Spring Has Sprung

I think we have it pretty good here in Houston, Texas as far as weather goes.  For me I love being outside.  I prefer to exercise out doors and when I am indoors exercising its usually in an artificially heated and humidified room.  This winter, it seems, that we here in Htown had a harsher than usual winter though.  I know, all you who live as far north as Dallas and above are laughing at me wanting to bombard me with comments about how you had to hike 20 miles to school, in 5 feet of snow, barefoot–but I have grown up on the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast and prefer heat and humidity to anything below 50 degrees.  This long cold winter which I will now refer to for the rest of my life as “The Winter of 2014” has had me in a funk!  Fortunately, I live in Houston and all that is behind me before the end of February (I hope).

This past weekend was full of sunshine and balmy temperatures between 50 and 75 degrees and some pretty high humidity which my skin is loving.  I wasted no time getting the grill fired up.  Now I do not have a fancy grille set up.  In fact, its pretty mediocre, consisting of a $20 charcoal grill and a chimney starter for the briquettes.  I WANT a fancy grill set up but because I live in a condominium there is no personal space for such a thing and everyone keeps their grill by the old worn out pool nobody but me and the kids use.  I actually think I’m the only one using my grill too.  I am fortunate enough that nobody has complained about me comandeering the only table by the pool with chairs as my grilling table.  Hehehe!

I picked up some lovely grass-fed pork spare ribs and some free range ground turkey last week.  With the turkey, I made BBQ turkey burgers glazed with Tessemae’s BBQ sauce, served those with mixed greens, avocado and grilled sweet potato fries.  The ribs I also used the BBQ sauce on but started them in my oven. This is a trick I have to use because my grill is too small to slow smoke anything.  I wrapped the ribs in foil after rubbing them with my special blend of spices and slow baked them for 3.5 hours at 275 degrees.  After about 3 hours I prepared a small fire in the pit, just enough for a sparse layer of coals on the bottom of the grill (half way up in the chimney starter).  When the coals were fully ashed over I spread them and covered the grill so as to lower the heat by limiting the oxygen to the firey coals.  I do this because I don’t want to grill my ribs but want to hit them with smoke for about a half hour to give them that real BBQ flavor.  I brushed the already tender ribs with my sugar free paleo BBQ sauce from Tessemae’s and placed them on the grill, poured the juices from the foil around those coals to further create smoke and lower the heat, then covered them.  I turned and lightly basted the ribs about 3 more times to ensure they weren’t getting to charred.   These ribs came out perfect.  Not a true BBQ rack of ribs (no smoke ring) but delicious all the same and it was super easy. I also used Tessemae’s Southwest Ranch as a dipping sauce for sweet potato fries and salad dressing for a roasted brocoli and sweet poatato salad. This stuff is my new ‘crack’, its got all the flavors of the Hidden Valley stuff I used to devour but it’s healthy. I don’t know how they do that! NO I’m not getting anything from Tessemae’s but I wouldnt turn it down if they offered!
bbq pics

Here’s the recipe for the rub.

2 T ground Cumin

2 T chili powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1 T kosher salt

1/2 T fresh ground black pepper.

Mix the ingredients together and sprinkle the ribs front and back.  Remember to remove the membrane from the back of the ribs.  This makes enough for 2 racks of ribs. You can reserve the remainder for the next BBQ project you have. It’s good on chicken or pork.

Starting over

I need to start over…again. I started this blog as a way to keep myself accountable and share tips and tricks that I use to stay on track. I love the way I feel when I eating clean but the sugar monster is always there lurking, waiting for me to waver. Yesterday I ate pancakes. Perfect blueberry pancakes with crispy edges and drippy, sticky syrup. Real food porn. They were delicious and I’d like to say I don’t regret it but I do. I’m off the wagon and I need to tell on myself after struggling with the decision to omit my weakness and go on like nothing happened. Honestly this has been creeping up, I guess, since the Valentines day box of gourmet chocolate that I justified because it was a holiday. I thought, it’s ok, they are artisan, locally made chocolates that my honey got me as a gift. Right? Wrong! Really, if I’m having to “justify” my food choices I’m probably doing something wrong just as in any area of my life. I believe it triggered my sugar addiction in a big way. Now I’m going to go back to writing the blog only when I really have something worthy to share and not just pics of every morsel of food I eat. I’m feeling uninspired and frustrated. This isn’t going to be the ‘perfect’ Paleo blog because I will never be perfect and I’d hate to be fake. The end.

Frittata!

I’d have to say my favorite meal of the day is breakfast. I have eggs for breakfast every day which can get boring. I like to get creative and think outside the box. One meal I love to whip up is a frittata, usually when I need to clean out my fridge. Yesterday was market day and I needed to make room for that afternoon’s bounty. I had a couple broccoli crowns, some starting to wilt purple and yellow carrots and a leftover chicken breast–all perfect for a frittata. In the steamer basket went the carrots and broccoli. I sautéed chopped spring onion, threw in my al dente steamed veggies and chopped up chicken breast. Once everything had warmed through I poured 6 whisked eggs over the top evenly distributing it in the pan. I let this set until the eggs start to cook at the edges then place the entire pan in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, enough time to take a shower or dress your children. This is super easy and delicious no matter what you put in it. Get creative! I’ve used leftover steak, pulled pork, sausage, etc. Don’t forget to season your eggs with salt and pepper because they are holding everything else together.

20140219-193145.jpg20140219-193154.jpg

The rest of my meals…

20140219-193227.jpg
Baked sweet potato with pan roasted broccoli and green onion topped with bolognese. This was delicious and we will probably be eating it for dinner tomorrow since I still have bolognese I thawed out.

20140219-193440.jpg

20140219-193446.jpg
Dinner-brussel sprouts and golden beets roasted with Oaks of Mamre turkey wings. Oaks of Mamre slaughtered their winter turkeys recently and I snatched up all I could. The wings were $4 per pound. The woman selling them suggested I use the slow cooker but I thought I’d roast them. They were a bit tough; I should have listened to her. I’ll make some Paleo mayo for the leftovers and have turkey salad.

Mixing it up

Yesterday I took a day of from the blog. I didn’t feel all that well and I suspect it had something to do with my food choices the evening before. Weekends at our house are non-stop family time and that’s when we tend to eat dinner out. By Sunday evening I’ve given in to the temptation and chosen a yummy restaurant to patron. El Tiempo on Washington avenue was my choice this particular evening and even though I chose my meal within Paleo parameters I didn’t quiz the waiter about the marinade or cooking oils used in the preparation. Sometimes it’s just about enjoyment but there’s a big lesson here. I woke up the next day with a throbbing headache. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Either way, here’s what I ate Sunday.

20140218-211620.jpg
Breakfast-sweet potato hash, two free range eggs, Shiner Farms sausage, kale salad, with black coffee and half a ruby red grapefruit.

20140218-211924.jpg
Post yoga lunch-Hanna banana smoothie from Big and Juicy (vegan, raw, paleo) and three raw carob mint NRG balls.

20140218-212103.jpg
Dinner- Carne Asada from El Tiempo and sautéed mixed vegetables. First of all, this was delicious. Sencond, it was swimming in soy sauce. I haven’t had soy sauce in a really long time. I also had a handful of tortilla chips. Maybe I’ll remember the headache the next time I want to eat this, maybe not.

Monday’s meals started with coffee with coconut milk and the rest of my carob mint balls. My head hurt to bad to make a proper breakfast.

20140218-212454.jpg
Lunch- hard boiled free range eggs, steamed broccoli, avocado and spicy salsa.

20140218-212600.jpg
Dinner-Italian herb marinated chicken breast with butternut squash purée and spring mix dressed with EVOO and balsamic vinegar.

Kale-ing it up

Honestly kale isn’t the most palatable of vegetables. It does have amazing health benefits though. Here’s why you should be eating kale on a regular basis. Now that you know that not eating kale is almost equal to a death sentence I’ll admit I don’t really love it. Even still, I have found a few ways to include it in my diet that I have learned to love. Kale works well in soups or in a meat loaf. The key is to chop it very small. I do have a great salad I invented as well–even my husband likes it. I created the recipe as a healthier choice to a popular salad on the Whole Foods salad bar. A friend of mine wanted something without the added refined sugar that was in that one and asked me if I could recreate it. Well, of course I could. Here it is.

20140216-091139.jpg

ingredients:

1 bunch curly kale
1 Meyer lemon
1/2 C toasted walnuts
5 un-sulfured pitted dried giant or Turkish apricots

dressing:
1/4 C raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 C olive oil
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T local raw honey
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

method:

Remove kale leaves from ribs by running fingers down the stem. It’s pretty easy to do it this way. Wash and dry the leaves and chop very thouroughly. You should do this in batches. Using a potato peeler remove the skin from the Meyer lemon and chiffonade (cut into thin strips). Toast your walnuts in a dry skillet on the stove top over medium heat, careful not to burn, and chop. Chop your apricots small and place all ingredients in a large bowl.
Place all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously. Pour dressing over kale mixture and toss to coat. Pack the salad into a slightly too small container and let sit refrigerated for 8 hours before serving. This salad will last 5 days in the refrigerator. The ‘sweet spot’ is 3 days.

I started my day yesterday at 4am with a cup of black coffee, two hard boiled eggs and a cup of home made chicken stock in preparation for a 13 mile run. I was out of bananas or I would have eaten one of those too. While running I had a package of lemon flavored GU chomps and one strawberry banana GU Rocktane. Fuel!!

Here’s what I ate the rest of the day.

20140216-093338.jpg
Post run breakfast- sweet potato hash, two free range eggs, Shiner Farms pork sausage, kale salad and coffee with coconut milk.

20140216-093551.jpg
Lunch-finished off the Mexican shredded chicken.

20140216-093632.jpg
Dinner-Citrus Pork Carnitas from Well Fed II over cauliflower rice with avacado, spicy salsa and a side of kale salad. I liked the carnitas and will make it again but I’ll sub in some ingredients to make it less sour. I’m thinking grapefruit juice instead of lemon. I won’t share the recipe because it’s not public domain. Buy the book.

I’m Calling it a Win!

So yesterday was Valentine’s Day. I always have the best of intentions to how I plan to eat. I rarely plan a cheat, except when I’m on vacation and just want to enjoy my time and taste all the flavors of the community I’m visiting. Even then I’m not planning a big ole cheat meal; it just happens that way. So I started Valentine’s Day with a special treat of one chocolate covered strawberry with breakfast which was my intended ‘cheat’ for the day. The rest of the day went great and I got in a couple great workouts with friends and even got some sunshine on my winter sun starved skin. I ate light in anticipation of my steak dinner with my family later. We had a 5:15pm reservation and in past years we are usually in and out at this particular restaurant before the Valentines day rush hits. Unfortunately I hadn’t taken into consideration that it was Friday and in the past it had been mid week. So I ordered the dry aged, Prime, NY Strip steak with the truffle poached lobster and caviar accompaniment. Well…my dinner came just as the kids were done eating (30 minutes after we ordered), no lobster, no caviar, cooked to medium well instead of medium rare. There was no time to get another steak because the kids were getting restless. They did send out a tiny two bite morsel of lobster which I ate with the steakhouse-sized side of steamed asparagus. I was starved an hour later. I had a box of artisan chocolates courtesy of my wonderful husband. I will not disclose how many of them I ate, but they are tiny and me and my husband shared them. My rules and I’m calling my day of eating a success. I did not overeat and hey…I had to carb load for my peak run today for The Woodlands Half Marathon in two weeks, so the chocolates are an approved necessity.

Here’s the rest of my food.

20140215-122354.jpg20140215-122403.jpg

Two free range eggs and Shiner Farms pork sausage and a chocolate covered strawberry!

20140215-122455.jpg
Post workout early ‘lunch’- leftover Mexican shredded chicken with avocado and spicy salsa.

20140215-122601.jpg
Smoothie from Big and Juicy Juice Bar inside Big Yoga, post 75 minute heated power flow. Vegan, raw, paleo, etc.

20140215-122742.jpg
Artisan chocolate assortment from Araya. I highly recommend them.

Upgrade Your Bun-less Burger

I had a fabulous dinner yesterday. I also made it from leftovers. I’m a big believer in not wasting food. There are people going hungry everywhere and I spend a lot of money on good quality foods and hate to waste money. So earlier in the week I made a pot roast with roasted root vegetables, golden beets, turnips and sweet potatoes. When I was putting away my leftovers from my pot roast I strained the cooking liquids into a Pyrex container. Those juices are full of joint healing gelatin and muscle recovering amino acids. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it but I know I can always freeze it and use it for the next pot roast if nothing else. Anyway, I had some ground beef, those leftover juices and those leftover vegetables. What’s a girl to do? I whipped up the root vegetables in the food processor–instant fast side dish. I love a good red wine glaze so into a saucier went my beef jus and about a quarter cup of red wine. I let those reduce down to a syrupy consistency; it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This is a rich beautiful sauce, suitable for your favorite steak, short rib or back on that pot roast. I then pan seared my burger patties and cooked them to my desired doneness (medium). Plating is key here. Put your whipped veg down, top with your burger and drizzle the sauce over the burger and veg. I opted to garnish it with some spring onions I picked up at the farmers market earlier in the week.

20140214-142246.jpg20140214-142259.jpg20140214-142312.jpg

I served the meal with my already infamous kale salad. I’ll post the recipe for that tomorrow.

20140214-142458.jpg

Here’s everything I ate yesterday.

20140214-142534.jpg
Breakfast scramble with free range eggs, chicken, spinach and tomato at a new restaurant near me, Dish Society. They focus on local sustainable ingredients. This is a restaurant I can get behind.

20140214-142841.jpg
Lunch- leftover Mexican shredded chicken with spicy salsa.

You already saw my dinner.

20140214-143000.jpg
Movie snack-raisins and shelled pistachios. I watched Master with the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Great movie and a great talent.

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast

I am not a huge fan of this popular cut of chicken; it tends to dry out easily and not have very much flavor. Although, it is high in protein, thaws and cooks quickly. I’m not afraid of fat as long as it’s healthy fat but some just can’t get past it and the boneless skinless chicken breast is as lean as it gets. With a little technique you can cook a delicious, succulent breast in no time.

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Let chicken sit on the counter for one hour, tempering to room temperature. I’ll say this allot, it allows for more even and quicker cooking which is especially important with leaner cuts.
3. Dry the breasts with a clean paper towel, season with kosher salt and black pepper
4. Heat your pan with your fat of choice (grass-fed lard for me) over medium high heat.
5. Place breasts in the pan top side down for 3-4 minutes, add in flavorings like whole herbs and smashed garlic. When the breast is properly seared the sound will change. I’ve done this so many times I don’t even have to watch my meats, I can prep other things and listen. The breasts are ready to turn when they slide in the pan when shaken.
6. Once turned grab a soup spoon (basting spoon in the restaurant biz) and begin basting the breast with the fat from the pan that is now infused with your herbs and garlic. Do this with the pan tilted so you can scoop the fat several times giving the meat a good coating. Place the chicken in the oven for 3-5 minutes until it reads 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Let the chicken rest on a plate or cutting board (not in the hot pan) for 10 minutes before slicing.

20140213-121058.jpg20140213-121112.jpg20140213-121133.jpg

Here’s my photo diary from yesterday. Day 3 down, 57 more to go. It’s going to be a long 60 days!!

Breakfast: Two free range eggs from Wabash, two slices Pederson’s uncured bacon, Atkinson Farms strawberries and Cora Lomar Spinach. Two cups coffee with coconut milk.

20140213-121429.jpg

Post workout snack: two hard boiled free range eggs and organic blackberries.

20140213-121557.jpg

Lunch: leftover pot roast and roasted root vegetables

20140213-121728.jpg

Dinner: Atkinson Farms green leaf lettuce salad dressed with EVOO and balsamic vinegar, with avocado, strawberries, roasted sweet potatoes, red onion and pan roasted chicken breast.

20140213-121902.jpg

Slow News Day

I don’t have much to write about today. I still need to post my photo diary of my meals for my accountability. I went with good ole black coffee, if you buy great coffee you’d be surprised how quickly it is to make the adjustment. Of course I buy locally roasted coffee at Katz on W. 34th st. They are cheaper ($10/lb) than Starbucks and WAY better. I like the Guatemalan Organic Shade Grown variety but they have tons of choices and they will ship to you. They also sell a selection of their coffee in Central Market for a bit of an up charge.

Here’s what I ate.
Two free range scrambled eggs from Wabash with Tessemae’s hot sauce and avacado, two slices of Pederson’s uncured bacon and Atkinson Farms strawberries.

image

 

 

 

Managed to finish off the meatloaf. May have been pushing the limit on that. Atkinson Farms green leaf lettuce with olives and avocado dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. There was a left over piece of bacon that was supposed to be in this salad but it got eaten up, by me.

20140212-120543.jpg

 

 

Threw a bunch of stuff in the crock pot for this dinner. Chicken thighs, spinach, onions, garlic and Mexican spices. Served over cauliflower ‘rice’ and topped with spicy guacamole. Yummy.

20140212-120550.jpg20140212-120530.jpg

One third of this bar, a little over 1 ounce, for dessert.

20140212-120523.jpg

Classic Yankee Pot Roast

I had a great day of eating yesterday. Day one of 60 down, 59 to go. Woohoo! I had 2&1/2 cups of coffee with coconut milk, this is something pretty new for me and I love it. I also had one half of an organic dark chocolate truffle at the grocery store…darn samples. I had leftovers for lunch, an easy fix breakfast and my favorite braised pot roast for dinner. Here’s my food diary for yesterday.

20140211-085149.jpg
Steamed broccoli, three hard boiled eggs, one quarter of an avacado with Tessemae’s hot sauce

20140211-085352.jpg
Leftover meatloaf and chopped beet greens with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

20140211-085537.jpg
Pot Roast with roasted root vegetables

Classic Yankee Pot Roast

ingredients
2-3 pound grass-fed chuck roast
2 large carrots
2 yellow onions
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 rounded tablespoon tomato paste
1 C chicken or beef stock (preferably homemade)
Salt and pepper

20140211-090117.jpgLet the flavor train begin.
Method
One hour before cooking remove chuck roast from refrigerator to temper (important). Heat oven to 275 degrees. Dry roast with paper towels, liberally season with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, don’t be shy with the salt. Heat a heavy bottomed pot, a Dutch oven is best, to medium high heat. Add your fat of choice and sear the roast on each side getting a good ‘crust’ on the meat, 2-3 minutes per side. The sound will change when the meat is properly seared, I cannot explain this but just listen and it will change, don’t go poking around until at least 2 minutes has gone by. When all sides are seared remove roast and sear the onion halves on both sides, remove. Add carrots and sauté until you get some color on them, remove. Add the tomato paste and pincer for 2 minutes, stir in the chicken stock, add the roast back in and top with onions, carrots and herbs. Bring liquid to a simmer, cover with a lid and place in the oven for 2 hours. Turn the roast over and cook one to two more hours until the meat is falling apart. Timing will depend on the size of your roast and if you can’t get to the roast to turn it you can skip that step. If you are looking for a short cut you can put all the ingredients into the crock pot for 8 hours on low.