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.

Ham and Vegetable Chowder

Ham Chowder 2014

Snow! We are in the midst of our first real winter weather here in Pueblo and, while I already miss the long, lazy days of summer, I do love soup and stewed dishes so I plan to focus on the positive and get cooking. Our winters in southern Colorado don’t compare at all to what happens in other parts of the country. Generally, like now, we get a dusting of snow and it doesn’t stick around for very long. This cold front was a bit of a shock to the system, though. On Tuesday, I enjoyed my lunch outside in the sunshine, relishing the gorgeous 70 degree weather. About an hour later the wind was terrible and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees. Now it won’t get above freezing. Extreme shifts in temperature are common for Colorado, but I really wasn’t quite ready for it yet. I still had plans for hiking and running in the fall sunshine. Luckily, there will still be lots of occasions for that because this can’t last too long.

For now, though, it’s cold! So what’s a girl to do? Well I made chowder. I like my chowder with lots of veggies, of course, while my son chose to pick out all the chunks of ham and eat those. One day I’m convinced he’ll like vegetables just as much as I do, but I’m not holding my breath for it! This is a comforting bowl of creamy, salty, smoky deliciousness, just perfect for a chilly day. I cut everything into fairly small chunks so this chowder came together quickly. The next time a storm blows in, consider warming up with a big bowl of this and maybe a glass of wine. I promise not to tell.

Ingredients

2 tsp. coconut oil

1/2 onion

3 stalks of celery

2 large carrots

2 turnips, total about 3/4 lb.

1/2 bell pepper (I used an orange one)

4 oz. mushrooms

1/4 tsp. salt

3 c. ham, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. bouquet garni

1/4 tsp. pepper + more to taste

4 c. stock (I used pork stock)

1 c. coconut milk

Directions

1) Gather all of the vegetables together. Peel the carrots and turnips and chop everything into 1/2 in. pieces.

2) Melt coconut oil (or other fat of choice) in a large soup pot over medium high heat and sauté the vegetables with salt until beginning to soften, about 7 minutes.

3) Add the ham and herbs and stir everything together. Then add the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.

4) Once the vegetables are soft, scoop out about a cup of veggies and broth and puree (I used a Magic Bullet for this). Add it back to the chowder, pour in the coconut milk, and simmer vigorously for about 10 minutes.

5) Taste to adjust the seasoning – if the ham is salty, skip any additional salt. Serve in large bowls with lots of freshly ground pepper.

This I Know for Sure: I am grateful for you

branches at dawnI lost my balance for a bit. I wish I had something profound to say about why it happened or how to prevent it from happening again, but the truth of it is that I don’t exactly know. Still. So many years of back and forth with food, fun, and trying to figure it all out. What I CAN say, though, is that this time was definitely different than before. Shorter. Healthier. More balanced. Not perfectly balanced, just more balanced. And that’s a start.

It wasn’t just about food either. Something shifted inside of me and I have spent some time over the past few months trying to figure out how all of the pieces of my life fit together. One of those pieces is this blog and it has been a struggle for me to put into words what transpired. Last month was actually my one-year anniversary of sharing recipes and the occasional musings with all of you. That should have been reason for celebration, at least a special recipe or something, but instead I closed up and haven’t posted in ages. Then each time I wanted to post, or thought I should post, I felt guilty for neglecting Balancing Paleo and you(!) for so long. I wanted to apologize, explain, fix it, take it back…something. And that in turn made me stay quiet, because you see, I don’t usually put things out there that easily. My thoughts, my reasons, these are things that I tend to keep quite private and ever since beginning this blog it has been an interesting experience for me. It has stretched me and made me look at things differently. But to say everything, to put it all out there, is still so hard.

My cooking shifted too. Rather than creating my own recipes, I’ve been spending time in my cookbooks. Or if I do cook creatively, I haven’t been writing anything down, instead just going by taste and feel. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I recognize it for what it is here – a desire to stay safe, a fear of being vulnerable, exposed. There have been days, too, when I simply haven’t felt like cooking, and many of those days have spiraled out of control, reminding me sharply of the interconnectivity of food and my mind.

Then a friend gave me a book: What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey. It is a compilation of short essays about those things, experiences, thoughts that Oprah knows for sure. She explores joy, resilience, awe, connection, gratitude, and possibility. It is introspective, touching, and inspiring. It, in fact, inspired this post. I started reading it a few days ago, and then I went to yoga, another gift in my life that I have neglected lately. Fittingly, we did Tree pose which always reminds me of what I’m trying to accomplish with this blog. Balancing Paleo is a place for growth, not perfection. It is my attempt to share things which delight me – food or otherwise – and it is okay if that isn’t perfect. If I am not perfect.

So this I know for sure: I am grateful for all of you who read my blog, try my recipes, comment here, or just stop by. Your presence allows me the place and space to continue this journey and work towards balance. You ground me in my search towards better and let me reach towards the sky, fluidly, not locked into any expectation. You let me bend and stretch and become.

Thank you.