Monday, February 27, 2012

Work & Travel While Desperately Seeking Paleo Foods

Malai Kitchen, Midtown Dallas
Determination:the process of something typically by calculation or research. 

First & foremost always travel with a plan. When we lived in Mexico if travel plans weren't in place, wild adventures could occur! It is not so different here in the states. On a personal note there is also less self recrimination when you planned for something if it doesn't work out. I for one try and attempt some self restraint & sticking to a schedule, a diet or plan of some type.  Second, if things don't work out then go to Plan B & Carry  On.  (ie: Get back into the swing & keep plowing ahead.)  I had to travel to Dallas last week for work. While traveling with a fellow Crossfit/paleo eating co-worker we thought we would keep each other on track.  We actually did help each other out in many aspects.  It always helps to have someone in your corner who understands why you don't want bread, dairy, rice is a grain, etc..... The first night in Dallas I met two friends I hadn't seen since living in Monterrey, N.L.  We dined at a wonderful Asian restaurant Malai Kitchen in Midtown Dallas. The restaurant is a fusion of Thai & Vietnamese cuisines with several variations similar to other Asian  cuisines. Finding Paleo eats was no problem there and my friend was a dedicated vegetarian of many years therefore; she too had great choices.  The staff was great at accommodating all of our  different dietary needs.  With a menu full vegetable & protein choices it worked for each of us. I had a wonderful Tom Yum Gung with Black Tiger Shrimp which was sheer heaven. There was an eggplant house appetizer which was so good I am still trying to find a recipe for it. 
 The first morning of our trip however was another story entirely.  We are always fed very well at these events so we assumed that breakfast was served  at our destination the first morning. Seriously don't ever assume when it comes to food & travel.  Take control of specific food requirements. After a few days of semi off the grid eating & drinking I was glad to get back into the swing of things at home. Poor food choices on the road make me more determined to eat healthy & plan better the next time around.

Leftover meat, egg & veggies make a quick meal.
This past weekend I was determined to cook our Paleo foods & feel great (*Did I mention I managed to sit next to 2 folks fighting the late Winter Flu in a stuffy conference room the entire trip?) With throbbing head, scratchy throat & my packs of Emergen-C, I carried on.  Wanting to cook, yet spare shoppers my germs;  I sent Mister Tx2Mx to the store for a couple of essentials. One of the dishes I made was reminiscent of the Korean meals a friend of mine used to make in South Florida.  The use of protein & eggs in Korean food is incredible. I always admired her way of cooking  eggs crepe thin & then slicing it up into delicate bits adding such flavor to the meals. I am a very long way from her skill set however I did try & replicate Bi Bim Bap. The very name is meant to imply leftovers or mixed with rice/rice noodles however the Paleo version certainly doesn't rely on rice or noddles. I opted out of rice & doubled up on the veggies. The efforts yielded a very nice protein packed meal using leftover venison loin, cooked egg along with  multiple vegetables. Cooking the dish in a stainless wok made the process super fast. If I'd had a bowl of this for breakfast in the Big D, I'd have been one happy camper.  Next time Plan B may include where to find the Korean food trailer & will certainly include a return visit to Malai Kitchen.

A bowl of  Paleo Bi Bim Bap is a quick fix for dinner.

Paleo Bi Bim Bap

8 oz. Sliced Leftover meat: tenderloin, roast, steak, chicken, etc.
Egg, I used 1 egg
8- 10 oz. of each Vegetable; I used Carrots, Chard, Cabbage & Bell Peppers
Korean Spicy Sauce or chili flakes to taste
1 tsp. garlic
rice vinegar or lemon juice to taste
coconut or grapeseed oil (with a splash of sesame oil for good measure)
dash of sea salt
sesame seeds
Cucumber sliced or grated; used for garnish
*Kimchi is often served with this dish

Slice up all veggies, meats & then scramble egg. Coat the wok or skillet with as few tablespoons of oil as you need, a well seasoned wok won't require much. Cook egg(s) quickly over med high heat, turning to coat the bottom of the wok or skillet. Slice the egg into thin strips & cover to keep warm while preparing the rest of the meat & vegetables. Quickly cook vegetables & garlic adding in the more dense vegetables first to cook them a little longer & finally ending with the chard or leafy vegetables & then adding the meat which is pre-cooked & only needs to be reheated with the rest of the dish. Toss in dash of salt & sprinkle with sesame seeds. Place this in serving dish with eggs over top of meats & vegetables then garnish cucumber and Korean Spicy Sauce* Kimchi or Siracha Sauce. This dish can be expanded easily to accomplish feeding many with very few ingredients. Multiplying the egg or veggies can expand this meal quite easily. There are so many versions of this dish, be creative & add what you have on hand.  This recipe yields 2 large adult portions for more just multiply ingredients. 

*For true Korean Kimchi check at the local Asian Market
**Korean Spicy Sauce can be easily made at home:
5 Tbsp Kochujang (Korean chili pepper paste)
2 Tbsp agave nectar or honey
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp sesame oil
Mix all ingredients thinning out with water if it is too thick, store remaining sauce in refrigerator.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Granola: a Lovin Spoonful for Heart Health Month

February is American Heart Health month. It’s true that heart disease can be genetic, but often it is not. Cigarette smoking, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and hyperlipidemia are other factors that contribute significantly to heart disease risk.

With the many choices we make food wise during the day the best way to start a healthy day is with a good foundation at breakfast.  Along with the regular breakfast items we eat at our house I recently added a Paleo Granola recipe. Bytes from Texas tried a granola recipe that she was raving about & let me know that Mexican vanilla is the deal breaker, basically. With a good quality vanilla very little is missed out of the "old school granolas" which when bought at a store in the prepackaged boxes (on that long cereal aisle) contain large amounts of sugars, grains & extra preservatives none of us need.  There is no risk of high fructose corn syrup when you take a small amount of time to make your own granola. I have made 3 batches of this recently & in fact have seen the Mister eating a handful of my granola now versus some of his previous less healthy alternatives.  I made mixed up my first granola & tossed in pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) & put in dried bits of apricot.  Logically you may say it is easier to pick up a box but this recipe is healthier, easy & seriously cheaper when you buy small amounts of nuts & fruits in the bulk foods area of your local grocer.  Enjoy this recipe, it's a small joy to make your first recipe of homemade Granola & realize it's been that easy all along.  Buen Provecho, my friends! 

For a Heart Healthy  start to the day try this with coconut or almond milk.
Paleo Granola
2 cups toasted coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 cup pumpkin seed kernels
1/2 cup sliced raw almonds
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
3/4 cup agave syrup*
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tsp Mexican vanilla (or very good quality vanilla)
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried apple, roughly chopped
1/2 cup pecans or nuts of choice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.Combine oats, pumpkin seed kernels, chopped almonds, and sunflower seed kernels in a large bowl.
In a saucepan on the stove, melt together the agave, coconut oil and vanilla, stirring occasionally, until combined.
Pour agave mixture over oat mixture and stir to coat.
Spread granola mixture into baking pans (metal pans cook faster than glass). Bake for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. I spread mine on foil on the counter for several hours or overnight so it cools well, then store in airtight container.
Enjoy granola with coconut milk or almond butter or fruit! *I have made this with or without the agave, it is as good without as with the syrup.

Any fruit or nut mixture will work, try new combinations.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Scotch Eggs Anyone?

Scotch Eggs, portable & quintessentially  British

What is a Scotch Egg many might ask? I've been a fan of this British food item since I was a student & traveled to the UK many years ago. I remember the puzzled looks on my American travel companions faces. My first Scotch Egg was crisp on the outside, it had a well cooked egg at the center & was altogether delicious. Back then it was a typical fare for corner pubs, well known food halls such as Selfridge's or Harrod's & small corner grocers across England. Jump forward to 4 years ago when my daughter & I attended the Celtic Festival in Austin Texas. My daughter was turned off when I purchased a Scotch Egg from a pseudo British food tent. I do admit the same food tent sold "Gator on a stick".... however it was every bit as tasty as I remembered eating across the pond in my youth. She refused to partake in the tasty bit of Celtic fare & made jabs at what odd bits of meats may have been inside the tasty tidbit. Who can blame her when the establishment sold other odd meats?

The Scotch egg has quite the history though. Fortnum & Mason’s archives show that it invented the Scotch Egg first. Back in the 1730s, Fortnum’s was hard at work creating foods to suit its well-heeled customers, whose far-flung families could only be reached by long-distance carriage rides. Mind you, the ultra portable Sandwich wasn't on the foodie scene till 1762 and food to travel with were in demand. Fortnum’s came up with a number of ideas, including wrapping a hard-boiled egg; which in those days was probably a pullet’s egg in sausage meat with a coating of breadcrumbs. Substantial, tasty and full of protein, it was an excellent way to stave off hunger pangs. The name, by the way, has nothing to do with Scotland; "scotched" was merely another word for processed. In the 21st century the Scotch Egg has come into a more accepted & even regaled status. In Japan "skotchi eggu" are a staple of Japanese new year. As is typical when a simple food spends centuries on the culinary journey, the newer versions take some exciting detours. The British foodies now report the use of vegan sausage, exotic ostrich meat & venison as well as foi gras wrapped around Scotch Egg. However you may enjoy this portable protein, it's worth a taste even if for the first time! I made mine without the use bread crumbs though the substitution of almond meal makes the outer crust quite crisp & gives a very nice texture. 

Scotch Eggs

4 boiled eggs, shelled & chilled
1 lb turkey or pork sausage *see below recipe if you don't buy prepared sausage
2 cups Almond meal
1 raw egg for the wash

Dip the shelled boiled eggs in water then lightly coat in almond meal. Wrap the entire Egg up inside 1/4 of the sausage meat. I flattened the sausage with my palm then wrapped the egg up in the sausage smoothing the meat around the egg evenly.  Once all 4 eggs are covered in the sausage meat, beat the raw egg, use a brush to coat the outside of the sausage wrapped eggs & then roll them in the almond meal.  Fry in medium sized skillet over medium heat in about 1/2 inch grape seed oil till browned on the outside (10-15 min).  Transfer to plate with paper towels to soak up any excess oil.  When all scotch eggs are warmed they are delicious but they are just as tasty when they are chilled. I enjoy mine with mustard but I've seen them eaten with Siracha sauce, 

Wrap sausage around the boiled egg, then roll in almond meal.

*For making your own sausage or mince:
1 lb ground lean pork or 1 lb ground turkey
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
½ teaspoon red pepper
½ teaspoon thyme

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Homemade Soup Day, Let's Celebrate

Hearing that National Homemade Soup Day was arriving I was wondering what Winter soup I'd make to have for a tummy warming treat for me & the Mister. I have to admit I'd eat soup almost any day of the year but we've had an unseasonably warm Winter here in Texas. I had to find just the right soup recipe to make since our temperatures have been so moderate of late. I have enjoyed African Peanut Soup many times & like the spicy quality as well rich creaminess of that dish. In an urge to avoid legumes right now at our house I opted for a more veggie based soup version with a slight nod to my favorite African Peanut Soups of the past. I used homemade pumpkin puree I had from oven roasting a Fall pumpkin. The flavors from oven roasting are slightly different from the canned version so if given the opportunity to use fresh please try it! Bowls up & enjoy National Homemade Soup Day today, February 4.

Pumpkin Soup
1 medium onion
2 stalks celery
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons grapeseed, coconut or olive oil
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 large can of whole tomatoes, do not drain
1/2 cup creamy almond butter or peanut butter
1 (29 ounce) can pure pumpkin puree (*or process your own pumpkin & freeze ahead of time in Fall)
1- 13.5 oz can coconut milk
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
salt & pepper

Finely mince the onion and celery.
Either use a garlic press for the garlic or mince extremely fine.
Melt the oil in your stock pot and sauté the onion, celery and garlic for about 5 minutes or until soft.
Add the stock, followed by the remaining indgredients, whisking the mixture so it remains smooth.
Simmer for about 20 minutes and serve.

I served this soup topped with toasted pumpkin seeds & a sprig of fresh rosemary. I tossed the seeds with 2 tsp oil & stirred in Wasabi Fumi Furikake seasoning & roasted for 25 min @ 350 stirring every 5 minutes. The seasoning adds a different kick to the pumpkin seeds. Glad I tried it, I will certainly be utilizing the seasoning again. *Fall pumpkins never go to waste in my house.  We roast, stuff & re-purposed our pumpkins if not for us then for our wild critters.  See the re-purposed pumpkin below.
Fill a pumpkin with bird seed for a critter treat!