Lithuanian Kraut

Fermented food is really good for you.  No one is denying it.  But let’s be honest, plain old sauerkraut can get real old, real quick.  Thanks to my Baltic heritage, though, I grew up loving the stuff because we figured out a long time ago how to make it awesome.  I mean…my Mom’s kraut has BACON in it for goodness sake.  If you can’t choke down a bottle of kombucha on a daily basis, this is a great way to get your prebiotics, probiotics, and everything in between.

This is a great side for any meal of the day…I even like it with eggs in the morning!  The apple takes some of the bite out of it and I’m convinced that even people who can’t stand the uber-vinegary flavor would like this version.  And yes, if you’re not in the mood to go crazy with the stuff, it goes great with brats…who doesn’t love brats with sauerkraut?

Ingredients

1 Jar Sauerkraut (28 oz)

2 Granny Smith Apples, chopped

6 Slices Bacon, fried crisp and diced

2 t Fennel Seed

1 t Black Pepper

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a suacepan over medium-low heat.  Allow to simmer for at least 3 hours before serving.  More time is better!  This stuff keeps incredibly well and is even good cold.

A New Take on Paleo Pizza

I love pizza.  Oh, it’s a little ridiculous.  And yes, I still get the rando pizza cravings from time to time, but about 99.99% of the time, MEATZA hits the spot and I can go on my merry way.

This time was different.

In a house all by myself with no one to keep me company but GCB and Scandal re-runs, I was seriously Jones-ing for something sauce-y and bread-y and loaded with everything worth living for.  We had all the fixings for MEATZA since I’m made one last week, but the idea just wasn’t that appealing.  Unfortunately, MEATZA gets overwhelmed by…well…all that meat floating around on the bottom where a nice, doughy base once was.

I resisted the urge to call this a “Cauliflower Pizza Crust.”  Yes, it’s got cauliflower as a base, but I feel pretty proud of myself for departing from the cauliflower-and-mozzarella crust that has been around the blogosphere for some time.  I wanted to make a bread-like crust that a) was 100% Paleo, and b) wasn’t the almost cookie-like texture of most almond flour based crusts.

The verdict?  I played with the ingredients a bit and ended up with a thin-ish crust that was delightfully crisp around the edges and that held the weight of my toppings well enough for me to eat it all with my hands…and I use a LOT of sauce, people!  You can season it as you like since cauliflower is nice and bland and won’t mask any flavors.

Ingredients

1/2 Large Head of Cauliflower

1/4 c Flax Meal

1/4 c Almond Meal

2 Eggs + 1 Egg Yolk

1/2 t Baking Soda

1 t Italian Seasoning

1/2 t Salt

1/2 t Black Pepper

Toppings of choice

Instructions

Chop the cauliflower into florets and place in a food processor.  Pulse until you get a rice-like consistency (I did mine in batches)–if you’ve ever made cauliflower rice before, this is the same deal.

Place cauliflower “rice” in a microwave-safe bowl and nuke for 6 minutes on high, or until tender.  Allow to cool slightly.

To the cauliflower, add the flax, almond meal, eggs, and seasoning.  Mix well until you have a sticky ball of dough.  Press down onto a greased baking sheet (or Silpat!  I LOVE mine–thanks Adam & Pete!)***.  Bake crust at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until browned and crisp around the edges.

Remove crust from the oven.  Smother in toppings of your choice.  Broil for 5-8 minutes, or until your toppings have been cooked through to desired done-ness.

Enjoy!

YES…I see the irony in putting cheese on top of my pizza when I went to such lengths to make a dairy-free crust.  If you want a Paleo, not Primal, pizza, just don’t put cheese on top ;)

***Since the wedding is finally behind us, we’re finally putting our wedding gifts to good use!  Ross (and men in general) totally under-utilized the registries, so our gifts ended up being mostly kitchen stuff.  NICE kitchen stuff.  No complaints here.  So, in honor of the people we love most and their unbelievable generosity, I’m making an extra special effort to put my new appliances and gadgets to use on the blog.  Stay tuned for more!

Roasted Garlic Guacamole Salad

Guess what?!  My car broke down…again.  But that’s not the part of today’s story you need to hear.

So, anyway, my car broke down and I had to take it back to the shop this morning–and the shop I like just so happens to be all the way down near Ft. Hood.  To kill some time, I met Ross for lunch and decided to get a free workout in at the gym.  The gym at Ft. Hood is the part I’ll miss the most because they have a full Crossfit gym and we can take Crossfit classes for free thanks to a VERY generous donation from Greg Glassman.

OK, so even though I was super bummed to have to be on post while I’m on leave, I marched my booty into the gym and I did a Crossfit Total just for sh*ts and giggles.  I mean, it’s been a few months since my last one and it’d be nice to have a benchmark near my wedding, right?  Or something like that..?

Oh! Oh!  I can’t even stand it!  I added 61 pounds!  Maybe that doesn’t sound like much to some more elite athletes out there, but I was thrilled considering my training volume has been on the lighter side this past month thanks to Life Changes.  I’m also pumped because most of that increase was the deadlifts and squats–I was sucking a little (or a lot) on my shoulder press and only raised that one by 7 lbs.  My squat went up 27 lbs and DL was up 27 lbs.  It also put me halfway between the “intermediate” and ”advanced” categories, so it’s some nice motivation to pump some iron.  Not too shabby for someone who was a full-fledged noodle this time last year.

OK, now food.

This is sort of a deconstructed guac–it’s got all the elements, except that nothing gets pureed.  I’ll say it’s because I wanted to snazz up one of my absolutely favorite things.  Totally not because the movers took my food processor.

Ingredients

1/2 c Whole Garlic Cloves

1 T Olive Oil

2 t Sea Salt

4 Slices Bacon, fried and chopped

4 Large Avocados, diced

1 c Cherry or Grape Tomatoes

1 Onion, diced

1 Jalapeno Pepper, diced

2 T Fresh Lime Juice

1/4 c Olive Oil

1 t Black pepper

1 t Chili Powder

Instructions

Combine garlic cloves, 1 T olive oil, and sea salt.  Spread out over a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  Bake for 30 minutes at 450 degrees, making sure to toss halfway through.  Allow garlic to cool.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Add the roasted garlic cloves.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours to allow the flavors to marry.  Serve over chopped lettuce, with pulled baked chicken, or with eggs for a special breakfast treat ;)

Baked Jicama Fries

I’d never even heard of a jicama until I went Paleo–mostly because a lot of people seem to like using them in a sort of mock-potato salad.  Just smother chunks of the stuff in mayo…maybe a little dijon mustard and chopped veggies…mmmmmm!

But then I heard through the blogospheric grape vine that you can make fries out of them too.  I [heart] fries…of all kinds.  Totally democratic that way ;)

Only problem was that jicama has a pretty tough texture that doesn’t always lend itself to cooking or baking.  It’s fine raw but I wanted a nice, warm, soft interior and crispy exterior.  I wanted fries, duh.  I saw a few recipes that called for frying  them, but thanks to my minimalist kitchen these days that wasn’t an option.  That, and I was feeling lazy.

Despite being lazy the jicama experiment took some patience because as it turns out, jicama fries are a much bigger pain in the ass than, say, sweet potato or eggplant fries.  Don’t worry, I’m being dramatic.  In this case “pain in the ass” = “takes longer to cook.”  I’m really, really impatient when I’m hungry.

Ingredients

(Serves 2)

1 Large Jicama

3 T Olive Oil

1 T Sea Salt

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the jicama into fry-sized strips.  Make sure they are only about 1/2″ on each side (if they’re too thick they won’t cook through).  Blot with a paper towel to remove excess moisture and place into a large mixing bowl with the oil and salt.  Mix well and arrange on the cookie sheet with at least 1/2″ between fries.  Use another sheet if you run out of space.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until browned slightly on the outside and soft on the inside.  Serve with LOTS of Cave Ketchup.

Spicy Stuffed Poblanos

This was the FIRST meal Ross and I shared in the new house :)

I don’t know what’s been up with me lately, but I’ve been craving super-spicy food like a mo’fo’…no, I’m not pregnant…and I never eat super duper spicy food.  So, naturally, these have a nice kick-in-the-pants.  And then I doused them in hot salsa.  You can definitely make them more or less spicy by adjusting the number of jalepeno you put into the filling, though.

Ingredients

(Serves 2-3)

4 Poblano Peppers

2 T Olive Oil

1 lb Ground Beef

3 Garlic Cloves, minced

1/2 Onion, diced

4 Jalepeno Peppers, diced

2 c Fresh Spinach

1/4 t Salt

1/2 t Black Pepper

1/2 t Chili Powder

Instructions

Place the Poblanos on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the skin blisters.  Allow to cool enough to handle, then peel off the thin outer skin.  Slice each pepper in half lengthwise and remove the seed pods.  Set aside.

Heat the olive oil over medium high eat.  Sautee the garlic and onion until soft, then add beef.  Once the beef is browned, add the jalepenos and spinach.  Cook until spinach is wilted, then remove from heat.

Fill each poblano with the meat mixture (totally OK to overflow!).  Bake the peppers for 15 more minutes at 400 degrees, or until heated through.

Serve with salsa and (organic/pastured) sour cream :)

Better-Than-Yours Sweet Potato Fries

I’m a Fry-Master (Mistress?).  No big deal.

If you haven’t noticed, I consume a metric ass-ton of sweet potato fries daily.  They’re great to just throw on the side of whatever the hell we’re having for dinner, good after a good metcon, good with runny eggs for breakfast…even good cold (although Ross seems to disagree with me there…).

This shouldn’t come as a surprise because every friggin’ Paleo and/or Crossfit blog features sweet potato fries.  They’re not hard.  They’re not new.  They’re beautiful in their simplicity and really hard to f*ck up.  (Which is why I got creative and made Sweet Potato Tots to mix things up.  No big deal).

OK, so why the hell would I made such an outrageous claim that my Sweet Potato Fries are better than, say, everybody else’s?  Because found a way to make them even better…you know how baking sweet potatoes and yams never quite makes them like good ol’ fashioned French fries?  Like how they tend to be a little flimsy against the elements (i.e. the massive amounts of Paleo mayo and EVOO i dump on mine)?  How baking them longer just makes them dry?  Well, my friends, I found a way to make them JUST a little more crispy on the outside without sacrificing the sweet, sweet, gooey insides that make my eyes roll back in my head.

I all fairness, I have Martha Stewart to thank for some of this.  It was there that I first heard of blanching sweet potatoes to make them crisp up better, so I was like, “That sounds great!” and got right to work.  Disclaimer:  This is a lot more time and energy than normal sweet potato fries…but so, so worth it.

Ingredients

2 Large Yams or Sweet Potatoes

Water

Ice

Olive or Coconut Oil

Instructions

(I need to break this down, not to insult your intelligence, but because achieving crispity-crunchity texture and a moist inside is the result of a few un-related steps)

Step 1.  Cut your fries thin.  Not matchstick-fry thin, but less than 1/2″ wide on each side.  This matters.  If they’re too big they might cook unevenly.

Step 2.  Soak your raw fries in ice water for 30-45 minutes.  The ice water has to be COLD, so I’d even put the bowl of iced fries back in the fridge or freezer.  When you’re done chilling your taters, drain them and pat them dry with paper towels.  Do NOT try and bake wet potatoes.

Step 3.  Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.  This does NOT mean aluminum foil.  This does NOT mean wax paper.  Parchment paper.  It matters.

Step 4.  You MUST coat your fries with oil, but don’t soak them, either.  Lately I’ve been laying them out on the baking sheet and spraying them down with the Misto until they’re nice and shiny all over.  This probably goes without saying for most Paleo geeks but believe it or not, there are still some weirdos out there who insist that because oil is pure fat then it’s bad.  It’s not.  It’s your bagel that’s making you fat.  Get over it.

Step 5.  Arrange your fries on the baking sheet with lots of space between them, at least 3/4″ between fries.  This matters.  When fries are baked too close together, they steam and keep each other nice and soggy.

Step 6.  Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes.  Flip them at least every 10 minutes, but the more often the better so they brown and crisp up micely on all sides.

Step 7.  If you’re still awake by the end of this whole ordeal or at least haven’t given up on me and damned me to hell for making you spend over an hour preparing Sweet Potato Fries, now is the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Smother with mayo (or ketchup) and enjoy!

Roasted Tomato Salad

So I’m almost…ALMOST…done with this moving business.  The house is completely empty except for an air bed, computers, and some really ghetto-fabulous cooking implements (seriously, how could I forget to set aside actual cooking utensils?!).  Unfortunately we’re not physically moving up to Colorado for another week because I’m stuck at work until I’m done clearing.  This makes the living situation interesting.  There are a lot of things I missed about college but eating off a plastic bin filled with my clothes on a beach chair wasn’t one of them.

One perk of having so little in the house is that the kitchen is remarkably easy to clean.  Another is that we have so much food in the fridge that I’m desperate to consume before we leave for good.

This was just a little something I whipped up to salvage some cherry tomatoes that I’d forgotten about.  Poor little guys were trapped all the way in the back and I’d so carelessly failed to notice until I moved a head of cauliflower out of the way and found ‘em close to death.  No worries, now, though because they made a spectacular accompaniment to last night’s dinner.  Something about warm cherry tomatoes that burst in your mouth with a wave of garlic-y, basil-y goodness…if I was in any way Italian I’d say it brought me back to the Old Country…

Ingredients

2 pints Cherry or Grape Tomatoes

3 T Olive Oil

3 cloves Garlic

1/4 c Fresh Basil, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet.  Saute the garlic until golden brown, then add the basil and cook for 1-2 minutes more, or until the leaves are wilted.

Place the tomatoes in a baking dish or pan and add the garlic and basil, along with the oil left in the skillet.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then place in the oven.  Roast for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Do not cook long enough for the tomatoes to burst!

Creamy Mushroom Risotto

I wanted so badly to try this recipe with lobster.  Confession: I’ve never, ever cooked lobster before.  Admittedly, I was absolutely terrified because lobster is ungodly expensive and expensive stuff is crazy-hard to make and crazy-easy to f*ck up.  I don’t handle failure very well.

So I did it with shrimp…I’m such a cheater like that.  Whatever, go ahead and judge, because this stuff was good.

The risotto was more of a thought experiment at first…like, I know you can make “rice” out of cauliflower, but let’s take it a step further, shall we?  I positively adore a good, creamy dish of risotto…and even with a minimal ingredient list, this more than hit the spot.  I know it may look a little complicated, but it’s worth it.  The problem with risotto is that it’s rice-but-not-really.  The kinds of rice you use have an extra-high starch content that gets released into your broth as it cooks and creates the creaminess we all know and love.  Cauliflower…just doesn’t.  So, I came up with more of a sauce for my cauliflower rice and left it a little less cooked than normal so I could get a nice al dente texture underneath it all.

The highlight of this post really is the risotto, so you can season it and make it in any number of ways–either on its own as an appetizer like some people prefer or with any other variety of protein as an entree.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 Head Cauliflower

2 Cans Coconut Milk

1 T Arrowroot Powder, dissolved in 1 T Water

6 Cloves Garlic, minced

1/2 Onion, diced

1 lb Mushrooms, sliced thin

2 T Fresh Chives, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/4 t Oregano

1/4 t Basil

1/4 t Marjoram

1/4 t Thyme

Instructions

Chop the cauliflower into florets.  Place in a food processor and pulse until you have a rice-like consistency.  Set aside.

Add some butter or oil to a large saucepan or stockpot and saute the garlic and onion.  When the onions are soft, add the coconut milk, arrowroot powder, and seasoning.  Whisk constantly until slightly thickened, then add mushrooms and chives.  Stir for another minute or two so that the mushrooms soften slightly, then add the cauliflower and combine well.

Keep stirring and cooking until the cauliflower is soft but not mushy (true risotto is slightly al dente).  Serve alone or with anything you like…here’s mine with some shrimp sauteed in olive oil and Herbs de Provence!

Scalloped Potatoes

I spent the better part of the day working on the seating charts for my wedding before I realized I also had a metric ass-ton of homework for the week I hadn’t done.  Blurg.  Funny how that kind’ve stuff sorta sneaks up on you–you, know, responsibility and stuff?

So anyway, I love LOVE Japanese Sweet Potatoes (great transition there, huh?).  I could probably eat nothing but JSP’s for the rest of my life and be happy as a clam.  (Are clams really all that happy, though?).  They’re like marshmallows on their own and when you cook them up they absorb all the flavors of everything around them and add such a delightful sweetness to savory and salty dishes.  And oh, yes…you can bake them into stuff and it will blow your mind.  Pretty much the perfect food.

Great to take my mind off the growing pile of laundry/dishes/homework/dust/wedding bills/un-mowed lawn/fire ants I’m attempting to avoid this weekend.

Ingredients

2 lbs Japanese Sweet Potatoes

2 1/2 c Chicken Stock

1 Onion, sliced

3 Garlic cloves, minced

2 T Herbs de Provence

1 Red Bell Pepper, diced

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 T Ghee or Olive Oil

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Saute garlic and onions in ghee or oil until soft, then add the seasonings and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.

Meanwhile, slice the potatoes into 1/8″ slices.  (If you have a mandolin, bust it out NOW!).  Arrange a layer in a 2 qt baking dish, then pour some of the onion-broth mixture over them.  Continue layering until all potatoes are in the dish and top with any remaining broth.  Top with diced peppers.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until bubbly.  Remove from the oven, cover, and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Irish Potato Skins

OK so if you don’t love Worst Cooks in America at least as much as I do, you really ought to rethink your priorities.  Anyhow, a couple weeks ago they threw a St. Paddy’s Day party and everyone had to make potato skins.

love potato skins…you really have no idea.  Ever since the show aired I’ve been thinking about them constantly (which may be why I have yet to get my ass in gear and start moving my house?)  Back when it was cool to get someone’s mom to drop us off at TGIFridays and get virgin margaritas on a Saturday night and because we were only 17 I could put away my weight in potato skins…just smothered with cheese and bacon and sour cream.  Holy Goodness…

Well, I guess things haven’t changed that much but at least I can drink legally and I like to think my palate is a smidge more refined.  Besides, it’s St. Paddy’s on Saturday and we’ve got some shennanigans planned.  Complete with potato skins.  That was my idea.  You’re welcome.

I totally recommend taking Vinny’s advice, too, and enjoying these with copious amounts of whiskey.  Mmmmm whiskey….

Ingredients

3 Sweet Potatoes or Yams

6 Thick-cut Slices of Bacon

1/2 lb Ground Sausage

1 Small Onion, diced

3-5 Jalapeno Peppers, chopped

1/2 t Salt

1/2 t Black Pepper

1/2 t Garlic Powder

Optional Toppings: Sour Cream, Irish Cheddar, Guacamole, Chives, Diced Tomato, Diced Fresh Onions, Jalepenos, etc…

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Slice potatoes in half lengthwise, and if you want more appetizer-sized portions slice them again in quarters.  Arrange on a baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes depending on size.

Meanwhile, brown your bacon, then dice it and toss in a large bowl.  Brown the sausage and onions as well.

When your potatoes are done, carefully remove from the oven.  With a spoon or melon baller, scoop out a layer or two of flesh and toss into the bowl of fillings.  You want to leave at least a half inch of flesh on the skin to keep its shape.

Mash the extra potato flesh into the filling and add peppers and seasoning.  Spoon filling into the potato skins.  Place back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until browned slightly on to and heated through.

Top with garnishes of choice!