Chicken Marbella

Cooking with other people (and for more than just one) is ohhh so fun and is such a nice change of pace from my usual party-of-one meal style planning. It’s nice to take the “practical” aspect out of cooking and just cook without worrying about how many days I’m going to be able to eat the leftovers or how many lunches I can get out of it blah blah blah. My meal planning is pretty calculated and as I’ve mentioned before, I detest any wasting of food. I am home in the greatest city on earth (Austin, TX, y’all!) and soaking up every bit of awesomeness I can during this much-needed weeklong break from school. With seven tests in two weeks (our class was looking like the cast of the Walking Dead by Friday…but really), it feels amazee to get plentiful sleep, let my skin clear up (increase stress, increase blemishes…ughh WHYY) and catch up on more important things like season 2 of House of Cards. My mom also took me for a massage day AND my parents had been waiting to take me to some pretty incredible restaurants like Salty Sow and Odd Duck. Food. Heaven. If you’re ever in town and want to get the hipster foodie experience, you’ve gotta try one (or both) of these places. I’m feeling pretty dang lucky right now. On my second night back, my grandma and uncle came over and so we made this yummy Chicken Marbella dish. My amazing momma had made this recipe before, which she had gotten from a friend, who got it from the Silver Palate shop restaurant. We adapted the recipe and went ahead and “paleo-ifed” the original. The olives, prunes (probably my fave part), capers, and bay leaves give this Mediterranean dish beautiful color and amazing flavor. We served it with brussel sprouts, butternut squash, an arugula salad, and spaghetti squash. Enjoy xoxo :)

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Chicken Marbella (serves 6):

To get this dish nice and moist, try and marinade the night before (although we did the morning of and it worked out just fine). Can be served hot or cold.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup capers (plus a little juice)
  • ½ cup pitted prunes (halved)
  • ¼ cup pitted Spanish green olives (or more, if you prefer!)
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 head garlic, pureed
  • ¼ cup dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1  cup white wine
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

Combine first 9 ingredients in a large bowl or dish and place the chicken breasts in the mixture, coating evenly, and cover. Refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large baking dish, arrange chicken breasts and pour the wine around the dish. Bake for 1 hour or until breasts are no longer pink, periodically coating the breasts with the juices already in the pan. Before serving, keep moist by spooning the juice/olive mixture onto the chicken breasts. Garnish with fresh, chopped parsley.

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First 21 Day Sugar Detox: Completed!!

Finally done with what I would call two of the more stressful weeks of dental school thus far. It’s been a very longg couple of weeks of back-to-back exams and projects. Just figuring out that you have to live one day at a time…especially since the next couple of weeks before spring break are much of the same story. Womp. No point in stressing all the time (no thank you to elevated cortisol levels).  Dentists apparently have the highest suicide rate (that’s what I’m told by the world) so I think it’s important, to say the least, to find a balance in life. I managed to survive the past weeks without getting too stressed out, keeping a good diet and good sleep, which I have decided is equally (if not more) important as making great grades. I also am finally done with a 21 day sugar detox! Feels like I deserve a medal or something. Seriously, this thing was way harder than I thought it would be. I was like, “Oh, I’m already paleo, this thing won’t be that hard.” Wrong. If you haven’t heard of the detox, it’s basically a way to “reboot” and adapt the way you crave and view certain foods. It eliminates sugary foods and sweeteners (real and artificial, including most fruits) besides the one green apple or green tip banana you are allowed each day (felt like a freaking piece of chocolate cake by the end, taste buds=majorly adapted). It is extremely close to the way I ate when I started paleo and I was avoiding any form of packaged foods, raw honey, or even sweet potatoes (which I ended up eating on the detox, continue reading). For me, the detox mainly meant cutting out quest bars (Hi, my name is Rachel and I’m a former quest bar addict), dark chocolate, and any kind of packaged “paleo-friendly” foods that had a little raw honey here or there.

By doing the detox, I’ve realized how dependent we are on sugar or artificially sweetened foods and the effect they have on energy, mood, sleep, skin, and GI health. Seriously, sugar is a drug. I’ve been aware of the notion that “fat doesn’t make you fat” and that the real culprit driving most of our weight and health issues is inflammation due to sugar intake. But once you cut out sugar completely, you REALLY see this put into action. Although I considered myself to be pretty darn good in my paleo pursuits, I still craved certain sweets, snacked too much, and ate when I wasn’t hungry. Sound familiar? Granted, it was all pretty good quality food, but still, it’s never good to feel captive to your cravings. I ate smaller meals because I was snacking throughout the day and thanks to the detox, my meal sizes have increased and the amount of snacking I do has decreased. This was the ideal outcome for my reactive hypoglycemic self (I found out the author of the detox book, Diane Sanfilippo, has struggled with RH as well, she feels my “you don’t want to be around me when I’m hungry” blood sugar b*tch pain).

The first few days were the hardest (days 3-5). I didn’t experience the “flu-like” symptoms that many people complain of but I definitely felt pretty sluggish and wanted some 85% dark chocolate ASAP. After toughing it out for these days, things got better. But I still felt like the amount of carbohydrates that I was consuming wasn’t enough to sustain my busy lifestyle. Also, I wasn’t about to compromise on energy during 2 weeks of tests, so I switched to the energy modification. The book gives this option for people who are super intense exercisers or who are breastfeeding/pregnant, neither of which describes me. Womp. But sometimes, dental school feels like a marathon (bit of a stretch? I’m OK with it) and is physically demanding, so I switched to this modification around day 10. The only thing really different about this was the half to whole sweet potato I added in each day. Made a pretty big difference, though. It was relatively smooth sailing after this. I followed the detox pretty strictly minus a few adaptations/moments of weakness…don’t judge me:

  1. Switched to the energy modification, as described. This meant adding in sweet potatoes sparingly. I also added plantain chips (which are pretty clean with no sugar added or other franken-gredients.). I read that Julie of PaleOMG did this, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to be like Julie. :)
  2. I ate a few dark chocolate-covered strawberries. My awesome brother brought me Edible Arrangements for Valentine’s (he didn’t know about my detox at the time), and I was NOT about to waste those!
  3. I drank alcohol once (OK…fine, twice). I went out with friends one night and the second time was when I was home in Austin with my family. I’m in my early 20’s and my social life is…well…that of a dental student, and I wasn’t about to miss out on a fun night with friends (and being sober at clubs is…well… probably not going to happen). Kept it as clean as possible with vodka sodas or water, of course.

I don’t think that any of these little cheats or modifications made a huge difference in the outcome of my detox. I still feel like I reaped the benefits and to be honest, you have to be open to a dynamic life. If you’re not, obsession over diet can ensue, which is never a healthy thing.

The word “detox” immediately triggers thoughts in my mind of juice cleanses where all you consume is some concoction of vomit-worthy liquid with cayenne pepper and lemon, with the end goal to drop like, 15 pounds in a week (and then gain it back the next week…real success). This, I can assure you, is not that kind of detox. I didn’t do it to lose weight or look better in a bikini (although that’s always nice, should it happen). I was interested in feeling better. The detox put me in a better mood (enough benefit right there), gave me more energy, fixed any kind of stomach upsets, gave me better sleep, and cleared up the skin on my forehead (which I would consider my problem area).  I consider this to be quite a list of benefits, folks. I’ve included some of my detox essentials that helped to get through the dang thing. Don’t know if I would have been able to do it without these precious treasures.

  1. Butternut squash-one of the only starchy foods you are allowed and a great source of energy. I tried the butternut squash mash in the cookbook and it was delish.
  2. Raw almond butter-I don’t even need a reason. Couldn’t go without this stuff (although had to ditch my usual Justin’s maple flavor).
  3. Coconut butter-so delicious melted with almond butter and 100% dark chocolate, drizzled onto a frozen banana with cinnamon. YUM.
  4. Cinnamon-I’m convinced that dumping cinnamon on everything tricks your taste buds into thinking something is sweet. Need to buy more because I went through the entire bottle.
  5. Frozen green-tip bananas-so many different uses by themselves and in smoothies. And a banana is much more filling than a green apple (in my opnion) when you’re trying to decide how to ration your one stinkin’ piece of fruit per day. The green-tip means that the banana is less sweet than it’s riper counterpart.
  6. 100% egg white protein powder-I used NOW brand and made some pretty amazing smoothies with it (with all the above items minus the butternut squash). The cleanest form of protein powder, in my opinion.
  7. Julian Bakery Paleo Wraps-the only ingredient in these is coconut meat and they are delicious ways to wrap up leftovers. I’d recommend heating up in the microwave or the skillet for a crispy taste (kind of weird texture without warming). I’d also just eat them dipped in almond butter after being heated (become “fried” tasting). Tastes like dessert. Find them on amazon or their website.
  8. Avocado/guacamole-went through a ton to make sure I was getting enough calories and to add some flavor to any dish.

I definitely found that I had to do even more meal prep than normal since many of my “convenience” or prepackaged snacks were considered off-limits. Sometimes that meant packing smaller portions of what I had for lunch/dinner for snacks. Sometimes it meant eggs for late night snacking. Whatever I was feeling. I’ve pictured (nothing glamorous, too busy to get fancy) a few of the delicious meals I made and posted on Instagram from the 21-day sugar detox book and cookbook (two separate books). For recipes, go ahead and order the book! As for the future, I am going to incorporate some foods back in and see how they make me feel. I’m not dying for a cookie or anything right now, so I’m in no rush to bring it all back at once. And that, my friends, means the detox worked. :)

Shrimp Pad Thai

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“Banola”-granola with no sweeteners besides a green-tip banana!

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Butternut Squash Mash

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Pizza Frittata

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Balsamic Braised Beef

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Ground Turkey Green Apple Breakfast Sausage

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Shepherd’s Pie

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Chicken Spaghetti Squash Pizza Pie

Ok. I know, I know…this isn’t the best pic. Clearly wasn’t taken with my fancy-shmancy hipster camera, which I’m still having lot of fun getting to know. I left my memory card and card reader at home in Austin (at least that’s where I hope it is) so until I find those little treasures, iPhone pics it will be. January has already been hectic between being in Memphis for my brother’s football bowl game, Mexico (take me back?), and starting up a new semester. Going to be a rigorous semester (to say the least) and so meal prep is going to be more essential than ever in an effort to continue my paleo quest (yup, am judging myself for using that phrase). Before this chicken spaghetti squash pizza pie, I started off by making a hugee frittata (same recipe as in one of my older posts) and that has worked great for saving a few minutes in the morning. I still have a fair amount leftover and it’s been about 5 days. So uhhhh, anyone know how long something like that keeps in the fridge…? Hmm, for now just going to keep eating it until I get food poisoning or something pleasant like that.  Because I HATE wasting food. No really, it literally causes me physical pain to throw away even the tiniest morsel of food. Guess the whole mom nagging me to “finish your food, there are hungry kids in Africa” lesson went a long with way with me. I always abide by the clean plate rule :) . No food left behind.

This recipe, adapted from PaleOMG, is soo tasty and I can’t think of a better way to meal prep than by making a dish just like this one. Meat, vegetables, eggs, and DELCIOUSNESS all whipped up together in the convenience of a casserole. When I went paleo (hard to believe it’s already been 7 months!! Who wants to throw me a party?!), I thought any hopes of eating a casserole-type dish were forever gone. Casseroles always seem to be drowning in pools of cheese and certain franken-ingredients that are clearly off limits for my paleo self. Not this one! However, I was almost weirded out by how cheesy this tasted. No, seriously. Not a drop of cheese in this dish, but the combination of ingredients mimicked that cheesy, savory chicken spaghetti taste that we all love (sorry if you don’t love that taste, but you’re probably kind of weird). Cheesy goodness sans the cheese, no complaints here!

The title of the recipe from PaleOMG is Almost 5-Ingredient Pizza Spaghetti Pie and I made a few adaptations of my own, which turned out superb. I subbed 1.5 lbs. of chicken breast for the 1 lb. sausage it called for and cooked it on the skillet with some ghee. Ghee-licious, duh! Also, I “zoodled” 2 whole zucchini (dish needed something green, in my opinion). I adapted the rest of the recipe to accommodate the increased amount of ingredients I used. Use any meat or veggies that you please for this and let me know if you tried a combo that you loveeee. I for sure will be looking for variations on this to make throughout the semester.

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Chicken Spaghetti Squash Pizza Pie (adapted from PaleOMG):

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash, cut in half and remove the “guts”
  • 1 ½ lbs. chicken breast
  • 3 tbsp. ghee
  • ¾ yellow onion, diced
  • 2 zucchini, “zoodled” with spiralizer
  • 1 ½ cup pizza sauce (I used Rao’s Marinara, can’t go wrong there)
  • 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning (I also used Flavor God garlic lover seasoning, check out his site if you haven’t already. Awesome paleo seasonings I put on like, everything)
  • 5 eggs, whisked
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake spaghetti squash face down on baking sheet for 30 minutes and remove the threads once cooled. Lower heat to 350 degrees. Place threads in a large baking dish. Heat large pan over medium heat with the ghee and cook the chicken until no longer pink (about 5 minutes on each side). Pull apart the chicken and add the onions. Cook until onions are slightly browned. Then add your pizza sauce, seasonings, and salt and pepper, mixing well. Add this mixture and the zoodles to the spaghetti squash threads in the baking dish. Add the whisked eggs to the dish, mixing until well combined. Bake in oven for about 50 minutes or until the top forms a slightly browned crust that is no longer runny. Let cool and enjoy.

Cowboy Chili From Nom Nom Paleo and Cauli Mash

Happy almost 2014, friends! I hope your holidays were filled with an abundance of paleo treats and happy tummies (plus peace, joy, and all that jazz). Paleo baking is so much more fun when I get to bake for my family and friends, and doing so makes me slightly less likely to do something really wild like eat the entire batch of Against All Grain chocolate chip cookies. Uhh…not that that has ever happened. But after much raw honey and coconut galore (I mean seriously, imagine a paleo world without coconut oil, sugar, and flour…not pretty), I am surprised to say that I’m feeling a little sugar-ed out. I’ve always been pretty comfortable with the amount of sugar that I consume on paleo (primarily from fruits) and haven’t seen the point (for me personally) to do a 21 day sugar detox, but even sticking to paleo pretty strictly during the holidays has made me think I might need to try one. If you too are feeling in need of a sugar cleanse, I would recommend checking it out. I don’t own the cookbook, but the food people make from it looks seriously incredible.

My least favorite question EVER (no, seriously, only ask me this if you want a slap across the face) is when people think they are being soooo funny and say, “well, caveman didn’t make cookies or brownies” or “no way did cavemen eat that.” No sh*t, Sherlock…but as much as it pains me to say, there is a bit of truth to this seemingly irritating question. I think that the potential for abuse of these treats, which in my opinion are meant to be enjoyed on occasion (AKA not daily), is high among the paleo community. You’re not going to feel the full benefits of paleo (or lose any weight, if that’s your goal) if you are shoving brownies, cupcakes, and cookies in your face everyday, standing behind the excuse that “it’s paleo!” Paleo is pretty amazing, but it’s not a miracle diet. While paleo treats are free of refined sugar and traditional flours, the calorie-to-calorie comparison is pretty similar. Sugar is sugar (and raw honey is packed with it, unfortunately), and from personal hypoglycemia experience, if I was to eat a twinkie, my unpleasant blood sugar symptoms would be imitated in a pretty similar manner if I was to eat a paleo twinkie (do these even exist? Idk, but you get my idea). There are a plethora of blogs and websites devoted to paleo treats (cookies, cakes, donuts, you name it) and converting virtually any sinful snack to make it paleo. These are great, especially for times like Christmas or other holidays when we all deserve a little break. But lets not kid ourselves, they should not be a dietary staple, even if they are paleo. Ok, I’ll get off my sugar soapbox. I don’t mean to be a Debbie-downer (or should I say Little Debbie downer…LOL), so please by all means, enjoy a cookie here and there (I most certainly will continue to do so), just be realistic about your goals and realize that there is no such thing as a perfect cookie. Or brownie. Or Pie.

I just got the Nom Nom Paleo cookbook off of Amazon and I have to say, it just might be my new favorite. Michelle Tam is funny, quirky, and relatable, and her recipes are ridiculously reader-friendly (step-by-step pictures, why don’t all cookbooks have these?!). In addition to being a mom/paleo chef, she is a pharmacist with a biochemistry degree, which makes her even more awesome in my eyes knowing she has a similar science background as me. She is an awesome writer, bringing family life into each recipe, and her pictures are mouth-wateringly incredible. I am sold, and I think everyone should buy her book too. A great find for beginners to paleo, as well as for seasoned paleo chefs.

We had family in town last night so I decided to make the Southwest Cowboy Chili. Soo good…warm, chocolately, and spicy (even enough for this spice-loving Texan!), this was a hit among adults and kids alike. It turned out excellent: beef, bacon, and chocolate meant all the bases were covered. I also made cauliflower mash and 7/8 people that tried it for the first time thought it tasted like the real mashed potatoes they were used to. Pretty good feedback, if you ask me. Scroll down to my Sausage and Cauli Mash post for that recipe.

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Southwest Cowboy Chili from Nom Nom Paleo (about 6 large servings, prep time: 45 minutes, cook time: 3 hours):

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs beef chuck roast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 slices uncured bacon
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 6 cups bone broth (I used chicken broth from the box)
  • 1 ounce shaved unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • pepper, to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 275 degrees and chop beef into 2 inch cubes, mix with salt. Cut bacon in ¼ inch pieces. In dutch oven over medium heat, cook bacon to desired crispiness, set aside. Increase heat and cook beef (in bacon grease) for two minutes on each side until browned, set aside. Bring heat to medium, add onions and tomato paste, until onions are cooked through. Mix all the powdered spices, chocolate, and ½ cup of the broth until combined. Add this mixture and the garlic to onions and stir until combined. Add bacon, beef, lime juice, and the remaining broth. Increase heat, bring to boil, and cover with lid (leave it ajar). Put into oven for 2 1/2 hours.  Garnish with radishes or cilantro, if you so please.

Santa Brownie Hats and Santa Strawberries

8 days till Christmas!! I can hardly contain my excitement and holiday cheer (hence these adorable little treats…).  Feels so great to be home in Austin and to have a couple of weeks to be lazy, catch up on sleep, and most importantly, catch up on my shows. Revenge, Nashville, Real Housewives…I’ve got some work to do, y’all (tough life). Hope my parents don’t get sick of me…they might just be slightly cooler than me. It’s not unusual for me to be in bed at 10 and wake up the next morning to hear stories about my parents’ epic night downtown. Those kids, they keep me young…I did go to a cRaZy holiday party this weekend (I’m not totally lame, okk?!) with some fellow post-graduates from college. It was requested by one of my friends that I bring a paleo holiday treat, so of course I obliged and my creativity wheels starting turning. I decided to make these Santa Brownie Hats and Santa Strawberries (so Pinterest-y of me, I know).

I remembered seeing these precious Santa treat concepts on Pinterest last year and so I figured, why not make them paleo?! I used a brownie recipe from the Against All Grain cookbook and a frosting recipe I found from Real Food RN (it was titled “Best Paleo Frosting Ever” so I looked no further). Both recipes called for palm shortening, a great paleo baking ingredient (butter substitute-palm oil with some of the unsaturated fats removed) that especially keeps cookies chewy and prevents them from flattening, which sometimes happens with coconut oil. The brownies called for unsweetened chocolate which I totally forgot to buy (always have to forget one thing, right?) and so I discovered that 3 tbsp cocoa powder + 1 tbsp coconut oil = 1 tbsp of unsweetened chocolate. Phewf, crisis averted. I also realized that I didn’t have cookie cutters to cut circles out of the brownies…so I used a napkin ring. I’m so resourceful. All about improvising, people. Overall, people really liked the brownies (my taste buds have adapted to love all paleo treats and I think everything is amazing, so I have to gauge how good something actually is by asking non-paleo people)! I creepily watched people’s reactions (gotta make sure they weren’t spitting it into a napkin or anything) that didn’t know they were paleo and I don’t think most even noticed a difference. The frosting was a big hit and had a wonderful vanilla taste. I thought about using coconut whipped cream for both recipes because it’s ridiculously easy and tastes great, but figured it wouldn’t hold as well. This frosting was the perfect consistency.

If you’re looking for fun and easy treats to bring to a holiday party or are just feeling extra festive (no shame), I would definitely recommend these! I know, my Santas look slightly like alien demons…but I didn’t have small enough chocolate chips to get circular eyes :)


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Brownies (From the Against All Grain Cookbook and also posted here)

Frosting (From Real Food RN):

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup palm shortening (found at Whole Foods)
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 2 tbsp vanilla
  • 4 tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 4 tbsp coconut flour
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil, melted in microwave
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the coconut oil. Blend with a hand mixer until well combined. While mixing on high, slowly drizzle in the coconut oil and mix until whipped together and has a smooth texture. Put into large Ziploc and cut off tip to frost either the brownies or strawberries.

Santa Brownie Hats (10-12 servings between the two recipes):

Ingredients:

  • Strawberries, washed, leaves cut off (I used one carton, half for the hats and half for the strawberry Santas)
  • Paleo frosting (recipe above)
  • Brownies (recipe above)

Directions:

After allowing the brownies to cool, cut out small circles (using cookie cutter or napkin ring :)) and frost the tops (frosting should be in a large Ziploc with tip cut off). Carefully place strawberry on top and add a small dab of frosting to the tip.

Santa Strawberries:

Cut strawberry tips off (1/3 of the way down). Frost the bigger portions and add the tips back on. Frost the tips. Add buttons and add eyes (get creative, maybe use chocolate chips or sprinkles!).

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ALSO: At the Christmas party I had some hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps (not paleo, sorry bout it) and it was AMAZING. In keeping with this holiday spirit, I just ordered the paleo hot chocolate sampler (classic, Aztec, and mocha) from Eating Evolved (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free, and they sweeten with organic maple sugar). Have yet to try them but I’ve heard only great things. I’ll have to report back with a review but let’s be honest, how could it not be good…?

 

Paleo Pho (Pho-Real…)

Oh hi there! It’s been over a week since my last post…bad Rachel. I apologize, had a super busy week and a half with finals and am finally done as of Monday!! I am officially 12.5% (1/8) done with my dental education. Yay…? Positive thinking, people, positive thinking. My biggest study distraction was definitely checking/posting to my @platefullpaleo instagram (which you follow, right?? If you’re not on insta you can still see my posts at the bottom of this page) and looking at all of the deliciousness people were cooking up. I wanted to do a blog post soo bad and have had so many post inspirations but I promised myself I would wait until after I was done. Easier said than done when the alternative is spending your days buried in biomedical sciences…had major blog FOMO (fear of missing out, duh). I am pho-sho (I’m hilarious) glad to be done and glad that I got a chance to make this yummy paleo pho. :)

Pho is one of my all-time favorite dishes, especially from this place near my house in Austin called Hai Ky. I recently realized that I’ve been saying it wrong the whole time…I said it like “photo” but appanetly it’s pronounced “fuh” like in a very naughty word…(first “fuh” word that popped into my head, oops). I love the fresh herb taste and spiciness that seems to instantly clear my sinuses and just make me feel better in general. My order usually consists of chicken pho (no noodles since going paleo) with extra veggies. While talking to my dad on the phone last week, he mentioned he was picking some up for him and my mom and I immediately was like, “WAITTTT, I want that. Now.” I had all sorts of inspiration to make the perfect paleo pho and started thinking about zoodles, kelp noodles, or spaghetti squash in some coconut aminos (paleo substitute for soy sauce). I didn’t get to make it until yesterday (sigh) but let me tell you, it was worth the wait. I am obsessed with this stuff.

A lot of pho recipes recommend making your own bone broth for this one in the slow cooker using animal bones and all sorts of vegetables. But I was like…meh, it comes in a box for dirt cheap, therefore, I will be using the box (in keeping with my paleo for the super busy theme). I’m sure it would have tasted amazing with the homemade broth like this recipe but I was perfectly happy with my lazy version :) and I think you would be too if you so choose. I chose flank steak for my meat, but you can really use any meat you like (chicken, steak, shrimp, pork, etc.). You can also use a combination of any of the herbs and other garnishes depending on personal preference/what you have in the fridge. Freeeedom!!

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Paleo Pho (adapted from Zen Belly, makes 2 large servings):

Recipe:

  • 4 cups chicken or beef broth, I used a low-sodium organic brand
  • 2 cups zucchini noodles made with a spiralizer (2 zucchini)
  • 2-3 cups cooked sliced meat (I cooked flank steak on the cast iron, 3 minutes on each side with EVOO, it will cook more when you add to broth!)
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos, which is a paleo substitute for soy sauce
  • 2/3 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • Fresh herbs (handful): basil, mint, cilantro (whichever you prefer, I used all of them!)
  • Sliced scallions, as much as you like
  • Thin slices of jalapeño
  • Lime wedges
  • Thin slices of red onion

Instructions:

In a medium-sized pot, heat the broth on medium heat until it becomes steamy. Add the ginger (my favorite component!), coconut aminos, fish sauce and about 2 tablespoons of the herbs. Simmer for a few minutes. I added my jalapeño slices during this step because I like it spicier, but if you don’t like it as spicy, wait until garnishing to add them. Add your zoodles and meat and cook for about 4 minutes, until your noodles get soft and your meat is warmed. Serve with the fresh herbs, jalapeño slices, lime wedges, and red onion slices as you like!

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Super Easy and Delicious Pumpkin Bars

Wanna know why I picked pumpkin bars? Don’t judge me…besides the fact that they looked amazing and were not super time consuming, if I made a pie, I wouldn’t be able to test the finished product until actual Thanksgiving. And that’s a problem. No matter how you approach it, there’s no way to cut a tiny, unnoticeable sliver. And how beyond awkward would it be if you showed up to your host’s house with a slice missing?! Oh sorry…uhhh…I got hungry? Doesn’t matter how amazing your pie looks, still probably just a tad bit insulting. So to avoid this social faux-paus, I made pumpkin bars :) and rest assured, I was able to test them VERY thoroughly. Too thoroughly. These seemed sinful, despite the fact that they are paleo. Although they are healthier than non-paleo pumpkin bars, these pack a lot of raw honey, as a disclaimer to those watching sugar intake. But I was just fine with it ☺ They really couldn’t have been easier either. This was the Thanksgiving recipe (courtesy of Paleo Cupboard) that took me the least amount of time. And the frosting was made with ingredients already used to make the bars…does it get any easier than that? No, no it doesn’t.

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Pumpkin Bars (From Paleo Cupboard):

Ingredients:

Pumpkin Bars:
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup raw honey, warmed
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup blanched almond flour
- 1/4 cup arrowroot powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder

Frosting:
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 4 Tbsp. raw honey
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Dash sea salt

Directions:

Pumpkin Bars:

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine eggs, pumpkin puree, raw honey, coconut oil and vanilla extract in a medium sized mixing bowl and beat on low with a hand mixer until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the almond flour, arrowroot powder, pumpkin pie spice, sea salt and baking powder and stir until combined. Slowly add the almond flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture, using the hand mixer on low speed, until well combined. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the center it set. Remove and allow to cool completely before serving.

Frosting:
Combine all ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl and beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until combined. Place the frosting in the fridge for a few minutes if it is too runny and needs to set. Make sure you wait until the bars are COMPLETELY cool before frosting them. Or else the frosting will quickly liquefy.

Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprout, and Jicama Hash …&… Apple Cider Sangria

Arisen from your food coma yet? Ready for the next week when turkey creatively makes its way into what seems like all of your meals: turkey stew, turkey salad, turkey chili, and of course, turkey sandwiches…? One of my favorite Thanksgiving jokes I used to pull on my mom just an hour or so after the guys had headed to watch football and the dishes were finally cleaned was, “so mom, what’s for dinner?” Blank stares…never as humorous as I thought it would be. Joke fail. I spent what seemed like all day in the kitchen on Wednesday, making a few delish Thanksgiving creations (Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprout, and Jicima Hash, Pumpkin Bars, and an Apple Cider Sangria). I am the worst (not exaggerating) at estimating how long activities take…going into Wednesday I was like…OK, I’ll grocery shop to grab a couple things I forgot, prep and cook 3 recipes, take some gawk-worthy pics, post to instagram, clean then kitchen…all before hmm, 3:00, and then I’ll study for finals for a bit. WRONG. Very, very wrong. That was more around the time I started to cook. Finished everything around bedtime. Oopsies…sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself.

We did Thanksgiving at my brother’s house here in Houston since him and his buddies couldn’t leave town because of their upcoming football game. So we had some newbies to the idea of paleo at the feast and overall, I think they liked the things I brought (unless they didn’t want to hurt my feelings…possible)!! I shouldn’t act surprised…because paleo food is more delicious than regular food, which everyone should know by now, DUH. My contributions included a Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprout, and Jicima Hash, Pumpkin Bars, and an Apple Cider Sangria (don’t worry mom, you can always count on your daughter to bring the booze ;)). I’ll start by sharing the recipe for the hash and cider (I’ll post the bars separately, so it’s not recipe overload).

This hash from The Healthy Foodie was really good, and had a great apple cider vinegar/mustard sauce. I can’t decide if my arms were sore from my workout or from all of the chopping I did for this…OK, I’m being dramatic, it was probably from the workout. I added a honeycrisp apple and some bacon to put in this. Because those are two of my favorite things, duh.

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Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprout, and Jicima Hash (from The Healthy Foodie):

Ingredients:

The base:

  • ½ medium butternut squash, peeled and diced (about 4 cups)
  • ½ medium jicama, peeled and diced (about 4 cups)
  • 3 cups brussel sprouts, cut (I used the whole bag)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 3 strips uncured bacon
  • 1 honeycrisp apple
  • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried figs, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped

The sauce:

  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika (I used cayenne pepper)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375F and line baking dish parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the vegetables, apple, pecans, dried figs and fresh herbs. In a smaller mixing bowl (I used food processor), combine all the sauce ingredients and whisk (or process) until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Pour the sauce over vegetable combination and mix. Transfer the veggies to the baking dish, add pieces of bacon, and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. When the veggies are cooked to how you like them, set the oven to broil and leave that on for 2-3 minutes, just to slightly brown and crisp up. Serve immediately.

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Apple Cider Sangria (from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen):

The apple cider sangria was delish, I just wish I would have doubled or tripled it, because it went pretty quickly! I had to giggle when one of the guys tried it and said, “wow, it tastes delicious, yet I feel so healthy!” Paleo success. I used one honeycrisp apple instead of the 2 called for in the recipe because have you SEEN the size of those things? Massive. I also found a great no sugar added (and nothing artificial!) apple cider by R.W Knudsen at Central Market.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups fresh apple cider
  • 1 cup carbonated water (I used Topo Chico)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2-1 cup gluten-free vodka
  • 2 apples, chopped (or 1 honeycrisp)
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup pomegranates
  • 1 orange, chopped
  • Optional: 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

Instructions:

Chop apple and oranges and place in the bottom of a pitcher with pomegranates. Add in cinnamon sticks, cider, carbonated water, wine, and raw honey, stir. Add in vodka (start with ½ cup and taste till your preference), mix. Serve with ice.

Bacon, Kale, and Tomato (BKT) Frittata

Things that make me happy: I’m finished with two hugeeee tests from yesterday and today AND in ~48 hours I’ll have a very happy post-Thanksgiving stomach (food coma, anyone?)…

*sidenote (bear with me): the food coma will NOT be induced from high consumption of the amino acid tryptophan in turkey. Total myth (I knew that undergrad Biochem II knowledge would come in handy). While tryptophan does increase serotonin levels (chillaxing agent), the levels in turkey are low (about the same as chicken) AND it works best on an empty stomach (which is like…never on Thanksgiving). When it’s combined with amino acids from other foods, it has to compete and doesn’t end up being as effective. The real reason you’ll be tired is because you ate a crap-ton of starchy carbohydrates and sugars, duhz. Sorry for the boring tangent…but hey, imagine how cool you’ll look when you explain it to your Thanksgiving crew!! You’re welcome :) *

So after my cumulative final this morning (just four more eeeek), I got a good nap in, went to Central Market, and now am sitting in bed with a Pandora holiday playlist and some green tea…ahhhh, bliss. Thanksgiving break is a huge tease of Christmas break, but hey, I’ll take it. I don’t know what the heck I was thinking going to grocery shop at 5:00 PM two days before Thanksgiving…it was a freaking nightmare. Crowded grocery stores are a huge pet peeve of mine. HUGGEEEE. I usually consider myself a pretty nice person to strangers…but lemme tell you, if you’re obstructing an aisle for more than a few seconds and/or moving at turtle pace, imma go into b*tch mode (which is just me giving the evil eye, ok, I’m not actually crazy). Unless you’re older than 80 or have a disability…then you get about half a minute :)

Look!! I gotta frittata!! Sorry…had to. I made this frittata because I lovee baked eggs and because for the past few days, I didn’t want to spend the usual time with my morning egg routine. This is a very simple recipe and can be used with any oven-safe skillet (doesn’t have to be cast iron, but cast irons are the bomb.com). Mine had bacon, kale, mushrooms, red onion, and tomato, but you can really use whatever meats or veggies you please. I named it the BKT (instead of BLT) because let’s be honest, lettuce would be straight up nasty in this.

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Bacon, Kale, Tomato (BKT) Frittata (makes 4 servings): 

Ingredients:

  • 5 eggs (depends on your skillet size, mine is small)
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups kale
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix together eggs, salt, pepper, and parsley. Cook the bacon on the skillet until edges start to curl, remove bacon and let cool. Leave enough bacon grease to adequately coat skillet and add mushrooms and tomato, then kale. Once the veggies are tender and the kale is cooked, add crumbled bacon and egg mixture, and carefully mix. Add tomato slices to the top (makes it look even tastier) and bake for about 25 minutes, until knife can cut in the middle and come up looking clean.

My study breaks have been primarily consisted of me on websites/Instagram looking for the perfect Thanksgiving recipes…and I found ‘em. Stay tuned to see which ones I chose!!

Chicken Parmesan Spaghetti Squash & Bacon Asparagus

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The plate was full tonight, ladies and gents, quite full. So was the kitchen table (well, more full than my usual hoppin’ party of one) because my little bro Andrew, who I love to brag on, joined me. Having him right down the road makes Houston feel slightly less terrifying and is my favorite part about living here. He’s an offensive lineman at Rice and as such, hardly looks like my “little brother.” At 6’5, he weighs more than the equivalent of two me’s, which is hard to fathom. Aside from being a gigantic man-child that makes me actually feel petite (hah, yeah right, I’m 5’10) and making me look like a twelve year old in comparison, he is a teddy bear. And he’s single ladies…consider this blog entry his official match.com post ;) This recipe for chicken parmesan spaghetti squash w/ bacon asparagus is sans the parmesan, obvi, but was delicious nonetheless.

So when I found out he was coming for dinner, I decided to make something that at least sort-of resembled what he might get for dinner at the athlete cafeteria…AKA I spared him the agony of having to lie to me and say that he really loved my kale salad with scallops and beets, or any other dish that had ingredients he may consider slightly odd. The spaghetti squash is not real spaghetti (duh) and I thought about not saying anything and seeing if he noticed. But he goes to Rice, for crying out loud, and he’s a smarty pants…so I didn’t try. The spaghetti squash is soo easy to make and makes great leftovers to incorporate for the week (not as many leftovers as usual thanks to a certain ravenous football player).

As for the sauce, the recipe I found made a homemade sauce…but uh…yeah, imma be honest, ain’t got time for that. I had a test this morning and I’m worn out so that’s a pretty good excuse but even so, this Rao’s marinara sauce is delish and tastes homemade. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? I’ve seen it at Central Market and Whole foods and it is paleo-friendly, woooo! The recipe from Fit and Fed says it makes “two generous portions” but in my mind, that is 2 Andrew servings and 4 Rachel servings (the piece pictured isn’t even a whole portion). After you butterfly the chicken and add the crust, the chicken breasts seem a lot bigger. As a side dish, I wrapped some asparagus in some uncured Applegate bacon…because what guy doesn’t like bacon-wrapped anything?

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Chicken Parmesan (Recipe from Fed and Fit):

Ingredients:

  • IMG_68002 Chicken Breast Halves, butterflied (just means cut in half longways)
  • 1 ½ cups almond meal/flour
  • 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tsp  salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups Rao’s marinara sauce

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a wide dish, beat two eggs together. Mix the almond meal, seasoning, salt, and pepper and put on a plate. Dip each piece (and each side) of chicken in the egg wash, then in the almond meal mixture. Repeat to give the crust a thick texture. Place chicken on the baking sheet and bake 35-40 minutes or until crispy on outside. Heat up the marinara sauce in a saucepan on the stove until warm.

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Spaghetti Squash:

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Preheat oven to 400 F and cut spaghetti squash in half using sharp knife (could require some elbow-grease…). Place halves face down on baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until squash shows thread-like texture when forked through.

 

 

 

Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus:

Cut asparagus ends and cut pieces of bacon in halves or thirds. Wrap halves of bacon around asparagus and place on roasting dish. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar and add salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 25 minutes, turning at halfway point if desired.

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