Tuesday, February 9, 2016

always trying something else

Shrove Tuesday = Pancake Day. I'm still riding the Whole 30 wagon, so I didn't think I would bother celebrating, but over this strangely relaxing weekend, I acquainted myself with the Nom Nom Paleo website, and did an overwhelming amount of Pinning. First up, just in time for the holiday, were these Coconut Pancakes.

I'll be honest - I was quite skeptical of the original recipe. I know it was marked as a savory pancake, but 3 eggs + 2 T. coconut flour sounds like a coconut-flavored omelette to me, and it ain't Egg Day. Luckily, I scrolled through the comments, and came up with a variation that included banana, which is super helpful for me in terms of flavor because I can't have syrup on ye old Whole 30.

There's still a bit of refining to do, literally and figuratively. I thought it was a little spongy/gritty, which I attributed to perhaps still too much egg in the batter. Potential variations will include: 1) replacing one egg with another banana, and 2) replacing one egg with 2 T. or so of coconut milk. Either or both of these variations might also work itself into a blender as well for maximum smoothness of batter.

Matty was actually quite pleased with the results, but perhaps his expectations were low to start with - I did tell him to have his oatmeal on standby in case of disaster.

Coconut Banana Pancakes
adapted from Nom Nom Paleo
serves 2

1 banana
3 eggs
2 T. coconut flour
2 T. sliced almonds
1 T. coconut oil

1. In a medium bowl, mash the banana. Whisk in the eggs and coconut flour, then stir in the almonds. You should have 1 cup of batter - enough for 4 pancakes.

2. Depending on the size of your skillet, melt half or all of the coconut oil over medium heat. Scoop the batter in 1/4th-cup increments to form your pancakes.  If you can only fit two, do this in batches with half of the coconut oil.

3. Cook the pancakes over medium-low heat until the bubbles appearing on the top side pop, then flip to brown on the other side. Serve immediately.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

something new

This meal came out of sheer necessity - I've had lamb chops in the fridge for a week, the cauliflower might have been there a little longer than that, and I just HAD to use my brand new, cherry red enameled cast iron pan and saucepan.

This Roast Lamb + Brussels Sprouts is as one-pan a meal as it gets. I did want to over-achieve a bit and send that languishing head of cauliflower to a better place, so I turned it into a two-pan meal with some Cauliflower Mash on the side.

This meal flips comfort food on its head, but in a delicious way that isn't at all threatening to the palate.

Roast Lamb + Brussels Sprouts
serves 4

4 medium lamb chops
1 t. ghee
12 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Salt and pepper the lamb chops on both sides.

2. Heat the ghee in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. When it starts to shimmer, add the lamb chops, and cook without disturbing for 3 minutes, until a light brown crust forms on the bottom. Flip the chops, and cook for another 3 minutes.

3. Add the Brussels sprouts to the skillet, and transfer it to the oven. Roast for 15 minutes, or until the lamb reaches at least 165 degrees. Let the chops rest for 5 minutes, and then serve with a side of cauliflower mash.

Cauliflower Mash
serves 4-8 as a side

12 oz. cauliflower
1 c. almond milk
salt, to taste

1. Combine the cauliflower and almond milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, and simmer, covered for 15 minutes, or until cauliflower is very tender.

2. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender. (Alternately, you transfer the cauliflower into the bowl of a food processor, and process until smooth. Add some of the almond milk from the saucepan until it reaches your desired consistency). If necessary, continue cooking the puree over low heat to cook off some liquid for a thicker puree.

Monday, February 1, 2016

a new beginning

It's February 1st, and a lot of things are happening.

I always take January to de-fluff. Nothing crazy or extreme - just get rid of what accumulated over the holidays. Then February rolls around, and theoretically with a lighter body and mind, I actually going about getting strong.

I add more ambitious workouts, usually running and/or swimming, but I had the kind of volume of emails this morning that wouldn't allow a run, but rather just a seat on the stationary bike while I powered through them, and the new gym with the pool by my house isn't open yet.

So, while I wait for all of that, I thought I'd play around with my diet a bit. What's up, Whole 30?

And while there is still much to understand - since when is corn a grain, and why can't I eat it? Why did I made a massive batch of soup the day before starting Whole 30 that has basically everything I can't eat today? But I do like rules, and I've been pretty happy on it today.

This salmon dish is a pretty nice way to ease in. Coconut milk cooked down in the oven turns into a delightfully creamy sauce that perfectly complements the fish. The brightness and crunch of barely blistered snap peas contrasts nicely with the earthy mushrooms. I do promise I won't be having bacon every chance I get just because it's Whole 30-compliant!

Salmon Braised in Coconut Milk with Bacon + Mushrooms
adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
serves 4

4 salmon fillets, about 4-6 oz. each
8 oz. cremini mushrooms
4 oz. bacon, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
3 oz. leeks, thinly sliced
3 oz. carrots, finely diced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 15-oz. can light coconut milk
10 oz. sugar snap peas

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Trim off the very base of the mushroom stems, then remove the stems and coarsely chop them. Set aside. Thinly slice the caps, and set these aside separately.

3. In a deep ovenproof skillet, cook half of the bacon until it has rendered most of its fat, and is just beginning to brown. Add the leeks, carrots, and mushroom stems, and saute until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown.

4. Pour in the coconut milk, and bring to a rolling boil. Salt and pepper to taste, and then place the salmon fillets on the simmering liquid. Cover tightly, and slide the pan onto a rack in the middle of the oven. Braise the salmon for 12-15 minutes, or until the fish is done to your liking.

5. Meanwhile, fry the remaining bacon in a medium skillet until crisp. Transfer it onto a paper towel-lined plate, and set aside. Remove and reserve half of the bacon grease. Add the sliced mushrooms, and saute until they have released their liquid, and are well-browned. Set aside with the bacon.

6. Return the remaining bacon grease to the pan, and add the sugar snap peas. Toss well, and then leave them alone over high heat until they blister and blacken in spots. Remove from the heat.

7. To serve, divide the sugar snap peas between 4 bowls. Divide the salmon and sauce, and top with the bacon-mushroom mixture. Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

keeps me warm

Filling, delicious, vegan, warm, comforting, slightly out of focus. Okay, a lot out of focus.

Basically, I was so ready to tuck into a bowl of this Quinoa Corn Chowder and pretend it's not raining outside that I forgot to photograph it until I had completely scraped the bowl clean. What's a blogger to do? Why simply take tomorrow's lunch portion out of the Pyrex, pour it into the more photogenic Heath bowl, take a quick photo before your husband adds this to the list of reasons why you're crazy, put it back in the Pyrex, and pretend nothing happened. And all's well that end's well, anyway - he was too busy working on his second helping to notice.

Stay warm and dry!

Quinoa Corn Chowder
slightly adapted from The Recipe Rebel
serves 8

2 T. olive oil
8 oz. onion, diced
1 T. minced garlic
¼ c. flour
3 c. vegetable broth
3 c. almond milk
1 c. quinoa
1 lb. frozen corn
1 15-oz. can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
3 oz. sugar snap peas, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 T. Sriracha
salt, to taste

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and saute over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

2. Stir in the flour until combined. Whisk in the broth and then the milk, one cup at a time, whisking and waiting until the soup has thickened slightly before adding the next cup.

3. Add the quinoa, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes until quinoa is cooked, stirring often. Add the corn, beans, sugar snap peas, Sriracha and salt to taste. Let it all warm up, and serve.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

like it used to be

This Chicken Do-Piaza is such a hit of nostalgia for me. Growing up, we quite often had a yellow curry with chicken, potatoes and carrots - the joys of red and green curries were not something I experienced until I left home. I thought the curry I had was the only curry there ever was, or ever needed to be.

This has a few similar spices - coriander and turmeric - but is infinitely lighter. There's no coconut milk, just tangy yogurt, which enriches the sauce right at the end. The orange juice in the sauce brightens up the whole dish, even while the warming spices work their magic.

I added some carrots and haricot verts to avoid dirtying up something else in preparing a side - lots of bits and bobs used in the making of this dish, but all well worth it.

Chicken Do-Piaza
slightly adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
serves 6

1 lb. white onions
1/2 c. orange juice
1/4 c. water
1 T. grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 t. ground coriander
1 t. ground turmeric
1/4 t. cayenne
salt, to taste
1 T. olive oil
3 lbs. bone-in skinless chicken thighs
3 oz. carrots, diced
6 oz. haricot verts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 c. whole milk Greek yogurt

1. Coarsely chop half of the onions, and place in a blender. Add the orange juice, water, ginger, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and 1 t. salt. Blend on high speed until it becomes a smooth sauce.

2. Thoroughly dry the chicken pieces, and season with salt. Heat the olive oil in a 4-qt Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the thighs, in batches if necessary, and brown lightly on both sides. Transfer to a large plate, and repeat with the remaining chicken.

3. When all of the chicken is browned, pour off all but 1 T. of the fat from the pot. While the pot is off the heat, pour in the orange-onion sauce so you can avoid some splatter. Return the pot to medium-high heat, and simmer the sauce for about 5 minutes, scraping the bottom, and stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

4. Add the chicken to the sauce, along with any juices left on the plate. Turn the pieces to coat with the sauce, and return to a soft simmer. Cover tightly, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently. Check the pan after 10 minutes to make sure that the simmer is quiet and not turbulent; lower the heat, if necessary. After 20 minutes, turn the chicken pieces with tongs, and continue braising until the chicken is fork-tender, about another 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter, and cover with foil to keep warm.

5. Thinly slice the remaining onions. Add them to the pot along with the carrots and haricot verts, and stir to distribute through the sauce. Replace the lid, and cook over very low heat for 4 minutes. Stir in the yogurt.

6. Return the chicken pieces to the pot, turning them to coat with the sauce and onions. Serve the chicken, spooning the onions and sauce over the top, with naan on the side, or over jasmine rice.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

finish what ya started

There's a special sense of pride I get when I actually finish re-purposing leftovers. The bonus to outlasting this glut of butternut squash from the depths of my freezer was this delicious lasagna.

The original recipe was posted one January several years ago, likely as some sort of New Year's Resolution way to eat lasagna guilt-free - no meat is involved, minimal cheese, and a savory-sweet squash sauce versus a traditional bechamel.

Well, I tried. But I used cream instead of milk to make the sauce, and I about doubled the amount of cheese because the amount called for was just plain depressing. It's still meatless, and it's still only about 300 calories per serving, but it was immensely satisfying in a way I don't think the original recipe would have done for me.

This is basically deconstructed pumpkin ravioli, and I couldn't have been more pleased with the way it turned out. And I know mushrooms are a polarizing ingredient, but completely browned on the stovetop, and then baked in the middle of all this goodness, I bet I could turn a few haters.

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Mushrooms + Thyme
adapted from The Kitchn
serves 9

9 Trader Joe's no-boil lasagna noodles
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 c. roasted and mashed butternut squash (from one medium squash)
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
10 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish (I prefer using the Le Creuset Heritage rectangular baking dish because it's slightly smaller, and fits 3 TJ's lasagna noodles across perfectly) with olive oil.

2. Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch sauté pan. Add the mushrooms, and saute until they are browned and have released all of their liquid. Add the garlic, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about another minute. Season with salt and pepper.

3. In a large bowl, combine the squash, cream, and thyme, and stir to thoroughly combine. Salt and pepper, to taste.

4. To assemble the lasagna, scoop 1 c. of the butternut sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking pan and spread to thinly coat the bottom. Place 3 noodles on top, and then spread another cup of sauce on the noodles. Top with half of the mushrooms, and a third of the cheese. Add another layer of noodles, then another cup of sauce, then the rest of the mushrooms, and half of the remaining cheese. Place the final layer of noodles over the vegetables, and spread the remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining cheese.

5. Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the top is golden and the cheese is gooey. Remove from the oven and let stand uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.

Monday, January 25, 2016

shimmering, warm and bright

This Lemon Braised Chicken + Beans with Mint Pesto is the absolute perfect meal for a January in Los Angeles. The creamy beans, tender chicken, and having the oven on for a pleasant 90 minutes are the perfect antidote to the chill in the air, while the bright lemon flavor and mint pesto are a wink to the sunshine. It gives you a big hug to comfort you from the cold, but whispers that spring is just around the corner.

Dollop the pesto for presentation, but completely swirl it in for packed flavor in every bite. You won't have nearly enough leftovers.

Lemon Braised Chicken + Beans with Mint Pesto
slightly adapted from The Kitchn
serves 8

For the braise:
1 lb. dried small white beans, such as flageolet
1 T. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white onion, diced
2 lemons
2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper, to taste
4 sprigs fresh thyme

For the pesto:
4 packed c. mint leaves
1/3 c. slivered almonds
2 garlic cloves
4-5 T. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Place the dried beans in a large bowl and cover them with water. Soak the beans overnight, topping up the water as the beans soak it up. Drain the beans and set aside.

2. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are tender and the onion is nearly translucent. Add the drained beans and stir to coat the beans with the garlic, onion, and oil. Turn off the heat.

3. Take a sharp vegetable peeler and carefully peel one of the lemons. Add the shaved lemon peel to the beans and stir. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the beans.

4. Pat the chicken dry, and lightly salt and pepper it. Lay it on top of the beans in the Dutch oven. Add water until it covers the beans and comes up to just below the chicken. Lay the thyme sprigs on top. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a simmer.

5. Cover the pot and put it in a 350-degree oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are very tender and creamy.

6. Meanwhile, make the pesto: Blend all of the solid ingredients in a small food processor until finely chopped. Add the olive oil, one T. at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

7. After 1 1/2 hours in the oven, remove the lid from the pot, and transfer the chicken on to a cutting board. Discard the thyme stalks. Zest and juice the second lemon, and add them to the beans to taste. Shred or chop the chicken and place it back on top of the beans. Top with the mint pesto and serve.