plain and simple, how did I live without a food processor??? (Yes mom, you were right). I've been busy whipping up all kinds of yummy stuff, soon I too will be one of the enlightened who is posting their own food processor recipes :) World beware!

Here are a few recipes I've found on the web that have made it into regular rotation:

Coconut Butter
Cold Sesame (Cucumber) Noodles
Zucchini Hummus

The first two come from an amazing blog (written by an Austin girl!) that is full of tasty as can be paleo recipes, The Clothes Make the Girl, I highly recommend it!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When Your CSA Hands You Lemons...

Week 4 of 8 weeks of hardcore, sugar-free paleo life isn't too bad, some days I end up stretching myself creatively....but sometimes the best solution is right smack in front of you, simplicity is the best answer. When my Farmhouse Delivery box appeared with some beautiful Meyer Lemons and greens aplenty I scratched my head a little.  Normally I'd turn those amazing lemons into something sweet, a pie or tart (mmmm) but since adding sugar isn't in the plan right now I had to think of another way to enjoy their special blend of sweet and tart.  Greens, well those are easy, olive oil, crushed red pepper, garlic - boom greens solved!

After a little thought I figured I'd make a chicken piccata type dish, with my Meyer Lemons at hand there was no breading needed to make this dish sing! Come to find out, piccata doesn't actually need breading, the word piccata just simply means to pound flat, so any protein can become a 'piccata' without losing the spirit of original dish.

Paleo Chicken Piccata
4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
1/2 Cup Chicken Stock
1/4 Cup Meyer Lemon Juice (freshly squeezed)
2 Tbsp Capers (rinsed and drained)
1 Tbsp Freshly Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
1 Cup Frozen, Halved Artichoke Hearts
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Lay chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper, pound out to about 1/4 inch thickness.
2. Saute chicken in olive oil and brown the outside, approximately 2-3 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan.
3. Return pan to medium heat, add white wine and chicken stock and scrap bottom of pan with a wooden spoon to remove the brown bits. After wine has come up to a simmer, add artichoke hearts.
4. Add lemon juice and bring artichokes up to temperature.
5. Remove from heat, stir in capers and parsley, serve sauce over chicken.

Along side the chicken I served some sauteed greens and a braised eggplant dish (easiest thing on the planet!). I cut the eggplant into cubes, doused them in an entire jar of fresh marinara sauce (sugar and creepy unpronounceable ingredient free!) and let that bake in the oven at about 350 until the eggplant was cooked.

Sometime the answer is simple :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Feeding My Inner Book Worm

I'm a book junkie, really I have more books than I could read in a year, have been known to read more than two or three books at a time and in addition to being a die hard lover of actually, physical books am also completely in love with my Nook Color.  So when my sister said she wished she could find a book club I jumped on the bandwagon with her.  Instead of finding one (because it seemed like most in our area were reading crappy romance novels and such) we just started our own.  Now what started as an excuse to read more books is an excuse to spend more time with good friends and snack on tasty treats.  I know, you're shocked that between my love of books and cooking such an event would turn into an excuse to snack :)

This was all well and good for the first few meetings, i.e. pre-paleo challenge time.  Cheese, vino and crackers, sliced fruit and veggies abounded during that time.  This past week was my turn to host and suddenly I was feeling panicked, what do you serve a mix of paleo/non-paleo folks? Well since we're in strict challenge mode I couldn't tempt myself (or my sis) with cheese or wine (sad) and serving a plate of just straight up veggies and deli sliced turkey was too boring for my inner-chef.  So off I went, searching for crowd pleasing, challenge friendly appetizers and snacks.  The results, actually pretty good.  I ended up with two paleo friendly dips (below), sliced fruit and veggies, some olives, plain plantain chips, homemade pickled veggies, nuts, smoked, peppered pork tenderloin and nitrate-free sliced turkey. All in all not too bad, might even make a reprise for some of these things come Super Bowl Sunday!

First on deck we had a zucchini hummus, many versions of that exist on the web but the one I used was:

Paleo Hummus

3 small or 2 medium zucchini
1/2 cup Tahini
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Minced Garlic

1. Peel zucchini very well so that no green is visible anymore.  Chop roughly and drop into food processor.
2. Put tahini, garlic and zucchini together in food processor and pulse until smooth.
3. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, cumin and pulse again until well incorporated.

The second recipe was a fruit dip made with coconut butter (yummy), coconut milk, peaches and lime.  I'll be messing with this recipe further as I think the texture could be less grainy (a product of my homemade coconut butter I suspect). 

1 cup Coconut Butter (feel free to buy this but it's pricey, or you can make it easily, instructions here)
1 can Whole Fat Coconut Milk (I believe the cans are appx 14-16 oz)
2 Whole peaches, pitted
1 Lime, peeled and seeded

1. Drop coconut butter, peaches and lime in the food processor. Pulse until well blended.
2. Slowly add coconut milk, I did this in batches so that it became well incorporated.

Coconut is my newest obsession, I warn you now because it'll likely begin appearing here regularly.  Sorry all I have is a pic of the whole spread on Wednesday night, not the individual dips.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ginger: Beyond the Wasabi

As I think more about what I put into my body from a 'fuel' perspective I also have started paying more attention to the supposed benefits of some of my favorite herbs and spices.  I have always adored various Asian flavors in cooking but have more recently come to love ginger, let's just say I've been a slow adopter.  For me, ginger was just that pink stuff (not ham as I so sadly found out many years ago) that sat alongside the wasabi on my sushi order.  I have avoided it, been disgusted when large pieces of it appeared in stir fries or soups and have just ignored it for many years.   Of late though I've been adding it to marinades, sauces and stir fries beacuse shockingly (yea I know, I'm late to the party), it tastes good!


Ginger is kind of amazing, it's actually a root (if you leave it on your counter long enough it'll spout greenery and grow!), it can be yellow, white or red in color depending on the variety and has a kin that can be thicker or thinner depending on how mature the plant was when it was harvested. Ginger is sought out for it's medicinal properties from relief of motion and seasickness, anti-inflammatory properties, immunity boosting properties and there are even studies to understand its effects on fighting various cancers.  Pretty powerful stuff that you can find in your local grocery store.


The use of ginger dates back over 5,000 years where the ancient Chinese and Indians recognized it's powerful medicinal uses and viewed it as a healing gift from God.  While many think of ginger as a very eastern spice, it was actually widely-used in ancient Rome (it was exported via the spice route from India), sadly with the fall of the Roman Empire, ginger fell out of circulation.  As the Arab control of the spice trade increased, ginger became a highly prized but very expensive spice used mainly in its preserved form through the Middle Ages. At this time it was very pricey with a value equal to a whole heard of live sheep! 


Ginger did not regain it's full popularity in western countries until about the 11th Century when it was again used for making sweets, cooking meats and in pastes.  In the 16th Century, Henvry VIII recommended ginger as a remedy for the plague.  It is said that later his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, invented the gingerbread man, surely the rise of Gingy helped spread ginger!


From 1585, Jamaican ginger was the first oriental spice to be grown in the New World and imported back to Europe (wikipedia).  Currently India leads the world's production of Ginger with over 30% while China, Indonesia, Nepal and Thailand rounding out the top remaining producers.   Ginger is widely used and found across the globe today.

Ok, now for the goodies...what is sure to become one of my favorite paleo stir fry recipes:

Ginger-Pork Stir Fry
2 Thick-cut Pork Chops, butterflied and cut into strips
2 Crowns of Broccoli, cut into small florets
2 Large Red Bell Peppers, or 3 Small, cut into strips
1 Tsp Minced Garlic
2 Tbsp Minced Ginger
2 Tbsp Tamari Soy
2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
5 Green Onions, Chopped

1. Over high heat, add oil to a wok, once oil is sizzling add pork and garlic, saute until pork is browning on outside.
2. Add broccoli and ginger, saute two minutes and add peppers, green onion and tamari. 

3. Heat another two to three minutes, don't over cook, you want the veggies to have crunch