It’s 80 degrees with 80 percent humidity at this very moment. So naturally I’ve got the oven on full speed ahead with a series of baking projects to keep me from losing my mind. Oh, and naturally those baking projects happen to be pumpkin things because I’m not patient enough to wait for Fall. Naturally.
Side note…we’re moving into the new house Friday! I’m both excited to get everything settled and terrified that I’m going to get crushed with all our stuff as soon as I crack open the Pod…
This recipe is one that a friend gave me last year after the semester had started getting out of hand and all we could think of to make ourselves feel better was to have massive amounts of baked goods within arms reach. It was nothing short of a miracle that I was able to sub Bob’s Red Mill gluten free AP flour in one for one without a kitchen disaster (that seems to happen to me a lot)— my friend liked it even more than the wheat flour version since the garbanzo bean flour in Bob’s mix made for a little bit of a crust on the outside and a super moist interior. I’ve made this at least a dozen times and have made a couple tweaks based on preference and, seriously, y’all, it’s warm, comforting, fragrant perfection.
Ever mixed red and white wine together? You know, just to see what would happen? Yeah, don’t. Just know I made that sacrifice for you. Moving on.
I just finished reading The Matchmaker last week—and yes, I cried (no, BAWLED) at the end…and for about three days after. Such a good book. I even made Ross help me plan a hypothetical trip to Nantucket, which would totally not have been hypothetical if we had disposable income at the moment. *Sigh*
If nothing else, people on Nantucket seem to eat fresh made gourmet food all day long. Every day. I can’t stop thinking about Box having a breakfast of cheddar scones over coffee every morning at the waterside B&B whilst courting Danbey. I have resolved to make cheddar scones and eat them on my front porch as soon as we move into the new place. Only a few more weeks…crashing with your parents not cool. And way less cool when you’re married and are, like, 30 years old.
We spent last week in Florida, though, with my in-laws. Still crashing with parents, but when you’re in Florida it’s easier to pretend you have a Bayside vacation home. So being a *vacation*, I made pancakes all week long. Obviously. The only exception being a couple of trips to Serendipity…their French Toast and Cornmeal Pancakes are beyond words.
Ever since my mom got me a jumbo bag of Namaste Foods Perfect Flour Blend from Costco, I’ve been using that. Remember that, when cooking with gluten free flours, no two are really the same so if you’re using another brand, the measurements may differ slightly. I’ve made pancakes using other brands of GF AP flour and some with my own blends with success as well, but the important thing is to add a little at a time to make sure the consistency is good.
What with being unemployed and all and not exactly having a place to live until August 1, hubs and I are spending a few weeks with my parents. The older we all get, I’m starting to have more and more respect for how my folks have handled life after the last kid left home 8 years ago. Dad has been 100% retired for most of it and has steadily accumulated projects and community stuff to stay busy whenever he isn’t out on the motorcycle. Motorcycle rallies–the kind with checkpoints and landmarks to find within a 24-72 hour time limit over some region of the country–are pretty much his purpose in life. Mom still works as a nurse but has managed to keep the 3, 12-hour shifts a week for over a decade. I can only hope I’ll be so lucky. She’s been a gardener her whole life but when kids came along and life got busy we didn’t have much besides the flower beds and a few vegetable patches, but the garden beds have multiplied in the last few years to include everything from cucumbers and squashes, corn, beans, herbs, winter veggies, and, to my surprise when I came home last week, collards and kale (“everyone at work was talking about how much they love this stuff called ‘kale’ so I went and got a pack of seeds…). With my dad as a handy helper (he does the garden building and vegetable eating part) and a really commendable renewed devotion to personal health on their part, we can always count on fresh produce at home. So, obviously that brings me to today’s recipe. With the exception of the yogurt, everything here has been freshly grown and that’s pretty darn cool if you ask me.
Since summer is, you know, hot and all, I’ve been doing a *lot* of salads and cold veggies with dinner instead of the typical warm side dishes. Saves time, that’s for sure–one of my husband’s favorite things to toss on a plate next to the main event is a sliced heirloom tomato with salt and a drizzle of melted butter (speaking of which, grilled tomato and butter sandwiches are the bomb and I could probably eat them every day forever).
I got a little…fancy…with last night’s salad, as you can see. The dill was calling my name, I couldn’t resist. I’ve got fantasies of doing this again with some smoked salmon later this week. Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s dying just thinking about it….?
When you and your spouse are both funemployed at the same time you get to do some really awesome stuff together. Like wake up late and sip coffee out on the deck on a Thursday. Like make breakfast side by side without bitching at each other because one or the other is already running late. Like just decide on a whim to go take a bike ride along the C&O. Like head over to the butcher afterwards and freak out the whole place when you ask for a beef heart and the guy says he’ll go see what they’ve got in the back and promptly slams what is most certainly the heart of a wooley mammoth–not a cow–onto the counter. What can I say? We’ve got fertile land.
“What is THAT??” asks the lady behind me.
“A beef heart!” my husband cheerfully replies. “They’re amazing. And cheap. And are, like, the beefiest beef you’ve ever had!” What we left unsaid was that by eating the cow’s heart we’d gain all of its strength and power.
Usually the easiest thing to do with a heart is to toss it in the slow cooker—they’ve got enough fat on them that they stay really moist and will flavor whatever accessory vegetables you put in alongside it. A “fancier” way to use it is to cut it into strips or chunks and just do your thing like you would with any other cut of beef. Being a holiday weekend and all, I figured now was the time to take a stab at grilling the thing.
Unlike other organ meats there really isn’t the need to disguise the flavor at all—the heart is a muscle, and tastes like any other muscle meat. If there’s anything distinctive it’s the almost “beefier” taste, if that makes any sense. I’m pretty confident that as long as you cut it right you could serve it to a crowd without anyone being the wiser. This is good because I’m not a huge fan of drowning something in sauce or marinade if I don’t have to…especially not when we’re lucky enough to have our herds raised on sweet, sweet valley grass.
We finally got all our stuff out of the Baltimore house yesterday—one thing I realized I miss from the Army was the fact that whenever you had to move, some moving company would just magically show up and four hours later, all your stuff was gone. Whether it would make it to where you needed to go was another story but considering we aren’t even taking possession of the new place for a month, I’m not thinking that far ahead. Either way. Moving yourself is awful. Righteously awful.
Fun fact…there is a Law of the Unviverse that states that no matter how hard you try, you will never—NEVER—fit all of your household goods inside your POD, despite more trips to Goodwill than I care to count and a pile of trash bags in the back alley I’m pretty sure could shield the place from a nuclear war. So, that was my weekend.
I know baking is probably the last thing anyone wants to do in the middle of the summer, except it’s the first thing I want to do every second of every day of the year so I’m posting this anyway. Y’all know I’ve been on my Vegan kick lately and I recently extended said Vegan kick into the realm of baked goods. I did try to make a Paleo/Vegan bread a while back (I’m still racking my brain for a way to make that happen) but for now I’m settling for this lovely creation.
It’s seriously delicious, not to mention versatile. Dudes, I made French Toast and sandwiches and toast with butter and jam and PBJ andandand they all held up. The pain with GF baked goods of any kind is that they can really be dry and crumbly, and doubly so when you have to eliminate eggs and dairy from the mix. I don’t know what it is about this specific combo of ingredients but it works beautifully. I had to experiment a little—it took me one miserable failure and two not-so-miserable-but-still-imperfect attempts to figure out the magic behind it and here is what I found/the ONE change I made…
When she says mix the ingredients until “just combined,” seriously, yo…do NOT overmix. Mix up all your dry ingredients REALLY well before you add the wet stud and mix by hand slowly and carefully until it comes together. Overmixing will produce a nasty sinkhole.
Only let it rise 30 minutes. I know it says 30-45 but too long and a) it might overflow and/or b) it’ll sink whilst baking.
I added a tablespoon of psyllium husk powder. I swear by this stuff.
Does not freeze well. I unthawed a loaf I had frozen fresh and it turned to sand.
Let the loaf cool either upside down or on its side. I know some folks think this is an Old Wive’s Tale, but it makes me feel better. So there.
This is the first time ever that my husband and I have been (f)unemployed at the same time. I give major bonus points, too, since it’s over the summer and we’ve got a pretty sweet vacation schedule lined up. Seriously, not having a job and not having to worry about money doesn’t really happen. Ever. Except it’s happening right now. These are the moments where, you know, being smart and saving cash for the past decade helps you out. And when the GI Bill is as awesome as ever. Five deployments between the two of us almost seems not as craptastic as before. Almost.
What I like about having a year off from school, too, is that I can let the brain fog lift a little and catch up on normal people stuff. Less zig-zaggy chemical figures and renal fluid balance diagrams, more reading books in the sunshine. Books that make me laugh instead of cry. Books I can discuss with my husband over coffee. And by discuss I mean bitch about how pissed I get every time Judd suppresses his feelings while my own husband makes agreeable noises whilst reading the news or intermittently wondering aloud whether it would be better to upgrade some software on some device I totally don’t care about. If you missed the reference, I’m reading This is Where I Leave You—as soon as I saw that the movie was coming out and that Jane Fonda (love her) and the guys whose name I don’t know but who plays Adam on Girls (LOVE him) were in it I hadhadHAD to read the book. If nothing else, I love watching a movie based on a book and having read said book so I can complain about all the inconsistencies. Yes, I’m actually 80 years old.
Ya, so pork belly. Delicious, obviously. And since I have tome on my hands to do things like read a real book I have time to make pork belly in any way other than in a slow cooker. While it required my attention for longer than did the slow cooker method, I actually found this way to be easier. I hope that makes sense…if nothing else this is a great way to prep a slab for cooking later.
Basically, you braise the thing for a few hours, let it cool in the fridge for a while, cut it up into chunks (or probably even leave it whole) and pan sear it. Boom.
This is going to be a thing. I did see a thing on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives the other day about pork belly on a stick. That’s going to need to happen soon, like, real soon.
If you know me at all, you know I really don’t care about making sure my recipes are “light” or “healthy” or “skinny” or whatever. The Paleo/Primal way of eating, by definition, is a hell of a lot better than the Standard American Diet, and I’ve found that just avoiding crappy ingredients makes a world of difference–even when you’re making comfort food. Fish and Chips happens to be one of my all time favorite comfort foods, so I got some tilapia and some sweet potatoes, was all set to make up a nice batter and fry everything up in some coconut oil, and then…I just pooped out. I’m mid-move, you guys. I’m tired. I’m cranky. I just wanted dinner on the table when Ross came home and was NOT in the mood for anything requiring any cranial activity.
So, here’s what I did…I made sweet potato fries like I always do, except with some vinegar because that’s how they always give them to you when the whole mess is served out of a truck wrapped in newspaper. Then I took the fish, threw them on a baking sheet, and seasoned the heck out of them with all the flavors that you’d expect from the fried variety. Think lemon, thyme, a little oregano, garlic, and (obviously) salt. I know every recipe varies the batter a little bit but I really tried to capture what I would say (in my own experience) is the quintessential fish and chips experience. And it definitely did not disappoint. But I was tired, so maybe I’m just full of it. Either way, the whole thing took 30 minutes, most of it spent racked on the couch, so I’ll call that a win.
I have been doing a lot of Vegan meals lately, haven’t I?
The way I see it, making at least one meal a day is 100% plant-based is a phenomenal way to get an array of veggies and nutrients in my diet. I’ve ranted about it before, but the one thing anyone or any “diet” can agree on is that we could all use more veggies. Over the years, what I would consider to be “My Paleo” has certainly changed–I’m kind’ve over the whole eat-nothing-but-giant-hunks-of-meat-all-day-every-day. Nowadays it’s more like a 25/75 split between animals and plants. I eat my eggs with greens and grilled veggies…my steaks with tons of salad and sweet potatoes…and even have the occasional meal that’s purely plant-based (my mornings lately have begun with fruit, kale, and coconut milk “ice cream” topped with Paleo Krunch). “My Paleo” now is a lot more balanced and I’ve noticed such a huge difference in how I look and feel. This past year I lost 15 pounds and just feel…better.
I really do agree with a lot of the thoughts behind Veganism–namely that processed “foods” are, well, crap, and that we’re missing out on so many of the valuable nutrients in plants. I’m also sympathetic to the moral arguments…I’m not against eating animals, since humans need a lot of nutrients from the muscles and organs of others and have evolved to consume them, but I am against eating factory farmed animals subjected to inhumane conditions both because it’s unhealthy for them and unhealthy animals make unhealthy meat and because, frankly, it’s just cruel.
I’ve slowly become the people from Portlandia who insist that their chickens need to be happy and have little chicken friends to lend a shoulder when they feel sad.
ANYWAY, let’s talk about last night’s dinner. As far as I’m concerned, plantains are always a good idea…I’d think of this as almost a deconstructed mofongo. I added the collards as almost an afterthought and am SO glad I did. They really do add a nice bitterness to balance the sweet of the plantains and coconut oil and make everything just a little more vibrant. As a main dish, it’s perfect over cauli rice but I’d bet that it would be great with a root vegetable mash, big baked potato, or even as a side.
My mom was in town the other day and stayed over for dinner, so naturally I felt the need to outdo myself at dinner. Cooking for your mother—the same mother who taught you to cook—is pretty much akin to fighting Mr. Miyagi.
The last thing I wanted to do, however, was create some elaborate meal plan and totally wreck the whole thing…let alone spend hours in the kitchen and leave my mom out back. We haven’t seen each other in way too long and that’s just rude. So…fancy-pants dinner with minimal prep. Ready, go!
I took a little inspiration from my trusty Game of Thrones cookbook (seriously, it’s so much fun) and a recipe for a chicken roasted in a honey sauce. Not having any honey or mint on hand and a firmly believing that the book’s version definitely did not have nearly enough butter, I improvised a bit. I also brined the chicken—as I always do to ensure the most tender and moist product possible. Do NOT skip the brining step. Ever. A properly brined chicken can be tossed in the oven with nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil and come out looking like Julia Child herself came to dinner.
Anyway, my mom gave this the seal of approval…when she asked me to get a bigger spoon so she could douse her plate in more “raisin sauce,” as she calls it (thus my title), I knew I had a winner. She even took leftovers home with her, which is kind of a big deal since she’s still terrified that her adult children don’t have enough to eat.
1 whole chicken, about 4-5 pounds, giblets removed
1 c sea salt
1 c vinegar
2 T black pepper
¼-1/3 c olive oil
1 c apple cider vinegar
1 c maple syrup
½ c raisins
1 stick (1/2 cup) pastured butter or ghee
First, brine your chicken. Fill a large stock pot with lukewarm water. Add the 1 c salt, vinegar, and pepper and stir to dissolve.
Add the chicken, making sure there is enough water to cover it.
Cover the pot and allow the chicken to brine at room temperature for about 1-2 hours (you can also prep ahead of time and refrigerate for 3-24 hours if needed, just bring it to room temp before you roast the chicken).
Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.
Place in a greased roasting pan. Use the ¼ to ⅓ cup olive oil to rub down the whole bird, massaging it all over (imagine the birdie getting ready for a long day at the beach…).
Truss the legs and place in the oven. Sprinkle with salt.
Roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
While the chicken is roasting, place the apple cider vinegar, syrup, raisins, and butter in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
After 30 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven and pour about 1-1 ½ cups of the butter/syrup/raisin mixture over the chicken. Return to the oven for 30 minutes more, then add more butter sauce.
Roast 30 minutes longer (the chicken should roast for a total of 90 minutes) and pour the remaining sauce over the chicken. Cover with foil and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
I was feeling another 30-minute meal. I hope you won’t complain.
Ever seen those slow cooker recipes that are just meat with a bottle of barbecue sauce and a jar of jelly? This is kind of like that but wayyyyyyyy less waiting involved. All you need is a batch of my Sugar Free BBQ Sauce and a jar of clean jelly. I found this brand at my Whole Foods and was thrilled to see that it’s perfectly crap-free. Paleo win.
Ingredients? Apricots, apple juice, pectin, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Not too shabby.
An added bonus is the leftover sauce you get once the chicken gets eaten. It’s positively addictive and goes so well on….everything. Do yourself a favor and make a little extra