Spring Risotto with Ham and Asparagus

Ham and Asparagus Risotto 2014 3

About this time last year, some fabulous Paleo people decided to put together a bundle of e-books to sell at an amazing price. I love when that happens because it lets a lot of people get acquainted with more Paleo blogs and cookbooks in an affordable way. Eating healthy and delicious food should be accessible, I think. Within that bundle was a cookbook that compiled a number of recipes from a website called chowstalker where I have posted before. I was honored to be asked to share a recipe for the book and this risotto is what I created. For whatever reason, I didn’t post the recipe on BalancingPaleo last year but it’s delicious and I’d love for all of you to enjoy it too, so here it is!

A risotto is a rice dish from Italy with a creamy, decadent consistency that is both comforting and luxurious at the same time. It can be made many different ways, with many different ingredients. It is a dish to master so that you can create a sumptuous risotto with whatever ingredients you have on hand. For the Paleo eater, cauliflower takes the place of rice and it does so beautifully! While it might lack some of the starchiness of rice, it makes an excellent backdrop for the ham and asparagus in this risotto. Get a quality ham with some good smoke – it’s an important ingredient here and you want to love what you’re eating. Tarragon has a flavor reminiscent of licorice, which is surprisingly delightful in this dish. You could substitute parsley if you can’t find it, but I highly recommend seeking out tarragon if at all possible.

Spring Risotto with Ham and Asparagus is a beautiful dish that comes together quickly and highlights the bright freshness of the season. Serve this at your next dinner party or for a weeknight meal – either way, your taste buds are in for a treat!

Spring Risotto with Ham and Asparagus

2 Tbsp. ghee, divided

1 lb. ham

1/2 large onion

1 large head of cauliflower

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 c. vegetable broth

1/4 c. coconut milk, divided

1 bunch asparagus, about 1 lb.

2 scallions, minced

1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, minced

pepper to taste

Directions

1) Ham: Melt 1/2 Tbsp. of ghee in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cut the ham into matchsticks about 1/4 in. thick. Sear the ham until it begins to caramelize a bit, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

2) Onion and Cauliflower: While the ham is cooking, finely chop the onion. Then roughly chop the cauliflower and drop it into the bowl of a food processor fitted with an s-blade. Process the cauliflower until it looks about like grains of rice – this will take about 10-12 pulses for each batch. A large head will need to be riced in 2-3 batches so it doesn’t get mushy. Set aside in a large bowl.

3) As soon as the ham is cooked and set aside, reduce the heat to medium and add 1 Tbsp. of ghee to the pan. Sauté the onion until slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the riced cauliflower, garlic, and salt, and stir to combine. Add broth and 2 Tbsp. coconut milk. Stir again, place a lid on the pot, and reduce heat slightly. Allow to cook for about 7 minutes.

4) Asparagus: While the cauliflower is cooking, remove the tough portion at the bottom of each asparagus and slice the stalks on the diagonal into pieces about 1 1/2 in. long. If the asparagus is as thick as a finger, first slice each stalk down the middle lengthwise and then into 1 1/2 in. pieces. Add the asparagus pieces to the cauliflower and replace the lid. Cook for 3 minutes.

5) Add the ham back to the mixture and stir in 2 more Tbsp. of coconut milk. Cook uncovered for about 3 minutes until everything is piping hot.

6) Remove risotto from the heat and add 1/2 Tbsp. ghee, scallions, tarragon, and pepper. Enjoy!

Serves 4

Listening

swirling-clouds-above-the-ocean-beach-wallpaper-3111It’s funny how the Universe works. I have this idea, and I know I’m not alone in it, that if you want or need something or perhaps are seeking some truth or answer, and you put that idea energetically into the world, then the Universe will lift that up and begin to answer. The key, though, is that you have to listen. You have to be ready to say, “Yes,” when an opportunity or an idea comes along. You have to be open.

Sometimes the messages that are sent are quite apparent, but sometimes they are far more subtle and you need to find some silence and space to process what may be the tiniest of thoughts or yearnings that begin to surface in your mind and heart. A slight whisper that nudges you to take a risk, try something new, or just a moment shared with another person where something they say triggers something in you.

These moments are precious, but I find that the more I listen for them and to them, the more excited that I get because they often are the manifestation of something that is deep within me that might not have even been fully realized yet. In those moments, it seems the Universe takes over and urges me to try. To grow. To experience. To live.

As an example, yoga is an important part of my life. While I came to it fairly late, dabbling with videos for a few years and then finally discovering what it could be like to do yoga in a studio with an amazing instructor, it transformed me in more ways than I can count. Quite recently I stumbled upon an instructor certification that was attainable for me, and I decided to do it. I didn’t have any specific plans for how or when I would use it, but I went to the training and I was on fire with love and desire for the practice.

And that’s when the Universe stepped in. Suddenly, I received an email and had a conversation with someone about a local gym that was looking for an instructor. I decided to go for it, still feeling nervous but realizing that I was living one of those moments that I needed to listen to. Then, before I even began and quite surprisingly to many, that gym closed. I didn’t dwell on it too much and instead just figured the time wasn’t right. Within weeks, my own instructor, an amazing soul who is the very definition of yoga, asked me to sub for her class. I was deeply honored. Less than a week after that, I received a call from a different yoga studio looking for an instructor, willing to take however much time I could give. I don’t know whether this will work out, I only know that doors are opening so that I might try.

This doesn’t just apply to yoga, either. I see instances of this time and time again. Not only in my life, but also while listening to the experiences of others. Life is full of many unexpected twists and situations that we simply cannot predict, but I think that if we spend some time listening to our hearts and observing the opportunities that come before us, we might see that the Universe is always working for us, helping us to grow and evolve and learn. Sometimes we are learning very specific, factual data that can help us answer questions or complete a task, and that’s all well and good. But sometimes we are learning those things which change our hearts, fuel our passions, and transform us forever. Those are the moments that are really worth listening for.

Reach. Try. Change. Grow. Live.

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.