Primal Life Kit Bundle – OH MY!!!

Dear Readers,

I can’t even begin to express how excited I am about what’s happening in the late hours of Sunday night. There is an amazing bundle of Paleo and Primal products that has been put together which will be on sale (like crazy sale) for 1 WEEK ONLY! In this bundle you’ll find the Chowstalker Community Cookbook which has a recipe by ME (among other talented food bloggers, including several really well-known ones)!! I really, really want you to check out the whole bundle, but you’ll have to wait until Sunday night/Monday morning. I promise it’ll be worth it!

For the past several years, a few of my friends have repeatedly said that I should do something with my passion for cooking, that I should start a blog, that I should write a cookbook. Last fall, I decided to give it a go and you have all been so amazingly supportive that I am certain this is a path for me to follow. Recently I was asked by the wonderful people behind the Chowstalker website if I would contribute a recipe to the e-cookbook they were putting together. Needless to say, I was thrilled! It turns out that this cookbook is now being offered as part of the Primal Life Kit Bundle that brings together some of the keenest minds and leaders in the Paleo/Primal community, not to mention some of the most celebrated cookbook authors and bloggers. And the whole bundle can be had for a steal!

In this bundle, you will find many, many fantastic cookbooks as well as Paleo Magazine for 6 months, a 21-day Paleo Cleanse from Paleo Plan (which I’m dying to try), a ton of discount coupons, and more! This is seriously something that you don’t want to miss. Okay – just one more thing…Well Fed 2 by my idol, Melissa Joulwan, is in the bundle. Do I really need to say more?

So the Bundle Sale will be launching this Sunday night but, don’t worry, I’ll remind you again. I might even share a little something from inside the bundle.

Want to see a picture of my recipe?

Spring Risotto with Ham and AsparagusSpring Risotto with Ham and Asparagus. It’s on page 57.

Thank you all so much for supporting the efforts of one mom to live healthier, cook with passion, and share with you.

Spring Celery Soup

Cream of Celery SoupThis soup is everything that makes me think of spring. It’s light and delicate, just like the first flowers peeking out. It’s simple, with very few ingredients to distract from its beauty. And it’s easy – but maybe that’s just my requirement for spring! This is sort of like a cream of celery, only it’s so much lighter. It’s a starter, not a main course, but I found myself wanting to drink it like tea while I went about my day with the birds chirping in the background. I think it would also be delicious next to a few fried eggs in the morning except that I’ll have to make another batch to try that because this one is all gone!

Spring Celery Soup

2 tsp. ghee

1 lg. leek

1/2 lb. of celery

1/2 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. dried chives

1 Tbsp. dried tarragon

1 c. coconut milk

2 c. chicken or veggie broth

Directions

1) Cut off the root end of the leek, slice lengthwise down the middle, and then cut the white and tender green parts into 1/4 in. thick half-moons. Place these in a bowl of water and swish around until all the dirt is gone. Strain. Slice the celery into 1/4 in. pieces.

2) Heat ghee over medium heat in a medium pot. Sauté the celery and leek with the salt for 5 minutes. Add the chives, tarragon, coconut milk, and broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.

3) With an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. A Vitamix or high-speed blender would work well here too.

4) Taste to adjust seasoning and then sip with pleasure.

Tuna-Apple Salad with Creamy Tarragon Dressing

Tuna Salad with Tarragon DressingMy husband always gives me a hard time when I make anything with tarragon. You see, back in 2004, we celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary with a bunch of friends in a gorgeous villa in Tuscany. At the time, I loved tarragon and when I came across a tarragon pasta dish in this teeny-tiny, beautiful little restaurant, I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, what was served was completely inedible. There was so much tarragon, and I think it had been allowed to grow past the slender leaves into something more bitter, that the whole thing was totally overwhelming. Reluctant to send it back, my husband came to the rescue and gave me his lunch, while he battled his way through mine. True love! Now that a decade has passed, I think I’m ready to start loving tarragon again. This salad is a tribute to that lovely, herb with a hint of licorice.

After a good workout in particular, one of my favorite things for lunch is tuna salad. I love getting some solid protein with a dose of Omega-3s for their health benefits, and tuna salad comes together fast. This salad felt particularly special because I wanted to add a little crunch and decided to caramelize some walnuts in honey for a little something extra. I try not to use sweeteners very often, and this salad was already getting some sweet with the apple, but every once in a while, you just have to go for it. The walnuts were screaming honey and the salad satisfied me all day long. Can’t beat that!

Tuna-Apple Salad with Creamy Tarragon Dressing

Salad

2 small cans of tuna (I used albacore)

1 apple, cored and chopped

1/2 an English cucumber, finely chopped

2 scallions, minced

Honeyed Walnuts (optional)

Dressing

1/4 c. Paleo mayo

1 small garlic clove

1 Tbsp. Lemon juice

2 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, minced

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1) Put the drained tuna in a large bowl with the chopped apple, cucumber, and scallions.

2) In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, minced tarragon, minced garlic clove, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

3) Pour the dressing over the salad and mix gently. Taste to adjust the seasonings, plate, and top with a few honeyed walnuts.

Serves 2

Pot Roast

Beef Pot Roast 2014My son loves pot roast, brisket, and basically, all slow cooked beef. I love things that can be put in the oven and left for a while so that I can get other stuff done, including hang out with him. You know what else I like? Affordable cuts of meat. This is one of those basics that is great to have in your cooking repertoire because it’s super simple and is mostly hands-off. Depending on how many you’re feeding, you also generally end up with some leftovers. That’s a big deal in my house because I love having cooked protein around to make lunches a snap.

A couple of things about pot roast. There are different cuts of meat with different names that you can use to make a pot roast; I used boneless chuck pot roast here but I use the same cooking method with beef brisket. The important thing to remember is that you need a tough cut of meat so that the long cooking time turns it into something tender and delicious. Here’s the other thing - A lot of pot roast recipes out there call for carrots and onions, wine or broth, maybe potatoes, etc. Sometimes I make mine like that too, but what I’ve found over time (and by dividing the meat and doing both ways to have a side-by-side comparison) is that my family prefers the meat separate and the veggies separate. That way they all have a chance to get this amazing caramelization and keep their individual flavors rather than stew together and get soft like beef stew veggies. The little bit of water I use is just to provide a cushion so that the juices can start accumulating into a flavorful broth without burning first. And one more thing…Do you see that black, lidded pot in the back of the photo? It’s not an expensive pot and I’m pretty sure you can find it at any supermarket, and it’s perfect for this. The lid fits tightly, things cook beautifully, and clean-up is a breeze.

There are only a few more weeks until the weather gets warm so hurry and make this simple pot roast. You won’t regret it!

Pot Roast

1 large boneless chuck pot roast, about 3 1/4 lbs.

2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

3/4 c. water

Directions

1) Set oven to 275 degrees. Combine all the spices together in a small bowl.

2) Pour water into the bottom of a roasting pan with a tight fitting lid.

3) Sprinkle half of the spice mixture on one side of the meat and then pat and rub it in well. Place the meat spice-side down into the pot and cover the other side with the remainder of the spice mixture, patting and rubbing again. Make sure your meat is well coated.

4) Cover with the lid and place the meat into the oven. Let cook undisturbed for about 3 hours and then check to see if the desired tenderness has been reached. If not, replace the lid and allow to cook another 30 – 60 minutes. The roast in the photo cooked for 4 hours.

5) Remove the roast from the oven and allow to rest on a cutting board, lightly covered with foil, for 10 minutes. While the meat is resting, remove as much of the fat from the juices as possible using a fat separator or placing the juices in the fridge and allowing the fat to solidify slightly. Slice meat against the grain and serve with the meat juices and a bunch of roasted veggies.

 

Tuna-Stuffed Eggs

Tuna Deviled EggsHard boiled eggs are little protein packed miracles, if you ask me. They are delicious on their own, portable, easily made in advance, and happy to be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. I love having them on hand for meals or snacks or for a protein boost in a salad. They make a great appetizer or nibble if you have a bunch of people coming over. Really, when you get down to it, hard boiled eggs are simply amazing.

Since I make them so frequently, I thought I’d share one of the ways I like to stuff them. I was making tuna salad the other day and adding some chopped egg when I decided I wanted to try reversing the idea. Instead of egg in my tuna, how about tuna in my egg? It worked beautifully and made for a nice change at lunch. Pair these eggs with a bunch of fresh veggies or a lovely salad and you have a satisfying meal. Or pack a couple for after a heavy weight workout and your muscles will be thrilled. Be sure to let me know how you like your deviled eggs in the comments. There are so many fun variations, I love to hear about them all!

Tuna-Stuffed Eggs

4 hard boiled eggs

1 small can of tuna, about 4-5 oz. drained

1 Tbsp. Paleo mayo

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. capers, minced

1 scallion, minced

pinch of paprika

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

1) Drain tuna and place in a medium bowl. Add mayonnaise, mustard, capers, scallions, and pepper to taste. Mix gently but thoroughly.

2) Cut hard boiled eggs in half lengthwise. Pop out the yolks and add them to the tuna. Break up and mix together.

3) Sprinkle a little salt over the cut side of the eggs. Fill each cavity with the tuna mixture. These can be filled quite full since the tuna adds volume to the mix.

4) Dust with paprika and eat!

Serves 2 (or more as an hors d’oeuvre)

Three Good Choices

Fast cheap easy or fakeThis little quote makes me smile. I think it’s good to keep in mind and it fits with how I’d like to always look at food, but sometimes things get a little out of control.

I’ve been thinking a lot about balance lately and how to incorporate good food choices throughout my day while occasionally straying outside the Paleo framework. As many of you already know, I struggle with moderation and have a long history of all-or-nothing thinking. I love following a Paleo lifestyle and continue to believe it is the better way for me to live and eat. When I am focused on Paleo food choices, I feel better, have steady energy and moods, and happily go about my business. Until I stumble. And then I sometimes have a very hard time picking myself back up.

More and more research is coming out about how the food industry creates craveable food that lights up the reward center in our brains. Some people, and I’d be willing to bet I fall into this category, have a reward center that lights up like a Christmas tree at the mere thought of certain foods. Frankly, I probably light up for both healthy and unhealthy foods! The problem with certain foods, primarily various sugar-fat-salt combos, is that once the reward center is set alight, it is very hard to satisfy. In fact, as with some other drugs, it keeps screaming to be satisfied and takes more and more of the food to satisfy it. So just when I think I’m okay to have a small piece of chocolate, the impulse to eat the entire bar goes into overdrive and I can do my best to fight it, but there’s a good chance it will still get the better of me.

One of the things that I’ve realized is that I might need to consider being okay with all-or-nothing sometimes. That maybe, I have to be nothing. Forever. That’s possible and I’m still working on that. I’ll share more of those thoughts another time.

But I am also considering that reframing my thinking is critical to making a shift towards balance. Sometimes I say to myself, “Stop eating that. You’re being ridiculous. You know it’s wreaking havoc on your mind and body and yet still you eat it! Stop it!” But then, before I can stop, I need to have one more bite or one more piece so that I can start fresh the next day. I’ve often called this “The Last Supper Syndrome”. However, when I think about it differently, worrying less about the bad and more about the good choices, I seem to make better choices, more consistently.

This is extremely important because consistency is key. It’s not one bowl of ice cream or one weekend of socializing that is going to take away any health gains I’ve made by eating right over the long term. In fact, there are arguments to be made that taking a break every once in awhile to relax and reset is even a good thing. But an all-or-nothing type of person doesn’t necessarily see it that way and will spend a long time in the “all” phase before feeling ready to tackle the “nothing” phase. What ends up being consistent is not a lifestyle of good choices and balanced eating, but a lifestyle of less-than-stellar choices for a few days of healthy ones.

I’d like this to change. Here’s what’s working for me right now…

MAKE 3 GOOD CHOICES A DAY

That’s it. I’ve taken the focus off the foods that I don’t want to eat and placed it firmly on the things that I do. I don’t worry about whether I’m going to have a glass of wine or not or indulge in something non-Paleo, which would previously derail me for days at a time. Instead I look at each of my food choice opportunities and ask myself if this is one of my good ones. You know what’s been happening? The good choices are prevailing more often than not. A sip of my husband’s cider didn’t turn into my own cocktail, because I didn’t really want one. It wasn’t forbidden, even in my mind, but I did ask whether I wanted to grab some bubbly water instead and make it one of my good choices. And that’s what I did. Tea in the evening instead of something sweet was a choice, not because I had to but because I decided that would be one of my good choices. Not forever, just for then.

Habits take a long time to form – 21 days is a myth. For many people or situations, it can take much, much longer. We have to start somewhere if we want to make progress and by making that switch, focusing on the good choices instead of beating myself up for the bad, I’ve been able to make some good choices lately. Long may it last!

Honeyed Walnuts

Walnuts with honey and black pepper

Sticky, crunchy, sweet with a kick, honeyed walnuts are truly divine. They can be used to top salads, like my Tuna-Apple Salad (post coming soon!), or sprinkled over sweet potatoes or even eaten as a snack. There’s not much more to say about these except maybe, be careful. They are rather addictive!

Honeyed Walnuts

3/4 c. walnuts

1 tsp. coconut oil

1 tsp. honey

pinch of salt

fresh cracked pepper

Directions

1) Melt the coconut oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the honey and mix together.

2) Dump in the walnuts and stir to thoroughly coat all the walnut pieces in the coconut-honey mixture. Let cook for about 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently so they don’t burn. If they start to get too brown, remove immediately and place on a plate to cool. They will become crunchy as they cool down.