Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chocolate Cake with Ganache

A grain-free, dairy-free, guilt-free, moist, rich chocolate cake for Paleo and GARD followers? Yes, ma'am (or sir). You can really experiment with this one, too. I cut the original recipe in half since there are only two of us, added more baking soda and powder for lift, half an extra egg for moistness, more cocoa, vanilla and maple syrup/honey, swapped out regular bar chocolate for chips, and used whole coconut milk in the ganache. With, may I add, GREAT results! I'd serve this to anyone with pride. Serves 6-8

1/3 c organic coconut flour
3 TB almond flour - not almond meal, which is coarser (I use jk gourmet)
4 TB c unsweetened organic cocoa powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt, finely ground
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp  baking powder

5 extra large organic eggs from pasture-raised hens*
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract
3 oz  + 2 tsp pure organic maple syrup  or raw honey (you can add more if you like it sweeter)
1/2 c organic coconut oil, melted

1/2 c (5 squares) GF DF semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 c whole coconut milk
few drops of good quality vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350*F (by the way, have you used an oven thermometer to check the temp? 5* one way or the other can make or break you when baking)

Grease (I used room temp coconut oil) an 8" round cake tin. In a small bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the wet ingredients together until well blended. With the mixer on low, slowly add in all the dry ingredients until well mixed, then beat on high for 30 seconds. Pour into the cake tin and even out the top with a rubber spatula. Bake 25-30 minutes (mine took 25) until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Don't overbake! Cool on wire rack for 10 min.

Run a table knife around the inside of the tin to help loosen the cake, turn it upside down on a cooling rack and tap the bottom of the tin firmly with the handle of the knife to loosen it. Use a second cooling rack to turn right side up, and continue cooling. 

Note: put a kitchen towel underneath the cake rack to absorb the moisture that's released when cooling. A lot of moisture comes out of this cake!

While the cake is cooling, heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan until tiny bubbles form around the edges and steam rises from the milk. Remove from heat, add in the chocolate and vanilla, and stir to melt the chocolate. Since you're not using chocolate chips, it won't harden as quickly but you'll have a better quality ganache. When the cake is completely cooled, use a rubber spatula to spread the ganache, letting it run over the sides. You can put it in the refrigerator to thicken it faster, but I like it ooey-gooey. Left out, it'll take a couple of hours.

*My baking improved immensely 5 years ago when I started using extra-large, instead of large, eggs and only from range fed hens. The shells are much harder, the yolks darker, & the whites incredibly thick and "whippable". 

The original recipe is here

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lemon Roasted Broccoli

While making the lemon roasted cauliflower, I thought about how well lemon and broccoli go together, so I gave it a try. I've roasted broccoli with garlic before on a half-sheet pan, but this keeps all the juices together and the broccoli browns without getting too crispy. I like it this way better, and even more than the cauliflower!

1 head broccoli, cut into bite sized florets
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
6 medium cloves garlic, each in 3-4 slices
1 lemon, cut in half and juiced

Preheat oven to 400*F

Warm the EVOO in a large, oven-proof saucepan over medium heat. Add the broccoli florets, salt & pepper, and garlic slices. Saute for a few minutes, tossing to coat. Add the lemon juice and lemon quarters and toss to combine. 

Roast in the oven 20-25 minutes, until the broccoli is at your preferred texture and the garlic is soft and sweet. Really yummy!

Lemon Roasted Cauliflower

Kris' husband Tom makes this Emeril Lagasse recipe and she says it's her favorite way to eat cauliflower. I found several Emeril variations on the internet. This one is very lemon-y when you first take it out of the oven, but it mellows quickly. I added a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes at the end, and it evened the flavors out perfectly for me. (That was the only change I made.) Serves 4

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
8 medium cloves garlic, each in 3-4 slices
2 lemons, cut in half and juiced
Crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400*F

Warm the EVOO in a large, oven-proof saucepan over medium heat. Add the cauliflower florets, salt & pepper, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Saute for a few minutes, tossing to coat. Add the lemon juice and lemon halves and toss to combine. Roast in the oven 25-35 minutes, until the cauliflower is at your preferred texture (I went to 35.)

[You can also roast it at 500*F which will brown the cauliflower and garlic more than this way; just make sure you turn it during roasting to keep any pieces from burning.]

Remove the lemon halves, put in a serving bowl and enjoy.

Note: I tried a little chopped fresh rosemary on a serving portion, as one variation suggested, but as much as I love fresh herbs, I felt this was one dish that was better without it.

P.S. I'm going to try this method with a head of broccoli.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Raw Honey Outperforms in Taste and Health Benefits

My friends have been touting the benefits of raw honey for years, which makes me wonder why I didn't start using it in recipes a lot sooner. Marinades, rubs, vinaigrettes, sauces: it works just as well as cane or beet sugar in cooking, tastes wonderful, and the health benefits are inarguable.

"Raw honey is an alkaline-forming food that contains natural vitamins, enzymes, powerful antioxidants and other important natural nutrients. These are the very nutrients that are destroyed during the heating and pasteurization process. In fact, pasteurized honey is equivalent to and just as unhealthy as eating refined sugar. (italics added)

Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It promotes body and digestive health, is a powerful antioxidant, strengthens the immune system, eliminates allergies, and is an excellent remedy for skin wounds and all types of infections. 

Raw honey's benefits don't stop there. Raw honey can also stabilize blood pressure, balance sugar levels, relieve pain, calm nerves, and it has been used to treat ulcers. Raw honey is also an expectorant and anti-inflammatory and has been known to effectively treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma.

Raw honey purchased from a local source is an excellent way of treating seasonal allergies. Local honey is preferred for treating allergies because the likelihood is great that it will contain small amounts of the specific pollens an individual may be allergic to."

- From Natural News

We buy raw, unfiltered, unheated honey from Stockin's Apiaries, located 13 miles from our home, at the local farmer's market. For treating allergies, it's suggested you use honey from within a 20 mile radius of your home, but that's not always possible, so just go for as close as you can. 

Use the Honey Locator to find apiaries near you, and be sure to check out your local farmer's markets and health food stores. They may not mention "raw honey" but any apiary is going to start with raw; just call and ask if it's available, and where you can buy it.

How to Eat Wild in the City - Find Pasture Raised Proteins

First the why, then where and how. As you may have noticed in my recipes, I emphasize grass-fed, free-fed, free-range cattle, pork and poultry, wild caught fish, non-GMO, hormone- and anti-biotic free proteins, humane living conditions and abbatoirs. 

The reason is simple. Farmed fish are being fed corn and soy (mostly GMO, genetically modified, at that). Cattle, poultry and pork have been fed commercial grade (also mostly GMO) corn for decades, contaminating the meat, milk and eggs, creating secondary food intolerances that affect our bodies the same as when we eat corn and soy.

From the GARD website: "One of my newest concerns is the presence of glutamate in the flesh of grain-fed animals, especially chickens, turkeys, and cattle. This is a topic of discussion on the celiac forums and we are now believing [sic] that this is a real concern and could explain why some celiacs are not responding to elimination diets. Catfish are also grain fed." 

Actually, this applies to all of us with gastro-intestinal and neurological conditions related to food intolerances. It doesn’t matter how healthy our diet is, if we’re eating proteins that have been fed corn, soy or grain we’re not going to get well. Also consider that feedlot cows get sick on this unnatural diet and are then given massive doses of antibiotics, which stay in the meat.*

What are By-Product Feedstuffs these factory farm cows being fed? 
Fresh pasture and dried grasses are the natural diet of all ruminant animals. In factory farms, animals are switched to an unnatural diet based on corn and soy. But corn and soy are not the only ingredients in their “balanced rations.” Many large-scale dairy farmers and feedlot operators save money by feeding the cows “by-product feedstuffs” as well. In general, this means waste products from the manufacture of human food. In particular, it can mean: 
*sterilized city garbage 
*candy, sometimes with the wrappers still on 
*bubble gum
*floor sweepings from plants that manufacture animal food
*bakery, potato wastes or a "scientific blend" of pasta and candy

Eat Wild is an excellent state by state resource for finding safe, healthy, natural and nutritious grass-fed beef, lamb, goats, bison, poultry, pork, dairy, eggs, milk and other wild edibles. If you can't find a nearby source, call and ask those in your state if they sell at a local store or farmer's market. If you need to Google a source (not all ranches are listed on this site) read Rule #1.

Click on the Free Raised Veal Pasture Tour and Video on this page to find out about one such ranch in Wisconsin. For me, this isn’t just about my health, it’s about my conscience.

Oasis at Bird-in-Hand is my local farmer's co-op, where I buy most of my pasture-raised proteins (you can see a picture of their pork shoulder in my recipe for Carnitas and they do ship!

Rule #1: When you use Google, use the term "pasture raised", i.e. "pasture raised chickens", or "pasture raised eggs", rather than "free range". "Free range" can mean the chickens have access to a small, barren patch of dirt outside their overcrowded hen house. Chickens are flocking birds; they won't go outside unless their sisters do, and let's be honest: what's the point of going outside if they don't get to wander around and pick through cow patties looking for grubs and worms?

Include your state, or nearby states if you live near a border, in your search terms.

Rule #2: Be sure to ask whether the cattle has been "grain-finished." What's the point of paying a premium price for grass-fed cattle if it's been fed corn and soy the last 6 months of its life?

Rule #3: Even grass-fed cattle need food supplements in the winter, when the grass is dead or covered in snow. Hay, or alfalfa, is still a form of grass, which is fine; just be sure to ask about corn or soy supplements during your research.

Farmed catfish, tilapia, salmon and trout are grain-fed in the U.S., mainly corn. Look for the words “wild caught” while shopping.

*If you haven't read The Omnivore's Dilemma I highly recommend it. Michael Pollan will open your eyes, your mind, and your mouth (the last in jaw-dropping astonishment.)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Grass Fed Veal Scaloppine

Fortunately, grass fed or "free raised" veal* is becoming much more common, ending my 20 year boycott against buying or eating veal. Perhaps it's because it has been so long, but this sure tastes good. Quick and easy, and the sauce does it justice. You don't taste the mustard or lemon juice at all ~ it adds just the right acid for balance. Serves 4

1 lb veal scaloppine, pounded to equal thinness
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c potato flour in a shallow dish, plus 1 TB for the sauce
1/4 c dry white wine
1/2 c homemade chicken stock
1 TB chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 rounded tsp Dijon mustard (original)
1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 TB whole coconut milk (it tastes just like heavy cream)

Have everything prepped, measured and ready to go before you begin, because once your meat is cooked, it goes very quickly. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat the bottom with EVOO. Cut the scaloppine into serving size pieces, about 4"x4". Salt and pepper both sides, then dredge in the potato flour. You'll notice the flour is much more powdery than wheat flour, you need a lot less, and it dries out the meat perfectly (that's all you want it to do, anyway.)

When the oil is hot and rippling, put about 3 pieces of meat, or however many you can fit in without overcrowding, in the pan and cook for 2 minutes on the first side, 1-2 minutes on the second side. Potato flour is stickier, so if you're using a regular (not non-stick) skillet, you may have to coax the meat loose with a metal spatula; that's fine, you'll just have more brown flavor bits in your gravy. Remove the meat to a serving plate with raised edges. Cover loosely with aluminum foil, and cook the rest of the veal the same way, adding more EVOO if you need to.

Pour off the extra oil or add more to make about 1 TB in the skillet. Add 1 TB potato flour and stir briskly with a whisk. The potato flour will cook much more quickly than wheat flour. Add in the wine and stir to incorporate. It will thicken up fast. Working quickly, add in the chicken stock and lemon juice, and use the edge of your spatula to help scrape up all the brown bits, and then whisk until it's all uniform and emulsified. Add in the thyme, mustard and coconut milk, whisk to blend, taste for more salt and pepper, and pour over the meat. As you can see, I like a lot of sauce. I should have decorated the plate with some parsley, but we were hungry!

Note: EVOO breaks (separates) in a sauce more easily than butter because it's an unrefined oil. If this happens, don't add more flour, add another tsp or two of chicken stock and whisk briskly. That should save it.

*If you Google "grass fed veal", a multitude of sites come up where you can find local-to-you or by order grass fed or "free fed", hormone and antibiotic-free, humanely raised cattle. Click on the Free Raised Tour and Pasture Video on this page, Free Raised to find out about one such ranch.

Learn about pasture raised proteins, along with resources, in Eat Wild in the City

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Baked Baby Acorn Squash with Crispy Sage

When you hit on something deliriously good because you can't rely on a stick of butter to make it so, it's a 5 star day. I swear this is the best acorn squash I've ever eaten in my life. The chicken stock in the baking dish adds so much complex flavor, and the crispy sage leaves ~ which you must include ~ will have you cleaning your plate. My husband and I ate the entire test recipe immediately, but I'm not sorry I'll have to think of something else to go with dinner. Speaking of dinner, if you're rushed for time getting it on the table, you can make this in advance and re-heat the following night. Serves 2, but easily increased to however many you like.

2 Baby acorn squash, about 12 oz each (or you can get a big one instead, around 2 lb)
1 Bunch fresh sage leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4-6 Cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 c-ish Homemade chicken stock
2-4 TB Whole coconut milk

Preheat oven to 375*F

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Generously salt and pepper the insides. Stuff 1 garlic clove and a few sage leaves in the cavity of each half and place face down in a glass or ceramic baking dish, like this:

For a larger squash, use about 6 cloves of garlic and a big handful of sage leaves. Pour about 1/4" chicken stock in the dish, just enough to keep the squash from sticking or burning, and to add lots of flavor during baking. Water will do in a pinch but honestly, the chicken stock is sooo much better. Bake about 40 minutes for the baby squash, closer to an hour if you're using a large one. Check for doneness: you should be able to put a fork in the flesh and easily turn it. Allow to cool.

While the squash is cooling, coat the bottom of a skillet with EVOO over medium heat and wait for the oil to ripple; you want the leaves to crisp, not soak. Pick the biggest sage leaves, about 3 per serving, and fry in the oil around 2-3 minutes, watching that they don't burn, until they start to curl. If you haven't done this before, cook a couple of test leaves first. Gently remove with tongs and drain on paper towels. (I saved the sage oil in a glass jar to use another time.)

Scoop flesh out of squash halves and run through a food mill with the medium plate. A food mill will give you the best texture, but if you don't have one, use a ricer (not a food processor.) If you need to, warm the squash up again in a saucepan over medium heat until it's steaming. Beat in warmed coconut milk and chicken stock (not what was left in the baking dish, that'll be too garlicky) in a ratio of 2:1, to the consistency you like, with a wire whisk. I used 2 TB coconut milk and 1 TB stock. Taste for salt & pepper. Beautifully sweet, creamy, perfectly seasoned squash without an ounce of butter or cream.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower

This isn't a recipe, just a technique. I liked Anne Burrell's idea of roasting cauliflower into spicy nuggets as it has almost no taste on its own, but I was hesitant about using cayenne pepper on an entire head.

So I preheated my oven to 375*F, cut a head of cauliflower into little floret nuggets, dumped them on a half-sheet pan and tossed them with about 2 TB EVOO and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Then I made 4 separate piles and seasoned them differently:

Garam Masala blend
Cayenne pepper
Herbs de Provence (hey, you never know, right?)
Paprika and cumin

I roasted them for just under 15 minutes and tossed with a spatula, roasting another 10 minutes until golden brown and soft enough to cut with a fork. The nuggets were small, so they could probably get away with a total of 20 minutes. Fast and easy.

The Outcome: the cayenne was (predictably) too hot for me; the Herbs de Provence got lost but the flavor was still very good, I might try them in a cauliflower mash some time; the paprika and cumin, which I expected to like the most, was too blah; and the Garam Masala blend was both our favorite. Yum! So, I suggest you experiment with your spice cupboard too; go a little wild and crazy, divide it up like I did so you can do a side-by-side taste test, and discover your personal favorite.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Roasted Potato Shallot Soup

My friend Diana hates leeks, which are the usual combination in a potato soup. When I thought about it, I realized several people I know dislike them, and this soup is too good to miss. Shallots are sweet when roasted and complement a lot of foods, so I decided to give them a try. Worked like a charm, not too sweet, not too onion-y. :-) Some potato soups are bland and need to be punched up with a lot of pepper and spices, but not this one. It has tons of flavor! Don't worry about the coconut milk, it doesn't taste coconutty at all, just rich and creamy (plus, you'll be saving a whopping 1200 calories in all!) In fact, I actually like this version even better than the original, and that's saying a lot. Serves 6-8

2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & cut in 1" chunks, no bigger
12 oz shallots, peeled and left whole unless they're huge, then cut in half
5-6 more shallots for the crispy shallot topping, peeled and very thinly sliced
EVOO about 1-1/2 c total for everything or 1/4 c EVOO and 1-1/4 c coconut oil, melted
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 c baby arugula, loosely packed *See note below
1/2 c dry white wine, plus 2 TB to add at the end
6-7 c homemade chicken stock
3/4 c whole coconut milk, shaken vigorously before opening

Preheat oven to 400*F

Put the potatoes on one half of the half-sheet, shallots on the other. Drizzle both generously with EVOO and toss to coat all the pieces. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cover the shallots with a piece of aluminum foil. Roast for 15 minutes.

While the veggies are roasting, start your crispy shallots; they'll take just as long to cook. Heat 1-1/4 c EVOO (since I ran out, I used the coconut oil and it worked fine) in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Separate the shallot rings as you drop them in. Toss to coat with the oil and slowly cook them for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally,  until they're all golden brown. Lower the heat if you need to, to keep them from burning. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and crisp up.

Back to the veg: after the first 15 minutes, remove the aluminum foil and turn the potatoes and shallots with a metal spatula so they get evenly browned and don't burn on the bottom. Use your spatula to coax up any potatoes that are stuck. Roast for another 15 minutes and turn again. Roast another 10-15 minutes, for a total of 40-45 minutes, until the potatoes break up easily with a fork. Transfer the veg to a large bowl, using your spatula to scrape up any browned bits on the sheet and include those, too.

Pile the arugula on the sheet pan and roast 4-5 minutes, just to get it crispy, then add it to the potatoes and shallots in the bowl. Now, working in batches, add half the contents to a food processor (I think a blender would work fine, too), add the 1/2 c wine and a cup or so of the chicken stock, just enough to help blend everything. I do not add a lot here, because when it's too liquid, the potatoes and shallots won't puree as easily or consistently. Process until smooth, transfer to a soup pot, and do the next batch the same way.

Now add the rest of the chicken stock to the pot. I like my soup thick and hearty, so I only use about 6 c total. Stir in 1/2 c of the coconut milk, taste, and add the rest if you want it creamier, like I do. Heat through, to just below a boil. Take it off the heat and add the 2 TB white wine. Don't skip the wine here! When you taste the soup it will feel like something's missing, and the wine does the trick. Taste for salt & pepper and add more if you like. Top each bowl with the crispy shallots, and enjoy!

* * * * * * *
See how easy this is? All you need are pantry staples and arugula, and you have a rich, hearty, flavorful  soup for days like today, when it's 12* outside. (You'll need twice as much as in the picture, by the way. When I'm experimenting, I cut the recipe in half; no sense in wasting an enormous pot of food that went south.)

*Note: I've made the original version many times, but I always omitted the arugula because it sounded... well, icky. Huge mistake. I tried it with spinach (yuck) and arugula, and what a fool I was; the arugula is going in every time from now on!

This is adapted from Ina Garten's recipe for potato leek soup with only a couple of changes. If you want to make the original version with leeks, just swap out the coconut milk for the heavy cream, use coconut oil for the crispy shallots if you prefer, and omit the crème fraîche and cheese; you won't miss it at all. Plus you'll be saving 880 calories from omitting the crème fraîche, and another 318 from swapping out the cream for whole coconut milk!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Jeff's Famous Bobo Burgers

If I had to include one burger recipe, this would be it. One beautiful Sacramento day, Jeff decided to barbeque hamburgers. He'd just finished reading Bobos in Paradise, and decided to create a burger worthy of a Bobo*. He hit it out of the park. The original recipe includes 3 TB good red wine** and 1/4 c. Italian bread crumbs, which are what make them over-the-top insanely good. I've left them out here, but they are still my favorite, hot, juicy, and delicious! Serve them with oven-roasted potatoes, a green salad, or Hot German Potato Salad.

1 lb 80/20 grass-fed ground beef
4 tsp finely minced fresh parsley
1 large egg from a free-range hen
2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced or crushed
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Get your barbeque coals ready or heat a cast-iron grill pan on medium. Make sure the pan is good and hot before you put the burgers on. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all the ingredients, adding salt & pepper to taste. It will be looser than usual because of the lack of bread crumbs; that's ok. Form 4 patties and grill about 4 minutes on each side for medium, 5 minutes for well-done. I like mine topped with a bit of pickled red onion. (Click on the picture for a closer look.)

*"Do you believe that spending $15,000 on a media center is vulgar, but that spending $15,000 on a slate shower stall is a sign that you are at one with the Zenlike rhythms of nature? Do you work for one of those visionary software companies where people come to work wearing hiking boots and glacier glasses, as if a wall of ice were about to come sliding through the parking lot? If so, you might be a Bobo.

In his bestselling work of "comic sociology," David Brooks coins a new word, Bobo, to describe today's upper class -- those who have wed the bourgeois world of capitalist enterprise to the hippie values of the bohemian counterculture. Their hybrid lifestyle is the atmosphere we breathe, and in this witty and serious look at the cultural consequences of the information age, Brooks has defined a new generation."

**Red wine is exceptionally high in tannins, often causing the Red Wine Headache or a migraine. From Wikipedia: "Tannins cause the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter. High levels of serotonin can cause headaches and that may happen in people who also suffer from migraine headaches."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Roasted Beet and Blood Orange Salad

This is the best time of year for blood oranges, and they're delicious with toasted walnuts and oven-roasted beets, tossed in a citrus salad dressing. You can use endive and make a more formal, structured salad, as I did below, or use mixed greens, which is my personal preference as it holds more dressing. I'll post a picture with that variation the next time I make it. Serves 4

3 blood oranges
1/2 c toasted walnuts
2 lb beets, peeled and cut into 1/2" x 1" pieces
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c EVOO
4 endive or mixed green lettuces, washed and spun thoroughly dry

Preheat oven to 400*F

Prep the beets, put them in one layer on a half-sheet pan, toss with 1.5 TB EVOO and sprinkle with salt. Roast about 45 minutes, turning them over about halfway through, until they're easily pierced with a fork. Watch them carefully: you do want to get good caramelization, but you don't want them to burn. While the beets are roasting, zest one of the blood oranges and squeeze the juice; set aside zest and juice for the dressing. If you haven't already, toast the walnuts now, in a dry pan on the stove or on a tray in the toaster oven and set aside to cool

For the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk together 1 TB lemon juice with 2 TB reserved orange juice, 1/2 tsp salt, 6-8 grinds of pepper, and half the zest. Whisking the whole time, stream in the EVOO. You're aiming for a nice blend of lemon/orange. If you want more orange flavor, try adding more of the leftover zest first, then add more orange juice 1 tsp at a time, but remember you'll also need to add another TB or so of EVOO.

For the other 2 oranges: cut off each end, set it on a flat side and cut the peel off from top to bottom in strips, working your way around the orange. Be sure to cut all the pith (white part) off while saving as much orange as possible. Turn the finished orange on its side and cut into 1/4" discs.

For an arranged salad, dip the walnuts, beets and oranges in dressing and place on the endive and drizzle extra dressing over the top. if you like. For a mixed salad, just put everything, including the greens, in a big bowl and toss with your (clean) fingers. They're more efficient than tongs to make sure all the lettuces are coated without drowning the salad in dressing.

I should have used a more colorful plate for the photo, but I didn't think of it until afterwards. We were hungry and wanted to eat, and I needed to get the rest of the meal on the plate. Next time, yes?

Extra picture of my salad dressing experiment with separate spoons to make sure I'm not confusing one taste with another. I made small amounts of 3 different test dressings, messing around with each, before I settled on one.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Seared Sea Scallops with Tropical Salsa

These sweet, delicate scallops are fast and easy if you follow the tips for perfect results. Please try the salsa this way at least once before you try your own variations. Serves 4

1 lb *Dry* sea scallops, thoroughly rinsed and drained, tough abductor muscle removed if it's still on, dried and resting on paper towels
1 TB (+ 1 tsp) coconut oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Tropical Salsa
1/2 c red bell pepper, diced
1/2 c fresh, ripe mango, diced
1/2 c  pineapple, diced
1/2 c  cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 - 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, small diced
1.5 - 2 TB freshly squeezed lime juice
3 TB fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, finely chopped
2 tsp coconut cream, warmed to liquid

Tip #1: If you can't get dry scallops, save this recipe for another time. You won't get the beautiful sear, and the taste will be off. Make sure the scallops are thoroughly rinsed; bits of sand tend to hide in the crevices.

Tip #2: Cut all the fruit and veg in the same size, it makes a prettier salsa, your measuring more accurate, and you'll have an equal blend of flavors/textures.

Tip #3: I had Jeff taste the salsa before I added the coconut cream and he insisted it didn't need a thing. So I added it to only half the salsa and when he tasted it, he agreed it was even better. I'll tell you where to find it at the bottom.

Tip #3: Use a regular skillet, not non-stick. You might need to gently coax the scallops loose with a metal spatula to turn them, but it's the only way you'll get the golden crust and caramelization. Wait until the pan and oil are hot before adding the scallops!

Ready? Combine all the ingredients for the salsa, except lime juice and coconut cream, in a 1 qt bowl. Season with salt and pepper, add 1.5 TB of the lime juice, and taste to see if you want to add more. Once you have the right amount of lime juice, stir in the coconut cream. It might harden up a little, but no biggie; just pop the bowl in the microwave for 20 seconds before serving to warm it up again and give it another good stir. Set aside.

Heat 1 TB coconut oil in a large skillet (11-12") between medium and medium-high. Wait until the pan is hot and the oil is rippling. Season the scallops generously with salt and pepper on one side, add half the scallops to the pan - no crowding! - and sear about 2 minutes until they're golden brown. Turn with a metal spatula or tongs and cook another 2 minutes until they're golden brown on the 2nd side and completely opaque. Remove the cooked scallops to a hot plate to keep them warm. Add another tsp of coconut oil to the pan if you need to, and cook the 2nd batch. Serve with salsa on the side. Click on the picture for their Hollywood close-up.

Coconut cream is the thick non-liquid part that separates and rises to the top of the coconut milk. You can buy a can of whole coconut milk and skim it off the top, or buy it packaged at most health food stores. If you buy it packaged, just put the package in a teacup filled with hot water and enough will melt to pour off. Plus, it keeps for a long time, and you won't have to figure out what to do with the rest of the can of milk.

“Dry” scallops sear better, taste better

When you’re at the fish counter, you’ll often see sea scallops labeled two ways—“dry” and “wet.” (If they’re not marked, ask.) Whenever you can, choose the dry scallops. “Wet” scallops have been treated with a solution called STP (sodium tripolyphosphate), which helps the scallops maintain their moisture (they’re made up of about 75% water when fresh). The STP solution gives scallops a longer shelf life; they don’t dry out or lose their plump appearance. As a result, you’ll not only pay for the added water weight (and often get scallops that are less than fresh), but you’ll also have trouble browning these scallops—no matter how hot your pan or oven—because of all that excess moisture. The STP solution can also give scallops a rubbery texture and cloud the flavor.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Five Meat Loaf

This is my all-time favorite meatloaf, moist and intensely flavorful. The bacon keeps it from drying out and adds a smoky element (it gets discarded), and the Black Forest ham makes it unique. I was worried about finding a workable replacement for grains, and baked, riced potatoes did the trick. For a more uniform smoothness like a typical meatloaf, use an Idaho potato and mix thoroughly. For tiny bites of potato, use a Yukon Gold and mix a little less. Broccoli rabe simmered in stock makes a very nice side. Serves 4.

8 oz grass-fed ground beef
4 oz grass-fed ground veal 
2 oz ground pork
2 oz Black Forest ham* (I've tried others before. This really is the best for this recipe)
1 medium Idaho or Yukon Gold potato (you will not use the entire potato)
1/4 - 1/3 c yellow onion, very finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, room temperature, well beaten
4 slices lean smoked bacon (nitrite/nitrate-free), cut in half cross-wise

Take your meats and egg out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature, preferably at least an hour. Pierce the potato several times with a sharp knife and bake the potato in the microwave on high for 6-7 minutes, or in a 400*F oven for 1 hr, until it separates easily with a fork, not a knife. Let it cool enough so you can handle it. Peel off and discard the skin, and put the potato through a ricer or food mill (I use a ricer since it's just one potato). Baking keeps it dry, and ricing it makes it fluffy, like this (you can click on the pictures for a closer look):

Use a fork (not your hands; the warm potato will stick to your fingers and clump together) to separate and gently spread the potato out on the cutting board and let it cool completely, about 20 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 350*F

Coarsely chop the ham and pulse it in a food processor with the sharp blade until it's very fine, like this (if you don't have a food processor, mince it finely):

In a large bowl, combine everything but the potato and bacon, mixing thoroughly with a fork until it's well blended. Sprinkle 2/3 c of the potato over the mixture and blend it in. Here's where you can choose to leave it in little bites, as I did, or mix it more thoroughly. Put a cooling rack over a baking half-sheet and lay down 4 half-strips of bacon in the center. Handling the mixture gently, form a rectangle, pressing the meat out to the edges of the bacon. Lay the remaining four strips of bacon over the top.

>>You can put it on a plate, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate until the next evening, then transfer to the wire rack-baking sheet and bake.

Bake for 1 hour. Your whole kitchen will smell like heaven, and your dogs will be hanging out as closely as they dare. Here it is straight out of the oven.

Let it sit for 10 minutes. It's a very tender loaf and needs time to rest. Use a large spatula to remove from the rack to a plate or cutting board. Discard the bacon (ha! my husband always steals it) and slice into 1/2" thick serving pieces. I'll add a gravy recipe later, if you like, but honestly this tastes so good it doesn't need one. See the lovely little pieces of Yukon Gold? Yum! I'm so glad I made this for the blog!

*Hormel Natural Choice products contain no nitrates or nitrites, no artificial ingredients, no MSG, no hormones, and are gluten free.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What is the GARD Diet?

In case you stumbled on this blog looking for a particular recipe, or a friend sent you here (thank you, friends!) here's some excellent information on the GARD diet, including what it is exactly and why it was created and how it works to help you heal your own body. Originally developed for dogs and pets suffering from seizures, Dr. J, who suffered (past tense!) from Celiac disease, has spent 10 years doing extensive medical research and shares a wealth of information that will leave your head spinning.

I should probably explain the difference between gluten-free and grain-free: 

Grains, corn, dairy, legumes and soy (also a legume), and processed sugars all release a ton of glutamic acid, which our body already makes all by itself, causing an imbalance. Eventually, for some of us, we can't get rid of the excess glutamic acid. Our digestive tract is destroyed. Some people "only" have problems with digestion (IBS, gas, bloating, leaky gut, etc.), others have Celiac's,  an auto immune disease which raises probabilities of cancer, causes joint problems, neurological problems, osteoporosis, thyroid problems, and on and on. It is basically a disease of malabsorption. 

These excito-toxins affect our neurological system, causing headaches, insomnia, migraines, ADHD, Alzheimers, and grand mal and petit mal seizures. 
The whole body suffers when the gut is destroyed. 

That means avoiding gluten products, such as wheat, is not enough. Grains like rice, and legumes like soy are still causing the same damage. This quite possibly why many people with Celiac and wheat intolerances are not getting well.

The GARD diet is not permanent; by following it long enough, your body heals itself and you can slowly add foods back in, in moderation. Be prepared for lots of reading, explanations and details on Dogtor J's website:

The GARD Diet

Some people eat brown rice on the GARD diet, probably because the idea of giving up all grains is a little overwhelming at first. But, if you overcook it even the slightest, it releases a flood of free glutamates! You can also find more information on naturally occurring glutamates and free glutamates in food, as well as those in medications that we take to help our symptoms, here:

MSG Myth

Here is a video by Dr. Blaylock about excitotoxins, what they are, what foods they are in, and how the whole process occurs in our body, from the first bite of a particular food to how it affects our digestive system and eventually our brain.

If you or a loved one suffers from epilepsy, autism, ALS, chronic headache, migraine, fibromyalgia, in fact many neurological disorders OR digestive disorders such as heartburn, IBS and Celiac disease, it's worth watching. After all, knowledge is power, right? Find a comfy spot on the sofa, and skip the popcorn!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Baby Bear Chili Rubbed Salmon

No, it's not too hot, and it doesn't taste like you're in a San Antonio chili cook-off. It just tastes delicious. By the time you finish marinating and cooking it, there's a warm, spicy flavor that enhances the salmon beautifully. One of the best surprises was, when I used honey instead of sugar in the dry rub, it really improved the flavor. I've tried smoked paprika (too mild), chipotle chili powder (too hot!), and chili powder (just right), hence the name :-).

Try serving it with a side of roasted or steamed broccolini tossed with lemon zest. The heat from the broccolini will release the essential oils, so you get the lemon flavor without the acid. Serves 4

1- 1 1/4 lb wild caught salmon, skin on
1 lime, cut in quarters
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 TB raw honey
3 TB apple cider vinegar

Optional salsa
1/2 medium avocado, cut in small dice
1 TB small dice red onion or scallion
1/2 c pineapple, small dice
2 pinches kosher salt
1 TB lime juice

Preheat oven to 350*

If you're using a bigger piece of fish, be sure to proportionately increase the amount of spices, honey and marinade. In a small dish, combine the chili powder and salt. Thoroughly dry the salmon all over (leave it whole for now) with paper towels and then using your fingers, rub the honey all over the top - the skinless side - so there's a very thin coating. Sprinkle the chili-salt mixture evenly over the top and gently press/rub it in. Cut the salmon into 2 equal portions; I like to leave it in bigger pieces because there's less chance of over-cooking it. Kinda pretty, isn't it?

Combine the EVOO and vinegar in another small bowl and pour it in the bottom of a glass dish just big enough to hold the salmon (mine is 11"x7.5"). Put the salmon in upside down (skin side up) and let it marinate for 20 minutes.

If you're doing the salsa, now's the time to prep it. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside; the lime juice will keep the avocado from turning brown.

Lightly coat the bottom of a 12" oven-proof skillet with EVOO (approx 1 tsp) - not necessary if you're using nonstick - and heat just below medium-high on the stove. When the pan is hot, put the salmon in skin side up. Cook for about 4 minutes, turn right side up, and place in the oven to finish cooking with a splatter guard on top of the pan. This will take anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on how thick the filet is and how well-done you like your salmon. It should still give gently when you press down on it, but not feel mushy. When it's done, cut the salmon into serving portions and serve with a wedge of lime, salsa spooned over the top.

?What the heck? That's not pineapple! We were out tonight, so I used mandarin oranges. It was pretty darn good, too, but I prefer the pineapple.

Saffron Poached Salmon

I know this sounds a little strange, but I made Ina Garten's recipe for mussels (which is insanely good) and had some salmon I had to cook up. Not wanting to dirty yet another pan, my clever husband suggested poaching it in the sauce, and holy cow is it good! Saffron is so rich-tasting, it feels like a special treat. I made a side salad of mixed baby greens to go with it; the next time, I browned potatoes, which we prefer. Here is my version (esp leaving out the tomatoes!) Serves 4

1-1.4 lb wild caught salmon, skin still on, cut into 2 equal size filets
1 tsp saffron threads
1/3 c EVOO
1 c minced shallots, about 6-7
6 large cloves garlic, minced
2 big handfuls flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 rounded tsp thyme leaves, about 3 large sprigs,
2 c un-oaked Chardonnay or any dry white wine*
1.5 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Soak the saffron threads in 1/4 c very hot water for at least 15 minutes while you prep the veg.

Heat the EVOO in a dutch oven over medium heat. Saute the shallots for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes, until the shallots are translucent. Add the saffron threads and steeping water, and the rest of the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Add the salmon, immediately reduce to simmer (you don't want to boil the fish!), cover and cook for about 8-10 minutes, depending on how done you like your salmon. If you're not sure, just use a fork to gently separate it in the center of the filet. Since you're poaching it, it won't matter if it separates.

Remove from poaching broth with a spatula & cut each piece in half on a serving plate for a total of 4 pieces. Use a slotted spoon to scoop up the shallots, garlic & parsley and pile them around each salmon filet.

I diced some Yukon Gold potatoes and browned them in leaf lard (you could use EVOO, bacon fat, or duck fat) as a side dish, and ohhhh man! The potatoes soaked up the extra saffron broth on the plate and it's indescribably good.

* * * * * * * *

*Here's the scoop on wine and raisins from Dr. J, who created the GARD diet:
The GARD - The Glutamate & Aspartate Restricted Diet 
Hi Kyrah. The problem with wine and raisins are their fluoride content, with grapes being one of the two plants in nature that concentrate fluoride (tea plants being the other). Using wine for cooking and eating raisins in moderation shouldn't be a problem but drinking wine regularly and eating lots of raisins as snacks on regular basis is probably not the best idea for those suffering from neurological disorders (e.g. epilepsy, MS, Alzheimer's, memory loss, etc.)

That said, I would not use an oaked (aged in oak barrels) wine; Headache in a Glass. It will say on the bottle whether it was aged in oak, or a stainless steel barrel.

Ina Garten is brilliant. She really is. If you want to try her original recipe for mussels, it's in her Barefoot in Paris book and also here Ina's mussels in white wine

Why no Tomatoes in the GARD?

That's what I wanted to know! I freaking love tomatoes warm from our garden in the summer; the unusual varieties in the farmer's market; in a good stew or bolognese sauce. They're packed with nutrients, and add a wonderful umami flavor to everything, especially when concentrated, like tomato paste.

What's umami? It's the latest food craze; "top" chefs are chasing after it, putting it in everything they can think of, even ice cream FCOL. Technically, it's glutamic acid that gives that lovely umami taste. Glutamate. Kryptonite. An excito-toxin that triggers epileptic seizures, migraines, headaches, and contributes to (perhaps even causes) ADHD, Alzheimers, and other unpleasant neurological disorders. Dr. Blaylock explains excito-toxins here.

And tomatoes are packed with it. 246mg per 100g of tomato. Just for a point of reference, 100g of carrots have a grand total of 33. Umami Peddlers have a list if you want to take a look; tomatoes are at the top of their list.

So, in the interest of being consistent with recipes that new GARD followers can use, there will be no tomatoes, dried mushrooms, seaweed, anchovies, or the like.

(And just in case you were thinking of using Nori (dried seaweed) as a clever wrap: 1,378mg per 100g.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Big, Beefy Short Ribs

In the mood for an old-fashioned meat, carrots and potatoes dinner? This is an old family favorite that goes way back. There's a lovely German-influenced background hint of sweet and sour, and it's very satisfying. I cut all the excess fat off before cooking, so it's much more low-cal and heart-healthy than the average short ribs recipe. I like my juicy, tender ribs with carrots and lots of gravy over a pile of fluffy mashed Yukon Gold potatoes. Allow about 4 hours total including prep and cooking time. Serves 4. Maybe.

3 lb beef short ribs, bone in
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 TB red wine vinegar
1 TB raw honey (benefits and locator for the US here)
2 c vegetable stock or homemade chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 long sprig fresh tarragon or 1/2 tsp dried
6-8 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1+" pieces
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1" dice
Big handful of parsley, finely minced

Preheat oven to 300*

Coat the bottom of a dutch oven with EVOO, about 3 TB or so, over medium heat on the stove top. Thoroughly dry the short ribs with paper towels and trim all the excess fat off, like this:

The big flavor is going to come from the marrow (see that one bone that's big and white? Intense flavor!), and the fact that you took your time to really brown the meat well - believe me, you don't need the fat.

Cut in between the bones to make separate ribs and season generously with salt and pepper. Brown the ribs in batches, don't crowd the pieces, and make sure every side is a really nice, dark brown before turning. The meatiest side takes about 4 minutes, the other sides about 2 minutes each. Don't rush this step!

Turn off the heat, add 1 c of the stock, and using the edge of a wooden spatula or spoon, scrape up all the brown bits. Add the rest of the stock, vinegar, honey, and garlic. Taste and add more honey to your preference; remember it's supposed to be a balance of sweet and sour. For me, 1 TB of honey is just right.  Put the ribs back in, meaty side in the stock. (See how dark the stock is already? That's from scraping up all the goodness in the bottom of the pot ;-).)

Cover and bake on the center rack for 2 hrs. After the 1st hr, turn the ribs so the pieces of meat that weren't in the broth are now, & return to oven for the 2nd hr. The stock will have cooked down, even with the lid on, but remember, the carrots and onion will add more liquid.

Add the herbs, carrots and onion, and continue cooking for another 1.5 hrs. I know this sounds like a long time for carrots and onions, but remember they're cooking at a very low heat, and in this dish, we like them soft. If you prefer your carrots to have more crunch, you can always add them in during the last hour. After 30 min, check the carrots and onion and stir them down in if you need to.

At the end of the cooking time,the meat should be very tender and shred easily with a fork. Taste sauce, adding salt and pepper if needed (it probably won't), and remove tarragon and thyme sprigs. Take out the ribs, remove the bones and cut off the connective membrane before putting in a serving dish (or straight onto your plate, LOL.)

Pan Gravy: possibly the best part. 
Using a slotted spoon, take out all the carrot, onion and garlic from the dutch oven and put them alongside the meat. Pour out the remaining stock into a fat separator, or into a measuring cup and spoon off the surface layer of EVOO and fat. Once the fat is skimmed off, you'll have about 8-9 fl oz of stock left. Over medium heat, add 1 TB EVOO and a rounded TB of potato flour, whisking to combine and cook the flour. Slowly pour the stock back in, whisking constantly, until it's at the consistency you like. Taste for salt & pepper and serve alongside your platter of meat and veg.

Crazy Good Garlic Broth

Ohmigosh this is sooo good! And good for you :-). Whenever I make it, everyone comes into the kitchen and stirs the pot just so they can steal a taste! I probably wouldn't eat it right before a social gathering, but it's perfect for a cold winter night, or whenever you have a cold or flu. It's surprisingly rich-tasting and filling. Makes about 5-6 cups.

2 heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled
2 qts Vegetable Stock, preferably homemade
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
4 sprigs fresh parsley, stems included (there's a lot of flavor in the stems)
1/4 tsp dried sage
2 tsp kosher salt

Combine everything in a large stock pot and bring to a gentle boil, reduce to a gentle simmer so the bubbles are slowly rising to the top, and cook partially covered for 1 hr, longer if you want it more concentrated. Taste and correct seasonings. Strain the broth in a colander lined with cheesecloth and serve or freeze.

The little specks are the dried sage. It's very rich, hard to believe there's no meat or mushrooms in it - oh, and very garlicky: 1 cup per person is plenty to keep the vampires away.

Vegetable Stock

I make this and freeze it in 1 qt plastic containers; if you decide to do the same, remember to leave room at the top for expansion. Love this stuff, and the Garlic Broth  that calls for it. Depending on how much it cooks down, you'll get about 4 qts of stock; I like it to cook down a lot because then it has a really rich flavor, and all the vitamins are more concentrated, so I end up with 3 qts.

4 medium yellow onions, quartered
4 large, or the equivalent, carrots, peeled and cut into fourths
4 stalks celery, tops included, cut into fourths
4 Idaho potatoes (3 if they're huge), cut into large chunks
4 leeks, white parts only, cut in half lengthwise, chopped and thoroughly rinsed
Unpeeled cloves from 1 head garlic
12 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
3 bay leaves
10 stems thyme leaves
12 whole black peppercorns
1 TB kosher salt
spring water or filtered tap water

Combine all the ingredients except the salt in a large stock pot that holds at least 7-8 qts and fill to about 1/2" below the rim with water. The fastest way I know to bring it to a boil is to use an electric kettle to heat the water in 1.5 litre increments; just keep heating kettles of water to boiling and pour them in. Add the salt now - if you put the salt in the pot in cold water, it could pit the bottom of the pot. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce to a gentle simmer so the bubbles are slowly rising to the top, and cook uncovered for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

For even more intense flavor, make a Roasted Vegetable Stock.

Strain the stock through a colander lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Don't skip this step or you'll end up with potato starch in your stock. Use immediately or freeze. Discard the veggies and seasonings. My husband picks out the cooked carrot and potato and saves it as a special treat for our dog Lucy.

Really Flavorful Collard Greens

Even if you don't like collards, I bet you'll like them now. They aren't cooked to mush and the broth is so good you'll want to drink it. From a Paula Deen recipe, with the usual tweaking. And no, I am not a fan of hers. This is probably the one and only time you will ever see her name. Serves 2-3, double the recipe for 4-6.

1/2 smoked turkey wing, cut as needed to fit in the pot
1 qt chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tsp Tabasco, Original only
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 lb collards, center ribs removed and cut into 1" x 4" strips (just stack the leaves, cut them in half lengthwise and then into strips crosswise)
2 TB EVOO, or if you really want to live it up, 2 TB rendered bacon fat, as long as it's nitrate/nitrite-free

In a dutch oven, combine the first 6 ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add the collards and cook another 30 minutes until the collards are very tender. Add the EVOO or bacon fat and stir; it adds a richness to the pot liquor and is an important element. Remove the turkey pieces before serving.

Sauteed Kale

I never liked kale growing up, but I find increasing the cooking time (kale is very hardy and won't fall apart or get mushy) and adding the red wine vinegar adds a nice, bright layer of flavor without being too sour. Winter kale is much tougher, so be sure to add an extra 10+ minutes to the cooking time.

1.5 lb kale, stems removed and discarded, leaves chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, chopped or thinly sliced
1 c vegetable* or chicken stock; I make my own chicken stock and freeze it, so that's what I use
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
Red wine vinegar

Heat the EVOO in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic and kale, tossing with tongs to coat the leaves and distribute the garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes, then add the stock, stirring again briefly. Cover, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 20 minutes, giving it an occasional stir, until the kale is nice and tender and almost all the stock has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle the red wine vinegar over your serving.

*Remember if you buy vegetable stock, 99% of the time, the ingredient "flavoring", including "natural flavoring" is a form of MSG. Sneaky.

Soy is Not Our Friend!

I stumbled across Dr. Blaylock's information almost a year ago when I was doing research on causes of chronic headaches and migraines - right about the time I decided I wasn't going to be on daily medication that didn't really work, for the rest of my life. This is a fairly quick read - you'll have to get past the initial rant from a soy mfr - and VERY informative.

Soy is Not Our Friend

Hot German Potato Salad

This is a family favorite, especially in the Fall. My husband loves to grill up a variety of sausages and wursts to go with the warm salad. Serves 4

2 lbs Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
5-6 slices thick cut, nitrite/nitrate free bacon 
1/2 c yellow onion, 1/4" dice
1-1/2 tsp raw honey, or more to taste
1/2 tsp kosher salt or more to taste (it depends on how salty the bacon is)
1 -2 tsp potato starch
couple of pinches of freshly ground black pepper
3 TB red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Handful chopped fresh parsley
Heaping TB chopped fresh chives

Cut the bacon slices in half so they fit better in the bottom of a dutch oven or enamel pan. Put the cold bacon/cold pan on medium-low heat and slowly brown so you get more fat rendered off.
While the bacon is rendering, get a pot of water boiling for the potatoes and get them prepped.
Blot the bacon on paper towels; when it's cool enough to handle, break into bite size pieces. I break off and discard all the excess fat, that's why there are 6 slices.

Boil the potatoes in a pot of salted water about 15-20 minutes or until a fork goes through easily; you want the potatoes to be very soft, especially around the edges so they will absorb the dressing. Don't use a knife, that's not accurate. While the potatoes are boiling,

Spoon off all but 2-3 TB bacon drippings and raise the heat to medium. Add the onion and cook until translucent and just barely beginning to brown on the edges. Stir in the honey, salt, 1 tsp potato starch, pepper and vinegar. Add 1/2 c water - mixture will thin out now, but tighten up again, and you can add another tsp potato starch if need be, so don't worry - and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Taste and adjust salt, pepper and honey.

Drain the potatoes and add them in along with the parsley and chives. Gently stir to mix everything together and serve warm.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

This is a Giada De Laurentiis recipe that I love. I only changed the oven temp/cooking time, pork loin sizes, swapped honey for sugar, and I added a couple of important prep tips. I usually make mashed potatoes as a side to soak up the last bit of sauce. Makes great leftovers to take to work the next day, too.

Roasted Garlic
2 medium size heads garlic
pinch of kosher salt
sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil; if you only have light-weight, use 2 sheets to protect the smaller cloves from burning

Pork Loin
2 small pork loins 1.5 to 2 lbs each, room temperature
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roasted garlic, see below
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 c balsamic vinegar (don't use a cheap one, it's the star of the meal. I use Fini)
3/4 c EVOO
3/4 tsp raw local honey
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 TB water

Preheat the oven to 400*F
Cut the bulbs of garlic in half horizontally and put cut side up on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle each with EVOO and a sprinkle of salt. Fold the foil up around the garlic and seal tightly with a double fold across the top and sides. Put it on a cookie sheet - I use the mini baking sheet from the toaster oven - on the center rack and roast about an hour, till it's all golden and soft. Cool slightly before removing from the foil.

Using a boning knife if you have one, cut the silverskin off the tenderloins. It looks just like its name, like a whitish-silvery skin. It will not tenderize under any circumstances, and in my opinion, detracts from the whole dining experience. It's worth taking the extra couple of minutes. Season the loins generously with salt and pepper. Put the loins in a heavy bottomed roasting pan and put in the oven  about 30 minutes after the garlic went in. Or, you can roast the garlic in advance if you prefer, as I do. Roast the pork loins about 25 minutes until an instant-read thermometer registers 140-145*F. Do not over-roast, it'll continue cooking after you take it out! Tent it with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes. While the roast is resting, finish the vinaigrette.

Hold the garlic head by the outside paper skins and squeeze the garlic cloves out of the head, working from the bottom center each time, into a blender (or food processor if you don't have one.) Add the parsley and balsamic vinegar, and pulse till it's all blended. Slowly pour the EVOO into the blender/fp with the machine running, then add the honey, salt, pepper and water and blend until homogenized.

Spoon the vinaigrette over slices of pork loin and put the extra vinaigrette in a creamer or liquid measuring cup on the table, because I guarantee you everyone always wants more, LOL.

Lebanese Hamburgers

These are usually baked in pita shells but they're just as good eaten as burgers, especially if you grill them outside. Yummy with a cucumber salad.

1 lb ground 80/20 grass-fed beef or lamb (because you know that corn headache will come a-knocking if it isn't!), room temperature so it will mix more easily and absorb the flavors faster
1/2 large, or 1 small white onion, coarsely chopped (use a white onion, please; yellow is too sweet)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Handful parsley
2 rounded tsp garam masala (I use Spice Islands)
2 TB lemon juice
1/4 c toasted pine nuts
Kosher salt

Get your barbeque coals ready or preheat a skillet over medium heat. Combine the onion, garlic and parsley in a food processor and pulse until it's all very finely minced. Put into a large bowl, add the EVOO, garam masala, lemon juice and pine nuts, and mix together until everything's evenly distributed. Break up the meat as you drop it into the bowl; the more you break it up, the less mixing you'll have to do and the warmth from your hands won't toughen the meat. Season with kosher salt and mix with your hands as you would a meat loaf. Form 4 patties, drizzle a light coating of EVOO over each side, and cook about 4 minutes on each side. Let the patties rest a few minutes before serving.

Chicken Delicioso

This is a take on the traditional Chicken Parmesan without the cheese; I use ground almonds instead of bread crumbs, and add lots of fresh herbs. The salad that goes on top is a perfect complement! Serves 4

1 c coarsely ground, lightly salted almonds
Leaves from 6 sprigs rosemary
Leaves from 6 sprigs thyme
2 full handfuls parsley
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
zest of 1 lemon
Optional: 1/2 tsp dried oregano

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts - free range!
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs from free-range hens, room temperature. If you need to warm them up fast, put them in a liquid measuring cup, cover with hot tap water, and let sit for a few minutes.

Baby greens and/or escarole
Basic Salad Dressing

Preheat oven to 300*F. Set out a half-sheet pan. You'll be putting the cutlets in the pan to keep them warm as you cook up the batches.

Combine all of the Coating ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the herbs, almonds and garlic are finely minced. Pour a moderate layer into a shallow dish, and set aside the rest (you'll see why.) In another shallow dish, beat the eggs with 1 TB water.

Heat a large (10") skillet over medium heat and generously coat the bottom with EVOO. While the pan is heating, cut your chicken breasts in half horizontally to make 2 cutlets each, for a total of 8. Place the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of waxed paper and pound them until they're less than 1/2" thick.* Dry them thoroughly with paper towels, you won't be using flour to help dry them out. Generously season both sides of the cutlets with the kosher salt & pepper. Dip cutlet in the egg mixture, then put in the Coating dish. Using your clean hand, cover the top of the cutlet with more from what you set aside and gently press into the meat. (You might have leftover Coating; since you haven't contaminated it with raw chicken, you can stuff it in artichokes or use it on pork chops next time!) Cook about 3 or 4 at a time for just about 2 minutes on each side and transfer to oven to keep warm until all the cutlets are cooked.

Toss the greens with Basic Salad Dressing. I use my (clean!) hand instead of tongs or forks because I can thoroughly coat each leaf with very little dressing.  Put 1 or 2 cutlets on each plate. Top each with a large handful of salad and garnish with Pickled Red Onions. Yummy!

*If you try to pound out the breasts without cutting them in half first, the meat will "pull" together again. It's worth taking this step for best results.