Coconut oil blurb!

Hello all!  I just tasted this amazing coconut oil and I want to shout from the rooftops how great it is.  I just dunked a whole spoonful into my mouth.  It was beautiful and oily and coconutty.

So if you have been thinking about incorporating healthier fats that can withstand high temps, coconut oil is a good choice. It doesn’t require refrigeration and is relatively inexpensive.  I have been using the really cheap stuff from Publix that I bought when I first started paleo.  It had absolutely no taste (which it brags about on the website?).  If there’s one thing I’ve learned since eating clean it’s that food should taste like… well, food.  Coconut oil should taste like coconut.  Am I right?  The culprit behind this trickery:  CHEMICAL REFINEMENT.  Noooooooooo!!!  That’s what I’ve tried to avoid!  You get what you pay for I suppose.  (The cheap $5.00 brand I bought was LouAna so try to avoid this one)

When shopping for coconut oil, make sure you stick with raw, organic, UNREFINED oils.  These will probably cost more, but you are seriously defeating the purpose of eating healthier if you cheap out on stuff like LouAna.  

I ended up trashing my old jar of tasteless gunk and getting a jar of Artisana Coconut Oil.   It’s only $11.63 on Amazon.  I got mine at my local Fresh Market for about the same price.  It’s so worth it.

You can use this just like you would any type of fat.  Baking, sautéing, frying, or raw.

Enjoy!

Carmen

Dinner for Two

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Okay, prepare for some cynicism:  I really hate Valentine’s Day.  It’s not that I hate love, I just hate how we have such a blatantly commercial holiday.  At least some of the other commercial holidays have somewhat of a purpose.  Shouldn’t you celebrate your love for someone on a more significant day, like, I don’t know–the day you met/started dating/got married?

Despite my spite, I still like to partake in the festivities and do special things for my husband.  We’re not really big on buying things for each other.  We usually just stay at home and have dinner or go out for a date.

One of my favorite things to cook on special occassions are lamb chops.  They are a little pricier than most meats, but totally worth it.  I love lamb chops because they require very little preparation to be good.  It’s all about how you cook the meat.

You can get by successfully with just a rub of salt and pepper.  My favorite way to flavor them is with herbs and olive oil though.

There is a very simple and delicious recipe that I usually go by here.

Feel free to use fresh herbs instead of dry if you have them–just double the quantities that you would use for dry.  For example, 1 tbsp of dried herbs would be 2 tbsp of fresh.  Honestly for this recipe I don’t even measure them.  I kind of just grab a handful of each herb I’m going to use.

Also, a trick I use to avoid biting into large pieces of rosemary is to pulse all the herbs, oil, salt and pepper in a food processor until it’s in a paste form.  If you’re short on time you can skip this (which I actually skipped for the lamb I made in the photo), but it distributes the seasoning better.

It really is all about how you cook the meat.  I recommend using a cast iron skillet if you have one.  It retains heat well and distributes the heat evenly.  If you just went out and bought one, click here to learn about cleaning and seasoning your pan.  I highly recommend buying a food thermometer.  Lamb chops are best eaten rare to medium.  I prefer medium-rare myself but everyone is different.  Micah likes them extra bloody.

Make sure to get your pan HOT especially if you want your meat to be pink in the middle.  The goal is to sear the outside of the meat while retaining the juiciness inside.  Browning your meat is called the Maillard reaction:  it’s what happens when the sugars and amino acids in the meat team up at high temperatures resulting in flavor explosions.  This is where flavor is born and you want to get it right without drying out the meat.

This recipe uses a balsamic reduction and if you read my last post you know I am obsessed with it.  It’s so good and simple.  Onions–shallots in particular– go with balsamic vinegar like peanut butter and jelly.  Shallots have a sharp taste on their own and need balsamic to even it out.

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My husband remembers why he married me when I make stuff like this.

Lambchops are a pretty cut of meat and perfect for a romantic dinner.  They are beautiful on a bed of fresh greens.  I used a premixed bag of greens that also had chopped up dill mixed in.  It was really good and added an extra special something.

I served the chops with a side of mashed cauliflower.  Since I just wing it every time I make cauliflower mash, I’ll give you some tips on how I make the creamiest cauliflower mash you will ever eat.

Happy cooking!

Cauliflower Mash

What you need:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • Salt and pepper
  • About 1/4 cup dairy or full-fat coconut milk (may need more)
  • 1-3 tbsp butter (optional)
  • Fresh herbs (optional)
  • Large pot
  • Food processor

Start by filling your pot with enough water to cover your florets since you will be boiling them.  Go ahead and start heating it up to a boil while you are prepping the cauliflower.

Make sure to pick a cauliflower head with no brown spots when you’re shopping. Release the florets by first cutting the head in half, cutting off the green leaves, and then separating the florets like in the picture.

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Place your florets in the rapidly boiling water.  Cook until tender–about 10 minutes.  It’s hard to overcook this, but just make sure it’s really tender when you poke it with a fork.

Drain the florets then place them in a food processor along with the butter, salt, pepper, and optional herbs.  I used leftover rosemary from my lamb chops for some extra flavor.  You may not need the whole 1/4 cup of milk so I would start by just pouring half of it in the processor right now.  You can always add more until it’s as smooth as you like.

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Blend until smooth.  Add more milk if you need to.

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It will look and taste like creamy mashed potatoes.  How easy!

Meal planning for the unorganized scatterbrain

Hello all!  I am glad to be posting again.  After some seriously dumb glitches with blogpad pro, I finally figured out how to post pictures again.  Apparently I wasn’t the only person who couldn’t post pictures at all.  

That is the only meme I’ve ever made.  My single most loved accomplishment.

 

I haven’t been on here in forever.  I went through a crapton of lifestyle changes.  I still like boys and stuff–not those kind of changes–but I’ve gotten a lot healthier in the past couple months.  I made the decision to convert from trash food addict to clean-eating paleo hipster on December 15, 2013.  I got on the scale one morning and cried when I saw how much I weighed.  Actually, I just cried a lot all the time over everything.  My depression reared its ugly head again when I started feeling kind of down.  I let it take the wheel for way too long this time.  2013 was very hard.  

I’m usually very private about serious stuff, but I just want you to know that you’re not alone.  We all have these personal battles we face.  Don’t let it consume you like I did.  We can conquer this and continue to live for today. 

Anyways, I left the negativity behind.  I’m a new person now.  After a month of paleo I dropped 10 lbs.  Today I’m getting close to my 2 month benchmark and I have dropped over 15 lbs. I never measured myself but I was a tight size 9 when starting and now I am a loose size 7.  My BMI went from 22.5 to 19.6.  I started doing crossfit January 6th in addition to paleo.  I’ve been working my butt off, building muscle, and breaking personal records.  

I think it’s because I live in the South where it’s cool to eat shit and do nothing because I’ve gotten a lot of negativity for wanting to be better.  Like, “YOU WERE NEVER FAT WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS OMGWTF” and “you’re just doing paleo because it’s a fad” and “crossfit is just a way to get injured”.  Well, to those people who said that stuff to me in the beginning:  my flat tummy would like to tell you to eat those words with a side of uncured, nitrate-free bacon.  Because bacon is delicious.  And you were wrong.

 

Sorry I had to give you the quiescential back-from-hiatus introduction.  It’s just been too long and I’M CHANGING THE GAME, BABY.

Let’s talk about meal planning when you’re really ADD and lose your car keys every single freakin’ morning and just have better things to zone out over (like me).  People always ask me how I structure meals the way I do.  I try to shop for basic and diverse ingredients that I absolutely know I can use in a handful of ways.  When I cook meat, I do it in bulk so I will have leftovers for lunches.  I like making meats in patty forms like burgers because they freeze so well.  Plus you can throw in veggies all secretly and nobody knows it but you!!!! I like freezing cooked chicken wings because all you have to do is microwave and toss in whatever awesomesauce you have on hand.  I prefer to cook veggies in the morning because they are best the same day, but that is really all I will cook the morning of.  And when I say cook, I mean just basic sautéing, steaming, roasting–nothing complex.  

Some people make lists of what they are going to eat every day of the week.  I find this too taxing on the grey matter.  Just stick with simple ingredients that you can use and reuse.  Yeah, you’re gonna have to think about it more than just saying “can I get a number 5, super-sized, with a diet coke?” but get over it.  

 

Here is some diverse stuff off my current shopping list along with my thought process.  I’ve also included some accompanying recipes:

Bag of kale:  already cut and washed.  All I have to do is throw this in a hot pan of coconut or olive oil and sauté for 2 mins max.  Sautéed kale is great by itself or you can bring some friends to the party and make a warm kale salad with a light citrus vinegarette.  Or you can top with a poached or fried egg and the yolk makes a perfect dressing.  Or if I am feeling froggy I can toss these in a little bit of oil, salt&peppa, and bake on parchment paper at 350 degrees for 12-15 mins until crispy for kale chips.  Or you can just throw it in WHATEVER and it always goes with everything.  Kale is the best super food you can eat.  

http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/how-to-make-a-better-kale-salad

http://www.theendlessmeal.com/carrot-ginger-salad-dressing/ (I included this since I mentioned salads and I really love this dressing)

Avocados:  knowing when to eat these are the key.  They should be soft to the touch and dark in color.  They should peel easily.  When they get to the soft phase throw them in the fridge to preserve for a week.  Instant energy smoothie: half a banana + 1 ripe avocado + ice + coconut milk (add until desired consistency) and blend.  Add protein powder or a scoop of almond butter for protein.  Make some quick guacamole. They are great by themselves and make a great side just sliced up.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/easy-guacamole/

Eggs:  boiled, scrambled, poached, fried, deviled.  So many possibilities.  Plus when I make meat patties I throw in one or two as a binder.  Homemade mayo is easy peasy to make with some egg yolks and it’s soooooo much better than the bottled crap.

http://thehealthyfoodie.com/fail-proof-home-made-paleo-mayo-whole30-compliant/

Bacon:  Chop it up and you have a great topping for just about anything.  Save the rendered fat to cook the rest of the meal for extra flavor.  I don’t think I need to justify this one very much!

Tomato paste and sauce:  not really sure what to do with all that ground beef in the freezer?  Throw in some tomato sauce and bam it’s delicious.  Use it to make a marinara or pizza sauce which are both great dipping sauces.  Tomato paste makes a good base for dishes and adds a lot of flavor.  I make my own spicy ketchup as well with tomato paste.  

http://paleogrubs.com/homemade-ketchup

Sweet potatoes:  my favorite tuber.  When I know it’s gonna be a long day at work and I need some energy for crossfit, I throw one in the oven while I’m getting ready for work.  I either eat it for breakfast or eat it before crossfit.  I don’t even wait for the oven to preheat, I just wash it and poke holes then throw it in a 400 degree oven.  It takes me about 45 min to get ready and it’s always done just in time for me to leave the house.  If you want fries, cut them into fry shape pieces SKIN ON, toss in avocado oil (best for these fries) or olive oil, lay them spaced out on parchment, and cook for 30 mins at 400 degrees.  They are not crispy like the deep-fried kind but still delicious with some spicy curry ketchup.  

Here’s one way to make fries.  Paleofy that junk by subbing arrowroot or tapioca flour for cornstarch.  http://cookieandkate.com/2010/baked-sweet-potato-fries/

Cauliflower:  roasted is the most flavorful way to enjoy cauliflower.  I also use it as my starch substitute.  Mashed cauliflower is like mashed potatoes.  If you “rice” it (put it in a food processor and pulse until it looks like rice), it tastes really good as a fried rice substitute.  It is also possible to make pizza crust from cauliflower.  I use cauliflower at least a couple times a week.

http://thehealthyfoodie.com/2013/06/21/cauliflower-crust-pizza-with-ground-beef-and-green-olives/

Onions:  because you will need an onion almost every time you cook, duh.  If you have extra and they are getting kind of old, make caramelized onions out of them!  Ok, I have two ways to do this.  The first is the real way where you cook them in oil for a really long time (at least an hour or more) until they are caramelized.  The second way when you don’t have a lot of time, sauté them as long as you can then cut the heat to low and pour in about 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar.  Cook until vinegar has reduced by over half which shouldn’t take long because the onions absorb it.  The result is delicious on top of the blandest of meats.  Store in the fridge for a couple days.  Maybe longer, I don’t know.  I eat them usually in one sitting.

A side note about the balsamic vinegar:  balsamic is best in my opinion in its reduced state.  This is a method many cooks use to improve the quality of the vinegar.  You ever see those really expensive bottles of aged balsamic?  Well, reducing the cheap stuff into a thicker form makes it sweeter and on par with that expensive stuff.  Adding it to the onions increases the sweetness to sort of emulate caramelization when you’re short on time plus it creates that awesome reduction taste while it’s cooking down.  Every person needs to know how to reduce balsamic–it will be you new favorite sauce.  Read more here:  http://www.cookthink.com/reference/2889/How_to_reduce_balsamic_vinegar

Whole chicken/pieces:  roasted chicken is good any day of the week.  I usually have so many leftovers I don’t know what to do with them.  Actually, I do know what to do with them.  Throw leftovers in a stirfry, top with caramelized onions, put in an omelette, use for topping on a pizza, make CHICKEN SALAD.  You have no reason to let this go to waste!

Ground meats:  burgers, sausage, stir fry, meaty toppings.  You will always find a new use for these.

Chicken Tsukune (you must try these–the burger version is paleo but the dumplings are not) http://justbento.com/handbook/recipe-collection-mains/chicken-tsukune-stewed-dumplings-panfried-mini-burgers

Baby sweet peppers, baby carrots, celery, grapes, cherry tomatoes:  my favorite filler fruit/veggies for lunches.  They are small (or can be cut easily) and easy to pack.  

Almonds:  these can be ground into almond meal, almond butter, thrown in salads, or eaten alone.  I love a scoop of almond butter with my fruit.  It’s my paleo junk food.

Peeled garlic:  ok, either peel it yourself and store in the fridge or buy it peeled.  Fresh Market and Whole Foods sells it peeled for you.  Saves so much time.  You will be more inclined to cook when you realize “oh hey I don’t have to peel all this damn garlic… I actually have time to cook without my hands having to smell like Chef Boyardee’s farts!”.  I really hate when my hands smell like garlic.

 

I could build upon this list forever.  I just wanted you to see how I think when it comes to meal planning.  Hopefully you noticed I always have ideas for how I’m going to use something in more than one way.  I’m not saying to go out and buy this specific list, but to use this as a guide of sorts.  Approach your shopping list the way I do and you will always have stuff to eat.  Google recipes for each listed item you’ve compiled to get some ideas of what to do with it.  Feel free to ask me and I can give you some ideas because I’m definitely full of them.  When you start cooking on your own on a daily basis, you learn what you’re able to get the most use out of.  It takes practice.  I also challenge you to buy a grocery item you’ve never cooked/eaten before this week so that you force yourself to find a use for it.  Even if it is a simple sauté or roast, just try it.  Step outside of your comfort zone.  When you’re able to introduce new foods into your repertoire, you are improving your skills as a cook and diversifying your palate.  You will wow and amaze your family and friends with your vast knowledge of food preparation.  Seriously, not many people can survive a day without fast food.  

 

Happy eating folks!

Carmen

 

First post

Hello world, I figured my Facebook friends were getting tired of my endless rants about food and dogs, so I thought “why not just create a blog no one will read?”. Everyone thinks what they have to say is interesting and I am certainly no exception to that rule!

I think I will post about recipes I’ve tried and liked.  A lot of people tell me they don’t like cooking because of past bad experiences in the kitchen.  Well, I’ve had a lot of bad experiences but I have learned a lot from my mistakes.  This blog is a good opportunity to share my knowledge with others, and perhaps also learn from my audience.  I am by no means a prodigy or naturally talented cook. I like to be methodical and precise with everything I make (my husband likes to describe my personality as “you are the type of genius that if one seriously traumatic event occurred during your childhood, you probably would of become a cunning serial killer”). I’m also no MacGuyver–I can’t look at a random assortment of ingredients on-hand and fabricate something magnificent and insanely creative.  I like following recipes, and I am pretty good at knowing what is going to taste awesome. I am the type to diverge from what is written because of my instinct, and to me that is the most enjoyable part of cooking.  Figuring out what tastes good.

I’m multiracial and this plays a large influence on my palate.  I’m half Filipino and I grew up with an older southern father.  I say “older” because he grew up in the south during the Great Depression era where food was scarce and everything was made from scratch.  With what little time I had with my dad, I feel like he passed on a great deal of his southern cooking tradition to me.  Aside from country-fried lumpia, I’m interested in all types of food from around the world.  I’m like Anthony Bourdain just a lot less badass.

I think that background sums up pretty much what I’m all about.