Spaghetti Squash with Zesty Avocado Cream Sauce

I learned a valuable lesson this summer–when you live alone, you can no longer justify buying produce at Sam’s or Costco.  I’m pretty sure you can’t justify it with two people, either, but feeding Ross is like feeding three people…so sack of onions?  Awesome!  Case-o-organic-spinach?  Perfect!  Pallet of grapefruits?  ZOMG!!

But when it’s just me all by my lonesome, shopping for bulk quantities has fed my compost pile more than me.  Which makes me feel exceedingly guilty.  I lay in bed at night weeping over the loss of half a box of tomatoes.  I wish I was kidding.  So, what this means is that I’ve been eating some pretty weird combinations of food in order to mitigate food waste.  Ask Ross, I’m awesome at food-saving.  Like my Overnight Apple Breakfast Cobbler?  Those apples were so grateful.

And this recipe…it’s been a challenge planning some Vegan meals that actually have enough substance to be a stand-alone meal, but thankfully I had a sack of avocados that I REALLY needed to use.  I could chow down on avocados all day–and they’ve got a ton of good fat to do all kinds of fun and wonderful things for your body.  And mixed up with some spaghetti squash?  I was a little skeptical at first but it was delicious…I’m absolutely going to make it again.  But I’d be lying if I said I won’t be tempted to throw some grilled chicken and bacon on top….wait, what?

INGREDIENTS

1 Large Spaghetti Squash, cooked

2 Large Avocados

1 Lime, Juiced

3 Garlic Cloves

1/4 c Fresh Cilantro

1/4 c Coconut Milk

INSTRUCTIONS

Place all ingredients in a food processor or powerful blender.  Pulse until well combined–decide for yourself how smooth you want it but like my guacamole, I prefered mine a little chunkier!

Scoop spaghetti squash (can be hot or cold) into a large serving dish.  Pour cream sauce over top and toss until well coated.

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The TGIPaleo-Vegan Series!

Did I hit my head or something?? Entirely possible.

I’m not sure why it is that we Paleo folks and the Vegans seem to be at war with one another. Well, I’m sure it has something to do with diametrically opposed food philosophies…but still, I’m not sure where the general sense of disdain comes from. Personally, I have no issue with the Vegans. I mean, sure, I think their diet is a little off kilter–such low fat intake and reliance on foods that punch holes in our gut (i.e. grains and legumes) doesn’t really do it for me. What’s more, I happen to think the science behind the whole thing is a little fuzzy. And the China Study is not peer-reviewed. Just BTW. And can we get one goddamned thing straight? Paleo is not Adkins. Moving on…

So where did this little endeavor come from? Am I high or what??

My husband went to high school and is still good friends with a successful Vegan cookbook author. Needless to say, we tend to engage in a little ideological debate from time to time, and lately it’s gotten me thinking about the issues between the two lifestyles more and more. Veganism has been around since the 19th century but as Paleo has become more popular in recent years the tension has grown. While they are in so many ways polar opposites, what Paleo and Veganism DO have in common is the core belief that the typical American diet is f*cked up. We both advocate the consumption of whole foods (although I do have an issue with may Vegans’ reliance on artificial and processed products like tofu, fake cheese, egg replacers, and vegetable oils). We are both looking to find the healthiest diet possible in an attempt to mitigate and eliminate the diseases of modern civilization. But naturally, we both want to be right.

I’m not here to convert anyone. Quite the opposite, in fact. What I’ve done is created a peace offering to the Vegan community–a week full of recipes that are Paleo, Vegan, and have enough nutritional value from all macronutrient groups to make a good meal (I was really tempted to do a week full of salads and sweet potato fries, not gonna lie). I sleep like a baby at night with my Paleo Teddy Bear, and I’m sure many Vegans are the same…albeit with a big, cuddly head of lettuce or something. I understand that beyond all the science-y stuff, too, people choose not to consume animal products for a variety of reasons from allergies to religious beliefs to genuine ethical reservations. That’s fine.

Admittedly my ingredient list is limited…Paleo and Veganism have very little overlap but I honestly believe it can be done! Just as with all of my recipes, everything will be gluten-free, grain-free, soy-free, and legume-free. I won’t use white potatoes or rice. I won’t use any cane sugar, agave nectar, corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners like stevia or Splenda. I will not use guar gum, xanthan gum, or soy lecithin to include products or pantry items containing any of the aforementioned items or their derivatives. Obviously, I will not be using meat, eggs, dairy, honey, or any product derived from animals. But I sure as hell won’t be using Vegan Cheez. But there will be dessert at the end!!

Wish me luck, and get ready to OD on coconut and avocados!

Sweet Potato Muffins

“Wait a minute, you dummy…you already have a recipe for Sweet Potato Muffins!”

That’s my impression of all of you, right now.  Because it’s true.  I’ve trodden (tread? treadded?) this road before.  But I also stopped eating roasted nuts and baking with nut products.  Remember?!

**OH!  OH!  I have a Twitter page now!**

Sorry…anyhoo…I’m traveling on business, so clearly I had to bake a bunch of stuff before I go.  Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to freak out all the TSA people like I normally do with my sack of muffins, protein bars, Paleo Kits, hard-boiled eggs, pre-made salads…yeah.  And then I’d never get to be the one who hides away in her hotel room during lunch breaks because all the conference people are providing are Subway party subs.  Whatever.  Pretty sure if I sh*t my pants in the middle of one of these talks I’d be even less unpopular.

These muffins are pretty straightforward.  I know, I’ve been slacking lately, but I was working on a little project for this coming week.  Yay!  Actually I might lose some readership over this one but this is just what happens when you live alone all summer.  But anyway, I know I put chocolate in the original batch but I left it out this time.  Trying to keep my summer six pack, no big deal.  OMG I wish that was even a little bit true.  Seriously, though, feel free to jazz these up.  Maybe some chocolate chips…maybe some raisins.  Maybe…just maybe…you get CAH-RAZY and throw some blueberries in there.  It’s an equal opportunity ball of baked delicious.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 c Coconut Flour

6 Eggs

2 t Vanilla

1 t Salt

1 t Baking Soda

2 t Cinnamon

1/2 c Ground Flax

2 Sweet Potatoes or Yams, baked and mashed (discard skins)

1 c Raisins or Chocolate Chips (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Whisk together all the dry ingredients.  Beat the eggs and add dry mix by spoonfuls until well blended.  Add the mashed sweet potatoes.

Spoon batter into lined muffin cups.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Enjoy!

Pork Belly Made Easy

A rich, succulent cut of pork belly is like a nice little package of everything that makes life worth living.  Nowhere else can you get such buttery, fatty goodness without having to do anything at all.  Except, well, when you eff it up.  Which is easier to do than I’d like to admit.  Dry, leathery pork belly = No Bueno.  Like, No Bueno enough to effing WRECK your week.

What can I say?  I’m, like, really sensitive, OK??

I basically made it my civic responsibility to share a couple of fool-proof options for the cooking of my Porky Ambrosia.  There’s a lot of theories about the best or worst method, but as in all things in my life, I’m sticking to what has worked consistently for me.  And the best part is that I’m giving you OPTIONS…all you have to do is season your meat, pan sear it quickly, and braise using one of two methods:

1.  Crockpot

2.  Low and slow in the oven

…And yes, I’ve used both methods and I really can’t say which I prefer.  Both are reliable.  And delicious.  Just depends on what you have available.  I generally lean on my crockpot but the oven method was born after my poor little slow cooker was indisposed, and it did not disappoint–even though I was wondering all day if having the oven on for that long would burn my house down.  Don’t worry, it didn’t.

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs Pork Belly

2 t Sea Salt

2 t Black Pepper

2 t Chili Powder

2 T Olive Oil

1 T Fish Sauce or Coconut Aminos

1/4 c Apple Cider Vinegar

2-3 c Chopped Vegetables (Carrots, Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potatoes, Turnips, Etc…)

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.

Score the skin of the pork belly in alternating diagonals.  Mix the seasonings together and rub the spice mixture all over both sides of the pork belly.

Sear the meat on ALL sides in the oil for ONE MINUTE PER SIDE.  Yes, you even need to cook the thin sides–this is where tongs will come in handy.

Place the veggies in the bottom of a crock pot or lined baking dish.  Place the pork belly on top.  Pour the vinegar over the meat, then the fish sauce or coconut aminos.

If you’re using a crockpot, cook on HIGH for 4-5 hours.

If you’re using an oven, cover the baking dish with foil and bake at 170 degrees for 4-5 hours.

Reuben Dog

This is what my loving husband gets for leaving me all alone.  Again.

It was pretty much fate that dictated that I make this sandwich.  First, Ross calls me a couple weeks ago and raves about this Reuben Hot Dog he saw at the cafeteria at work.  And I totally forgot about it.  BUT!!  Then a week ago I see Adam Gertler on The Best Thing I Ever Ate raving about his awesome Reuben Dog.  Then I promised Ross that I’d find a way to make him a Paleo Reuben Dog if he didn’t leave me (again) to go back to Boston.  Then he left.  Jerk.

Some wives whine.  Some wives cry.  THIS wife gets her revenge via Reuben Dog that she will NEVER, EVER share with her husband.  He’s jealous, and I like it that way.  Not sorry.  OK, well I whined and cried, too.  A lot.

I AM sorry about the quality of the photos.  I tried SO HARD to convey the foodgasmic deliciousness but (aside from my not having a very professional camera) there’s no good way to make a baked sweet potato covered in Reuben Dog Goodness look sexy.  Just PLEASE trust me!

INGREDIENTS

(Serves 1)

**Sandwich**

1 Sweet Potato

1 T Butter

**Fillings**

1 Large Bratwurst Sausage

1/2 c Sauerkraut, thoroughly drained

1 Thick Slice Bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/2 c Shredded Gruyere Cheese (optional)

** Thousand Island Dressing**

1/2 c Paleo Mayonnaise

1/4 c Paleo Ketchup

1 Large Dill Pickle, minced

INSTRUCTIONS

Bake your sweet potato in foil at 425 degrees for 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Over medium-high heat, cook your bratwurst until done.  You can also roast it in the oven with the sweet potato for the last 20-25 minutes.

Remove sweet potato from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes, then slice it open.  Spread the butter on the inside of the sweet potato.

Add the crumbled bacon.

Add the cheese (optional).

Add the bratwurst.

Add the sauerkraut.

Smother in Thousand Island.

Stuff your face.

Let your jerk of a husband with his jerk of a travelling job know what they’re missing.

Overnight Apple Breakfast Cobbler

So the Crossfit Games prrrrrretty much made me feel like a total failure at life.  I mean, I could totally deadlift 325# if I wanted to…so maybe this was the motivation I need to get off my ass.  I totally would have dominated the hammer event, too, no big deal.  You’ll see me in SoCal next year, I swear!!!

In the mean time, I cooked up a storm this weekend.  My friend Brittany was in town from DC, so I made my best attempt to lay out a Paleo banquet to accompany our watching the Games and our forays at the Irish Fest.  I roasted a whole duck and shoved about three handfuls of diced apples mixed with cinnamon and coconut oil up its ass.  Duck Butt Apples are the best.  Pretty sure I can die happy now.  We didn’t even have anything else for dinner Friday night.  Just went after that duck like the zombies went after Rick’s horse in the Walking Dead.  I wish I was exaggerating even a little bit.

Speaking of apples, I still had a ton leftover at the end of the weekend.  I don’t really eat much fruit anymore and they were starting to get a little soft.  Thank you, my dearest husband, for buying a dozen apples like two days before you go back to Boston for two months…ANYWAY.  I was pretty desperate to get these apples into something quick–and so Breakfast Cobbler was born.  I’ve definitely heard of making fruit cobblers in the slow cooker before, but you know me…FRUIT IS NOT DESSERT.  But fruit can be breakfast!  And if you leave the crockpot on overnight…instant breakfast!

INGREDIENTS

6 Apples, cored and sliced

1 T Coconut Oil

1/2 c Coconut Milk

1/2 c Shredded Coconut (unsweetened)

1/2 c Raisins (or other dried fruit)

1 T Cinnamon

1 t Salt

1 T Vanilla

INSTRUCTIONS

Grease the bottom of your crockpot with the coconut oil.

Place all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until combined.  Pour into the crockpot.

Cook on LOW for 6 hours or just overnight.  Serve topped with raw nuts and more coconut.

Paleo “Corn” Dogs

Last week while he was home, I convinced Ross to let me make him some tripe, and as a sort of compromise I made us some sweet potato tots on the side…aaaand I’m not really sure how we landed on the topic but at some point one of us suggested we take a hotdog and wrap it in a giant sweet potato tot.  Because wouldn’t that be awesome?!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my husband does not like tripe.  Moving on.

Being the awesome wife I am, I made it happen.  While my attempt at a tot-like exterior failed (miserably) I ended up with a nice, sticky batter with a nice, nutty texture.  Plus these were just super fun to eat.  Food on a stick is always welcome in our house.

I used some bison bratwurst I found at the Natural Grocer’s, but in this day and age you can get more “traditional” hotdogs sans nitrates/nitrites/preservatives/sugars at many major food stores.  I know Applegate Farms has some good ones in both beef, pork, turkey, and chicken varieties and Nieman Ranch Fearless Franks are to die for.  Since the sweet potato is so, well, sweet, I’d even bet this would be phenomenal with some spicy Italian sausage or chorizo.

INGREDIENTS

6 Hot Dogs or Sausages (nitrate/nitrite/sugar/preservative free!)

1 c Mashed Sweet Potato

3 Eggs

1 T Apple Cider Vinegar

6 T Coconut Flour

1/4 c Ground Flax

1/2 t Salt

1/2 t Baking Soda

1/2 t Chili Powder

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine your sweet potato, eggs, and vinegar and beat until smooth.  Whisk together the coconut flour, flax, salt, baking soda, and chili powder in a separate bowl.  Beat the dry mixture into the wet ingredients by large spoonfuls until you have a lump-free, sticky dough.

Spear your hotdogs/sausages with kebab skewers or chopsticks.  Pat them dry with paper towels.

Form small balls of dough with your hands and carefully wrap the hotdogs, bit by bit.  I found that I actually had to wipe my hands off between dogs to keep it from sticking to my hands.

Arrange corndogs on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve with ketchup and mustard!

Bacon Banana Almond Butter Donuts

Clearly I feel the need to shower you guys with dessert recipes after lambasting you all with organ meat for a week.  Well, actually, since these donuts have bacon and fruit in them, they’re a well-balanced breakfast, right?

Pretty sure this is the flavor combination of the century…a little sweet, a little savory, and a lotta bacon.  And bacon is life.  Although I’ll admit my frosting-to-donut ratio miiiiight be a little skewed in the wrong direction.

You know, because if you have it for breakfast it doesn’t count as a dessert.  Fact.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 c Coconut Flour

1/2 t Baking Soda

1 t Cinnamon

1/2 c Almond Butter

1 Mashed Banana

5 Eggs

2 T Raw Honey

1 T Vanilla

2 Thick Slices Bacon, cooked and diced

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine the coconut flour, baking soda, and cinnamon.

With an electric mixer, cream the almond butter, banana, vanilla, and honey.  Add the eggs one by one until well blended.  Bit by bit, add the dry ingredients and beat until fluffy.  Fold in the bacon bits.

Spoon batter into a greased donut pan (bonus if you use bacon grease!!).  Bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

**Cinnamon Frosting recipe courtesy of The Food Lovers’ Primal Palate**

1 c Palm Shortening

2 T Raw Honey

1 1/2 T Vanilla

2 t Cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS

Beat all ingredients together until smooth.  Frost cooled donuts.  Devour.

Peach Chutney Fried Chicken

So Ross left Sunday (again) for Boston to finish out the summer, but not before we got some quality house hunting done–one step closer to having our own little Colorado Zombie Retreat!  Found a couple little places in the mountains with plenty of acreage for a big garden, and one lot that might be big enough to hunt on.  Kind’ve a Paleo Geek’s wet dream.  No big deal.

Niceness aside, it’s back to little me all by my lonesome for a couple more months…*sigh*  I’m getting way too good at saying Goodbye.  The irony here is that I have a civilian spouse, which was supposed to mean we’d spend more time together…now that’s just silly.

Know what’s not silly?  Like, what’s deadly serious?  This chicken.  It was Ross’s going away dinner and I think we can both die happy now.  Inspired by DDD yet again…are you noticing a trend lately?…except the one on the show was mango chutney on buttermilk fried chicken.  Admittedly looked awesome enough to give up my firstborn.  Though not awesome enough for me to sacrifice my bowels for a week.  Priorities, people.

I re-vamped my go-to fried chicken recipe after I started getting uneasy about cooking with nuts…I’ve been looking back to the archives to find some other dishes that might need a little TLC, too, so stay tuned for some new versions sans baked or fried nuts!

I’d also like to let you know that I did, indeed, make this fried chicken my b*tch.  The breading is all arrowroot this time so it’s a smoother texture than my old almond meal blend, and it’s a much more neutral flavor that let the seasoning shine through and soaked the chutney right up and pretty much made a crispity-crunchity-ooey-gooey-peachy explosion in my mouth.

INGREDIENTS

**Chutney**

1 T Coconut Oil

3 Peaches, pitted and diced

1/2 Sweet Onion, diced

1 Garlic Clove, minced

1 T Fresh Grated Ginger

1 T Apple Cider Vinegar

1/2 t Curry Powder

**Chicken**

2 lbs Skin-On Chicken (legs, thighs, etc)

3/4 c Arrowroot Powder

3 Eggs

2 t Paprika

2 t Garlic Powder

1 t Salt

1 t Black Pepper

1/4 t Cayenne Pepper

Palm Shortening or Coconut Oil, for frying

INSTRUCTIONS

For the chutney…

Heat coconut oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic, sauteeing until onions are translucent.  Add the ginger and stir for about 2 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium.  Add the peaches, vingear, and curry.  Stir for about 4-5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, add the raisins and simmer for 10 minutes more.  Serve hot or cold (can be made ahead of time) on fried chicken.

For the chicken…

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Heat 1/2 inch of palm shortening or coconut oil over medium-high heat in a deep frying pan.

Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl.  In another bowl, combine the arrowroot powder and seasonings.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Dip in beaten egg, then dredge in arrowroot powder mixture.  Place in the hot oil and fry for 1 minute on each side.  Remove chicken to a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Then reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 30 minutes more.

Serve with chutney.  Enjoy!

Plain ol’ Banana Bread

What I love most about Paleo–even more than I love the physical changes I’ve seen in my own body over the last year–is it’s promotion of science and self-experimentation in the nutritional world as a means to advance health and wellness.  Maybe it’s the reliance on evolutionary principles or just that so many followers of the Paleo diet and lifestyle are just super nerdy, but it seems like it is constantly being tweaked and refined as we explore more and more of the science behind how food and food culture affects our health.

A couple examples–Vintage Paleo was a relatively high protein, low fat diet.  While that’s an awesome approach for some people, several studies in the last decade have shown us that, in fact, higher fat diets not only don’t make us fat–they can be remarkably good for us.  Ditto for the extremely low-carb dealio.  While benefits of very low-carb diets and intermittent fasting are supported by research and personal experiences, there are some questions now concerning how this approach might affect women…because, well, we’re wired a little differently than men.  Rice and potatoes have been welcomed by some back into the Paleo diet (for very active people!) while others have shunned high-fructose fruits and nuts, former Paleo staples.

We have the privilege of living in an age where not only is there a plethora of nutritional research being conducted, but it is more available to us plebians than ever before.  There is more scrutiny than ever before, too, and we are better able to recognize which studies and research projects are actually legit (i.e. peer reviewed) and which are just bad science.

Obviously, the best approach is the approach that works best for you.  I am a HUGE fan of self-experimentation and by no means have I found my 100% ideal way of living…but I’m closer than ever.  I eat more and work out less than at any point in my 25 years on this earth and I look better, perform better, and feel better.  I wouldn’t keep doing it otherwise.  What I’m getting at is that I honestly believe we have a responsibility to ourselves to keep digging for information, to keep educating ourselves, and to keep asking questions.  Some new study comes out saying that red meat gives you brain tumors?  That gluten is tearing our intestines apart?  Or that all fruit is bad for you?  READ IT and make a decision for yourself.  Google some of the big words.  Read some dissenting and concurring opinions.

OK.  So after all that I’m giving you a new recipe for banana bread.  No, really, I’m going somewhere with this–if you’ve been reading my blog, you may have come across one of the bajillion times I’ve linked back to my very favorite banana bread recipe.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly delicious and I love it.  However, I’ve begun taking issue with nuts and the excessive use of nut flours and butters in baking.  I’m OK  with eating nuts occasionally despite the omega-6 and phytic acid content, but since a good deal of buzz started going around about the potentially harmful effects of heat on nuts (i.e. roasting nuts or baking with nut flours and butters), I’ve been doing my homework (check here, here, and here).  I’m absolutely guilty of relying heavily on nut-based ingredients at times…like eating my favorite banana bread every day for weeks on end…so I’m giving some of my favorite recipes a makeover.  I’m still fine with raw nuts, nut butters, and the use of them in recipes that don’t require high heat (YES!  Cookie Dough Brownies are safe!!!!), but the baking and frying business makes me wee bit uncomfortable.  It did take some soul searching, but I definitely sleep better at night without cooked nuts.  So there.

As you can see, this banana bread is coconut flour-based–an ingredient I’m much more comfortable with and that is honestly much more nutritious than almond meal, anyway.  It’s moist and banana-y, lightly sweet (with no added sugars besides the bananas!), and delicious on its own or schmeared in butter.  Because we all need a good, go-to recipe for banana bread that won’t oxidize into a trans-fatty mess ;)

INGREDIENTS

1/2 c Coconut Flour

1 t Salt

1 t Baking Soda

2 t Cinnamon

1/2 c Ground Flax

6 Eggs

1 T Vanilla

3 Really Ripe Bananas

INSTRUCTIONS

Mash the bananas and add the eggs and vanilla, whisking together until well combined.

Combine the dry ingredients.  Add to the egg/banana/vanilla mixture by spoonfuls, beating until smooth.  Pour batter into a greased loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.