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Eat & Drink

Paleo (Or Is It?) Granola

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!
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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.
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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!

INGREDIENTS
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
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DIRECTIONS
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.
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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.
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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.
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4. Remove from heat and add the dried cherries and sprinkle with sea salt, pressing the mixture together to form a flat surface.
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5. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes or until hardened, and then break into chunks and enjoy in whatever form you like!
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Bon Appétit!

Romantic Fireside Dinner For Two

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.
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The Menu

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 Drinks

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.
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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!
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The Dessert

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.
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The Movie

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.
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Valentine Linzer Cookies

Heart Shaped Linzer Cookies

I have always wanted to make Linzer Cookies. The idea of these delicate confections with a candy-like view of the raspberry jam peeking through the cutout opening and dusted with a light sprinkle of powdered sugar just oozes romance, love and sweetness! What a perfect cookie choice then for Valentine’s Day, especially with some heart shaped Linzer cutters I found at the craft store.
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The Linzer cookie origin stems from the Linzertorte – an Austrian dessert from the city of Linz made with a crust including ground nuts of some variety (mostly almonds), filled with black currant preserves, and then topped with an intricate lattice crust. It is most often served at Christmastime. The Linzer cookie is just a smaller version of the torte with two cookies sandwiched together by jam or preserves. If you cut the hole in the cookie round, they are known as Linzer Eyes (Linzer Augen). And you can really use any cutters you have on hand – you just need a larger one for the base and a small one to cut out the jam peekaboo part. At Christmas time, stars can be particularly pretty, but oftentimes simple fluted round cutters are used. I also prefer to use raspberry jam over black currant but you could experiment, just make sure it’s good quality. And the powdered sugar dusting makes them almost too pretty to eat! …nah 🙂
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Let’s get started!

INGREDIENTS
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup finely ground almonds (I used Bob’s Red Mill almond flour)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
confectioner’s sugar

DIRECTIONS
In a small bowl, mix the flour, almonds, cinnamon, and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, mix well. Add flour mixture only until incorporated.
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Divide dough into 2 pieces, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 2 hours or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove one piece of dough from refrigerator and roll out to 1/8inch thickness. Cut half cookies with the insert in the cutter and the other half without. Transfer to cookie sheet. Scraps can be refrigerated and re-rolled.
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Bake 10-12 minutes or until light brown. Cool in pan for 2 minutes and then transfer to racks to cool completely.

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Invert bottom cookies, spread with a tsp of raspberry jam. Dust the top cookies with confectioner’s sugar; gently sandwich the cookies together. Makes about 30 cookies.
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And now it’s time to share with friends or family and enjoy a beautiful treat for Valentine’s Day!
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Turkey Goulash

Hi, friends! Today I have an easy weeknight meal that you can whip up lickety split. I’m doing this 21-day Superhero Challenge, so I modified the original recipe I have a bit to make Paleo-friendly and gluten-free, too. I found this some years ago when doing another challenge, Body for Life. And this became a quick go-to meal that is often in my rotation of weeknight meals as I can prep and cook it in less than an hour. Plus the leftovers are great to pack for lunch the next day! Because I’m doing this challenge on a week where I have to work full time plus have concerts almost every night, I also split up the prep work.
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Have you ever heard of the term, “Mise en place”? (roughly pronounced: meez awn plawss) It is a French phrase I love – it means “putting in place”. And if you’ve watched as many Food channel shows as I have, you will learn that it is often used in the culinary world to define the work that goes into preparing all the foods that will go into a dish. At the time of cooking then, the chef only has to put together the ingredients. I honestly think one could implement Mise en place in most areas of our lives (how about to keep the mail organized? to keep the bathroom clean?), but today we are using it in the kitchen. Sometimes I’ll do it in the morning on the day I want to prepare the dish. Or to save a lot of time, I might do Mise en place right when I get home from the grocery for the meals I need in the next few days. If I have a “sous chef” nearby, my husband :), then he usually does Mise en place and I cook when we prepare a dish together.

At any rate, Mise en place for this dish means – chopping the red peppers, onions, and zucchini, measuring out the basil, sauce, and the wine, and thawing the turkey if frozen. I put everything into dishes that I can easily grab when it’s time to cook and it makes cooking so much easier and joyful!
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I also wanted to mention that the BFL version of this recipe would serve it over egg noodles. But we are going to leave those off as I’m eliminating grains and carbs right now. But you could serve it over noodles, rice if you like (prepare separately and serve together), or nothing at all like me. Also, you see wine in the pictures but that is optional and can be left out if you are eliminating alcohol. I ended up using it because it’s only 2 TB and adds a lot of flavor to the dish.
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INGREDIENTS
1 onion, chopped
2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 zucchini, diced
1 lb ground turkey breast
2 cups tomato sauce (no sugar in the ingredients)
1 TB dried basil (or fresh if you have it!)
2 TB red wine (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Step 1 – do your Mise en place! and get everything prepped

Step 2 – put a little olive oil into a pan large enough to hold everything in the end, and saute the onion for ~2 minutes, add the peppers and saute for ~2 minutes, add the zucchini and saute for ~2 minutes. Remove the vegetables and set aside.

Step 3 – add the ground turkey to the skillet and saute until no longer pink.

Step 4 – add the vegetables back to the skillet with all your other ingredients. Simmer for 5 minutes to heat completely through, stirring occasionally.

Et voilà! A nice simple dinner is served…

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Hearty Vegetable Soup

Hearty Vegetable Soup

I don’t know about you, but when I see rain drizzling down and the temperatures falling, I feel the need to put a pot of soup on the stove!  It might be a nice chili (like my Smoky Chipotle Chili) or a hearty vegetable soup like I want to share with you today.  If you don’t have much time, a soup like this can be made relatively quickly on the stove.  Or you can pull out your crockpot (slow cooker) and let it simmer all day while you do all those household chores that you’ve been meaning to do all week.  This vegetable soup can be made either way.

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You can make a vegetable soup from a variety of ingredients you have on hand.  Look in your fridge and see if there are any you need to use before they turn (ha, not into a zombie or anything, just inedible, lol!).  But I find that 3 ingredients are critical to most vegetable soups – carrots, celery, and onion.  With these staple veggies you can make a mirepoix (pronounced:  meer ah pwah).  Mire-what, you say?!  Well, this is just a fancy French term for a base of our staple veggies (carrot, celery, onion) sautéed (I usually do with a glug of olive oil).  But because I’m a lover of most(?) things French, I love saying it!  🙂

Hearty Vegetable Soup
The heartiness in our soup comes from the beans.  Yes, I suppose you could do meat of some kind (chicken?) but I have gotten on vegan/vegetarian kicks and this soup fits the bill in all cases.  You can really use any canned beans you have on hand but I also like the addition of frozen or fresh green beans (also a staple I like to keep in the freezer).

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Whatever you choose, this is a soup that can be eaten soon with some crusty bread.  Or you can freeze or can for later.  My mom always has some Ball jars on hand and puts hot soup in the jars, waits for it too cool and pop (which means it’s sealed), and then stores it in the fridge for up to 3 months.  I found these lovely green Ball jars and use them to do just that!
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So fire up your stove, get your mirepoix going, and start making this soup.  I promise you will be enjoying a hearty, vegan soup in no time that will warm you up and fill your belly.  Bon Appetit!

INGREDIENTS

1 sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1” pieces
2 stalks celery, diced
Kosher or sea salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 tsp of Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
2 cups frozen or fresh green beans
6-8 cups vegetable broth, low sodium (depending on thickness you like)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes (substitute any tomatoes you have on hand, i.e., 2 c fresh grape tomatoes, diced)
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (substitute any beans you have on hand)

DIRECTIONS

Heat 2 TB olive oil in a large stock pot on the stove.   Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add carrots and celery and cook until lightly browned. Add sweet potatoes and cook one minute, stirring.  Add broth and spices, bring to a boil, and then reduce and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are slightly tender.
Add both beans and tomatoes.  Stir in parsley.   Simmer for 30 minutes.
Salt to taste.  Remove bay leaf.  Serve or store in jars refrigerated.
Slow cooker directions:  Add all the above ingredients to the slow cooker, stir to combine, cover and cook on low 8-10 hours.

Hearty Vegetable Soup