Iron Chef: Freezer Edition

With E.J. off at Annual Training for the next 2 weeks, I am taking the opportunity to inventory my freezer this week so that I can do a massive defrosting next weekend.  We actually have 2 freezers, and the large one in the laundry room is not the kind that is frostless, so about twice a year, you have to go old school and pull everything out to thaw out the massive ice buildup.

While the project is always a massive pain, it’s a good opportunity to go through everything and throw out things that are too freezer burned, or otherwise undesirable to make room for the good stuff.  In order to minimize the amount of ice and ice chest space I need, I’m trying to “Iron Chef” it this week with whatever I can find.

On Friday, I did a version of these Paleo Enchiladas using some frozen pulled pork for the meat and some Siete tortillas.  The sauce was actually delicious, and I would like to try this full recipe someday.   Then on Saturday, I did I wanted to use the last of the cherries I had in the fridge and some beef and pork , so I made this Meatballs with Cherry Sauce dish.  Mom and Brendon really liked that one.

Last night, I pulled out an old favorite to use up some frozen salmon.  This one is always a winner.   And tonight I used up a couple of lbs of shrimp by sauteing them with onions and bell peppers in a Jamaican jerk rub with butter.  It was a little spicier than I had intended, but otherwise really good.

I’m about to go diving back into the freezer to figure out what we’re going to have tomorrow night…. your guess is as good as mine!

Paleo Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Our good friends Kenny & Elaine got a new smoker recently and were gracious enough to share their first bounty with us – some lovely smoked brisket.  As I was gathering produce for the side dishes I planned to make to accompany it, I couldn’t help grabbing another bag of fresh sweet cherries.  I know they won’t be in season for much longer, and I really enjoyed the chicken recipe this week for lunches.

I came across this recipe from The Joyful Foodie, and used it as a starting point.  The rest was inspired by an awesome cherry chipotle rub that E.J. and I used to use before we went Paleo. Enjoy!

Paleo Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Time: 20 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Sweet and spicy BBQ sauce made with seasonal sweet cherries


Ingredients

  • 1 tsp coconut oil (or other friendly oil)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 small can tomato paste
  • 1 cup pitted sweet cherries
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder
  • salt & pepper to taste


Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat,  add oil and saute onion until soft
  2. Add garlic and cook for a minute or so until fragrant
  3. Stir in tomato paste and cook 2-3 minutes
  4. Reduce heat and add cherries and paprika, breaking up the cherries as the soften. Cook for 10-12 minutes until cherries release their juice
  5. Add vinegar and cook 1-2 mins more
  6. Remove from heat and add honey, chipotle powder, salt & pepper
  7. Let the mixture cool, and then transfer to a blender.  Blend until smooth.


Summer Fruit

It’s hot out there, guys.  Generally speaking, this is my least favorite time of the year, mostly because from mid-July to mid-September, Houston is pretty much a sweltering, sweat-inducing, swamp of a city.  While most Americans hibernate during cold winter months, we hibernate in the summer, running from A/C blasted cars to frigidly cold A/C buildings and trying not to sweat completely through whatever we’re wearing in between.

The only positive thing that comes around this time of year is an abundance of fresh and flavorful fruits – and while fruit should generally be enjoyed in moderation on a Paleo diet, there are lots of ways to incorporate the flavors into your main dishes to make them a little brighter without any additional sugars added.

This week, I made 2 dishes that used fresh fruits that IMG_2815.JPGwere calling my name.  The first was a Cherry Balsamic Roasted Chicken.  For this recipe, I used boneless skinless breasts and thighs in a large Pyrex dish, just so I could make a bigger batch.  It was actually one of the easiest dishes I’ve put together and I’m looking forward to trying it for lunches this week.  The second one came across as a suggested post on my Facebook last week, and I have to admit to being insanely curious – who ever heard of blueberry sausage?  But Blueberry Breakfast Muffins were paired with some grilled summer squash this week for a hearty meatball/loaf lunch option.

While I had the smoker going with some ribs that were on sale, I also made this Sausage Egg Roll in a Bowl recipe, and just heard back from E.J. that it was a hit.  So even if it’s too hot to enjoy the weather, at least we can enjoy some summer flavors!

Summer Party Fare

This weekend, in addition to E.J.’s 50th, we also celebrated 6 or 7 other summer birthdays with our annual Summer pool party.  We had quite a large, diverse group in attendance, and still managed to keep the party very Paleo-friendly while offering tasty summer-season flavors that received a ton of compliments.  I was actually feeling a bit under the weather going into the party, but with the help of the A-Team (my awesome friends Annie, Anita, and Amber), we had a fabulous banquet for all to enjoy.

Here were the new dishes we tried for the party:

Watermelon Feta Bites – Annie put these together with some festive party picks for a light and refreshing appetizer.  The sweet of the watermelon nicely offset the salty feta, and the balsamic drizzle was a nice touch.  Annie and her son Noah put this one together and he apparently enjoyed snacking during assembly 🙂

Cherry Orange Salsa – Annie also brought this one, and it was a huge hit.  It was a departure from the standard chips and salsa and seasonal sweet cherries were fabulous with the jalepenos.  We served the salsa with Siete tortilla chips, and people were surprised at how good it was.  E.J. and I ended up grilling some pork chops afterward and making a meal of the salsa on the chops for an easy packed lunch this week.

Bacon Wrapped Prawns, Stuffed with Jalapeno Cream Cheese and Drenched with Honey – How awesome does this sound?  It tastes even better.   I know cheese is off-limits for Paleo, but I picked up some lactose-free cream cheese from Whole Foods to help offset the negative effects, and these flew off the plate.  For the record, I only used jalepenos and kept the serrano out, but yum!

Spicy Salmon Cucumber Bites – I had some cucumbers that needed to be used, and decided to consume them with this easy recipe.  Instead of baking the fish, we smoked the salmon first, which was not only yummy, but also pretty with the cute red tomato bits on top.

Bacon-Wrapped Pineapple – it doesn’t get any simpler that this folks.  Amber brought this one and it was the first dish to be cleared.

Hooray for Healthy and Happy Summer Party guests!!

4th of July Fabulousness

For this year’s 4th of July celebration, we kept it simple since next weekend is when we’ll be celebration E.J.’s big 50 with friends and family.  We made a few fan favorites and I also tried a couple of new summer dishes, since the crowd was particularly Paleo-friendly.  Fortunately, we had a lot of wins, and some of them were in definitely in that “Better than non-paleo” category, which is always what I’m going for.

Coconut Fruit Dip – I served this with Strawberries and Blueberries for a red, white, and blue appetizer.  I initially tried whipping the coconut cream but quickly realized I ruined it when it started separating in the mixer.  I think the key to this is to make sure your cream is very cold if you’re going to whip it.  I didn’t have a chilled can, so I just skipped the whipping step and mixed everything together by hand.  It was still really tasty and I didn’t have any leftovers.

Death By Chocolate Ice Cream – this dish was made on a whim after I ended up with a bunch of egg yolks following another recipe.  I used Penzey’s high fat cocoa for the powder, honey for the sweetener (I probably only put in 3 or 4 tablespoons), and added dairy-free mini chocolate chips while it was churning.   It ended up being a super dark-chocolate masterpiece, and people were saying this was the best chocolate ice cream they’ve ever had… there weren’t any leftovers of this either.

Apple Pie – I wasn’t quite sure about this one, especially since it relies heavily on coconut sugar for all of the sweetness, but I was pleasantly surprised with the result.  I also got rave reviews on this one, especially for the strudel topping… yum!!

Vanilla Cupcakes – this time I completely cheated… I used a cake mix from Simple Mills and the vanilla frosting I picked up at PaleoFX this year.  The icing is REALLY sweet, but the cake is flavorful and satisfying.  These disappeared in a flash.

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday as much as we did!

Whole 30 #3 – Week 3

Week 3 is always when things start to finally feel better.  On each of my Whole30’s, week 3 is when the swelling is pretty much all gone, my clothes feel looser, I’m sleeping better, and the scale is starting to cooperate again (down 7 lbs now).

This week we had E.J’s favorite meatloaf, brisket, smoked ribs, and Crock Pot Orange Chicken.  For dinner on Monday we had Crab-stuffed Tilapia, which I took to the next level by using Primal Kitchen’s Chipotle Lime Mayo and adding some crushed red pepper  to the stuffing… OMG, serious yum!

This weekend, we even had a little impromptu pool party IMG_2784where we served some Whole30-friendly summer fare that everyone really enjoyed.  E.J. grilled up some sugar-free smoked sausage from one of the smokehouses out near Weimer, TX, and my friend Anita contributed her now-famous Cucumber, Tomato, & Avocado salad, which is perfect for a hot summer get-together.

I also found a new Whole30 & Paleo friendly potato salad that everyone (including me) raved about.  Potato salad is serious business down here in Texas – everyone has a favorite recipe, and I’m no exception.  As far as I’m concerned, my mom’s mustard potato salad with pickles, boiled eggs, and gobs of Miracle Whip is the epitome of the classic summer dish, but since E.J. and I have decided to ban white potatoes from our diet, we’ve been looking for a decent substitute.  While I’ve tried several sweet potato versions, the texture and the sweetness of the yams just hasn’t really worked for me in this application, so I was thrilled when I finally found the legendary “white sweet potatoes” at Whole Foods.  They call them Japanese sweet potatoes, and they have a dark red skin with a white inside.  They are harder and not as sweet as a Jewel Yam or other standard sweet potato, so they actually work really well for dishes that you want to be more savory.  This recipe from Paleo Running Mama is the ticket.  I am so glad I made a double recipe, because we have leftovers that we will definitely be enjoying this week.

IMG_2783Now comes the final week of the Whole30, which will be made even more difficult due to my need to travel for business Monday – Wednesday, but as always I’ll pack as much as I can in the way of snacks and emergency meals just in case, and I’ll just be really picky with my meal orders while dining out.

 

 

 

Pinterest FTW!

This past weekend I finally had a full Sunday to do my cooking thing, and it’s been quite a while, so I had lots of new things to try.  Recently we’ve had such lovely cool evenings that E.J. and I have been sitting out on the front porch with the Buddy monster and just relaxing – him with his pipe, and me with Pinterest.  Pinterest really is a fun way to collect ideas for Paleo recipes, because 1) there are lots of them already out there with wonderful mouth-watering photos and 2) because sometimes you find a mouth-watering photo for something that isn’t Paleo, but it wouldn’t be that hard to adjust.  Here are the Pinterest wins I had this week:

  • Paleo Chicken Pot Pie – This is apparently one of Brendon’s favorite foods, and I never really knew it.  I remember tolerating pot pieIMG_2714 as a kid – mostly we’d get the ready-made frozen ones and I’d carefully eat the chicken and the crust while leaving most of the carrots and peas behind.  So it wasn’t exactly something I went out of the way to learn how to cook, and frankly, Paleo pie crust is tough to pull off anyway.  Well, it’s looking more and more like Brendon will be heading back up to North Dakota to work again, so I wanted to at least try to make a Paleo pot pie for him before he left.  It wasn’t the prettiest set of pies I’ve ever made – I really struggled with the crust sticking to the parchment paper after I’d rolled it out, but where it lacked in beauty, it made up for in taste.  Brendon was over the moon for it, so I’ll call that a success!
  • Paleo Pizza Quiche – Ok, before you laugh at this one, hear me out.  First of all, pizza is heavily debated in the Paleo universe, and as a staple of the American diet, it’s one of the hardest cravings to crack.  I’ve tried lots of crusts from cauliflower to almond flour, to frozen – and while they’ve been OK, it’s just not the same.  The truth is that when you are trying to mimic the real thing, you’re just going to fall short every time.  Nothing is going to give you that satisfying crust and real cheese experience, so sometimes it’s better to go for something that’s close, but not trying to be the real thing.  One example is the lettuce wrapped lamb burger I often get at a restaurant for lunch near my office.  It’s not even trying to be a hamburger or cheeseburger, but it’s just close enough to satisfy the craving without being disappointingly short of the real thing.  That’s what I was going for with Pizza Quiche.  Something enjoyable and reminiscent but not an analogue.   I modified the recipe a little to use his favorite toppings: mushroom, Italian sausage, onion, and green pepper, and then added slivers from a batch of Paleo Pizza Cheese from Paleo Cupboard which melt over the top when the slices are warmed up.  E.J. said it was awesome.
  • Prosciutto Wrapped Cod – This is another quickIMG_2716 weeknight recipe that can be added to last week’s theme.  The prep is super easy, and the flavor of the prociutto fried around the cod in butter is out of this world.  Even mom liked it.  For fun, I made some paleo tortillas and a lemon cream sauce to drizzle over the fish and the spinach also that added to the fresh flavors.  I’ll definitely make this one again.