Sunday, April 21, 2013

Achiote Tacos or Taco Salad

Achiote seeds are commonly used in Indian and Mexican dishes, especially in the Yucatan. They're slightly nutty and sweet, spicy but not hot, and add a unique flavor that's subtle but lingers on your palate and has you wanting "just one more bite". Most often used in rubs, they also work really well in a ground beef taco filling ~ worlds apart from the packaged taco mix! I swear I could imagine myself in the Yucatan jungle, surrounded by banana trees, wild parrots, and warm tropical breezes as I was making this. Ah, if only ;-).

>>Note: Achiote can cause an allergic reaction in some people who are sensitive to nuts and seeds.

Tacos using daikon radish for shells. You could use jicama, but it's so mild, we think background spiciness of the daikon really punches it up. Serves 3-4

Taco salad

I used the recipe from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen for the
Achiote Paste
2 TB achiote seeds
2 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1.5 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
3 TB apple cider vinegar
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 rounded tsp kosher salt

Taco & Salad Ingredients
1 lb pasture raised ground beef
2 TB plus 1 tsp achiote paste
2 healthy pinches dried oregano, crumbled between your fingers
1/2 tsp kosher salt
green or red leaf lettuce, wide chiffonade
daikon radish, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandoline for tacos, or julienned for salad
8-10 red radishes, sliced, for salad

Grind the achiote seeds and allspice as finely as possible in a spice grinder. Put in a small bowl and mix in the pepper, oregano and vinegar. Chop the garlic, sprinkle with salt, and then worth the two into a smooth paste, alternately mincing and using the flat side of your knife. Scoop the achiote mixture onto the garlic & work them together, drizzling with 1 or 2 TB water to make a thick, coarse paste.

The orange-red coloring you see is annato, often used as a food colorant. You'll have close to 1/2 c of achiote paste, and you'll only need a couple of TB, so save the rest for a pork shoulder rub or grilled fish tacos.

Brown the ground beef in a large (10-12") skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up finely, cooking off all the moisture released, and getting good color/caramelization on the meat. Reduce heat to medium. Add the achiote paste, oregano and salt. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes so the heat really releases the flavors of the allspice, achiote and oregano. Add 1 + 1/4 c water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes, until almost all the water is evaporated, leaving just a little bit of sauce in the pan. The longer and slower you simmer, the more the meat will absorb all the flavors.

Assemble the tacos or salads as shown in the pictures above.

Roasted Stocks (Chicken, Lamb, Beef & Vegetable)

I only just realized that I've never said anything about making stock from roasted bones and vegetables. It wasn't until I put French Onion Soup on my dinner menu for later this week, using a stock I made from Easter's roasted lamb shoulder bones, that it occurred to me.

When you make a regular meat broth (chicken, turkey, lamb, beef) from uncooked bones, keeping it at a slow simmer the whole time, it will be gelatinous from drawing out the collagen in the bones. That's not a bad thing: it's protein, and good for you.

When you make a roasted bone broth, the collagen is already cooked, so the finished stock won't be gelatinous. What you will have is 'fond', the dark roasty bits at the bottom of the pan and on the carcass/bones, which makes the stock darker and adds a lot of concentrated flavor. Plus, since you've already paid for and eaten the meat, it's practically free, and you won't be paying premium prices for commercially roasted stock. Save all your leftover carcass/bones from your meals, & add them to a ziploc in the freezer until you have the equivalent of 2 chicken carcasses' worth of bones.

To make Roasted Vegetable Stock, follow the link to the basic recipe and begin by putting all the vegetables but not the herbs, salt or pepper in a large roasting pan and toss with just enough olive oil to coat. Leave the garlic cloves whole and in their skins so they don't burn. Roast at 425*F for about 45 minutes, turning about halfway through, until the veg are nice and browned. Transfer them to your stock pot. Use just enough hot water to deglaze the roasting pan, scraping up all the fond and pour into the pot. I usually do this twice to make sure I get it all. Continue with the stock recipe; you'll only need to simmer for 1.5 to 2 hrs.

To make Roasted Chicken Stock, follow the link to the basic recipe and begin by putting all the vegetables but not the herbs, salt or pepper in a large roasting pan and toss with just enough olive oil to coat. Leave the garlic cloves whole and in their skins so they don't burn. Add the picked over carcass/bones. [If you're using uncooked chicken wings/back/neck, do coat them with oil.]

Roast at 425*F for about 45 minutes, turning everything about halfway through, until the bones and veg are nice and browned. If you're using carcass or loose bones, they should be a dark, dark brown; that's what you want! Uncooked chicken, like wings, will take about 1 hr.

Transfer everything to your stock pot. Use just enough hot water to deglaze the roasting pan, scrape up all the fond with the edge of a spatula and pour into the pot. I usually do this twice to make sure I get it all. Continue with the stock recipe, but you'll only need to simmer for about 2 hrs.  See how dark the water is, even though I haven't even started the simmering process?

To make Roasted Lamb or Beef Stock, use onions, carrots, parsnips if you have them, whole garlic cloves in the skins, celery including the leafy tops, parsley & thyme. No dill. Follow the same procedure as for roasted chicken stock above.

>Note: I don't use rosemary in any of my stocks because rosemary oil is very intense, and even using just a stem or two, it's still prominent. Since I don't always want a rosemary flavor in a soup or stew, I find it's better to omit it and just add it in to the recipes as desired.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Butternut Squash Salad with Blueberries and Walnuts

Jeff grilled the squash on the Weber along with a pork tenderloin and it came out pretty darned good. The squash is sweet and tender, the arugula is spicy, and the walnuts add crunch. The salad is a spin (excuse the pun) on an Ina Garten recipe, which called for dried, sweetened cranberries (read: cane sugar) so I sprinkled some blueberries on it instead, since they're kind of sweet and tart at the same time - wish I'd thought of them before I took the picture! It's a match made in heaven! [I'm sure someone somewhere has thought of this combination before, but for right now, I'm having a 'moment'.] Serves 4-6

1 butternut squash, about 1 lb, skin on, cut in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out
1/2 c EVOO plus extra for cooking the squash
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Arugula lettuce
1/4 c blueberries
3/4 c sparkling apple cider or apple juice (not from concentrate, no sugar added)
2 TB apple cider vinegar
2 TB shallots, minced
2 tsp original Dijon mustard, or Colman's reconstitued (2 tsp dry mustard + 2 tsp cold water, mix & let sit 10 min)
1/2 c walnut halves, toasted in a dry pan or in the toaster oven

If you are cooking the squash on the grill, lightly brush the cut side with a dab of EVOO and grill about 10 minutes on each side, until it's fork-tender. Remove to a plate and let cool enough to handle. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin and then cut into bite-sized pieces.

If you're roasting the squash in the oven, preheat to 400*F, peel and cut the squash into 3/4" cubes, toss with EVOO, salt & pepper. Roast the squash for about 20 minutes until fork-tender, turning once halfway through cooking.

While the squash is cooking, make the dressing. Bring the cider, vinegar and shallots to a boil over medium-high heat in a small saucier or saucepan and reduce to about 1/4 c. Remove from heat, whisk in the mustard, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/2 c EVOO. Taste & correct seasonings.

Put the arugula, squash, walnuts and blueberries in a large bowl and toss with just enough dressing to lightly coat. If you use your hands to toss the salad you'll need less dressing and the squash won't get - well, squashed, by tongs. Sprinkle with a little salt & pepper.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Southern-Style Coleslaw

Is there any other kind, really? Not in my world! Tangy and sweet with a little bite from the Tabasco, we eat it on hot dogs, hamburgers, pulled pork, and as a side dish for so many other things ~ like the herb grilled pork tenderloin we're having tonight.

I've made this slaw for years and never once measured a thing, just eyeballing, adding more of what I need, and tasting along the way, so forgive me but it's really hard to write up. I suggest you print this out and make notes of  the quantities you end up using, because this slaw is all about personal taste and preference. Otherwise, you'll come back to it midsummer and say, "Hmmm... whatever did Ah do last time?" Serves 4 as a topping, 3 as a side dish.

3 c Savoy cabbage, shredded on a box grater or thinly sliced and then cross-diced (my preference)
1/2 c carrot, grated on a box grater
3 pinches (about 1/4 tsp) celery seed
1/3 - 1/2 c GARD or Paleo mayonnaise
1 TB + 2 tsp or more apple cider vinegar
2 tsp raw honey (room temp is fine; the acid from the vinegar breaks it down quickly)
5 shakes original Tabasco sauce
5 pinches kosher salt
6-8 grinds black pepper
Sweet (mild) paprika

Put the cabbage, celery seed and carrot in a large mixing bowl and use your hands to lightly toss and combine. Add the mayo, starting with 1/3 c and stir with a fork to mix it all in. Continue to add 1 TB mayo at a time until it's to your liking; this is not a mayo-heavy slaw: there should be just enough to hold the salad together, and for its sweet creaminess to offset the vinegar and Tabasco.

Start with 1 TB and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar in the slaw. Add the 2 tsp raw honey, mix well, then taste to see if you want to add the 2nd tsp of vinegar. You probably will want even more if you're used to a vinegar-based slaw. Add the Tabasco, salt & pepper, mix well,  taste and adjust seasonings. Sprinkle the paprika over the top, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, to allow the flavors to develop and marry. This is even better the next day.

Herb Grilled Pork Tenderloin

The weather is beautiful tonight and we're barbequing outside, but you can easily roast this in the oven. Jeff also grilled a butternut squash for salad, and I'm making Southern-style Coleslaw for the leftover pork tomorrow at lunch. Two very different sides, both yummy! The marinade is modified from an Ina Garten recipe. Serves 4.

1# pork tenderloin
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 TB fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely minced
1 tsp original Dijon mustard, or Colman's reconstituted (1 tsp dry mustard + 1 tsp cold water, mix & let sit for 10 min)
3/4 tsp kosher salt

Remember to increase your marinade quantities if your tenderloin is 1-1/4 lb or more. Mix all of the ingredients except the pork in a large ziploc bag. I put the bag in a bowl, like this, so I can thoroughly stir everything together without dirtying a measuring cup or bowl:

Put the pork tenderloin in the bag (I cut mine in half only so it fits better, just remember to reduce your cooking time if you do so), squeeze out the air, squish it around to cover the pork with the garlic and herbs, and let it marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Squish the marinade around again, and turn it over to marinate for another 30-60 minutes while your barbeque coals are getting ready.

Discard the marinade but don't wipe off any of the bits on the meat. Sprinkle with salt & freshly ground black pepper. Grill, turning to brown each side, about 20 minutes total if it's all in one piece, until an instant meat thermometer in the very center reads 138-140*F. Remove to a plate, cover tightly with aluminum foil and rest for 10 minutes before slicing. It'll be well done at the ends and medium-rare (pink but not bloody) in the middle.

If you're roasting it in the oven, preheat to 400*F and roast on the center rack, cover and rest for about the same length of time; use a meat thermometer to check the temp.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart or Pie

This is the fastest, easiest pie (or tart) ever! I found a great baked crust recipe at Elana's Pantry, so that makes me very happy: I see lots of tarts and refrigerator pies in our future! The filling took a little more work, finding the right ratios, ingredients and texture, and here it is. Oh so yummy.

Preheat oven to 350*

2 c finely ground, blanched almond flour (Bob's Red Mill isn't blanched & is too coarse ~ I use JK Gourmet and there are several brands on the internet like Honeyville Grain that are more affordable)
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 TB coconut oil, melted
1 large pasture-raised egg, room temperature

1 can whole coconut milk, shaken
10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 TB freshly brewed decaf coffee or espresso
4-5 TB macadamia nut butter *you can make your own; I'll tell you how below

Whipped Cream
1 can whole coconut milk, unshaken and chilled

Pulse the flour and salt in a food processor to mix, then add the oil and egg, and pulse until everything is mixed together and forms a ball. Dump it into a 9" tart pan, or an 8" shallow glass pie dish. Use your fingers to press out the dough and then use a piece of parchment paper and a juice glass to help even and smooth it out, like this:

Put on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. While it's cooling, make the filling.

Dump the chocolate chips and 4 TB macadamia nut butter in a medium heat-proof mixing bowl. Heat the shaken coconut milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until it just starts to come to a boil. Pour over the chocolate and nuts and let it sit for a few minutes, then stir with a whisk to melt the chocolate and oil in the nut butter until completely melted and smooth. Add the coffee and stir to combine. Taste to see if it's nutty enough for you, or if you want to add the extra TB of nut butter. Pour into the cooled crust and refrigerate until set, several hours. The chocolate will set it up quite firmly, you don't need to add any egg or gelatin. You'll have some leftover filling if you're making a tart.

To make the topping, open the chilled, unshaken can of coconut milk and spoon the thickest part off the top, about half the can, into a chilled metal bowl. Whip like you would heavy cream, until it's nice and stiff. Spread over the whole pie/tart or put big dollops on each slice.

*Macadamia nut butter is so easy. Tip 1/2 c unsalted macadamia nuts into a food processor and pulse until they're in fairly small bits. Add 2 tsp room temperature coconut oil and a pinch of salt and keep pulsing until it turns into a thick paste (easier to measure and work with than melted coconut oil). If you want a little sweetness, drizzle in a teensy bit of maple syrup. I tried it with and without, and prefer it without the maple syrup.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Potato Salad

This is my favorite summertime potato salad, and with homemade mayo, it's GARD and Paleo friendly. If you have time, refrigerate it for a few hours to let the flavors have time to marry. Serves 4-6

2 lb small red potatoes, cut in quarters or sixths, depending on size
1/2 c homemade mayonnaise
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 TB whole coconut milk
2 TB original Dijon mustard or Colman's reconstituted*
1/4 c fresh parsley, roughly chopped
3 TB fresh dill, roughly chopped or 3/4 tsp dried
1/3 c celery, small dice
1/3 c red onion, small dice
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper (I used about 8 grinds)
Kosher salt

Bring the potatoes to boil in a large pot of water. Add 1 TB salt, reduce to simmer, and cook until just tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain in a colander, put the colander over the pot off the heat, cover with a kitchen towel and steam for another 15 minutes. This way, they'll finish the last bit of cooking but still retain their shape.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, coconut milk, mustard and pepper. Add the potatoes, celery, red onion, dill and parsley and use a large spoon to combine. Taste for salt and pepper. Cover and chill for a few hours or even better, overnight.

* For each TB of dry Colman's mustard, add 1 TB cold water, mix and let stand for 10 minutes

GARD and Paleo Mayonnaise

I've been procrastinating on making mayonnaise because of all the difficulties I've read in the comments section of various food blogs. Pooh. Don't fear the mayo, it's actually really easy.

A little salt and apple cider vinegar whisked in after it's emulsified rounds out the flavors, and it's a good starting point for many different types of salads. Here are three preparation methods, with tips at the end. Makes a little over 1 cup. Keeps 5-7 days.

1 large pastured egg, room temperature
1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, room temperature
1/4 tsp dry mustard (I use Colman's)
1 c extra light olive oil
1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp + 1 small pinch kosher salt

Method 1, Immersion Blender: In a pint measuring cup, put in the egg, lemon juice, mustard and olive oil, in that order. Put the blender down at the bottom of the cup and blend on high for about 10 seconds until it starts to emulsify, then slowly work your way to the top of the oil, about 30 seconds total. If there's still a little un-blended oil at the top and you're worried about the blender splattering mayo everywhere, just use a whisk to finish incorporating the last little bit of oil. Add the salt and vinegar, and whisk to thoroughly blend. This is the easiest and fastest method, and foolproof.

Method 2, Whisk by Hand: In a small bowl, whisk the egg, lemon juice and mustard together until thoroughly incorporated. Whisking briskly, very slowly drizzle in the oil a drop at a time, incorporating each time before adding the next drop. Continue to whisk (think of Julia Child doing this by hand for years!) adding just a few drops at a time, until it starts to thicken, lighten in color, and take on the consistency of mayonnaise ~ emulsifying ~ then continue whisking while you drizzle the rest of the oil in. Whisk in the vinegar and salt last.
This method takes the longest, but it's pretty foolproof also.

Method 3, Blender: Blend the egg, lemon juice and mustard together for a few seconds until thoroughly combined. With the blender still on, add one drop of oil at a time, following the same instructions in Method 2, blending instead of whisking.

With any of these methods, you can use the mayonnaise immediately, but it does thicken up even more after about 30 minutes in the refrigerator, to the consistency of commercial mayo. Keep it stored on an upper shelf towards the back of the refrigerator, where it's coldest, and it will last closer to 7 days rather than 5.

Tips for Mayonnaise Success
  • Pastured egg whites are much thicker than caged eggs and in addition to health benefits, will give you a better mayonnaise. 
  • If the egg is even the slightest bit chilled from the refrigerator, you'll have problems. Take the egg out the night before, or immerse it (in the shell) in warm tap water for 10 minutes before using.
  • Add the vinegar and salt last so you can adjust the amounts to your taste.
  • Your mixing cup or bowl must be dry, dry, dry. Not a drop of water anywhere.
  • Use dry, powdered mustard instead of wet.
  • Use a light, less flavored olive oil for more neutral taste and base. Not EVOO.
  • If you use any other salt than kosher, cut it down to just a couple of pinches.
  • Vitamix blenders run hotter than regular blenders and may cook the egg.
  • For regular blenders, like my Kitchen Aid, use the Blend button. 
  • Keep the blender turned on, don't pulse.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cherry Garcia Gelato & More

Can I say Cherry Garcia without being sued by Ben & Jerry's? I hope so. Such liberties I take ;-).
Unlike the many Paleo recipes that call for an extraordinary number of eggs, I used a more traditional approach, and find it tastes - and behaves - just like real gelato. The vanilla and honey custard is so good I could have eaten the whole bowl before I even churned it, or added the chunks of chocolate and sweet cherries. (I was having more camera flash issues & the ice cream melted by the time I got a halfway decent shot. So I had to eat it.) Makes a little over 1 qt.

Gelato di Crema base
3 c organic whole coconut milk, a little less than 2 cans, and not Light - you'll end up with ice milk
4 large pasture-raised egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 c raw honey

Cherry Garcia ingredients
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract or 1 whole vanilla bean
4 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 c frozen sweet cherries, halved (measure them halved, not whole)
Optional: 1 TB Absolut vanilla vodka

In a heat-proof bowl, beat the honey and egg yolks together with a fork until smooth and set aside. 

In a saucier or heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the coconut milk over medium-low, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming, until tiny bubbles form around the edges. Do not bring to a boil. If you're using a vanilla bean, split the bean lengthwise, use the tip of your knife to scrape the seeds into the milk as soon as you start warming it, and steep the bean as well. Remove the bean right before the next step, tempering the eggs:

Slowly stream a small ladle of hot milk into the egg-honey mixture, whisking constantly. Do this twice more to make sure the eggs are warmed up enough that they won't scramble when you add them in. 

Pour the honey-egg-milk mixture back into the pan and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Do not bring to a boil. To test, run your finger along the back: it should  leave a clean furrow and hold its shape. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract if you're using that instead of the vanilla bean.

Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl.

As you can see, the strainer is necessary to catch any little clumps of milk and bits from the raw honey, and to ensure a smooth gelato. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to make sure a skin doesn't form.

You want it to completely cool to room temperature before covering with cling wrap, because otherwise condensation will form on the underside of the plastic and you'll end up with big beads of water in your gelato, which will then form ice crystals when you freeze it. Not good. When it's completely cooled, cover tightly and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

As soon as you've poured the custard into the ice cream churn, add in the vodka, if you're using it. The vodka also helps keep ice crystals from forming, keeps it more "soft serve" consistency, which I prefer, and doesn't add an alcohol taste.Stir in the cherries and chocolate chunks by hand with a metal spoon right before transferring to your freezer container. The ice cream with soften a little as you stir them in, but firm up nicely in the freezer. Freeze for 6 hours.

Speaking of hardening up, without additives, homemade ice cream does freeze harder than commercially made ~ just leave it out for a few minutes to soften before scooping. It won't hurt it to soften and re-freeze as long as it doesn't get really melted.

* * * * * *

The base recipe, gelato di crema, is extremely versatile:
  • Use maple syrup instead of honey and stir in chopped, toasted pecans before freezing for Maple Pecan 
  • After the base is chilled and before churning, whisk in 3 TB key lime juice and 2 tsp grated zest for Key Lime
  • Drizzle 4 oz melted bittersweet chocolate slowly into the ice cream maker as it's churning, so the chocolate freezes on contact and gets broken into tiny little bits throughout for Stracciatella (Italian chocolate chip)
Special Note for Dog Owners!! If your dog has food allergies and is not diabetic, this basic gelato recipe is a perfect little ice cream treat on hot summer days, and sooo much healthier than the commercial additive-filled crap. Since the honey is predigested by bees, they tolerate it quite well, but too much will give them diarrhea (sorry but it has to be said!), and the eggs will... well, you know about dogs and eggs, so keep the portion small.

Sauteed Apples and Onions for Pork

Tired of the same old applesauce and pork chops? Try this instead next time, a side dish that goes beautifully with any pork. Normally, I saute pork chops in a skillet and once they're out and resting, I cook the apples and onions in the pan juices. My husband barbequed brined pork chops on an outdoor grill this time, and I  still incorporated the juices.

Since this is a very fast recipe, 10 minutes max, I waited until the chops were cooked, loosely tented with aluminum foil, before I started. By the time the chops are done resting, this delicious side dish is ready. Serves 4

EVOO or coconut oil
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced on a mandoline or with a very sharp knife
2 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 shots cognac or brandy*
2 TB fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the onions and cook, tossing with tongs to coat with the oil, about 2-3 minutes. Add the apples and lemon juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and the apples are cooked but not mushy, about 4-5 minutes. Add the cognac and cook off the alcohol.
>>Pour off the juices from the plate of resting pork chops into the skillet. If you made my brined chops, you'll have plenty of meat juice, even if you barbequed.
Add the thyme, salt & pepper and toss again to mix. That's it ~ told you it was fast!

*Use a good quality brandy; the cheaper ones add sugar and food coloring, neither of which we want. Decourtet flies under the radar, delicious and inexpensive as cognacs go.

GARD and Paleo Italian Bread Crumbs

This recipe is floating around on the Internet and I'm not sure who to give original credit to, but it works so very well. I just eliminated the salt from this and add it in separately when I'm cooking for better control. 

1/2 c almond flour
1/4 c golden flaxseed meal
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp each onion powder, oregano, thyme & freshly ground black pepper
Put in a jar and shake to mix everything thoroughly

I also wrote the recipe on the label so I don't have to look it up when I need to make a new batch.

For basic bread crumbs used in Salmon Cakes, I just mix the almond flour and golden flaxseed meal and keep them in a separate jar.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Chicken Garden Burgers

These are a two-fer, meat and veg all in one bite. They make a great work lunch or snack to bring on a road trip, too. Rachael Ray makes these with turkey, but since Dogtor J says, "All meats are naturally rich in glutamate and aspartate. Lamb (and eggs) are the lowest, while rabbit and turkey are the highest," I use pasture-raised chicken instead. Serves 5-6

1 lb boneless chicken breast*
2 large or 4 small scallions, equal parts white and green, thinly sliced
1/2 c carrot, shredded
1/3 c zucchini, grated
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes (I prefer red pepper flakes)
2 TB fresh thyme leaves, minced

Cut up the chicken and put in a food processor with the metal blade; pulse until it's all ground up. Heat a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over just below medium heat. Combine everything except the EVOO and chicken in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

Note: I always mix all the other ingredients first before adding the meat. I get more even distribution throughout the burger without overworking the meat, which as we know, toughens it. (Although my hands are always so cold, I doubt that's an issue in our house.)

Add the ground chicken, mix together, and form into 5 or 6 patties. I put down a big sheet of waxed paper to make the patties and lay them out for cooking for easy clean-up. Drizzle a little EVOO over each patty, top and bottom, and cook about 6 minutes per side till cooked through. Cook in 2 batches if you need to, to avoid overcrowding.

*You can buy chicken breasts much cheaper bone-in and cut the meat off yourself, keeping the bones in the freezer for chicken stock. Since it's going to all get ground up, you don't have to worry about making a hash of it.

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

I got this recipe from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris and absolutely adore it. In fact, I've eaten this a couple of times a week for over a year and never seem to get tired of it.

Since I keep the basic salad dressing on hand, which is a variation of Ina's dressing below, it's easy to prep an avocado and a grapefruit whenever I like for a quick, very healthy lunch or mid-afternoon snack. Oh, and you *can* make this the night before and keep it in a plastic container to take to work the next day. The citric acid from the grapefruit and lemon keep the avocado from turning brown. If I have lettuce, I'll tear it up in the bottom of a soup plate to catch the last bit of dressing.

The first time you supreme a grapefruit it will take a while but once you get the hang of it you'll be whipping through these babies lickety-split! (Supreme instructions here Use a sharp 4" paring knife to cut out the segments, it's easier than wielding a big 8" chef's knife), Serves 4

3 ripe Hass avocados
3 large ruby red grapefruits (yellow is a bit too tart for this recipe)
1/2 c EVOO
1/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 1.5 lemons
1.5 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 TB Grey Poupon Dijon mustard*
Optional: Bibb, Boston, or curly leaf lettuce

Supreme the grapefruits first, and do them over a bowl so you catch all the extra juice; you'll end up with a small glassful. Arrange the lettuce, if you're using it, and grapefruit segments on the plates. Pour the dressing in a cereal-sized bowl. Use a large serving spoon to scoop out the avocado halves in one piece, and slice each half lengthwise in about 6 equal-sized pieces. Dip the pieces in the dressing to coat and arrange in between the grapefruit as shown. Drizzle the salads with a little bit more dressing and sprinkle with just a touch of salt and pepper.

*If you read the ingredients on all the major brands, you'll find the "original" Grey Poupon Dijon has a lot less sugar & additives, and is the most GARD-friendly. If you dislike the taste of Dijon, you can either add 1.5 tsp or more to taste of Colman's Dry Mustard Flour (just dried, powdered mustard) or make up a batch:

1 TB cold water
1 TB Colman's Mustard
Mix together and let stand for 10 minutes to allow the cold water to release the essential oils in the mustard. Stir again. Makes 2 TB. It will not taste the same as Dijon, obviously but you need a little extra "kick" in the dressing.