Friday, September 27, 2013

Creative Craving Cures: Buffalo Cauliflower Poppers

In an effort to find a way that James might consider giving cauliflower a chance, I decided that any vegetable roasted in spicy, garlic-y, buttery sauce was probably my best chance.  It's basically taking everything that's wonderful about a buffalo wing and applying it a slightly more nutritious vehicle.   Not that I'm knocking wings - I love a good buffalo wing and always will - so much so that I think transposing it's best qualities might convince my significant other to give cauliflower a second chance.  We shall see...

Buffalo Cauliflower Poppers

1 head cauliflower, cleaned and cut into 3/4" bites
1/3 cup all purpose flour (or gluten free)
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon worcestershire saue
3/4 cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle
2 teaspoons kosher salt
7-8 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
Cooking spray or olive oil in a Misto sprayer

- Preheat oven to 450 degrees
- Beat your egg until it's fluffy and well incorporated
- Lightly coat the cauliflower in the beaten egg
- Combine flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chipotle, salt and pepper
- Toss cauliflower in the flour mixture and lay the pieces on a baking sheet
- Spray the cauliflower with cooking spray (or olive oil)
- Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown
- Whisk together hot sauce, worcestershire, vinegar and butter
- Once baked, toss the cauliflower in the sauce and return to the baking sheet
- Bake for 10-15 minutes
- Serve hot (no pun intended) or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Apple Cranberry Braised Short Ribs

This is one of my standby, 'guests are coming over tonight but I don't have a ton of time to stand over the stove because I have a million other things to do before they get here' recipes.  It's hearty, rich and delicious with the right balance of freshness from the apples and cranberries.  Short ribs in general just scream fall to me and this recipe plays up some other seasonal flavors and ingredients that make a great compliment.  Personally, I'd pair it with a side of spice-roasted butternut squash and a simple fresh green salad.  Throw in a smokey, Argentinian malbec and you've got a dinner that you're sure to remember.

Apple Cranberry Braised Short Ribs

2 lbs of beef short rib
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1 small gala apple, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary

- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees
- In a cast iron skillet, melt your coconut oil and brown your short ribs on all sides
- Evenly salt your short ribs
- Add beef stock, cranberry juice, cranberries, apples, vinegar, rosemary and bay leaf to the pan
- The liquid should cover about 1/3 of the meat, if not, adjust with additional beef stock or water
- Cover tightly with a pot lid or tinfoil
- Braise for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone
- Remove the rosemary and bay leaf
- Strain the liquid onto a small sauce pan and reduce by 1/2 the volume to form a glaze
- Serve with 1 tablespoon of the liquid over each portion of short rib

Spice Roasted Butternut Squash

The perfect seasonal side dish, in my humble opinion...

Spice Roasted Butternut Squash

1 medium sized butternut, peeled and cubed into 1/2" pieces
1 tablespoon maple syrup 
2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped 
1/4 cup pine nuts 
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cardamom 
6-7 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
- In a plastic bag, combine butternut, maple syrup, pine nuts, sage and spices and toss until evenly coated 
- Spread into a single layer across the bottom of a roasting pan 
- Roast for 20-25 minutes or until squash is fork tender but still firm
- Serve warm or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Slow Cooker Curried Spaghetti Squash

Despite my love of cooking and being a part of every intricate detail involved in creating a dish, when it comes to weeknight dinners, I'm completely pro-crockpot.  The idea of coming home after a long day of work and the gym to a house filled with the smell of a warm, delicious, ready to eat meal is incredibly alluring.

On a quick side note, if you haven't used Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners, you need to get on that.  They cost about $1.99 for a package of 5.  It's basically a heat-resistant plastic bag that you place in your crockpot that makes clean up take less than 2 minutes.  No more baked on crud!  Just toss your liner and wipe the pot out with a damp sponge after it cools.

Crockpots are also awesome at creating intense, layered flavors as they slowly cook, giving you a fabulous finished product.  This spaghetti squash can be eaten as a side dish or toss in a few steamed shrimp for a complete entree.  It's a great balance of savory and sweet with a touch of heat on the finish.  I know curries can seem intimidating sometimes, but I promise, this one is definitely on the mild side.  If you're looking for bit more punch, swap out the mild yellow curry powder for a vindaloo and you'll turn up the volume a few notches.

Curried Spaghetti Squash

1 medium sized spaghetti squash
1 can lite coconut milk
2 tablespoons mild yellow curry powder
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 teaspoons kosher salt
6-7 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons green onions
1/4 cup cashew halves (or slivered almonds)
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, freshly chopped (for garnish)

- Slice your spaghetti squash in half (the short way) and remove the seeds from the center
- In the base of your crockpot, whisk together coconut milk, curry, garlic, shallot, ginger, salt and pepper
- Place your squash in the mixture, cut side down
- Cook on low heat for 4-5 hours
- Once cooked, use a fork to scoop out the strands of squash and separate them
- Add 1/2 cup of the curry mixture to the squash and gently fold in until well incorporated
- Fold in cashews, raisins and green onions
- Top with chopped parsley and serve hot

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thai Cashew Quinoa Salad

This past weekend, I truly committed a full morning to weekly meal prep.  It's something I've been working on being more diligent with, knowing that during the week, time is a commodity that can often be in short supply.  James is also traveling for work a good part of this week as well and honestly, when it comes to preparing dinner for just myself, it's not sometime I tend to do.  In a concerted effort to not eat a microwave pizza every night he's gone, I now have a refrigerator full of protein-packed, ready-made meals.  Among them, is a Thai Cashew Quinoa Salad I adapted from a recipe I found on The Ambitious Kitchen.  It's truly a fantastic blend of flavors and one of the best parts is that you can really customize it to fit your tastes.  Not a fan of purple cabbage?  That's okay - just omit it.  Prefer peanuts to cashews?  Easy fix.  You can adapt the recipe in countless ways.  It makes a fabulous side dish or a great meat-free meal on it's own.

Thai Cashew Quinoa Salad

1 cup uncooked white quinoa
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 cup purple cabbage, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1 small bunch of cilantro, finely minced
1/2 cup shelled edamame
1/2 cup raw cashew halves
juice of 1/2 of a lime
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons creamy, all natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon mirin or rice wine
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon coriander
1 tablespoon kosher salt
5-6 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
lime wedges, for garnish

- In a large dry skillet, toast your quinoa until it takes on a light, golden brown color
- Bring your stock to a slow, rolling boil and add your toasted quinoa and sea salt
- Cook for 12-15 minutes or until the seeds "bloom" and the liquid has cooked out
- Fluff the quinoa with a fork and set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes
- In a large bowl, combine cabbage, bell pepper, scallions, carrot, cilantro, edamame and cashews
- Once cooled too room temperature, add the quinoa and toss your salad ingredients
- Add your lime juice and toss to evenly coat your ingredients
- In a small, microwave safe bowl, combine your ginger, peanut butter and honey
- Microwave on high for 30-45 seconds or until the peanut butter begins to melt
- Add  soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, oil and seasonings
- Whisk dressing together until well incorporated
- Drizzle your dressing over the salad and toss until all ingredients are evenly coated
- Serve chilled or at room temperature garnished with a lime wedge
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days

Photo courtesy of Ambitious Kitchen 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Ultimate Tailgate Snack

Along with the onset of fall, football season is upon us - a fantastic, weekly excuse to devour a bounty of less than healthy snacks smothered in buffalo sauce and nacho cheese.  I recently found a recipe on PaleOMG (a fantastic collection of paleo friendly and gluten free recipes if you haven't checked it out) that just screamed out to me as the ultimate pre-game, post-game, during game or sad that your team is on a bi this week food.  On top of that, it involves a crockpot, making it amazingly easy to pull together.

Sweet Pulled Pork and Savory Waffle Sliders
Recipe adapted from PaleOMG

For the pulled pork:
2 lbs of pork butt
1 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 cup diced fresh or frozen pineapple
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
8-10 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper

- Place your pork in the crockpot and top with sliced onions and spices
- Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until it falls apart

For the waffles:
2 cups almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5-6 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
3 eggs, whisked
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons bacon fat, melted
3 slices of cooked bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons chices, chopped

- Preheat your waffle maker
- Combine almond meal, baking soda and seasonings in a large mixing bowl
- Whisk together your eggs, coconut milk and bacon fat
- Incorporate the egg mixture into your dry ingredients and mix until well blended
- Fold in chives and chopped bacon until evenly distributed
- Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter into the center of your waffle maker and cook until crispy and golden brown

For the aioli:
2/3 cup avocado oil (you can substitute olive if you like)
1 egg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons of maple syrup

- Whisk together all ingredients, except the maple syrup, with an immersion blender until the mixture thickens
- Once it reaches a mayonnaise-like consistency, fold in the maple syrup and refrigerate

To create your sliders, add toppings of your choice such as bacon slices, cornichon pickles and coleslaw.

Photo courtesy of PaleOMG

Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast Cereal

I'm the type of person that will eat hot cereal year-round without a second thought.  I grew up on oatmeal and cream of wheat and throughout my adult life, I've expanded my cereal options to be a bit less traditional.  I've written several times before about quinoa and how ridiculously good it is for you.  I know it's on the cusp of the paleo debate - it's a seed, not a grain and there's a good deal of back and forth about wether or not it falls into the acceptable category.  Personally, I see it as a minimally processed, plant-based complete protein with tons of health benefits and an essentially bland canvas for you to create anything you'd like.  It's also an incredibly satisfying way to start your day.

Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast Cereal

1 cup white quinoa
2 medium sized apples, diced (I prefer gala or fuji)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice

- In a dry skillet, toast your quinoa seeds until they take on a light golden brown color and set aside
- In a medium sauce pan, melt your butter and coconut sugar together into a smooth consistency
- Saute your apples for about 5 minutes in the carmel mixture
- Add your quinoa water to the sauce pan, cover and simmer on medium heat for 12-15 minutes or until the water has cooked out
- Stir in honey and spices
- Serve warm or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lentil & Goat Cheese Salad

Last weekend, I was thinking about this fantastic lentil salad that we made at Boma when I worked for Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.  It was one of my go-to lunch options because it was so hearty and filling and quite frankly, it's one of the flavors I've missed since leaving.  This recipe is an adaptation of the original but it certainly hit the spot!  It's easy to throw together and holds up well in the refrigerator for a week so it's a great make-ahead type of dish that you can snack on throughout the week.

I know cooking dried lentils isn't the quickest process.  If you happen to live near a Trader Joe's, I can offer up a quick cheat - they sell plain, cooked lentils in their produce department.  If not, canned work just as well as long as you rinse them thoroughly.    

Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad

2 cups cooked lentils
1/3 cup white onion, finely diced
1 cup grape tomatoes
2 stalks of hearts of palm (look for them canned in the ethnic food section) 
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
2 teaspoons celery salt 
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon dried mustard powder 
5-6 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper

- Combine all ingredients, except for the goat cheese in a large bowl and mix until well incorporated 
- Add the crumbled goat cheese on top
- Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week 

Simple Weeknight Stew

I've noticed as of late, and completely unintentionally, the majority of my posts have taken a dessert spin.  I personally find this interesting because I would place myself as a savory Chef first and a baker second.  Regardless, it's prompted me to want to share a few of my savory creations with you all.

Here in New England, we're at that time of year where the weather shifts on a daily basis from sweatshirts and extra blankets to borderline beach weather and while I enjoy the final warm, sunny days of the year, I'm ready for those leaves to start turning.  If you've read any of my more recent posts, it's pretty evident that I love fall.  I think it's just such a fabulous time of year that opens up so many amazing flavors and this beef stew is no exception.  Spun from a traditional South African Oxtail Potjie recipe [potjies are an SA version of a stew, cooked over an open fire in a cauldron-like pot], it's a harmonious blend of familiar flavors and a few unusual tweaks that give some unexpected undertones.  If you're feeling brave and have it available, I'd recommend trying it with oxtail - the bone-in meat adds a fantastic layer of depth and richness to the stew.

South African Inspired Beef Stew

1 lb top round beef, cubed (or 2 lbs bone-in oxtail, lamb or short rib)
2 strips of bacon, diced
1 large sweet potato, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
3 cloves of crushed garlic, finely chopped
2 small roma tomatoes, diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
1/4 cup of corn starch
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 cups beef stock
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
7-8 grinds of freshly cracked pepper
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
1 teaspoon coriander

- In a large skillet, heat your olive oil
- Lightly coat your meat in the flour and brown the exterior in your skillet (your not trying to cook the meat through, just caramelize the exterior)
- In a large crockpot, layer your sweet potato, onion, garlic, tomatoes, celery and spices
- Once browned, add the meat on top of your vegetables in the crockpot
- Add beef stock, red wine and sherry vinegar
- Simmer on high for 6 hours, stirring occasionally
- If you used a bone-in meat, use a slotted spoon to remove the bones prior to serving

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Paleo. Bacon. Cookies.

Yes, Paleo.  Bacon.  Cookies.  Think chewy, gooey, chocolaty, smokey deliciousness in a Paleo-friendly bite.  Sorry, I am really excited about these cookies.  Normally, I feel like I have to sell how awesome my recipes are, but, well... it's a bacon cookie.  Enough said.

Paleo Bacon Cookies

2 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
3/4 cup maple syrup
5 slices of raw bacon
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Lay bacon on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet
- Brush strips of bacon with a light glaze of maple syrup, turn the strips over and repeat
- Bake for 20 minutes (or until crisp) and allow to cool
- In a large mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients
- In a small bowl, whisk together your eggs, coconut oil and remaining maple syrup
- Fold your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients until well incorporated
- Crumble the candied bacon and fold into your batter, along with chocolate chips
- Portion out balls of batter into 1 tablespoon scoops on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the edges turn lightly golden brown