Tropical Tuna Salad with Lemon-Ginger Dressing

Tropical Tuna Salad with Lemon Ginger Dressing 2015The time of year is coming when I begin making salad after salad after salad. It’s one of my favorite things to eat and, truth be told, I actually eat salad year round. My son has cringed on more than one occasion when I’ve made salad for breakfast. It’s really not complicated. I just love salads.

We like to make a giant tuna or chicken salad to serve as lunches throughout the week. It’s also something that I can quickly take for post-workout. I load my salads with so many vegetables that it really satisfies my desire to have a big plate of something delicious, too. Since I’m a fan of savory-sweet combinations, I often throw in some kind of fruit when I’m making one.

On this occasion, I added pineapple which also made an appearance in the dressing. If I’d had some coconut flakes on hand, those would have been nice toasted with a touch of salt and maybe a little allspice. I added red pepper flakes to mine when I served it and really appreciated how they kicked up the flavor. So go ahead and experiment – whatever helps get more vegetables on the plate seems like a great idea to me!

Tropical Tuna Salad with Lemon-Ginger Dressing

Salad

20 oz. of tuna, drained

1 red bell pepper, chopped

3 scallions, chopped

16 oz. slaw (I used bagged slaw because it was fast)

20 oz. can of pineapple tidbits in juice, drained, reserving juice

1/4 c. sliced almonds, toasted

Dressing

1/4 c. of reserved pineapple juice

1/4 oz. fresh ginger, grated about 2 tsp.

zest of 1/2 lemon

juice from a whole lemon

2 tsp. rice vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 c. Paleo Mayo

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1/2 tsp. salt

pepper or red pepper flakes, optional

Directions

1) In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients.

2) Add all of the salad ingredients, except the toasted almonds, to the bowl with the dressing.

3) Toss the salad thoroughly, making sure all of the dressing is integrated.

4) Allow the salad to sit for about 10 minutes in the fridge so the flavors can meld.

5) Toss again, taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes as desired.

Serves 4-6

Salsa Baked Eggs

Baked eggsBaked eggs are my new favorite thing! Well…favorite might be a bit of an exaggeration. And baked eggs are hardly new, so maybe that initial statement is a little over the top. Truly, though, these are so quick and simple to make that they are right up there with having washed greens and hard boiled eggs as a staple in the fridge. They came about because I like to make something that my husband can have for breakfast that is quick and portable. For a long time now, I’ve made egg muffins or frittatas with various ingredients. Those are great to have on hand too, but there’s something I really like about having a thin layer of meat that holds everything together. I think it looks pretty too.

I have made countless variations already and I’ll post some others in time. I’ve used ham, pastrami, prosciutto, and could imagine roast beef, as the bottom layer. I’ve done all sorts of sautéed veggie combos for the middle layer. But for some reason that I can’t explain, I’ve always mixed my eggs with the vegetables before baking. What I discovered, though, is that I love having the egg in its entirety with a tender yolk and the white separating the layers. It’s even faster to make that way, too, so it’s a bonus. Now imagine not having to precook anything. Slice of ham, dollop of salsa, egg, and into the oven. So easy.

I preferred these cold so that the salsa was back to an expected temperature, but they were fine hot too. And a sprinkle of cumin or chipotle powder would work well on top! If you experiment with some ingredients, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear about the combinations you’ve found that work!

Salsa Baked Eggs

12 slices of deli ham

12 Tbsp. salsa, divided

12 eggs

Coconut oil to grease the tins

Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a muffin tin lightly with coconut oil.

2) Lay 1 slice (or 2 if they are small and you need more coverage) of ham in each muffin cup.

3) Add 1 Tbsp. of salsa in the bottom of each cup.

4) Drop in 1 raw egg per muffin cup.

5) Sprinkle salt, pepper, and any other seasonings on top.

6) Bake the egg cups for 20-25 minutes. (20 minutes for a tender center as pictured above.)

7) Press lightly in the center to check for doneness. Remove from the oven, let cool, and enjoy!

Curried Cucumber Salad

Curried Cucumber Salad 2014We have had some absolutely stunning weather in Colorado these past few days. I know that we will have snow and cold again, and I even know that it won’t be long before that happens, but the gorgeous sunshine and warmer temperatures have me believing that summer is just around the corner.

Last summer had a few transformative moments for me, some things I did a little differently than I have in the past or than I normally would. Some special people moved further away, while other special friends found a spot in my heart. I spent many evenings walking in the sunshine, and many, many more days cooking vegetables that I had grown in my very first garden. Honestly, I love that memory – I even love that I spent most of those summer months with scratches on my arms and legs from wandering through my garden and weeding and harvesting. The thought of summer coming and my next garden has me thinking about what it might look like this year, how it might be different, what other transformations are on the horizon.

I guess that’s what spring is for, actually, isn’t it? New growth, small changes, an opportunity for renewal. Much like the new year has me exploring resolutions, I’ve noticed that this time of year has a similar feel to it, only it’s far gentler. There seems to be a subtle shift in the air that allows for the heart to open and be ready for the sunshine to come in. That thought makes me think that there is also a purpose in the inevitable last few cold weeks and even a few snow storms. I think that for me, at least, those colder days will provide an opportunity to sit quietly with a blanket and cup of tea or glass of wine and let the possibilities of spring settle in and take shape. I wish sometimes we all had simpler lives so that we could follow the natural rhythm of the seasons more closely.

On to this recipe – there actually is a reason that it came about! The thoughts of a summer garden reminded me of all the cucumbers that I had last year. They were so sweet and delicious and I ate them constantly. For a few weeks, there were so many that I was eating them three times a day. This salad became a favorite of mine because I happen to love Indian food and while it’s a lot simpler than the amazing dishes you can find in Indian cuisine, it does bring those warm flavors to the table incredibly fast. Sometimes that’s really all I’m looking for.

I hope you enjoy it!

Curried Cucumber Salad

3 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. Paleo mayonnaise

2 tsp. fresh lime juice, about 1/2 a lime

3/4 tsp. curry powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped

1 scallion, sliced

Directions

1) In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, lime juice, curry powder and salt.

2) In a serving bowl, place the cucumber slices, parsley, and scallions. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. Enjoy!

Serves 2-3

Bacon-wrapped Chicken with Roasted Onion Gravy

Bacon-wrapped Chicken with Roasted Onion Gravy 2014Bacon happens. Sometimes I think people are interested in exploring Paleo simply because they know we eat bacon. Happily, regularly, and without fear. Notice I didn’t say with abandon. I like bacon and I definitely use it to flavor dishes, but I don’t use it as a protein source and it definitely isn’t a veggie, so that means that I use it more like a condiment. Something to make a dish a little more special or to add another layer of flavor. It’s not something we sit down to a plate of in my house, generally. It’s true my son has been known to eat an inordinate amount on occasion, but we’re working on moderation…

Here, bacon wraps around a lean chicken breast and as it cooks, the flavor melts into the sliced apples and onions. All of that gets blended together with a touch of horseradish and mustard to make an addictive, intensely flavored gravy that I show spooned onto the plate. What you don’t see is that we then slathered our chicken with it, covered our Brussels sprouts in it, and ate it directly from the spoon. Because it’s that good.

Bacon-wrapped Chicken with Roasted Onion Gravy

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

4 slices of thick-cut bacon

1/8 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. salt, divided

pepper to taste

1/2 large sweet onion, sliced

1 sweet apple, thinly sliced (I used an Ambrosia apple and left the peel on)

1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp. horseradish

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss onion and apple slices with olive oil and 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper in a large glass baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring about half way through.

2) While the veggies are roasting, sprinkle chicken breasts with garlic powder, the other 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper, and wrap each one with a slice of bacon.

3) After the apple-onion mixture has roasted for 20 minutes, place bacon-wrapped chicken on top and put back in the oven for 25 minutes.

4) Increase the temperature to 425 degrees and cook for a final 10 minutes. When the chicken and bacon are done, remove them to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

5) Spoon everything from the bottom of the dish, including any juices, into a blender or food processor (I used a Magic Bullet). Add horseradish, mustard, and thyme and blend thoroughly but carefully, because it’s hot, until smooth. Taste and add any additional salt and pepper or horseradish for an extra kick. Plate the chicken on or under the sauce and devour.

Serves 3-4

*Adapted from 500 Paleo Recipes

No Regrets

dandelion 2014Back in November, a friend asked me what my favorite holiday was. I said Thanksgiving because I love the food, of course, but also the gathering and the gratitude. While I don’t always practice these as well or as often as I’d like, I aspire to and I sense that there is something for me to do there. I don’t know exactly what shape it will take, but I have been feeling a pull to somehow find a way to manifest these things in my life. So yes…I love Thanksgiving.

But as the days and weeks passed and the next round of holidays approached, I realized something. Actually, my favorite holiday is New Year’s Eve. If you know me well, you know I make lists. Constantly. I make them to stay organized, to calm a scattered mind, to plan the food and shopping for the week, and sometimes just to plan my day. Many years ago my college roommate would tease me about including even shower on my list but I like the structure of knowing the steps necessary to accomplish something. I make them all year round and I’d be willing to bet that although my husband is gracious enough not to say, the many post-its, scraps of paper, white boards, notebooks and journals that are strategically placed (or some might say scattered) around the house can be a bit annoying. But I guess it’s my thing, and we all have a thing, don’t we?

Sometime after Thanksgiving, my lists start to evolve. I don’t know what prompts it – some internal clock, maybe, or gentle shift towards the future – but my lists begin to include dreams, wishes, hopes, goals and resolutions. One of my favorite things is to have a fire or candles, some music, wine or champagne, a journal and a few pens or pencils. Quiet, reflective time to look to the past and consider changes I might make and envision the future and how I’d like it to be. With this framework in place, I begin to fill in the steps one by one until I have a picture to live. Some years that picture has sharper edges, cleaner lines, things that are clearly attainable, even if it takes me some time to do them. Other years the picture is more like a water color, fluid and dream-like. What I like most about those more ethereal years is that they often have change and direction that I can’t quite express in words, it’s more of a sensation. Something I want to become or develop but I can’t quite describe. Maybe that sounds crazy. I don’t know. I’ve just learned that amidst all my lists and structured plans, sometimes the softer edges are where the deepest growth is found.

In a book I was reading the other night, the main character said this: “I’ve never regretted doing anything more than I regretted not doing something.” For some reason, that really struck me. It’s not a new concept or anything, in fact it’s something I’ve thought about many times in my life. Growing up overweight and insecure kept me from doing a lot of things with the passion and joy they deserved.  I was afraid to look or act or say something stupid. Some of that insecurity is still with me, but I’m working on it because I occasionally see it in my son too and I wish for him a different story.

2014 has been a year with several changes and experiences that I didn’t put in my resolutions, some I couldn’t have even begun to predict or imagine, and it wasn’t all bliss and daisies. But I’ve loved and laughed with passion, I’ve let myself feel with a depth that has frightened me at times, I’ve taken risks, and I have tried to predict outcomes only to be surprised. I’ve had one of those water-color years where the growth and change continue to be nebulous. I’ve written from time-to-time on this blog about my shifting balance and that continues to influence my outlook on the next year. I try to imagine how all the pieces of life work together best – and then when I pause in all of that planning, I have to laugh at myself and let go and just live.

So back to that quote – I don’t regret the doing or the trying. We don’t always get it right, but that’s a part of life. I’d rather kiss than not, I’d rather laugh uncontrollably or let the tears of sadness roll down my cheeks than be numb, and I’d rather keep reaching and seeking and living and loving. Even when it’s scary.

Ginger Beef with Snow Peas

Ginger Beef with Snow Peas 2014The holidays can sometimes get the best of us with the various parties and social engagements, busy schedules, shopping, and treats. Lots and lots of treats. Now that I’ve been eating Paleo for a few years, I find that even when I go off-roading (and I admit, sometimes it’s rather significant off-roading), my body really wants to come back to this way of eating because I feel so much better inside and out.

I think it’s pretty clear that I have a love affair with vegetables. I don’t just eat them because they’re good for me, I truly love them and crave them. If I go very long (like a meal or two) without having enough of them, my body starts to send some clear signals that it’s time for me to load up. This time last year, in fact, I flew with my son to visit some family and friends in California for Christmas and after a day of traveling, all I wanted was a giant pile of vegetables. We arrived at my friend’s house and while she offered me anything I wanted (cheese comes to mind), what I ended up doing was grabbing a bag of baby bell peppers and sitting on the couch and chatting while I took down a ridiculous amount of peppers as if they were candy.

So that’s how this stir-fry was born. There were a few too many meals that we grabbed on the go and one or two too many cookies that were eaten. My brain thought everything was great and was having fun with all the sugar. Meanwhile, my body was begging for a vitamin. The snow peas were beautiful at the store and I always have a knob of ginger in my freezer. Quickly this dish took shape. It would have been delicious on cauliflower rice or over some finely shredded cabbage, and if you do rice, that would have been great too. This little stir-fry was just what I needed to get back on track.

Ginger Beef and Snow Peas

3 tsp. coconut oil, divided

1 carrot sliced paper thin (I used a mandoline)

2 – 2 1/2 c. snow peas, rinsed

1/2 lb. stir-fry beef

1 inch knob of ginger, grated

5 cloves of garlic, minced

5 scallions, whites chopped, green tops cut in 1 in. pieces

1/4 c. coconut aminos

1 tsp. rice vinegar

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

1) Melt 2 tsp. coconut oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the carrot and sauté for about 2 minutes, then add the snow peas with any remaining water clinging to them and the scallion whites and cook for about 4 minutes until just tender. If the pan seems too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water. Remove to a plate.

2) In a small bowl, combine coconut aminos, rice vinegar, and pepper flakes. Set aside.

3) Melt remaining tsp. of coconut oil in the pan and add the meat, stirring quickly until barely cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, reserved veggies, and scallion tops and stir until fragrant.

4) Add the sauce and cook until it reduces very slightly, about 1 minute. Adjust seasoning, adding any salt and pepper or sesame seeds to taste, and serve.

Serves 2

Smoky Picadillo

Smoky Picadillo 2014Finally! A meat dish from me. I laugh a little bit every time I go to post a recipe and find myself wanting to share yet another veggie side dish that I’ve prepared. Maybe with the arrival of winter there will be more opportunities for me to share protein dishes because the colder weather inspires me to cook indoors more frequently. Summertime has me grilling just about everything and that keeps things simple, but now there’s a chance for a little more creativity in the kitchen when it comes to the main event.

Picadillo is a Cuban dish that is easy to make and delicious to eat. It has a lot of different flavor components that come together in a savory-sweet way that I really like. Mine isn’t totally traditional because I’ve been craving smoky flavors lately so I added some smoked paprika. And typically this would be served with rice or inside an empanada, but you know how Paleo rolls – a nice pile of meat and a veggie side and you’re good to go! You could easily serve this over spaghetti squash or tossed with some quickly sautéed zoodles, and both those options would be delicious. I had it for lunch the next day piled on top of some garlicky green beans, which might have been my favorite way, and I also heated it up and then added it to a simple salad (lettuce, tomato, avocado, scallions). There are really endless options so if you’re looking for something to make when you’re doing your weekly cook-up, you might want to give this one a try.

Smoky Picadillo

2 tsp. fat of choice (I used grass-fed beef tallow)

1/2 large onion, about 1 c. chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 tsp. salt, divided

2 lbs. ground beef

3 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 c. beef broth

1/3 c. sliced green olives

2 Tbsp. raisins

2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and chopped

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. cilantro, minced

2 Tbsp. sliced almonds, toasted

pepper to taste

Directions

1) Melt fat over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. Add carrots, onion, bell pepper, 1/2 tsp. salt and sauté about 5-7 minutes, until beginning to soften.

2) Add ground beef and additional 1/2 tsp. salt, plus a few grinds of pepper, and cook until brown throughout, about 10 minutes.

3) Stir in tomato paste, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, and cinnamon. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add broth, raisins, olives, and capers. Simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes until most of the liquid is gone.

4) Add vinegar and cilantro, taste for seasoning and add any extra salt or pepper, top with toasted almonds and serve.

Serves 6-8