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.

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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.

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

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Lunch: leftover pot roast and roasted root vegetables

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Steamed broccoli, three hard boiled eggs, one quarter of an avacado with Tessemae’s hot sauce

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Leftover meatloaf and chopped beet greens with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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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.

What the Paleo Diet Means to Me

I hear a lot about people trying to debunk the theory behind the Paleo diet. Honestly I don’t really care what cave men did or did not do…I’m not a cave man. Even so, I do buy into the beneficial effects of eating this way. So what is paleo? The short answer is a diet consisting of vegetables, fruit, lean protein, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. In a perfect world that would mean absolutely no sugar, grains, dairy, or legumes. For me, it is eating a diet with no processed food, sustainably raised and farmed foods, limiting or eliminating inflammatory foods and most importantly enjoying every morsel of my food. It’s a culinary adventure.
Personally, I’m a food idealist with a touch of realist thrown in. I’d love for all my food be local, free range, organic or free of GMOs, grown and harvested by people paid a fair living wage. I know that it would be impossible to eat this way 100% of the time for the rest of my life. I also love popcorn at the movies. I do try to keep the food in the house this way. I want to teach my kids to eat healthy natural foods. That they can reach for a piece of fruit for a snack instead of a fruit roll up. I love having a load of veggies each week from the farmers market that I challenge myself to make into delicious side dishes each week that everyone loves. I don’t always make the cut but I don’t stop trying. I’m like everyone else though, I fall back into old habits. The sugar demons get a hold of me. I eat bread, peanut butter, sugar, dairy, and love it most every time. For me the Paleo diet is about limiting that. When I eat those foods in excess I can feel my joints swell with inflammation, something I never noticed before I did my first Whole30. When I eliminate those foods for a while I sleep better, have better skin, my mood improves, I loose weight and my athletic performance improves. In short, I believe this is working for my body better than any other eating plan I have ever tried.
Today I began a 60 day challenge to eat 99.9% Paleo. I’ll fall short on some days; I know. My mission is to get ‘beach body’ ready by spring break when we go to Destin, Florida. I’m not following any branded Paleo challenge, simply doing this on my own. I’ll be taking photographic evidence to share in my blog every day. I will post each day’s visual diary the following day just in case I get into the dark chocolate late at night. I want to see a visual of my eating habits. Who knows, maybe I’ll see something I should change. Maybe I’ll think twice before having that sample of fresh baked bread at Central Market. I’m looking forward to the journey. Progress not perfection.

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Perfect Meatloaf

My mom always made the perfect meatloaf. At least, when I was a kid I thought it was perfect. I always heard other people say they hated their mother’s meatloaf and could never figure out why. Now I’ve tried a variety of ways to make a flavorful meatloaf that didn’t have any grains but even though it tasted great it never held together. Then one day I just put it in the crock pot. It came out perfect. I feel like this counter top appliance, once intended only for Super Bowl dips of the cheesy variety, is turning me into just a regular home cook. I use it all the time now, not exactly the markings of a classically trained chef. Oh well, it makes life easier and produces phenomenal results. Sigh.

Here’s my recipe for meat loaf.

Ingredients:
2lbs grass-fed ground beef
2 large eggs
1 C almond meal
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large carrot, sliced
1T dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt plus more for cooking the vegetables
Fresh ground pepper
1/4 c Tessemae’s ketchup

Method:
Sauté over medium high heat the onions for 2-3 minutes, add in the garlic for 2 minutes then the carrots. The onions at this point should be getting some caramelization, add a heavy pinch of salt and cook mixture until carrots begin to soften. Tip- the thinner you slice the carrots the faster they wil cook. When carrots are soft add in Italian seasoning and stir a few times just to make the dry spice fragrant. Remove the mixture to a plate to cool, if you are pressed for time pop that plate into the freezer for 5 minutes. Put ground beef into a large work bowl, add almond meal. Whisk two eggs and add them to the meat. Now that your carrot mixture is cool pulse it in a food processor until almost a paste. Add kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper (I like pepper so I’ll put 10-15 turns). With your clean hands gently mix the mixture to incorporate everything, careful to not over mix. Pop that in the slow cooker, top with your Tessemae’s Ketchup and cook on low for 4.5 hours.

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Brussel Sprout Love

I have never liked Brussel sprouts. I remember having to eat them as a kid and hating it. As an adult, every year around the holidays when they came into season I would cook them a variety of ways….always hating them. I’m not sure what has happened to me but this winter I cannot get enough of them! Maybe it’s because at the ripe ole age of 35 I am now a Brussel Sprout Cougar or that I now have a complete family to inflict this misunderstood veggie upon. I don’t know? However, now that I’m eating them weekly I am trying out a variety of different recipes. Here’s one I came up with yesterday for dinner. Delicious with my pork chop!

Brussels, Apples and Bacon

Ingredients:
1lb Brussel sprouts, peeled and quartered
1large Fuji Apple, peeled and chopped about 1/2 inch
2 slices uncured bacon
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook bacon to ‘medium’ crispy, remove and chop small. Toss Brussels into hot pan with bacon drippings, season with a heavy pinch kosher salt and fresh black pepper, cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally to get even browning all over. Add in the apples, stir to incorporate into the Brussels and place in the oven for 15 minutes, removing to stir half way. When the sprouts and apples are tender add in bacon and drizzle with lemon juice. The lemon juice really wakes this up. Yummy!

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Lard…WTH?

I’ve been writing my blog for about a week and a half now and have mentioned several times that I am using grass-fed lard from my favorite pig farmers over at Shiner Farms. Now, I know what you are thinking. You’re not seriously cooking with lard, are you? We’ll, yes, yes I am and happily doing so to further my good health and lower my bad cholesterol by boosting my good cholesterol. But, it by all means HAS to be grass-fed, natural lard. Please, please do not buy a tub of lard at the grocery store.

Lard is high in heart healthy oleic, monounsaturated fat. It has a very similar fat profile to human breast milk. Natural lard is a better choice than many common cooking oils you probably have in your kitchen right now. Here is the low down on how natural lard stacks up to other oils. Consider sourcing some from a local farmer near you and begin to reap the benefits.

Patricia, from Shiner Farms gave me the best tip for rendering your lard…use your slow cooker. Put it on low overnight and when you wake up in the morning you will have liquified lard. Carefully (it’s HOT) pour your lard into a heat proof container, I use a ball canning jar, and refrigerate. This fat tastes a little like high quality butter when cooking. I love to use it for scrambled eggs, cooking a chicken breast or roasting vegetables. The flavor is nothing short of amazing.

Happy pigs have happy fats!

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BBQ Fake Out

I was in the mood for BBQ. Actually, I’m always in the mood for BBQ. It really appeals to my craving for slow cooked, meaty goodness. Unfortunately, I live in a condo with no big smoker out back. Also, most bottled BBQ sauces are loaded with less than healthful ingredients. Yeah, yeah, I know…I could just make BBQ sauce. Who has time for that? Enter Tessemae’s and Matty’s BBQ sauce (they have a wide variety of Paleo sauces, dips and marinades).  I had ordered a few things from Tessemae’s last week and my box showed up on my doorstep just as I came home from the Rice University Farmers Market with my Shiner Farms grass-fed pork shoulder roast. So of course I pulled out my trusty crock pot and put those two things in there right before I went to bed. When I awoke I had tender juicy perfectly cooked pulled pork. Easy!

So here’s how I actually went about it.

Ingredients:
2-3lb grass-fed pork shoulder
1/2 bottle Matty’s BBQ Sauce

Method:
Place roast in your crock pot. Pour 1/2 bottle of your BBQ sauce over it, set slow cooker to low and go to sleep, or work, or go qualify for Kona…for about 9 hours. Remove the roast and reserve the juices. Shred the pork with a fork or your hands, strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a glass container, chill everything in the refrigerator.  I like to cook the roast overnight so you can shred and chill the juices in the morning. When the fat is solidified, lift it off of the gelatinous stuff underneath. Put the gelatinous liquid into a shallow pan and reduce by half adding in the shredded pork, tossing to coat, cover and remove from the heat.

Now if only I had a big bun to put that on. Well, I could do that or I could just roast up some sweet potatoes in the fat from the roast. These potatoes were the perfect complement to my pork.

Ingredients:
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 T pork fat
1tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cube the potatoes, about 1 inch. Heat pork fat in an large pan and toss in the potatoes. Add the seasonings and toss to coat well. Place pan in the oven for 7 minutes, remove and toss the potatoes, return to the oven and cook another 7-10 minutes. Serve with something green.

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Breakfast? Dinner? Blurred Lines…

imageI have been known to spend a pretty penny on olive oil in the past but lately I have been trying to watch my grocery budget a bit more.  I don’t ever really cook with olive oil but rather use it as a salad dressing and finishing oil for extra richness to dishes.  The reason for this is that although olive oil is a healthy fat, when it is exposed to high heat the fats composition changes into something not so healthy.  I won’t get into the science of it but you can read more about that here.  Today I found a delicious well priced extra virgin olive oil from Uruguay.  It was full of that rich olive flavor you’d expect from a high quality olive oil but the price was that of a bargain brand, 500ml for $13.99.  Tip: Don’t always buy Italian or Spanish olive oil, instead look for local, domestic (California produces great olive oil) or olive oil produced outside the typical regions you expect like the one I found today.  Now, I didn’t just find this blindly, the grocery store I shop at was sampling it as one of their ‘foodie finds’ but don’t be afraid to take a risk.  For that price it’s worth the gamble.

Now let’s get on to dinner…or was it breakfast?  Breakfast for dinner is where it’s at…quick, nutritious and delicious.  I had some leftover roast chicken that needed to be used up today so I decided to make a chicken sweet potato hash topped with a fried egg.  I had previously pulled the leftover chicken from the bone so that was ready to go.  I chopped the sweet potato small (with a good knife this is faster than grating), fried that up with some scallion, salt and pepper in a little reserved bacon grease and when the potatoes were cooked through I tossed in the roast chicken to warm through.  After dividing the hash among our dinner plates I fried the eggs in the same pan.  I wanted to get some green in there too so I chopped some Atkinson Farms beet greens and tossed those with my new favorite olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  I served these raw as a side dish. Topped with sliced avocado and left over green scallions this dinner was a crowd pleaser.  With a few Atkinson Farms strawberries for a sweet finish this was a really perfect Paleo meal.  My total cooking time was 20 minutes.

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Nom Nom Nommmmm…

Today I’ve taken some major inspiration from one of my favorite Paleo bloggers and cook book authors, Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo.  I follow her on Facebook and have her cookbook.  I’m not a huge recipe person and hers is the only Paleo cookbook I own.  Her cookbook is full of beautiful pictures of amazing food and great ideas.  There are a lot of Asian inspired flavors which I love but am not completely comfortable with on my own.  There is a recipe for Slow Cooker Korean Short Ribs which I modified to make my own Korean Braised Shredded Beef.  Here is the original recipe.

 

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I modified the recipe by using a different cut of beef.  I purchased a 2.5 pound grass-fed beef shoulder roast at the farmers market last Saturday that I wanted to use.  I seasoned the roast with salt and pepper and seared it in coconut oil on both sides.  While that was going I prepared a half recipe of the seasonings from the short rib recipe.  I poured that over the beef and put it in the oven to braise for 3 hours at 275 degrees.  When the beef was fork tender I removed it from the braising liquid, shredded it and put it to the side.  The liquid needed to be reduced by half and I then put the beef back in to warm through.  I served the beef over Nom Nom Paleo’s Cauliflower Fried ‘Rice’, garnished with Wildbrine Korean Kimchi, sliced avocado and cilantro. The kimchi made this dish, I would say it is not optional.  However, like I’ve done today, no recipe is the law.  I view recipes as mere suggestions full of endless possibilities.  I encourage you to experiment and try new things. Most of all, taste your food.  Nobody knows your palette better than you do.