I had the wonderful fortune to attend a culinary event this week in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that has been on my summer bucket list for a few years now. It’s called the Blueberry BBQ and is co-hosted by Chef Douglas Katz of Fire Food and Drink in Shaker Heights and Dan and Michelle Greenfield of Greenfield Berry Farm in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The event showcases the blueberry in a multi-course meal enhanced by craft cocktails honoring the berry as well. And the setting is the berry farm itself with its acres of berry fields and historic rustic barn, a perfect backdrop to compliment a delicious meal.
When I think of the Easter holiday and how it has evolved in my life, I feel so blessed to have been able to share it with family. When I was younger my mom would often cook a big dinner and we would all gather round and enjoy the day. Since I’ve been married, we’ve spend it with hubby’s uncle and aunt. They always welcome a big crowd into their cozy home and somehow make sure everyone has a place.
It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, or as I like to call it – Irish Coffee time! I first discovered Irish coffees shortly out of college, when my former roommate dated and then married a first generation Irishman. After dinner at their house one night, he made us the most delicious coffee drink that not only highlighted the Jameson whiskey integral to its flavor, but introduced us to a new variation on whipping cream. Spooned onto the top of the coffee concoction, it somehow elevated this drink to a special treat that I have now returned to often.
In January, my husband and I embarked on a 21-day Paleo Diet Challenge – no sugar, no grains, no dairy, no alcohol; only vegetables, fruit, and lean meats. We did pretty well and only cheated a tad (mostly because I just needed a little red wine!). And we felt great – our bellies got flatter, we had more energy, and just felt good, all in that short of time! I realized that it is a way of eating that I can follow pretty well and have sought out recipes and variations that we can include in the mix. One difficulty I have with the paleo diet is breakfast. I mean, who can eat eggs or meat every day. It is extremely difficult not to reach for a piece of toast, a pastry, a bagel, a bowl of cereal … granola!
But now, I’ve found a recipe for paleo granola – inspired by Paleo Cupboard that is fantastic! Serve it with a little almond milk or coconut milk and you have an option for cereal that will blow your paleo and non-paleo mind. I don’t think I can eat any other granola after having had this recipe! It really has the perfect balance of sweet to salty with the raw honey and delicious fresh ground pink himalayan sea salt. I will say that this recipe uses raw honey, which is probably not permissible on the paleo Whole30 plan. And because it is granola cereal in concept, purists would still reject it. But I’m thinking it’s an acceptable recipe to include in the mix of a mostly paleo diet – and it is 300% times better than any store bought cereal or granola available.
This recipe also doubles as a snack in place of granola bars. You could technically form it into bars, actually, but I prefer to break it into clumps and store in a jar for easy snacking. Just don’t eat too much – it does have a lot of calories with all of those nuts!
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup raw pepitas/pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds (no shell)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup raw honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp pink himalayan sea salt
1 cup dried cherries
1. Preheat oven to 275 F. Place the almonds, cashews and coconut flakes in a food processor or blender and pulse a few times to break into smaller chunks.
2. Microwave the coconut oil, raw honey and vanilla extract together in a medium sized mixing bowl for about 30-45 seconds. Add the seeds, nuts and coconut flakes and stir to coat.
3. Spread the granola mixture evenly onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cook for about 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring once or twice.
4. Remove from heat and add the dried cherries and sprinkle with sea salt, pressing the mixture together to form a flat surface.
I wanted to go out. And I really wanted to specifically go to the Cleveland Orchestra concert where they project the movie, Vertigo, and then play the soundtrack live! But alas, we waited too long to buy tickets and they were sold out. Hubs had a great idea – “why not watch the movie at home”, and I added “and we’ll make a delicious stay-in meal”! Done and done.
Nothing says romance like a fireplace, so I pulled a little bistro table set we have in our basement up to the living room for a special fireside dining meal. I really didn’t want to buy any new tablecloth or accessories, so I repurposed a plaid blanket into a cozy tablecloth. The heart-shaped ramekins added the right touch/color to our table.
We have been on a Paleo kick recently so I knew I didn’t want excessive carbs for our special meal. I decided on filet mignon with roasted asparagus for the main, champagne to start, a special bottle of wine, and chocolate for dessert! Yes, chocolate and wine were required and not Paleo. 🙂 I only buy meat from our local Heinen’s and found two perfect grass-fed steaks. It’s okay to splurge when you’re dining at home – it will still always cost less than a restaurant! Heinen’s had delicious chocolate cake by the slice, but I also made a pit stop at Malley’s (oh yeah) and bought chocolate covered strawberries for a particularly decadent treat.
The champagne was really a bottle of brut rosé sparkling wine from Two Sisters Vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario called “Lush” that came in this beautifully gold and pink labeled bottle with gorgeous packaging – perfect for romance! And the wine with dinner was a delicious bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon that Hubs got me for Christmas – taking us back to our time in Napa Valley last year, yum.
The Dinner (or “how to cook filet mignon at home”)
Hubs was tempted to grill outside, in the cold, in the snow. But I said “no, they will be delicious made on the stove”. Here’s the key…butter and a hot grill pan. Take the steaks out of the oven 30 minutes before cooking, lightly dry with a paper towel and season with salt & pepper (or Montreal steak seasoning, as we like it). Preheat oven to 400F (this will be for the asparagus and to finish the steaks). Pop the asparagus in the oven about 10 minutes before you start the steaks. Heat an oven-safe grill/sauté pan on the stove until very hot (I used a Le Creuset cast iron grill pan). Add a tablespoon of butter for each steak and let it melt. Btw, I’m convinced that the butter I used – grass-fed pasteurized organic butter – also made a difference. Place the steaks on the butter to sear for 2-4 minutes on each side (these were 4 oz filets, so 2 min/each was enough). As the steaks are searing, tilt the pan and baste them with the melted butter several times, oh yeah. Once the sear is done, put the pan in the oven for another 2-4 minutes to desired doneness (we like medium-rare, so again we only did 3 min). Remove the steaks from pan to a plate and cover with foil to rest 5 minutes. Remove the asparagus from the oven and plate with the steaks. Oh my, bon appétit!
Did I mention Malley’s? Um yeah, the box of chocolate covered strawberries is only available this time of year. Yes, I could have made them myself, but honestly this convenience along with the Heinen’s slice of chocolate cake made the meal so much less stressful and enjoyable. And how does romance not include some variation of chocolate.
I love curling up on the couch to watch old movies, especially with the Hubs. Vertigo had actually been on for us to DVR it, so we pretended the Cleveland Orchestra was playing and watched it with our remaining wine and chocolate and the fireplace keeping us warm. It would have been nice to go out but honestly it was perfect to just stay in.