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Posts Tagged ‘primal recipes’

Up at the crack of dawn, I spent this Sunday morning firing up the smoker for Turkey #1 (see last year’s smoked turkey).  After all that, I wasn’t just hungry, but Tony Robbins Hungry.  I needed a solid and hearty breakfast and I had a bunch of chard that needed to get used up today; this created a dish borne from necessity, and yet, it was everything I could have asked for in a Sunday breakfast.

Sausage & Chard Sauté with Eggs

Serves 4

  • 1 pound pork or turkey breakfast sausage (we used pork, of course)
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced small
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 bunch chard, stems removed and chopped separately, leaves cut into 1″ ribbons
  • 1/4 cup chicken or beef stock
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Eggs (we served 2 per person, but the amount will depend on your own appetite)
  1. In a large skillet on medium heat, start to brown and crumble sausage.
  2. When sausage starts to brown and give off fat, add onions and bell pepper, cook until onions translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add chard stems and saute for another 2-3 minutes.
  4. Deglaze pan with the stock, scraping up any browned bits in the pan.
  5. Add chard leaves and cover pan with a lid, turn heat down to low, letting chard wilt.
  6. Cook 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender; during this time, start to cook your eggs–I did mine basted, but you go on and cook your eggs however you like them.
  7. Season the chard sauté with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve with the sauté topped with eggs.

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I hear it every year:

“How do you keep your turkey so juicy?”

For a long time I used to explain my cooking process until eyes glazed over and the smile-and-nod reflexes would kick in.  So, now my response is, “I don’t cook the **** out of it.”

An overcooked turkey is a dry turkey–if you put it in a bag, or roast it upside down, or dance voodoo chants while it’s in the oven–it won’t matter if that turkey is in the oven for hours upon hours.  One of the best ways to guarantee a moister turkey is roasting with a high heat method and keeping that bird in the oven just long enough to get the thigh temperature to 161 °.  Sure, there’s always brining, and I have no beef with that process; in fact, I will brine turkeys when I’m smoking one.  However, I think there’s a few drawbacks to brining turkey, and I prefer doing a more traditional roast.  So, these are my tips on doing a traditionally roasted turkey that doesn’t turn to sawdust:

  • Buy a digital meat thermometer, preferably one that has a long ovenproof probe that you can keep in the bird while it’s in the oven.  Stick that probe deep in the thigh, as that’s where you’re going to test for readiness.
  • High Heat Roasting:  heat that oven at 500° (yes, really) and once you put your bird in the oven, close the door and set the timer for 30 minutes.  At 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 400, and don’t be tempted to open the oven door.  Keep it closed unless you’re seeing the breast getting too dark–go ahead and cover the breast with foil if that’s happening.
  • Pull the bird from the oven when the thigh reaches 161°.  Poultry is cooked at 165°; when you pull the bird out a few degrees early, the carryover cooking that happens while the turkey rests will bring it up to temperature.
  • Let it rest!  Loosely cover the bird with foil so it has a chance to finish cooking.  Give at least 20 minutes to smaller birds (under 13 pounds), 30 minutes to the bigger ones.  This gives the turkey a chance to finish cooking and for the juices in the meat to redistribute.  Cutting it straight out of the oven releases too many juices and will dry out the meat.
  • Don’t stuff it!  Put a few things in it for seasoning such as half an onion, a few sprigs of herbs, a quarter of a lemon.  But, a stuffed turkey means you have to make sure that stuffing also reaches 165°, and that can add more cooking time (which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid).
  • I put butter under the skin of the breast; it’s a great way to add a little extra fat and flavor to the breast.  Using a compound butter–butter blended with seasonings and herbs–is easy and can be done well ahead of time.

Compound butter is one of those nifty little condiments you can make and use to add tons of flavor with little effort.  The big granddaddy of compound butters is Maître d’Hôtel butter; a little fresh herbs, some lemon, and a bit of salt and pepper make a butter worth serving on hot steaks in fancy joints.  I’ve seen all kinds of compound butters popping up all over the place–from the basic lemon-herb to port-dried-cherry-bacon to chipotle-garlic.  Let me show you how easy it is to make, and I’ll let you and your imagination go from there.  Ready?

To start, have two sticks (1/2 cup) of butter, softened.  Add your ingredients into a bowl:

With this batch, I’ve focused on the flavors I prefer with turkey–parsley, sage, thyme, marjoram, and savory.  As a general ratio, expect to put about 1/4 cup of herbs to 1 stick of butter.  Also in the bowl is the zest and juice of one lemon.  I gave all of this a good beating using the paddle attachment in the KitchenAid mixer.

Plop all of that right in the middle of some parchment or waxed paper:

Fold the paper over and using your hands, push the butter into a log shape:

Roll the log in some plastic wrap and twist the ends to shape and press the butter into a firm cylinder:

Refrigerate or freeze butter (this can be frozen for up to several months, so make extra and save for another dish in the future) and slice as needed:

See those little slices?  They’re perfect for sliding right under the skin of the breast, where they’ll melt and season the meat as it roasts.   Wasn’t that easy?

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?  How do you like to cook your turkey?

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You know how it is:  you move to a new way of eating and you do your best to get the rest of your family on board.  Now, once Choo started to see the changes in my health and figure, he quickly followed suit.  Kiddo, on the other hand, has been a tough sell.  I’m starting out slowly… changing peanut butter for almond butter; having him eat eggs for breakfast instead of cereal a few times a week; making his lunchbox treats with less flour and more nut and seed meals.  One thing that’s been a challenge is replacing store-bought condiments with homemade; Kiddo isn’t fooled–he knows that’s not REAL ketchup.  I feel like I’ve been lucky to have a kid that actually does like some vegetables, but he’s been asking for “sauce” (Ranch Dressing).  Now, have you ever seen the label on a bottle of Ranch?  Yeah.  I’m not going there ever again.

I had some lebni leftover from a trip to my local Persian market, along with some fresh herbs and buttermilk, a whirl through the food processor, and I had a dressing worth putting on salads and dipping our carrots.   This was quick to put together, and once put in a clean jar, will hold for about two weeks.

 

Creamy Herb Dressing

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup Lebni,  full-fat Greek yogurt, or sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (less if wanting a thicker dressing/dip)
  1. In a food processor, add mayo, Lebni/yogurt/sour cream, lemon juice and garlic clove and pulse about 3 times to mix.
  2. Add fresh herbs, salt, and pepper and pulse until herbs are chopped.
  3. Pour in buttermilk and pulse again until combined.
  4. Store in glass jar or container.

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This past week, even though it’s still rather warm here in Southern California, I’ve definitely noticed the changes that mark the movement of Summer into Autumn.  They’re very subtle, and someone who hasn’t lived here for most of their lives wouldn’t necessarily notice–how the morning air is just a few degrees cooler, the afternoon light tilts just slightly casting a warm glow across the skies, even though it’s still 85 degrees outside.  With the seasonal nestiness kicking in, my thoughts have been moving to some of my favorite things to make–roasts, braises, and the like.  Tonight, I made some last minute plans to have friends over for dinner, so I wanted some uncomplicated dishes that I knew I could put together easily–a Roast Chicken with root vegetables cooked in the pan; a salad… but what about dessert?

Yes, even with living a primal lifestyle, dessert can and does come into the equation.  The occasional sweet thing is not verboten, and with a little tweak here and there, you can make something spectacular.  Here at El Rancho, I had a bag of pears sitting on my counter that needed some attention, and I KNEW what I had to make.

Taking the firmest of the pears, they got the peeling and coring of their lives.

A vanilla bean was split down the middle and scraped of its insides (wow, that sounds awfully violent, doesn’t it?) and blended with some melted butter and local Orange Blossom Honey.  After the pears took a little bath in this magical syrup, they were nestled in one of my favorite roasting dishes and put in the oven for an hour.

What came out:

And I’m not joking when I tell you these smelled amazing when they came out of the oven.  The pears with the honey, vanilla and a splash of lemon just works.   What’s fantastic is that the juices mix with the syrup and caramelize into this sauce you could pretty much wear as a perfume.  It’s so simple, but one of these guys with a spoonful of whipped crème fraiche and a handful of fresh raspberries… okay, words don’t do it justice.

I admit:  not the greatest picture.  Not gonna apologize for it, either–that pear was warm, the crème fraiche was melting, and I needed to PUT IT IN MY MOUTH.

Honey-Vanilla Roasted Pears

  • 4 firm pears, peeled, cut in half and cored
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup butter, plus extra for pan
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Butter roasting dish and arrange pears cut side up
  3. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds.
  4. Add seeds to a small saucepan with the honey, butter, lemon juice and melt on low heat until butter has melted and created a syrup.
  5. Tuck the remaining vanilla bean with the pears, pour syrup over the pears, making sure some of the syrup is in the core of each pear.
  6. Roast for about 30 minutes, then turn over and roast another 20-30 minutes until the pears are fork-tender.
  7. Turn the pears cut side up again, and brush juices over the tops.
  8. If you’d like a little extra browning like I did, turn broiler on low and broil the tops for 3-5 minutes.
  9. Serve warm with whipped crème fraiche or if you’re feeling decadent, some great vanilla ice cream.

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I know I’ve been rather quiet here on BBB this year, for a multitude of reasons which I won’t bore you with all the details except for the major one:  the complete change of how my family eats, especially since the beginning of this year.   We’ve moved to eating in a primal/paleo fashion.  You may have heard of it–it’s gaining followers, and for good reason, I believe.  I’m not going to preach about it, but if you’re curious, you can learn more about it at the Whole9 Blog and Mark’s Daily Apple to just start out.  Essentially, we’ve cut things out of our diets such as grains, legumes and heavily processed foods; and began focusing our diets on meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, healthy fats such as coconut oil and things like fruit, full-fat dairy and nuts in moderation.   Sure, we’re not perfect–we do go off the rails sometimes for holidays or when we’re traveling–but we figure we always do the best we can, and our bodies do like to remind us when we’ve cheated enough.

It’s really been an incredible change for us.  I’ve lost 80 pounds and have seen many of my health markers change for the better:  my A1C, cholesterol and liver function numbers went to normal within 6 months of starting the diet–I sleep better and I have the energy to get through my day (with exercise, even!).  Choo has been on this also, and he’s lost somewhere to the tune of 50 pounds.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know about this change, because it will change the tone of BBB in the future.  I may experiment with the occasional baked good that’s been tweaked to fit our lifestyle (because sometimes CAKE is the only thing that matters), but from now on, I’ll be focusing on dishes that will fit into a primal/paleo lifestyle.  Like this one:

 

Oh sure, it’s BACON.  But, even with fat not being the enemy in a paleo diet, if you’re using cured bacon, it still needs to be treated like it’s candy:  sweet, delicious meat candy.  Still, these make a fantastic appetizer, especially right now while figs are at the height of their season.  These are super-easy but still impressive (don’t you love it when that happens?).

Bacon-Wrapped Figs 

Serves 6

  • 1 pound sliced bacon (about 12 slices)
  • 12 figs
  1. Heat your broiler on low and cover a sheet pan with foil.
  2. Slice figs in half lengthwise and cut bacon slices in half.
  3. Wrap bacon around figs, secure with toothpicks if needed (I didn’t need to, the bacon held in place)
  4. Place sheet pan in oven on the top rack setting, broiling figs about 7-9 minutes on each side, depending on how crisp you like your bacon.
  5. Fight the urge to immediately pop one in your mouth the minute they come out of the oven.

 

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It’s about time I pop in and say hello!  I just had to share the salad I’ve been eating about every other day since strawberries have hit the farmer’s market in full force.  It’s really a combination of some of my favorite things in the world, all mixed together in one bowl.   There’s just such a melange of flavors and textures that it’s really satisfying–the leafy greens, the crunch from the pecans, the bite of red onion, the sweetness of the strawberries, and the acid from the balsamic vinaigrette just make this a delicious lunch.

Spring Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Grilled Chicken

Serves 2 as a small lunch dish

  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 6-8 ounces grilled or broiled chicken breast, shredded
  • 1/4 of a small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 8 large strawberries, sliced
  • 2 ounces broken pecan halves (about a large handful)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette (or you can use your favorite) to taste

Just add all of those ingredients into a mixing bowl and toss until the vinaigrette is evenly distributed.

Happy Spring, everybody!

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We’re back on the CSA Bandwagon after a break from the holidays.  Just before getting our box, my weekly newsletter from Food52 showed up advertising a Kale Salad with Apples and Hazelnuts which just sounded delightful.  I’m always looking for something new and interesting to do with kale–I usually throw it into a soup, but having it in a salad sounded really interesting.  Of course, when today rolled around and it was time to make dinner, I didn’t necessarily have everything that the original recipe called for, so I… improvised. And it was good.  So, I thank the fine people at Food52 for the excellent inspiration!  This salad worked very nicely with the broiled salmon and parmesan broccoli that were on the menu, and we knew we had something because Kiddo ate it (always a sign of success).

Kale Salad with Apples, Pistachios & Dried Cherries

  • 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Honey
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch Lacinato Kale, washed and cut into 1″ ribbons
  • 1 large Granny Smith Apple
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Pistachios
  • 1/4 cup Dried Cherries
  1. In a large bowl, pour in vinegar and honey and whisk until incorporated; add in olive oil in a slow stream while whisking constantly until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Add kale and toss until leaves are completely coated with vinaigrette.  Set aside for about 1 hour to let leaves break down slightly.
  3. Peel, core, and slice apple;  toss into greens, adding nuts and cherries.  Serve immediately.

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I can’t believe it’s been a month since I’ve written a post–Kiddo started Kindergarten and we’re all still adjusting to the changes in our schedules.  It finally feels like things are falling into place, as it takes me about two weeks for my body to work out new sleep/waking times, and now that it seems like we have an idea of what we’re doing, I’m ready to get back to life–and to cooking and blogging!

To start things off this time, this article from the NY Times is, well, I’d say astounding, but it’s not, really.  Granted, I’m not perfect and there are days I don’t get those 9 servings of fruits and vegetables that’s now recommended  (that’s 4 1/2 cups, which is not as much as you’d expect), but I certainly try.  I get it’s a struggle sometimes–and there are days when sitting down to a burger and fries just sounds so much tastier than a plate of steamed broccoli and a side salad.  But, the attitude towards vegetables has to change, as they can be easier than you might think, and they can be darned tasty, too.

And, listen, if it takes pulling out the big guns to get you to eat your vegetables, I think you should do it.  I was ready to face an old enemy of my childhood:

Brussels sprouts.  Oh, I have sad, angry memories of these little guys, steamed to a greyish-green mush, with no butter or salt allowed (because it would have rendered them unhealthy, you see?).  I couldn’t look one in the eye for years. But, this morning at the farmer’s market, they caught Choo’s eye, and he challenged me to take brussels sprouts and make them into something good.

And you know what makes just about anything taste better?  Yeah, you guessed it:  BACON.

I found this bag of bacon pieces at Vallarta Market–3 pounds of bacon for $3.99–about what you’d pay for a pound of your regularly sliced bacon.  It’s absolutely perfect for when most of your bacon consumption happens not strip-by-strip, but when it’s chopped up and added to things.   And, there will be many things over the next few weeks that will be chock-full o’ bacon, you betcha.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Makes 6-8 side dish servings

  • 6 ounces bacon, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium onion, cut to small dice
  • 1 3/4 pounds brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed (halve the large sprouts)
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Over medium flame, heat a large skillet.  Add bacon, and cook until browned.  Remove with slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel.
  2. Add onion to bacon drippings, and cook 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  3. Add brussels sprouts and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Pour in stock, cover pan, and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until brussels sprouts are tender.
  4. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with reserved bacon.

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It’s time to admit that Summer is on its last legs;  Kiddo starts Kindergarten in a matter of days, the Valley is giving its last oven blasts of heat, and the farmer’s market is packed full of the last of the summer produce.  The peaches, my dear readers, THE PEACHES on display are amazing, and I couldn’t help but pick up a few.  They are so juicy and bright with that perfect balance of acid and sweet.  I had bought some peaches about 2 weeks ago from the supermarket (I know, I KNOW) and they were so… sad.  Mealy and flavorless, and I hated to waste them, so they ended up in our morning smoothies where I could barely taste them.

I’ve seen versions of this salad hitting the rounds in magazines and food blogs, and I knew I had to make this for today’s lunch.  A bed of mesculun, a few heirloom tomatoes, red onion sliced paper-thin, juicy wedges of ripe peach, and a nice drizzle of homemade balsamic vinaigrette make this a fantastic, easy summertime lunch.  If you were feeling sassy, this would be nice with a sprinkling of feta or chevre, or if serving this for dinner, a piece of grilled fish would be a great match.  We had this with a glass of Casa Nuestra 2009 Riesling which was just right–any crisp and fruity white would be an excellent accompaniment.

Heirloom Tomato & Peach Salad

Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

  • 6 cups Mesculun or any mixed salad greens or arugula
  • 3-4 heirloom tomatoes (depending on size), sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large peach, sliced into 12 wedges
  • Balsamic Dressing as needed

On a platter, layer salad greens, tomato slices, onion and peach.  Drizzle with balsamic dressing and serve.

(How hard was that?  Now go make it!)

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