Cajun Chicken

Cajun ChickenWhen it’s cold outside and you’re dreaming of traveling to warmer places, one of the easiest ways to take a mental vacation is to cook something up that reminds you of that place. Spices transform foods like ordinary chicken breasts into warm and exciting dishes like Cajun Chicken and I love scouring the Internet for different spice combinations or dishes that will transport me to cultures that I’ve never visited before.

Like Louisiana. I haven’t had the chance to go there yet, but Cajun flavors definitely appeal to me. Peppers, tomatoes, onions, celery – all good stuff! And since I’m always looking for something to top a pile of zucchini noodles, simmered meat and veg with just about any flavor profile will usually do the trick! Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. Most of them are straight from the spice cupboardThis was even better the next day so be sure to make enough for leftovers.

Cajun Chicken

Bacon

1 1/2 oz. bacon, chopped

1/8 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. lard or F.O.C. (fat of choice)

Chicken

1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into strips

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning

1/8 tsp. garlic powder

F.O.C., as necessary

Veggies

1/2 tsp. F.O.C.

1/2 an onion, chopped about 1/2 c.

1/2 bell pepper, chopped about 1/2 c.

4 stalks of celery, about 1 c. chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

1/4 tsp. salt

1 can diced tomatoes

1 c. vegetable or chicken broth

parsley

Directions

1) Melt 1/4 tsp. lard in a large skillet over medium heat. Season chopped bacon with 1/8 tsp. garlic powder and cook until crisp. Set aside on paper towels.

2) While bacon is cooking, season chicken strips with 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning, and 1/8 tsp. garlic powder. Brown chicken on all sides over medium-high heat, about 5-6 minutes, adding additional fat if the pan is dry. You may need to do this in batches so the chicken browns instead of steams. Set aside on a plate to catch any juices.

3) Add 1/2 tsp. fat and all the chopped veggies including the garlic to the pan and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until translucent and slightly soft. Sprinkle oregano, thyme, paprika, and salt over the vegetables and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return chicken to the pan, add tomatoes and broth, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat and then lower to medium or medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer.

4) Simmer everything for about 35 minutes, until the chicken and vegetables are tender. Return bacon to the pan, add parsley, and serve as is or over a bed of zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice.

Serves 4

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Purple Sweet Potato Soup

Purple Sweet Potato SoupI fell in love with the purple sweet potato because purple food is unusual and this food in particular is quite striking. Do you remember the antioxidant anthocyanin that’s found in things like blueberries and purple cabbage? It is present in abundance in purple sweet potatoes too! This fantastic tuber is not only beautiful, but it’s potentially able to help ward off age-related diseases, eliminate free radicals, and reduce inflammation. With all of that going on, I couldn’t resist.

First I tried baking it, just to get an understanding of its qualities. It’s less sweet than the orange-fleshed variety and slightly drier, more like the white version. I really liked it with just a touch of ghee and some salt. Easy! Then I got to thinking about a soup because it’s cold out and my Curried Sweet Potato Soup was so good that I felt inspired. A few Facebook fans thought it would be a good idea too so I got back in the kitchen. Here’s the thing, though. It sort of feels like chomping on Barney. My husband decided it was too weird for him. You’ll have to decide for yourself.Barney

At first, I tried different spice combinations but in the end, I went with the simplest of preparations so your taste buds don’t get too overwhelmed – there’s enough going on visually as it is. I asked myself what I liked when I baked it and started there, adding some onion and just a touch of coconut milk. It’s warm and comforting and, well…purple!

Purple Sweet Potato Soup

1/2 Tbsp. ghee

1/2 an onion

1-1 1/2 lbs. purple sweet potato

4 c. vegetable broth

1/2 tsp. salt or to taste

1/4 c. coconut milk

Directions

1) Melt ghee over medium high heat in a soup pot. Chop onion and add to soup pot, cooking until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes.

2) Peel and chop sweet potato. Add it to the pot and stir to coat in ghee. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil over high heat.

3) Reduce heat to medium, keeping a lively simmer for about 35 minutes. When potatoes are soft and broth has boiled off some, remove from the heat and blend all the ingredients together until smooth. I used an immersion blender, but any type will do. You might find a few purple splatters as you do this.

4) Add salt to taste, this depends a lot on the broth you use, and the coconut milk. Stir to combine and warm everything up before smiling as you eat your purple soup!

Serves 4-6

Cucumber-Avocado Salad

Cucumber Avocado SaladThis special salad is a nod to my wonderful neighbors who brought the original version to our house for dinner one evening. Three ingredients: Cucumber, avocado, and olive oil. That was it. After one taste of the crunchy, smooth, gorgeously green combination, I was hooked.

I have since added thinly sliced sweet onion and grassy parsley because I love how they layer into the salad and provide even greater color contrast. This salad is so pretty, it is perfect for company, but it is so simple that you can make it just for you any time you want. With very few ingredients, each one needs to be able to stand alone in freshness and taste. This is especially true for your olive oil. You want to use an extra virgin olive oil that has a flavor you love because it really comes through when paired with such simple, pure ingredients.

Once you taste this salad, it is sure to become a favorite. Go ahead and try it both ways – they are equally spectacular!

Cucumber-Avocado Salad

1 cucumber

1/4 of a sweet onion

1/4 c. parsley, about 1 Tbsp. chopped

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp. salt

1 avocado

Direction

1) Peel the cucumber and cut it down the middle lengthwise. Remove the seeds using a small spoon. With a mandoline or sharp knife, cut the cucumber crosswise into very thin slices and place in a bowl.

2) Very thinly slice the onion and chop the parsley. Add to the bowl with the cucumber, drizzle the olive oil over the salad, add salt, and toss thoroughly.

3) Cut the avocado in half and scoop out the entire half at once. Place pit side down on a cutting board and slice through the middle (not lengthwise or crosswise – keep the knife parallel to the cutting board). Now cut the avocado into thirds lengthwise, and then crosswise into thin little pieces. Do the same with the second half. Add to the bowl and toss as gently as you can, trying not to mash up the avocado. Taste, add salt if necessary, and enjoy this delightfully simple combination.

Serves 2-3

Note: If you’re following a Paleo Auto-Immune Protocal, check out the PhoenixHelix recipe roundtable!

Ham and Broccoli Frittata

Frittata

A frittata is simply a fancy word (well…Italian word, actually) for an egg-based dish. Call it a baked omelette or a crustless quiche, if you prefer. No matter what you call it, it’s a great way to get some protein and veggies in at any time of day. There are no real set rules for a frittata and, in fact, any recipe is really more of a template than anything else. If dairy is in your life, go ahead and add some cheese. If you want double the meat or a purely veggie dish, go for it. The sky’s the limit. So grab whatever is in the fridge, mix it with some eggs, and dinner will be ready in 30 minutes.

I chose ham and broccoli because I had some ham in the fridge and my son likes broccoli. It worked great! Have fun mixing and matching your own favorite ingredients. These keep really well too so you can store the leftovers in the fridge for a snack or post-workout meal or whatever you need throughout the day!

Ham and Broccoli Frittata

2 tsp. fat of choice (F.O.C.), I used lard from a happy pig

1/2 an onion. chopped

10 oz. ham, chopped

1 1/2 c. broccoli, cooked

10 eggs

1/2 c. coconut milk

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. thyme

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt fat in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat and sauté onion and ham until golden, about 8-9 minutes. I did this in a large cast iron skillet so it could go directly into the oven, but if you don’t have a pan like this, you can just transfer the mixture to a cake pan too.

2) Chop broccoli into bite-sized pieces and add to the ham mixture.

3) In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper until frothy. A blender or mixer works great for this.

4) Pour the egg mixture over the ham and put in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes. It’s done when it is puffy and golden brown. Serve as is or make it fancy with a dollop of paleo mayonnaise or other sauce!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms

Brussels sproutsRoasting is one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables. Take just about any vegetable, add a fat, some salt and pepper, and heat from the oven and you wind up with a sweetly caramelized, tender and delicious, totally transformed creation. Even if you think you don’t like a certain vegetable, I challenge you to try it roasted. You just might change your mind.

Brussels sprouts and mushrooms are a wonderfully earthy combination. When roasted, they both become tender but they also retain some density to them, almost a meaty chew. A winter staple in our house, I hope you like them too!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms

2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved or quartered

2 1/2 c. thickly sliced mushrooms

1/2 an onion

5 cloves of whole, peeled garlic

2 Tbsp. fat of choice, melted if solid (I used freshly rendered lard from a pastured pig)

3/4 tsp. salt

pepper to taste

2 tsp. parsley, optional garnish

1/2 tsp. orange zest, optional garnish

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet.

2) Slice the halved onion lengthwise down the middle and then crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Break apart and place on the baking sheet with the sprouts and mushrooms. Add the garlic, lard or other fat, salt and pepper, and toss thoroughly to combine.

3) Roast in the oven, stirring occasionally, until tender and well caramelized, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, taste to adjust seasonings, and add parsley and orange zest if desired.

Serves 4

Paleo Beef Stroganoff

Paleo Beef Stroganoff 2013

Do you have a pressure cooker? If you do, this recipe is done in less than an hour. If you don’t, it’s okay – you can still make this recipe. Just follow the instructions until it talks about the pressure cooker timing and either cook it on the stove top or in the oven for 2-3 hours until your meat is tender. Whichever cooking method you choose, the flavors in this recipe are rich and hearty, just perfect for a cold winter day.

Beef Stroganoff has been around for 150 years or so. It has stood the test of time for sure, sometimes disappearing for a while but always coming back into vogue. For most of its history, however, noodles were the base. Not so in the paleo world – here it’s all about zoodles! I quickly steamed my zucchini noodles for this recipe because they don’t need any flavor other than their own. All the deep, complex deliciousness comes from the beef and mushrooms.

If you’re short on time, break out the pressure cooker. If it’s a lazy weekend, you can let this simmer and fill the house with its wonderful aroma while celebrating the simple pleasures of the season!

Paleo Beef Stroganoff

1 lb. stew beef, cut into 1 in. chunks

3 tsp. coconut oil, divided

1/2 tsp. + 1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 medium onion

8 oz. baby portabello mushrooms, thickly sliced

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 tsp. onion powder

2/3 c. beef broth

1/2 c. full fat coconut milk

1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

Directions

1) Coat the beef with 1/2 tsp. salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Use your hands to rub it all over the meat and set aside for a few minutes. Melt 2 tsp. coconut oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Allow the oil to get nice and hot and then brown the beef on all sides. This is best done in batches to avoid steaming the meat. It takes about 4 minutes per batch, adding additional oil as necessary. Remove each batch of browned beef to a bowl to catch any juices.

2) Add onion, mushrooms, and 1/4 tsp. salt to the pot, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Cook until slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.

3) Return the meat to the pot with the mushrooms and onion, add the garlic, paprika, thyme, and onion powder and stir to coat everything. Add the beef broth to the pot, close and seal the pressure cooker lid, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to the point where the pressure cooker top is gently, but steadily, rocking (for me this is just below medium on my stove). Keep at this steady pressure for 15 minutes and then remove the pot from the heat. Allow the pressure to dissipate on its own, which should take about 10 minutes.

4) Remove the lid, add the coconut milk, and simmer over medium-high until the sauce reduces and thickens slightly. Serve over zucchini noodles (below) with a sprinkle of parsley.

Steamed Zucchini Noodles

Zucchini noodles, zoodles3 medium zucchini

salt

Directions

1) Cut the tops and bottoms off your zucchini. If you have a spiral slicer, use the flat blade to create these beautiful thick ribbons. If you have a julienne peeler or are using a knife, slice your zucchini into long strands.

2) Place the zucchini in a strainer over the sink and sprinkle liberally with salt. Let rest for about 20 minutes to allow some of the moisture to be pulled out of the zucchini.

3) When you are ready to eat, rinse the zucchini well and steam for about 2 minutes. I used my steamer bowl in the microwave, but you can use whatever you have. We just want the zucchini lightly steamed, not mushy.

4) Place in a bowl or on a plate and top with the Beef Stroganoff. Enjoy!

Serves 2-3

Garam Masala Creamed Collards

Coconut Milk Collard Greens with Garam Masala

Collard greens are my new favorite green. Don’t get me wrong…I still love kale as well as all the others, but not too long ago I learned that I didn’t have to cook collards for 45 minutes with bacon to make them taste good and that, in fact, they cook up in minutes. MINUTES! When I heard that, I decided to give it a try in the morning with my eggs. I have eggs with some sort of green nearly every day so it seemed like a great place to start. Let me just say that I immediately converted. Not only do collard greens cook quickly, but they are less bitter than kale and generally less expensive.

If you need even more reason to try collard greens, how about an amazing nutritional profile? Because they have that too! Collard greens are so full of vitamins and minerals that reading the list seems like Superman and Wonder Woman joined up to fight cancer. In addition, collard greens have high levels of calcium coupled with exceptionally high levels of Vitamin K, which helps promote bone growth. I don’t consume much dairy, if any, so my major source of bone strengthening comes from the leafy greens I eat every single day and the heavy weights I lift so those nutrients have something to do.

I don’t just love collard greens for their nutrition, though. They are incredibly versatile, which I always appreciate, taking trips around the world depending on the spices and seasonings. This preparation came about because a wonderful friend of mine mentioned she’d like a creamy collard recipe and it’s cold outside so I turned to some warming spices to go with it. My version isn’t swimming in (coconut milk) cream because I wanted the flavor without the soupiness this time. Serve this along side a steak, chicken, fish, even eggs – you really can’t go wrong. It’s so easy and so good!

Garam Masala Creamed Collards

1 tsp. coconut oil

1/2 an onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 bunch of collard greens

1/2 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. water

1/2 tsp. garam masala

1/2 c. full-fat coconut milk

Directions

1) Melt coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for 4-5 minutes until translucent.

2) Remove the stems from the collard greens and wash the leaves. Roughly cut them into 4 vertical strips, stack them in a pile, and cut them into horizontal strips about an inch wide. This doesn’t have to be perfect; you’re just looking for strips that are comfortable to eat.

3) When the onions have softened, add the garlic, collard greens, salt, and water. Give it a good stir and place a lid on the skillet. Steam for about 4 minutes.

4) Remove the lid and add the coconut milk and garam masala. Continue to cook the greens until most of the liquid is gone and the leaves are tender, about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary, and serve.

Serves 2