Sunday, January 30, 2011

Citrus Rubbed Skirt Steak Salad

I'm not really a salad type of girl.  You know... those girls who always order salads when they go out on a date.... then they'll dip the tip of their fork in the dressing and then stab a leaf of some green thing that looks like a dandelion.   I'd much rather order a big hunk of steak or chicken with some steamed broccoli than a "garden salad." 

I'm not a rabbit.... I eat and I enjoy meat!  I have, however, realized that salads are convenient.  It's a good way to use leftover meat from a previous meal.  It's also very convenient for me, as a teacher, because my scant 30 minute lunch is often interrupted and cut down to 10 minutes... a quick salad that I can just grab and eat while organizing a lesson is very convenient.  I do get bored though... so I've started looking for yummy salads to try.  I saw this one in a cooking light magazine and thought I'd give it a whirl:

Citrus Rubbed Skirt Steak Salad

* 2 lbs skirt steak
* 2 tsp orange zest
* 2 tsp lemon zest
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
* 1/4 cup orange juice
* salad greens
* 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
* 2 tbs white wine vinegar
* 1 pinch salt
* 1 pinch pepper

First, I zested an orange and a lemon to get all of the yummy flavors out of the rind.  I threw them in a large glass bowl.  I also minced a clove of garlic and threw that in, along with the red pepper flakes.  I took a spoon and mixed it all together until it was a sticky, fragrant sort of paste.

Next, I had thawed a 2 lb piece of skirt steak.  Skirt steak is a very flavorful and very affordable piece of beef.  It's really a great deal.  It's also traditionally used for fajitas or carne asada.  This is one of the first times that I'd cooked with skirt steak, but I loved it!  Anyway, I threw the skirt steak into the bowl, mixed it all together until the steak was pretty well covered, and let it sit for a few minutes while I heated up my grill pan.

I might have mentioned it before, but I have a love/hate relationship with my grill pan.  It's cast iron and there are all sorts of  "rules" when it comes to taking care of your cast iron pan.  You can't use soap, you can't use a sponge, you can't frown at it or call it names... etc...  Sometimes it works really well... other times, marinades and stuff sticks to it and I have a searingly hot pan that you can't touch without an oven mitt.  Anyway, I threw a little bacon fat on the grill pan and heated it up to medium high. 

I threw the steak on there (it was really long, so I actually cut it into 2 steaks) and let it sear on the outside.  Because it was so thin, it only took a few minutes to cook on either side.  You want the pan to be pretty hot so that it sears and locks in all of the juicy steak flavors.  After about 2 minutes, I flipped it and let it cook on the other side.  After it was cooked, I pulled it off and let it rest on a plate to let the juices redistribute.

You don't want to cut it immediately, or else all the juices (aka flavor) will run out and leak onto your cutting board.  I let the steaks sit for about 10 minutes then cut it across the grain into thin slices, ready for a salad.  This steak was really yummy and could be served with a veggie as a meal.  It would probably go really well with some lemon green beans - the lemon would pick up the flavors of the steak.   I decided to continue on with the salad though...

I took the orange that I zested and cut it in half.  I juiced 1 half of it and it yielded just about 1/4 cup of orange juice.  I also added in the white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and a little bit of pepper.  I got to use this tiny little whisk that Curt's mom gave me last Christmas.  It was the perfect size for making sure the dressing was mixed well. 

On a plate, I put some of the salad greens.  I also like lots of stuff in my salads... to make sure that they have lots of different flavors and textures.  I added in some cucumbers and also the orange sections from the half of the orange I didn't use.  I then set the thinly sliced skirt steak on top and drizzled the dressing over the whole salad.

The salad was pretty good.  I really liked the citrus rub on the steak.  I usually just like my steaks pretty plain.  I like the flavor of the grass fed beef without anything to mask it.  But... this was a really nice change.  The brightness of the citrus really added a little something extra to make it very flavorful and a little bit lighter.  Curt really liked it too.  He kept picking off the pieces of the steak before I had even packed them away for lunches throughout the week.  I'm definitely going to save this recipe and use it again!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Paleo Pancakes

 This morning, the alarm went off and I crawled out of bed to the computer and was THRILLED to see that we had a SNOW DAY!!! Usually, I don't have time to make a nice breakfast, but snow days call for something special, so I made Paleo Pancakes!  I looked at a bunch of different recipes online for paleo pancakes and ended up just mushing them all together and making a new version.  Here's my version of :

Paleo Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

* 1 cup almond flour
* 1cup coconut flour
* 3 eggs
* 1/2 apple, finely chopped
* 1/2 tbs cinnamon
* 1/2 tso baking soda
* 1/2 cup water
* 1 cup coconut milk
* 1 tsp vanilla extract


First, in a small bowl, I cracked the eggs and added in the water and the vanilla extract.  I mixed it all up and also added in the cinnamon.  At this point, it started smelling like the egg mixture for french toast, which is something I missed since going paleo.  This started to have the same smells, making me really happy :)

To the egg mixture, I added in the baking soda, chopped apple, almond flour, and coconut flour. 

The batter was SUPER dry, so I decided to add in some coconut milk. I kept adding in the coconut milk until the batter was a bit thinner.

Whenever I make pancakes, I like to use my electric griddle.  I find that it cooks the foods more evenly than a pan on the stove.  Anyway, I heated up the griddle and threw on some coconut oil.  Then, by the tablespoon, I plopped down some batter and let it sizzle. 

I cooked it on low heat so the outside wouldn't burn while waiting for the inside to cook.  After a few minutes, the pancakes were ready to be flipped.  I let them cook for a few more minutes and piled all the pancakes onto a plate to cool.

This batch made a ton of pancakes, so I let some cool and stuck them in the fridge for tomorrow.  I may try to freeze some for another day.  But for today.... I definitely had my fill!

I topped a few with some grass fed butter and a bit of maple syrup.  Curt's Aunt Kathy and Uncle Charlie make their own maple syrup so that's what I topped the pancakes with.  They were DELICIOUS!!!

I loved these pancakes!  They had a nice flavor and texture.  They were simple too, after I figured out how to get the batter to the right consistency.  Of course, it's not the type of breakfast to eat all the time, but sometimes a little bit of indulgence is needed!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Paleo Chili

I don't know where you live, but here in northern Virginia, it's been FREEZING!!! We've seen some snow this week and had some pretty blustery winds. It's weather like this that makes me want to curl up in some sweats with the hubby and just eat a big bowl of chili.

Knowing the way I usually cook (throw random things in a pot and see what happens), I never know what to expect with my chili... sometimes I like it a lot, others, not so much. This particular batch I made tasted pretty darn good to me. Here's my version of:

Palo Chili

* 2 lbs grass fed ground beef
* 1 (24 oz) can diced tomatoes
* 4 big cloves of garlic, minced
* 2 cups of salsa (make sure it doesn't have any additives or sugar or other crap in it- mine was just veggies)
* 1 (4 oz) can of diced green chiles
* 1 jalapeno, minced
* 3 cups beef broth
* 1/4 red pepper, diced
* 1/4 green pepper, diced
* 1/4 yellow pepper, diced
* 1 yellow onion, diced
* 2 ribs of celery, diced
* 2 tbs cumin
* 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
* 2 tsp chili powder
* 1 tbs paprika
* 1 tsp red pepper flakes
* salt and pepper to taste

I started off by browning the ground beef in a big stock pot.  I just let everything cook on medium heat until everything was nice and brown.  While that was cooking, I chopped up the onion and jalapeno, green peppers, and garlic. 


Once the beef was cooked (doesn't have to be cooked all the way through because it will finish cooking later), I removed it and set it aside on a plate - make sure you save all the juices and stuff because there is a lot of flavor!  Anyway, once the pot is empty, throw in the onions and garlic.

I sauteed the onions and garlic for a few minutes until the onions were nice and soft.  Then I threw in the celery, red, yellow, and green peppers.  I'm not a huge pepper fan, but I'm trying to get myself to like them.  I'm almost to the point where I like red peppers, but not totally bought in on it yet.  Anyway, I figured that cooking them in a big pot of chili is a good way to start incorporating them in my diet.


Once the veggies were all cooked until soft, I added all of the ground beef back in.  I stirred everything together until it was all mixed well.  At this point, I added in the salsa.  It's not really a necessary ingredient, but I had a jar of salsa in the fridge and wanted to use it before it got lost in the mix of jars. All of the ingredients were natural and organic - no sugar or additives... just tomatoes, peppers, onions, and a few other things I can't remember now.

I mixed everything together and then added in the spices.  I personally LOVE cumin, so I added in extra cumin.  Here's where it would be easy to just add in one of those prepackaged chili seasoning mixes, but don't do it!  I looked at a few of them, even the organic ones.  They all had some sort of grain flour in them... rice flour, wheat gluten, cornstarch... I never even thought that gluten would be an ingredient in chili seasoning, but that's why it's important to check and be aware of what you're actually eating!

Moving on... I added in the canned diced tomatoes and the beef broth.  You don't really need to add in the beef broth, but I like my chili pretty soupy.  If you like yours more chunky, then just leave the beef broth out!  That's the best part of chili, you just change it however you want to.  I covered the pot and let everything simmer for about half an hour.  At this point, I was smelling all of the delicious smells and couldn't hold off any longer.  

I ladled a few scoops into a bowl and topped it with some cheddar.  I used an organic, raw milk cheddar that I had found at Whole Foods.  I shreded some on top and let it get nice and melty, then dug in! I really liked this batch of chili and I'm glad that I actually paid attention to how much seasonings I put in it.  I thought it was great and I ate all of the leftovers within a week!  I'm definitely going to have to make a few more pots of this before the weather warms up!

Does anyone else have any other interesting additions or versions of chili?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Holy Pig! Cassoulet

This month, for the daring cook's challenge, we were charged with making a cassoulet.  I'd heard the word before, but I don't think I've ever had a cassoulet before.  Typically, it's a warm, hearty French stew with a duck confit, sausages, beans, bacon, pork belly, and who knows what else.  Since beans aren't good for you, I decided to try the dish, but substitute veggies for the beans.  I had to make my own confit, which was interesting.  Basically, it's a French way of preserving meat in fat.  So I'll walk through how I made the confit, then the dish.... beware... this is an extremely time consuming process- the whole thing took 4 DAYS!!!

Paleo Cassoulet

* 3 whole duck legs (leg and thigh), size does not matter
* sea salt
* 2 cups bacon fat (original recipe called for duck fat)
* black pepper
* 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
* 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
* 1 garlic clove
* 8 carrots,diced
* 1 lb cremini mushrooms
* 3 cans green beans
* 8 ribs of celery
* 1 pound fresh pork belly
* 4 onions
* 1 pound bacon
* 1 bay leaf
* salt and pepper
 *1/4 cup butter
* 6 pork sausages (I used bratwurst)
* 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

First, I needed to make the duck confit.  Now, prior to this, the only duck that I'd had was deep fried and slathered in a spicy sauce at a yummy Thai restaurant.  We'll see how this turns out!  I found a pack of 3 duck legs, so I picked that up.  The original recipe called for 4, but whatever :)

The first step was easy, you put the duck legs in a small, ovenproof dish.  You season the legs with sea salt, cover them with some saran wrap, then refrigerate overnight.  Step one is done!

On the second night, I melted the bacon fat in the microwave.  I then threw a few cloves of garlic, some pepper, and the sprig of rosemary.  When the bacon fat was melted, I poured it over the duck legs.  I didn't have enough for it to cover the duck legs, so I melted enough butter to cover the duck legs.  Talk about a lot of fat!

Once the duck legs were covered, I covered the dish in foil and baked it in the oven at 375.  I let it bake for an hour.  Then I pulled it out, of the oven, let it cool, and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

While the duck confit was in the oven, I chopped up all the veggies.  You are supposed to use 5 cups of white beans and let them soak.  However, if you're eating Paleo (which I suggest you do) legumes are a no-no.  I decided to use a bunch of veggies instead.  I just cut them all up into tiny, bean sized pieces.  With the mushrooms, though, I only cut them in half.  I wanted them to be big enough that Curt could pick them out pretty easily (aren't I a good wife? :) hah).  After chopping them, I threw them in a bowl and wrapped them overnight.  Day 2 - done!

On day 3, I started with my big stockpot - I threw in all the veggies.  I also put in the pork belly (basically, this is unsliced bacon), I cut 1 of the onions into quarters and threw that in there, as well as a bay leaf.  I also put about 1/4 of the bacon into the pot.  Then you cover the whole thing with water, put a lid on it, and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

While the pot of stuff was simmering, I cooked the sausages.  I used bratwurst, because I don't know what type of pork sausage they had in mind.  I was going to put in some kielbasa, but, really... there was a ridiculous amount of meat in this dish already!  I boiled the sausages first, then, once they were almost all the way cooked through, I drained the water and browned them in some butter, then set them aside to cool.

After 30 minutes, I uncovered the stock pot and fished out the bacon, pork belly, and the onion.  Throw the onion away, but save the bacon.  You thinly slice the onion and you brown it, along with the bacon in a pan with some bacon fat.  When you've fished the bacon and onion out of the stock pot, you just cover it and let it simmer for another 30 minutes.

Once the bacon and onions are browned, you throw the whole mixture into a food processor or blender and whirl it all together.  You do need to add about a tablespoon of fat to make sure it's nice and liquidy.  Then, when everything is all pureed, you set it aside.  Now, it's time for the crazy part.... bacon!!!

The original recipe called for pork skin... I have no freakin idea where to get a bunch of pork skin, so I used bacon.  You line the entire pot with bacon.  I'm not really sure what the purpose of lining the pot is, but I just followed the directions.  I used just about a pound of bacon... now, I LOVE bacon, however, this was a bit ridiculous!

Next, I pulled the duck legs out of the fat bath it was sitting in and shredded the meat.  The orginal recipe said to just throw them in the pot, but I wanted everything to be easy to eat with a spoon once it was ready, so I shredded it.  I also chopped up the sausage and pork belly and got everything ready to go into the pot.  I also had to drain the veggie mixture that had been simmering on the stove.  I drained it, but saved the liquid because this is the "broth" for the soup.  I put everything in a sort of assembly line and got to work.

I layered everything together.  First, some of the veggies, then the pork belly, then the onion and bacon puree mixture.  

Then I added the sausage, then veggies, then onion/bacon puree, then I added the duck, then veggies then puree.... You get the point.


Once everything was in the pot, I added in the "broth" from the simmering pot and filled it up until it just covered the veggies and meat.

I also folded the extra bacon on top of the whole thing just so that it wouldn't hang over the side of the pot as it cooked. I stuck the lid on the whole thing and set it in the fridge overnight to sit. ( I was supposed to bake it for 2 hours, then refrigerate it, but it was late at this point and I just wanted to get to bed!)  Day 3- done!

Day 4- I preheated the oven to 350 and threw the whole thing in.  I let it bake for 2 hours!  After about an hour and a half, the whole house had this nice smell of bacon and veggies.  It was actually pretty nice.  At last, I opened the oven and took out the cassoulet to find this:

It looked like a delicious soup.  I think a traditional cassoulet is supposed to be thicker, but I didn't use beans, so I was definitely not expecting it to look like a traditional cassoulet.  The whole thing smelled amazing!  I ladled a healthy amount into bowls and Curt and I chowed down.

The verdict?  I thought it was a pretty good meal.  I'm not sure that I would ever take the time to make it again, as it was a 4 day process.  It was really good, don't get me wrong... but the time it took wasn't worth it for me.  I'm glad that I made it, but I don't know that I would make it again.  It's probably not fair of me to judge a cassoulet, though, because this isn't what one was supposed to taste like.  Overall, however, I thought it was really good, but it would be best for a dinner with company or if you have a big family.  I had a HUGE pot of this and with only me and Curt, we were eating it for a few days haha. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hot Pot Soup!

So Curt and I decided to go hard core paleo - no cheats- this year.  To start us off on the right foot, I decided to make a nice warm meal.  With the weather being so cold, I thought a big pot of soup would be good!  I was flipping through some magazines and found a recipe that I put my own Paleo spin on.  The original recipe called for noodles and a few other no no items, so I nixed those.

Here we have:

Hot Pot Soup

* 1 lb ribeye
* 1 lb shrimp
* 1/2 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
* 1/2 head napa cabbage
* 1/2 lb of sugar snap peas
* 6 cups of beef broth
* 2 tbs sesame oil
* 3 tbs chili garlic paste (more if you like it spicy)
* 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
* 3 tbs soy sauce

This recipe is super easy!  First, in a large stockpot, I added in some of the oil and the ginger.  I let the ginger cook a bit and soften up.  I'm not a huge ginger fan, so I left mine as 1 big hunk and fished it out of the soup at the end.  I just wanted a bit of the ginger flavor sothat I can gradually get used to the taste and eventually grow to like it (it's how I started liking onions!)  

Once the ginger had softened a bit, I added in the chili garlic sauce, the shitake mushrooms, and a little swirl of sesame oil.  Definitely make sure that you add in the sesame oil because it really gives everything a nice Asian-y toasty flavor!  Once all of that was mixed together, I added in the chicken stock and the soy sauce and let everything come to a nice simmer.

Next, I added in the sliced napa cabbage and the sugar snap peas.  The original recipe didn't call for the sugar snap peas, but I wanted to add them in to give the soup something extra since I was taking the noodles out.  They only took a few minutes to cook through.

While I was letting the cabbage and snow peas cook, I sliced the ribeye thinly against the grain.  You want to slice it against the grain so that when you eat a bite, it's easy to eat and it isn't chewy.  Anyway, when the steak is sliced thinly, it doesn't take long to cook at all.  Shrimp, of course, doesn't take long to cook.  You just want to stir everything around until the shrimp are opaque and the ribeye is cooked.  I also added in a lobster tail because it was on sale at Whole Foods, and the seafood guy gave me an extra discount :)


So here's the hot pot soup!  It was pretty darn good.  I'm used to having soup with pasta or rice or potatoes in it, but this was totally paleo and totally delicious.  The best part about this recipe is that it's totally flexible!  You could put in fish and shrimp and calamari and make it a seafood soup.  You could put in chicken or pork or steak; or you could just throw in a ton of veggies like carrots and celery and have a lighter appetizer type of soup.  I didn't even really miss the fact that there were supposed to be noodles in it!