Slow and Spicy Wins the Race

I’ve become quite the fan of Paleo Pot. If you’ve not perused this gem of a paleo culinary resource, I highly suggest you check it out. Yesterday, I found some chicken that I’d been neglecting in the freezer. Poor chicken. And my gym bestie (Kayla, I devote this post to you) inspired me to finally do something fab with the fowl.

I knew my afternoon was booked. We had big plans which revolved around a controlled burn of the Christmas tree. It went up like a cannon and proved to be more fun, and resulted in more little girl squeals, than we’ve had in a long time. Story for another day.

 

ANYWAY, I figured I’d let the crockpot do the work, and cross my fingers that I had enough random accoutrements to do that lonely chicken its overdue justice. I started here with this great entry from Paleo Pot. But deviated… as I usually do… in all things… not just cooking. Again, story for another day.

 

I call my version Chipotle Coconut Chicken and Crispy Kale. You can call it whatever you like. Just eat it. With the exception of the 40-foot tree flame extravaganza, my kids said this was the best part of their day. And sitting around the supper table on a Monday evening, there’s little more a mom could ask for.

 

Chipotle Coconut Chicken and Crispy Kale – Paleo Style

 

What you’ll need:

Crockpot

1 onion, rough chopped

6-8 cloves garlic, smashed

2-3 lbs uncooked chicken breast, or dark meat, or whatever you have, cubed

1-2 cans coconut milk (the good stuff, not the wimpy “dairy” replacement)

3-5 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped

1 mango, peeled and cubed

1 bunch fresh kale, cleaned, dried and rough chopped

Olive oil

Salt, Pepper, Creole Seasoning, or whatever you have on hand. 

 

What you’ll do:

 

Line the bottom of the crockpot with the chopped onions and smashed garlic cloves. Throw the cut-up chicken on top, and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Pour in coconut milk. (Depending on preference, feel free to use two cans. It only adds flavor, creaminess, amazing fats, deliciousness and super powers. Your call. I used two cans.) Add the chipotle peppers, pop on the lid, turn the crockpot to “low” and go set something on fire, or participate in something equally primal… like tracking down tomorrow’s breakfast… or taking a nap. Then, come back to check on the chicken in 5-6 hours. 

 

In the last 30 minutes of cooking, toss in the mango, and give the whole mess a quick stir. I’ve found that including the mango from the beginning renders this delicious fruit mushtastic and somewhat flavorless. Throwing it in near the end works best.

Image courtesy of Paleo Pot.

Image courtesy of Paleo Pot.

While your kids are setting the table, toss your kale in a shallow layer in a baking dish, sprinkle with olive oil and creole seasoning and place in a preheated 400-degree oven. Keep an eye on them, but in 8-10 minutes you will end up with some deliciously crispy kale chips. (I suppose this post actually requires a dual-dedication. My paleo bestie, Becky, introduced me to this prep method for kale. As a result, I’ve become somewhat of an addict for the crunchy critters. As have my kids… which, let’s be honest… is the real victory.)

 

Plate up the chicken, top with a healthy handful of crispity, crunchity super greens, gather your family and dig in. Creamy, slightly sweet, smoky and a bit spicy. And with the help of the crockpot, you hardly had to shake a tail feather. Clucky for you.

Take back lunch! It misses you.

When people ask me about paleo, one of the most popular questions I get is, “What do you do about lunch??” Which, honestly, often perplexes me, as I’m somewhat confused as to why lunch presents itself as such an enigma. It is, after all, just another meal time. Head to the trough for the feeding frenzy just as you would for breakfast and supper. I suppose that in this culture we’ve created for ourselves, one to which we are hell-bent on making our humanity accustomed, we have to force food into our insane schedules. We treat it as an unfortunate time-suck instead of a welcomed break – a time to “Stop the Insanity!!” as the always eloquent Susan Powter would say.

We’re cramming so much into our days that lunch has sadly become a much-resented 30-minute trip to the food court for three-hour-old fried lo mein and high-fructose gut bomb beverages. I realize changing the mentality of our culture is a stretch. I’m not above trying, but I’m grounded enough (I think) to grasp the reality that whatever drivel ends up in this teensy-tiny blog in a dark, distant, as of yet undiscovered corner of the galactic world wide web isn’t likely to be read, much less serve as a catalyst to change cultural norms. Perhaps someday…

So, if I can’t change the mentality of what the lunch hour has become, perhaps I can at least offer quick, satisfying alternatives to partially-hydrogenated poo on a plate. Lunch doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be simple and delicious and still see you back at your cubical utopia with time to spare. Take back, lunch. It misses you.

image_ad53af40-0986-426f-9f27-c9b50f653afe_largeTry this one next time you’re short on time. Paleo fish tacos with simple salsa and avocado. The salsa is more of a pico de gallo, so you call whatever you like. The takeaway here is that it’s easier than shooting fish in a barrel… I’d imagine.

 

Paleo Fish Tacos

 

What you’ll need:

For the fish:

1 to 2 6-ounce fish filets (I used tilapia for this particular recipe, but you could use any flaky white fish. Living in the south, catfish is plentiful. I’d imagine it’d work just fine as well.)

2 tbsp organic grass-fed butter or ghee

Garlic powder

Fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

 

For the Salsa:

1/4 red onion, chopped

1/2 to 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 to 1 whole jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and minced

1 lime, zested and squeezed

2-3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Butter bibb lettuce

1/2 avocado, cubed

What you’ll do:

image_3150c606-b437-43ab-900f-4ad46481c2aa_largeMelt the butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Season fish filets with lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic. Place seasoned-side down in the hot butter. While the fish cooks on the one side, sprinkle more lemon juice and seasonings on the top of the fish. Let the fish cook untouched for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the sides of the filets appear solid white. Flip the filets and continue to cook
until fish is firm and flaky. I like a little crisp on my fish, so I tend to cook at a high heat until it gets a little brown.

While waiting on your fish, put together the salsa in a medium mixing bowl. Rough chop the onion and tomatoes. Add in the jalapeno, cilantro and garlic. Season with salt, pepper, lime zest and juice, and mix well to combine.

Once the fish is done, flake with a fork, place generous helpings into two or three butter bibb lettuce leaves, top with salsa and chunks of avocado. Sprinkle with more lime juice as desired.image1_large

Island Stew with Pineapple, Too

In my life, I can think of no greater love affair in which I have engaged more willingly than with ham. Those that know me may offer stout rebuttal, and claim my affinity for bacon to be the clear winner in my food affairs. But, I think when the pork hits the plate, deep in the recesses of my gastroemotional being, I give my hand to ham.

So, naturally, I baked a ham for Christmas. At the time of this posting, that was over 15 days ago. And in that time, ham and I have grown quite distant. It was constantly hanging around, nagging me from the fridge, with all its talk of “What? Chicken? Tonight? Am I not good enough for you now? Tired of the old leftovers, are you? Looking for some younger, fresher meat to chew on?” After all, there’s only so much ham and eggs the kids could stand. But, I was determined to move on… to close the chapter on this swine drama. What better way to use up some leftover protein, and show it some love, than to put it in a savory stew and let it simmer to hog heaven?

And in so doing, I created my Paleo Island Stew with Sundried Tomatoes and Roasted Pineapple. With flavors reminiscent of the islands, this is a delicious, hearty bowl of ham and veggies in a robust tomato base, topped with roasted pineapple chunks and avocado.

A great start to any soup.

A great start to any soup.


What you’ll need:

4-5 strips bacon, rough chopped

2-3 carrots, diced

2 shallots, minced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, rough chopped

2 tbsp dried Italian or pizza seasoning (or oregano and basil)

1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)

2-3 cups chicken stock

about 2 cups leftover ham, chopped

28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

Fresh pineapple chunks

1 tbsp olive oil

Avocado

Salt and pepper to taste (Careful here. Pork is naturally salty. The bacon and ham should offer you more than enough salt for seasoning.)  

What you’ll do:

Render off chopped bacon in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add carrots, shallots, garlic and sundried tomatoes. Stir to coat in bacon fat. Add Italian seasoning, stirring veggies until just tender. Add white wine (if you have it, if not, it’s no skin off a pig’s back) and simmer, cooking off alcohol. Add your ham and two cups of the chicken stock. Stir in crushed tomatoes and bring it all to a bubble.

Cover and simmer on low. Meanwhile, heat up your oven’s broiler. Coat the pineapple chunks in olive oil and place on baking sheet. Broil until toasted and caramelization appears.

Roasted pineapple nom noms.

Roasted pineapple nom noms.



Serve stew over hot pineapple with avocado on top.
Top with fresh chopped cilantro or parsley, if you’ve got it.

Island Stew with Sundried Tomatoes and Roasted Pineapple. A delicious, hearty bowl of ham and veggies in a robust tomato base, topped with roasted pineapple chunks and avocado.

 










This really worked out nicely for everyone. The kids ate three bowls a piece, the ham got some love, and, mercifully, I got shed of my leftovers.

 

As for me and ham… we’re on a break.

Primarily Primal Whiskey Sour

I realize that whiskey is indeed far from paleo. Truth be told, all alcohol is. Sure, there are worse things… namely, beer. But, there are better things as well… namely, tequila. But, when the cave’s a’rockin’, the brown water comes a’knockin’. I happen to enjoy a quality sour mash in small quantities on rare occasions. And to shoot you straight, the past few weeks have handed us our fair share of obstacles. And considering we’ve so far hobbled over every hurdle in the race, I’m looking for my cookie at the finish line.

I present said cookie. 

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What you’ll need:

2 ounces quality whiskey

1/2 fresh-squeezed lime

1/2 fresh-squeezed lemon

Drizzle of agave nectar (optional)

Club soda

Ice

 

What you’ll do:

In a shaker with ice, add whiskey, lime and lemon juice, and agave nectar. Shake well. Strain over ice in a highball glass. Top with club soda. Garnish with lemon zest and a cherry.

 

 

Paleo Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk Muffins

AKA: Post-Push Press Proteinapolooza
So after peeling ourselves off the floor and shuffling home, it was clear I needed some post-workout fuel that was a grade higher than your average protein shake.

image_6424684a-8297-4f7e-9570-8dd25ff2e076_largeWe just got back from our Monday morning torture session… err… workout. I could go through the details of the horror, but instead, I’ll simply show you the post-workout carnage.


Our trainer seems to find delight in rendering us useless on the mat with little will, or desire for that matter, to continue living. But, as it’s a holiday today, and the ankle biters are home from school, I didn’t have the luxury of martyrdom. Seems they expect to be cared for. So after peeling ourselves off the floor and shuffling home, it was clear I needed some post-workout fuel that was a grade higher than your average protein shake. I found the original prep for these beauties here. But, made a few tweaks, and they turned out to be just the elixir we needed to continue the fight. Onward and upward. We’ve got forts to build, dogs to bathe and what looks to be a delicious crockpot chicken dinner to prep. (More on that later.)

 

So here we go. Holy banana chocolate chunk, Caveman.

 

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk Muffinsimage_526b0a22-5a57-41bc-8b8c-83f8e3f34274_large

What you’ll need:


• 3 ripe mashed bananas (I keep bananas frozen in the freezer. When they get brown and ick-tastic on the counter top, I’ll peal them and put them in a freezer-safe bag. When I need a super-ripe banana, I’ll just pull them out and let them thaw on the counter top for a bit.)

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

5 eggs

1/4 cup honey (I used about half this amount. Up to you.)

1/2 cup coconut flour

3/4 cup almond flour

1 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts

1/4 cup flax seed

(optional) 1/4 to 1/2 cup dark chocolate (I like to use at least 70% cacao)

 

What you’ll do:

 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place liners in muffin tin. I like the reusable silicone liners.

2. Combine mashed bananas, coconut oil, eggs and honey in a large bowl or mixer.

3. Add coconut flour, almond flour, salt and baking soda to the bowl and mix until well incorporated.

4. Fold in nuts, flax and chocolate, if using.

5. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.

6. Bake muffins at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes until muffins are slightly brown.

Citrus Mustard Salmon and Sprouts

My local market had a great deal on wild salmon yesterday. Consequently, we had a great supper on the table last night.


salmon_done_largeYesterday was the last day of Christmas break. And, as much as I enjoy a quiet, productive house, dropping the girls off at school this morning was about as satisfying as mistakingly grabbing yesterday’s cold cup of coffee off the kitchen counter and taking a hearty guzzle. Bleh.

It has been a good few weeks together. I consider myself blessed that the domestic disputes were small and, for the most part, insignificant. We traveled a bit to see family. We enjoyed a few flakes of snow. We imbibed… a few times. And, not wanting it to end without its just finale, we enjoyed a swimmingly delish last supper together. (Yes, I said swimmingly. This terrible writing isn’t going to stop, people. Those that know me have learned to ignore my nauseating affinity for punny. To the rest of you, I’ll simply say, you’ll get there.)




Mustard and Citrus Salmon with Paleo Herb Crust

What you’ll need:

four 6 to 8-ounce fresh salmon filets

dijon mustard

fresh-squeezed lemon juice

fresh-squeezed lime juice

sea salt

black pepper

2-3 tablespoons almond flour

1 tsp fresh or dried dill

1 tsp garlic powder

dried basil, oregano, or thyme (optional, to your liking)

1 tbsp melted paleo cooking fat (coconut oil, bacon fat, butter)

What you’ll do:

Place fish in baking dish, and drizzle with lemon and lime juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. (Note: If you enjoy the skin, which I do… like a hungry stray cat enjoys free tunafish… put a tablespoon of cooking fat in the bottom of your baking dish before placing the filets. This will allow you to abscond with the fish with the skin intact after cooking. Salmon skin is high in those good Omega-3s, and is just darn tasty. But, as always, there are skeptics and haters. I won’t hash out the “risks” here. That’s why there’s Google.) Place a dollop of a quality dijon mustard on each filet, and spread evenly. Let this marinate on the counter top while you prepare the herb crust.
salmon_raw_medium

In a small bowl, combine almond flour, dill, garlic powder and any other herb you like. It’s all flavor, and it’s all good. Go with what you like. There’s no science here. It’s pretty much fail-proof. Sprinkle the herbed almond flour over the top of the filets. Place in a 350-degree oven for twenty-five to thirty minutes. In the last five to ten minutes of baking, remove the filets and drizzle melted coconut oil, bacon fat or organic grass-fed butter over the top. Put back in the oven. This will allow the crumb topping to get golden and, quite frankly, irresistible.

 

Bacon-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

What you’ll need:
1 lb fresh Brussels sprouts

4-6 strips of bacon

garlic powder, dill or thyme (to your liking)

brussles_medium

What you’ll do:

Steam the sprouts, no more than 4 minutes. (Let’s face it, the BS get a bum rap. And I’m convinced it’s because our mothers never knew anything other than to cook them to mushy smithereens… or thanks to schmucks like this guy. Poor little buggars. DON’T NEGLECT THEM. They need just a few minutes in the steam bath. You’ll thank me.) Remove from heat, and let cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, rough chop the bacon, place in a 9×13 baking dish, and put in the oven, which should already be set to 350 for your fish. While the bacon renders in the oven, conveniently absent from any involvement from you, (told ya… this is easy… nothing fishy about it…) cut the stems off the sprouts and quarter. Once the bacon is swimming in its own fat, pull it from the oven, add the quartered sprouts, sprinkle with salt, pepper and dill (my favorite, but again, you can season to your little sprout’s desire), toss all in the bacon fat to coat, and back into the oven it goes.

I happened to have an eggplant that needed some love, so I cubed that up and tossed it in as well. Roast away while the fish is cooking, tossing every once in a while so everybody gets to play in the grease. I like to cook mine until I see a little caramelization, about 30 minutes, but again, totally up to you. If you’re using knives and an oven, I’m going on the assumption you have the wherewithal to adapt this to your liking. You can do this. I just know it.

Paleo Pantry Essentials

Successful paleo living depends greatly upon preparedness. The following is a list of the items I tend to keep on hand at all times.

image_bb53f318-d4c1-41ba-932c-f6dd2fe0f8e2_large

The majority of these items can be found in your local natural foods store, or even in many organic sections of your standard grocery store. If time and selection are an issue, be sure to browse Tropical Traditions online, where you can find everything from raw organic honey to grass-fed beef and lamb.


• Coconut Oil

 B
acon Drippings

Almond Flour

Coconut Flour

Honey

Maple Syrup

Almond Butter

Apple Cider Vinegar

Raw Seeds and Nuts (almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans)

Coconut Milk (in the can)

Chicken Stock

Canned Tomatoes

Tomato Paste

Apple Sauce

Mustard

Bacon

Eggs

Kale

Avocado

Garlic

Onions

Carrots

Celery

Coconut Aminos

Sea Salt

Herbs and Spices

A Spirited Paleo Christmas

A primal shake up on a traditional tequila cocktail. 

It’s Christmas. The kids are out of school, and we plan to live in our jammies for the next two weeks. We also plan to enjoy some Christmas cheer, but not at the expense of sabotaging our well-being. (Our mental clarity, perhaps.) But even liquid defense to combat family lunacy isn’t worth the sugar crash and hangover that’s inevitable with traditional cocktails. So, here’s our little primal take on holiday libations. Feliz Navidad, mis amigos.

Paloma_grande

 

What you’ll need:

A quality tequila, 100% agave if you’ve got it

Juice from half a lime

100% grapefruit juice

Sea salt

Club soda

 

What you’ll do:

Fill a highball glass with ice. Sprinkle about a quarter teaspoon of sea salt over the ice. Add your lime juice and a splash of grapefruit juice. Pour about two ounces of tequila in, and top off with club soda. Give a quick stir, and get your cave rave started. Adjust salt and grapefruit juice to taste.

Paleo on the Fly

image_3ad882a3-bf38-4fab-a18b-b3c2fb28db7c_large

When the trees start to lose their leaves, the caveman starts to lose his marbles.

We’re way overbooked this week. Not entirely due to the fact that my husband is… otherwise occupied. But these stunts are definitely a contributing factor. Shockingly, his application with the Chinese Circus is still pending. But we expect to hear something any day now.

I must apologize. This is a shameful approach to blogging. But, I couldn’t help myself. I told you at the beginning of this journey that there would be some awkward moments. I think this qualifies. No sense in keeping you in the dark corners of the cave. Fly that primal flag for all to see, Winston!

Anyway, because of these antics and various other commitments that, I assure you, are far less entertaining, I’ve found myself a bit pressed for time this week. Undoubtedly, you’ve been here. (Well, maybe not exactly where Wilson is right now, but in a comparable time-suck. But hey, if you’ve got photo evidence of your own flag poling, you better be submitting that business for the site. You know you wanna…) And if there’s one lesson I’ve learned through practicing paleo, it’s that a lack of preparation will lead you down a dark and scary path of preservative and chemical-ridden processed “food”. It’s tricky to navigate your way outta that jungle once you’ve become lost in it.

But, the reality is, life ain’t always almond flour flap jacks and nitrate-free bacon. However, even on your busiest days, with a little foresight and creativity, you can stay out of the grain bin. The first step is keeping a paleo pantry. For a head start, check out my list of must-haves. And secondly, do your best to make it work. Don’t sabotage your lifestyle because you don’t have exactly what a recipe calls for. Guess what? Just because some yey-who (ahem… yes, this undoubtedly goes for me) on the World Wide Web posts a recipe, that doesn’t make it the be-all, end-all of food prep. Use what you have. Don’t be afraid to swap out pork for chicken and spinach for kale. Don’t have beef stock? Use chicken stock. Don’t have that? Turn on your kitchen tap. There’s this awesome stuff called water.

It’s not a science. And it’s not perfect. But it can be fun, and educational and (corn ball alert) inspirational. Just get in there, and see what you can make happen.

All that being said, and taking into account my lack of time, I threw together a crockpot soup today. It’s simmering away as I am plinking away at the keyboard, throwing together this deplorable fodder. Right. Let’s just get to the soup.

image_09c1c9ba-a9a3-4cc1-bcfa-10e03c2843c6_large

 

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup, Crockpot Style

 

 

What you’ll need:

1 onion, sliced

2-3 two-inch pieces of lemongrass, bruised

2 one-inch pieces ginger, peeled

3-4 Thai chili peppers, finely chopped*

Zest of two limes

Juice of the two limes you just zested

2 tablespoons fish sauce*

1-2 cups sliced mushrooms

2 lbs chicken breast, thinly sliced

2 cans coconut milk

3 cups chicken stock

1 large crockpot

 

What you’ll do:

This is super complicated, so just take a deep breath and trust that you CAN do this.

 

Okay, plug in the crockpot. Put everything, yes everything, into said crockpot. Affix lid to top. Turn to low.

 

I understand how intimidating this may seem. I’ve been there, after all. But, bear with me. Once you get that lid on, you’re in the clear. Let simmer for 6-8 hours on low. Or, if you’re especially pressed for time, 3-6 hours on high.

 

*A few notes. If you don’t have fish sauce, who cares? Add some salt. If you don’t have thai chili peppers, I could give a flip. Sprinkle in some red chili flake or even use black pepper… throw in some hot sauce, for crying out loud. Don’t let someone else’s food determine your own.