Sunday, February 28, 2016

good morning, sunshine

I used to be so down with smoothies and chia pudding in mason jars because they were so convenient to eat on the go. If I was going somewhere where I couldn't wash the mason jar right away, I'd pour the contents into a Solo cup (such a long way away from what used to go in Solo cups), grab a plastic spoon, and ditch the utensils when I got to my destination.

But then, I started looking online (read: Pinterest) for smoothie inspiration, and now I'm obsessed with the smoothie bowl. It brings me such joy to give myself the luxury of not eating while driving, making something bright, beautiful and sweet to kick-start the day.

This one's kind of high-calorie due to the full-fat coconut milk, so if you can't abide by that, thin it with water or almond milk, or use light coconut milk. The creamy, full flavor is completely worth it to me!

Sunshine Bowl
serves 3

For the pudding:
2 bananas
1 14-oz. can of coconut milk
4 T. chia seeds

Toppings per bowl:
3 oz. diced mango
1/2 Minneola tangelo, sliced
1 T. sliced almonds

1. Combine the bananas, coconut milk, and chia seeds in a blender, and blend until smooth. Divide the mixture between three 8-oz. mason jars, and keep for up to a week.

2. To serve, top with mango, tangelo and almonds.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

shackin' up

I've been angling to make this Cauliflower Shakshuka for breakfast for weeks, but mornings have been difficult to free up. I felt slightly ambitious this morning, but then got talked into going out for breakfast near two errands I had to run anyway, so I agreed. Purely for convenience's sake, you understand.

So, breakfast for dinner it was. And really, that's the better way to go here. Regular shakshuka, just eggs in tomato sauce, is lovely and pleasant, but this one, solidly filled with vegetables, is stick-to-your-ribs.

With a nice hunk of bread (for those of you blessed enough to be eating bread), one egg and the accompanying vegetables would make more than a decent meal. Sans carbs, help yourself to two! And they say there are no perks to this diet...

Cauliflower Shakshuka
adapted from Husbands That Cook
serves 2-4

2 slices bacon, sliced into lardons
9 1/2 oz. cauliflower florets
2 1/2 oz. sliced leeks
14 oz. cherry tomatoes, sliced into fourths
4 oz. kale
salt and pepper, to taste
1 t. red chili pepper flakes, more to taste
4 large eggs
2 T. pine nuts

1. In a high-sided 10-inch skillet, cook the bacon until browned. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving the bacon grease in the pan.

2. Add the cauliflower and leeks, and saute until the white parts of the leek are translucent. Add the tomatoes, add salt and chili pepper to taste, and stir to combine. Cover the pan, and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add the kale, cover the pan, and cook for another 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings as necessary.

4. Make 4 small wells in the vegetables, and crack an egg in each well. Cover the pan, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until eggs are done to your liking.

5. In the meantime, toast the pine nuts in a small skillet until golden-brown. Set aside.

6. When the eggs are done, season with pepper, and additional salt and chili pepper, to taste. Garnish with the bacon and pine nuts, and serve immediately.

Friday, February 26, 2016

one man's trash is another girl's treasure

I'll say one life skill I've gained in this cleaner eating process is letting go of my recipe co-dependency when it comes to smoothie-making. I'm really releasing my inner smoothie goddess and just throwing in what looked great at the farmers market, and a handful of greens to add bulk, balance the sweetness, and cut the calories per serving.

The mixture today included tiny, weird-tasting non-Haas farmers market avocados that were not at all tasty out of hand, frost-bitten banana slices since I have to clear room in the freezer for the next batch of over-ripened bananas I haven't gotten into, lettuce pulled after clearing out the garden for spring planting, and an attempt to dig into the lime stash from the tree in the back that we basically forget about every year.

All pretty beautiful and successful, and three days' worth of delicious breakfast made basically from a less patient me would have trashed years ago. Evolution!

Cutie Bowl
serves 3

For the smoothie:
1 medium avocado
8 oz. frozen banana slices
3 oz. lettuce
1 c. almond milk
2 T. lime juice

Toppings per bowl:
2 Cuties tangerines
1 T. flax seeds
1 T. hemp seeds
1 T. pistachio pieces

1. Combine the avocado, banana, lettuce, almond milk, and lime juice in a blender, and blend until smooth. Divide the mixture between three 8-oz. mason jars, and keep for up to a week.

2. To serve, top with sliced tangerines, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and pistachios.

Monday, February 22, 2016

things that i hadn't thought to explore

"If I see one more sweet potato..."

That's the chorus from my friends Dawn and Kate, who are also on this Whole 30 journey with me, lamenting the number of ingredients that are available for the eating. For me, it's eggs.

Now don't get me wrong - I love eggs. But when you can't do grains for breakfast, it's a life of chia pudding and eggs, and I just have nothing left to do with eggs. Or, so I thought.

My usual life with hard-boiled eggs is mashed with half an avocado to make a green egg salad, but this is a fun twist, and bonus - it looks like halloumi, which made my dairy-free self kind of happy.

The original recipe deviled the eggs first, and used the leftover filling as a basis for the dressing, but it's the morning, and I have an office to get to. Here's a version where you just boil and crisp the eggs, and use the ghee you cooked it all in as dressing.

Pan-Crisped Eggs Over Spinach
inspired by Joy the Baker, who was inspired by Jacques Pepin
serves 1

2 eggs
1 oz. spinach
1 T. ghee
squeeze of lime juice
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Place the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with water. Cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat, and let sit for 7 minutes. Drain, and place the eggs in an ice bath until cool enough to handle. Peel, halve, and set aside.

2. Heat the ghee in a small skillet until warm. Place the eggs, cut side down, in the ghee, and fry until edges are golden.

3. Meanwhile, place the spinach on a plate, and squeeze a wedge of lime over it. Place the eggs on top, and drizzle over the ghee from the pan. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

back at it

Ah, much better. As down on Whole 30 as I was yesterday, today has been an easy reset day. A long yoga class, a simple breakfast of honeycrisp apple and almond butter, actually being able to find one item to eat off of a trendy restaurant lunch, and then a satisfying, flavor-packed dinner that came together in no time at all.

This was originally a very soupy, coconut milk-based dish that I had bookmarked for the one day of rain LA got last week, but with schedules pushing this meal to today, and the accompanying warm temperatures, I took out the soup aspect, and just made what amounts to a green curry stir-fry as a side to the easy roasted salmon.

Vegetable prep is completed in the time it takes for the oven to preheat, and then the stir-fry comes together in the time it takes to roast the salmon. Whole 30 isn't that bad after all.

Coconut Roasted Salmon + Green Curry Vegetables
adapted from The Defined Dish via feedfeed
Serves 4

4 salmon fillets (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
salt, to taste
3 T. coconut oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into thick slices
6 oz. baby bok choy, heads quartered
1 T. grated fresh ginger
2 T. green curry paste
1 T. fish sauce
1 T. fresh lime juice
2 T. diced green onions (white and light green parts only)
2 T. chopped cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Wrap a cooking sheet in foil. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the foil-wrapped baking sheet. Drizzle the salmon with 1 T. coconut oil,  and rub across the top of the salmon so that it is coated evenly. Salt to taste, and place salmon in the oven. Bake until cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes.

3. Heat the remaining 2 T. coconut oil over medium-high heat. When melted, add in the garlic and ginger, and saute until fragrant, just a few seconds. Add the mushrooms, and saute until they take on a little color. Add the bell pepper and bok choy, saute for about 4 minutes, or until veggies just begin to get tender.

4. Add the green curry paste, stir in, and saute for 1-2 minutes more. Add the fish sauce and lime juice, and stir to thoroughly combine. Taste, and add more fish sauce and/or lime juice as needed.

8. Remove the salmon from the oven, and plate over the green curry vegetables. Garnish with green onions and cilantro, and serve.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

hungry eyes

Day 20 of Whole 30, and I can hardly take it. I spent a significant part of the afternoon texting my friends Dawn and Kate (who are on Day 5), commiserating.

The chicken was spicy and delicious, and actually quite nice in the rainbow chard leaf, but it's hard to ignore the tortillas and sour cream going down in the next seat over.

It kind of made me want to quit the program. Not because I needed a tortilla that badly (although I do), but because if this is meant to change my emotional relationship with food, I'm at an unhealthier place than I started.

But then again, this is the one week a month I'm a bottomless pit, and tomorrow is Sunday, my favorite day to hit the reset button in every possible sense of the word. Two-thirds of the way there, and your girl isn't a quitter, but she's super hungry.

Chicken Tinga
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serves 4

2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (about 1 3/4 lbs.)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 T. olive oil
8 oz. tomatillos, husks removed
6 oz. plum tomatoes
4 garlic cloves
1 small white onion, finely chopped (about 1 c.)
2 t. dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 T. apple cider vinegar
2 c. chicken stock
2 canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, plus 1 T. sauce from can

1. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over high heat until shimmering. Add chicken skin side down and cook, without moving, until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip chicken and cook on second side for 2 minutes. Transfer to a large plate and immediately add tomatillos, tomatoes, and garlic to pot. Cook, flipping occasionally, until blistered and browned in spots, about 5 minutes.

2. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add oregano and bay leaves and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add vinegar and stock. Return chicken to pot, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook, turning chicken occasionally, until chicken registers 145 degrees when an instant-read thermometer is inserted into the center of the thickest part, about 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a bowl and set aside. Continue cooking the sauce at a hard simmer, stirring, until reduced to about half its original volume, about 5 minutes longer.

3. Add chipotle chilies and adobo, remove and discard bay leaves, and blend the sauce using an immersion blender or by transferring to a countertop blender. Sauce should be relatively smooth, with a few small chunks. When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones and finely shred the meat. Return it to the sauce.

4. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until sauce thickens and coats chicken. It should be very moist but not soupy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chicken tinga can be served in tacos; stuffed into enchiladas or burritos; on top of nachos, tostadas, and sopes; or on its own.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

the best way i know how

This may be the only way I ever cook chicken again.

I've had this wicked craving for fried chicken since it dawned on me that my Super Bowl did not include Buffalo wings, but most of my favorite options are battered in non-Whole 30-compliant ingredients, so I just add to the ever-increasing list of food I'm going to eat after March 1. But when chicken presented itself as the next protein in rotation after a stunning Valentine's Day steak, and all of the seafood in the world at Neptune's Net as a post-hike treat, I recalled a very successful, crispy chicken-skinned dish I made in January, and repeated it for the ultimate comfort food dinner tonight.

Break out your splatter guard, but other than that, this is as easy and fuss-free as it gets. Vary your sides - mushrooms below, but thick pieces of carrot basically roasting in chicken fat would be delicious as well, bell peppers in the summer - the possibilities are endless.

Genius Chicken with Spinach + Potatoes
adapted from Food52
serves 4

8 bone-in chicken thighs
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 oz. spinach

1. Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel, and season with salt and pepper. Add them to the skillet, skin side down. Cook them like this, without moving them, until the fat has rendered out and the skin is deep golden brown and crisp, 15 to 30 minutes. Fiddle with the heat, and turn the pan a quarter-turn every few minutes for even cooking.

2. Remove the chicken from the pan, and add the potatoes, turning them to coat in the chicken fat. Season with salt and pepper, and lay the thighs skin side up over the potatoes. Cook until the meat closest to the bone registers 165 degrees, about 15 more minutes. Toss the potatoes occasionally to brown on all sides.

3. Divide the spinach between 4 plates, and squeeze a bit of lime over each. Divide the chicken and potatoes over the spinach, and serve immediately.

Here's that first, pre-Whole 30, version. I used the same method to make miso chicken thighs, whisking in some miso paste into the chicken drippings before returning the chicken to the pan. It wasn't entirely successful in that miso paste doesn't really blend easily, but it was still a nice, albeit slight, flavor. The sides on that night were sauteed oyster mushrooms and black glutinous rice. 

Sigh. I remember you, rice. I'll see you again one day.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

same old love

Valentine's dinner revolved around this Lobster Ceviche, this jaw-dropping lobster ceviche.

I originally thought an accompanying steak would be too cheesy and obvious. Surf & turf on Valentine's Day? How completely unoriginal. But you can't argue with a winner, especially when you get tractor-beamed towards a nice gentleman at the farmers market selling grass-fed errythang. You pick up a rib-eye, and you carry on.

The ceviche was lovely and delicate, a perfect foil to a the sturdy steak. It wasn't overwhelmingly citrus-y and tart, as some ceviche can get carried away and be - it was just super fresh.

I was a big fan of the sweet potatoes and cilantro pesto as well. Pistachios and shredded coconut make the pesto incredibly rich and sweet. I've really gotten into sweet potatoes while I've been on this Whole 30 thing, so I'm always on the lookout for lovely new ways to make and serve them. These were crisped-up almost to chip level, which gave it an elevated chip-and-dip feel - casual, but delicious.

Lobster Ceviche
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serve 2

two 3-oz. lobster tails
2 T. diced green onions
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
1 T. lime juice
salt, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath by adding water and ice to a large bowl.

2. Drop the lobster into the boiling water. Boil for exactly 90 seconds, then transfer to ice bath. When it's cool enough to handle, carefully shell the lobster, and transfer the meat to a cutting board.

3. Dice the meat, and transfer to a medium bowl. Add green onions, cilantro, and lime juice. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt. Plate and serve immediately.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro Pesto
from The Kitchn
serves 2

For the sweet potatoes:
1 large sweet potato (about 1 lb.)
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

For the pesto:
4 oz. cilantro
3/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 c. shelled pistachios
4 cloves garlic
1 lemon, juiced
4-8 T. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Slice the sweet potatoes in rounds about 1/2-inch thick. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush with a little olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender and slightly browned.

2. While the sweet potatoes are roasting, make the pesto. Roughly chop the cilantro and blend both leaves and stems with the coconut, pistachios, and garlic. Add 2 T. of oil and blend until smooth. Add more olive oil until the pesto is to your desired consistency.

3. When the sweet potatoes are cooked through, spread on a platter and top with pesto. Serve immediately.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

best i ever had

This is the best smoothie I've ever made. Well, it's a smoothie bowl today, but yesterday, it was a smoothie. A rich, luscious, decadent smoothie that I drank/ate with a spoon.

Today required toppings. It's Day 11 of the Whole 30, and I'm bored. I already had two hard-boiled eggs with my new favorite spread, Matiz Catalan All I Oli, for dinner last night - inspired equally by Petit Trois' Oeufs Mayonnaise, and like I said, boredom - so it was a little too soon for eggs again this morning.

It's wonderfully satisfying. And it always helps to have something you can chew. I'd keep the toppings delicate - sliced almonds instead of whole, tiny like coconut flakes, some chia, maybe some dried blueberries if they're not pumped with additional sweetener, etc.

Avocado Matcha Smoothie Bowl
makes 4 8-oz. servings

1 medium avocado
2 bananas
1 D'Anjou pear
1 oz. arugula
1 1/2 c. light coconut milk
1 t. matcha

1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.

2. Divide among 4 bowls, and add toppings as you wish.

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.