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

Green Beans in a Turmeric Cream Sauce

Green Beans in a Turmeric Cream Sauce 2014

Happy December! If you’re in the US, I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving. If you are somewhere else, I hope you had a great November. :)

These green beans are not your quiet, well-behaved little side dish. They stand right up and demand to be noticed and I think they are insanely delicious. In fact, I couldn’t get enough of this sauce and was practically licking the plate when I was through. I could say that I was licking the plate in order to get all of the health-supporting components of the turmeric, because there are many. But I’d be lying. The fact is, this sauce made me do a happy dance.

So what’s so great about turmeric? It’s the part of curry powder that turns it yellow and it has a warm, deep flavor. It’s slightly bitter, but in this sauce the coconut milk helps spread the flavor throughout the dish and it becomes positively addicting. Turmeric has been used for centuries for its anti-inflammatory properties. There is some research suggesting it might even help prevent the spread of cancer, lower blood sugar, and reduce LDL (the bad) cholesterol. It can aid digestion, reduce headaches and stomach pain, and potentially fight depression and Alzheimer’s. All of that in a jar of spice.

This is one of those recipes that can be scaled to size and I think it would be lovely on a holiday table. Something a little different to liven up your typical green bean casserole. You could add some crispy little caramelized onions on top or maybe some toasted coconut flakes sprinkled with curry powder and salt. Or have it just the way it is. I know that I’m going to have to make it again right this minute.

Green Beans in a Turmeric Cream Sauce

1 tsp. coconut oil

½ onion, chopped

4 oz. mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 ¼ tsp. salt, divided

1 lb. frozen green beans

1/3 c. water

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. grated ginger

¼ tsp. turmeric

¼ tsp. ground cumin

½ tsp. ground coriander

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

½ c. full-fat coconut milk

1 Tbsp. sliced almonds, toasted

2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

 

Directions

  1. In a large sauté pan, melt coconut oil over medium high heat. Sauté onions and mushrooms with ½ tsp. salt until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add green beans, water, and another ½ tsp. salt. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for about 7 minutes, until tender.
  3. Add garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper and final ¼ tsp. salt. Stir for a moment until fragrant and add coconut milk. Cook for about 3-5 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. Taste for seasoning, adding any additional salt or pepper.
  4. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and cilantro and serve.

A Paleo Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2014Thanksgiving just might be my very favorite holiday. Over the years I’ve celebrated it in many different ways and that’s left me with a lot of fond memories. Growing up it always involved getting the family together and many dishes that were traditional to our table. There are also a few memories that involve under- and over-cooked turkeys, jokes about more wine and less lighting, and perhaps even some preventative antibiotics. Then slowly, as lives changed and different traditions developed, Thanksgiving began to evolve.

For much of my adult life, I’ve lived fairly far away from my parents and siblings and travelling on the holidays hasn’t been possible very often so Thanksgiving started to include friends. Frequently these friends were also displaced and looking for a way to share and celebrate the bounty of the season. There have been years when we’ve hosted friends at our house, a couple times with family who came out to visit, and some years we’ve had friends invite us to their Thanksgiving feasts. This year, actually, will be our quietest Thanksgiving – just the three of us. It’s a busy time of year for my husband at work, a few family possibilities didn’t come to fruition, so I’ve been thinking about different ways to mark this time of year.

There’s so much to love about Thanksgiving, I think. First of all, for a foodie, having a holiday with a huge emphasis on a bountiful table is fun. I love the idea of putting some music on, opening a bottle of wine, and just cooking to my heart’s content. Plus, I really appreciate this holiday for its emphasis on gratitude and sharing. I realize consumerism has taken over and get frustrated when October rolls around and there are Christmas decorations/songs/toys/music/etc. in the stores, but for this one day, I really see and feel the beauty of grace and gratitude. Maybe it’s something about the crisp, cool weather, maybe it’s that the holiday lights and songs are finally in synch with the season, or maybe it’s just me. And food. And how cooking for others and sharing the gift of time in the kitchen is one way that I can give back to the people who fill my heart and mind and life.

So back to the food… Someone recently asked me about a Paleo Thanksgiving and truly this is one of the easiest holidays to celebrate if you are following a Paleo lifestyle. So many of the foods are delicious, whole foods that can be easily modified to fit whatever your food philosophy is. If you’re strict Paleo, you can totally do this, and if you are someone who allows a few blurry lines, you might be surprised at how easy it is. I’m posting a few links today to some recipes around the web that I have either tried on various holidays myself or that look amazing and worth trying. If you are a traditionalist that has to have the same recipes from year to year, consider branching out just a little bit! Until starting this blog which requires some recipe testing and repeat performances, my husband would often tease that it wasn’t really worth liking a recipe because I wasn’t going to make it again anyway. I am not one for repeating recipes, generally, because there are so many things out there to try and for some reason I think I need to be the one to try them. Either way, if you are a traditionalist or someone who loves a new rendition of an old favorite or someone who loves to spice up the table with a different dish every year, I hope you find this list helpful as you’re planning your holiday plate.

Turkey – I don’t really have a great recipe for Turkey. It’s Paleo by nature so I just go with that.

Stuffing – I admit that this is generally the hardest one for me on Thanksgiving. I LOVE stuffing. It’s my favorite thing on the Thanksgiving table and I love many different versions, none of which are Paleo. I have, however, found a recipe that looks intriguing so this is what I’m thinking for this year.

Cranberry Sauce – My favorite recipe from a friend and modified for Paleo.

Gravy – I made this last year and my son devoured it over everything. It’s definitely coming back!

Brussels Sprouts – We love Brussies in our house and our favorite way to have them is roasted with bacon and mushrooms. Since my son doesn’t like green beans, we usually opt for these instead.

Butternut Squash – Try this exotically spiced dish for a change from sugary-sweet casseroles.

Mashed “Potatoes” – Potatoes are considered Paleo so there are definitely ways to use regular potatoes and coconut milk, ghee, grass-fed dairy, or bone broth to make your mash Paleo. But if you’re looking to lighten the carb load of your Thanksgiving Day, try using cauliflower! There are many variations and this garlic-y version looks lovely.

Pumpkin Pie – Thanksgiving needs pie, right? Here’s a Paleo pumpkin pie recipe that looks spectacular!

One last thing before I go: There’s an incredible Paleo (Kindle) book sale going on over at Buck Books on Tuesday, November 25. It is for one day only and there are some truly cool books on the list for just $0.99 and a couple at $1.99. Really! I’m super-excited to see Gather on the list because what better time than the holidays to have a book focused on celebrating with friends around the table? The Ancestral Table has also been calling my name for a while and there are many others to check out.

The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf
The Paleo Manifesto by John Durant
Beyond Bacon by Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry
The Paleo Kitchen by Juli Bauer and George Bryant
Gather, The Art of Paleo Entertaining by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason
Everyday Paleo By Sarah Fragoso
Sexy by Nature by Stefani Ruper
Free the Animal by Richard Nikoley
The Paleo Girl by Leslie Klenke
The Paleo Sweet Tooth by Alison Russo
Decadent Paleo Desserts by Hannah Healy
The Modern No Nonsense Guide to Paleo by Alison Golden
The Everything Weeknight Paleo Cookbook by Michelle Fagone

So head on over to the site to sign up so you don’t miss the day.