Thursday, August 14, 2014

Paleo Energy Bars

While some people choose the paleo diet for weight loss, many more choose the lifestyle for improved performance in sports and recreation. For the latter, getting enough calories from ancestral foods can be challenging. I mean, how many chicken thighs can you eat? Okay, don’t answer that one. The point is, nutrient and energy density are desirable when you’re expending a significant amount of calories in a CrossFit box, paddling out to the lineup, or wrestling with rambunctious kiddos.

Yesterday we took the boys up to Zuma to surf. The thing about surfing is that you don’t really feel like you’re exercising, but it burns through so much energy… especially if you spend more time paddling for waves than actually catching them.

Fortunately, I planned ahead and made these amazing paleo energy bars adapted from Dannielle Walker's Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great. By the way, this cookbook was instrumental in helping me transition to a grain and dairy free lifestyle. I highly recommend it.

The kids love these bars and they kept the hunger gremlins at bay until we got home and enjoyed salmon and kale salad for dinner.

Yields 12 bars
½ cup almond butter
1/3 cup maple syrup
Pinch sea salt
2 tablespoon coconut oil
1 cup almonds
1 cup pecans
½ cup raisins
¼ cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
3 ounces roughly chopped dark chocolate, 80 percent cacao preferred

1. In a small saucepan, bring the almond butter, maple syrup, salt, and coconut oil to a gentle simmer. Stir until well combined. Remove from the heat.
2. Combine the nuts and raisins in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is roughly chopped and thoroughly integrated. Add the shredded coconut and pulse one or two more times.
3. Dump the nut and raisin mixture into a mixing bowl. Pour in the sweetened almond butter and stir to combine.
4. Add the chocolate pieces and stir just to combine. The residual heat of the almond butter mixture will slightly melt the chocolate, but should leave some pieces intact.

5. Dump the mixture into a baking dish lined with parchment paper. Use another sheet of parchment to press down on the mixture.
6. Place it into the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove to a cutting board and slice into squares. Store in the refrigerator.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dairy Free Chocolate Ice Cream

Julia Child once said that French cooking was the most important cuisine to master because the techniques could be transferred to any other global cuisine. Since I read that over two years ago, I have found it to be profoundly true. 

Recently, I have been experimenting with dairy-free ice cream making. Most dairy-free recipes dictate a custard preparation: eggs whisked with sugar, tempering with hot almond milk, cooking until thickened, and then chilling for several hours. Unfortunately, this method is both time consuming and grossly ineffective and yielding a creamy rather than icy dessert. Plus, it never really thickens like a dairy-based custard would.

So, I decided to experiment with the method for mayonnaise, egg yolks whisked with oil, as the base for my ice cream. Julia was right. It worked like a charm for producing a viscous, creamy dessert. Bonus, it was much faster than the custard route. And, if you think about it, traditional dairy-based ice creams are often made with half and half. The fat is so important for yielding the tongue-coating creaminess and soft texture characteristic of dairy ice cream.  

Using coconut oil yields a German chocolate flavor. However, if you prefer a more straightforward chocolate taste, use macadamia or another relatively flavorless oil. You may also choose to substitute vanilla extract in place of the coffee. 

Yields 1 pint
4 ounces dairy-free dark chocolate, at least 75 percent cacao
2 egg yolks*
1 tablespoon brewed coffee
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
1½ cups unsweetened almond milk
*if consuming raw eggs concerns you, choose pasteurized eggs

1. Melt the dark chocolate over very low heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet until nearly melted. Remove from heat. 
2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks, coffee, and sea salt until slightly thickened. Slowly pour in the coconut oil a droplet at a time, whisking constantly.
3. Continue adding the coconut oil until it is completely incorporated. The mixture should beautifully thick by now.
4. Add the palm sugar and ½ cup of almond milk to the chocolate and whisk until thoroughly integrated. It will also be fairly thick.
5. Slowly incorporate the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
6. Pour in the remaining cup of almond milk.
7. Immediately, pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and allow to churn for about 20 minutes, or until thick and voluminous. 

8. Enjoy immediately, or freeze in a covered container. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Loaded Paleo Nachos Recipe

Whenever I get really hungry and find myself tempted to indulge in something decidedly un-paleo, the first thing on my mind is loaded nachos. This kind of hunger doesn’t occur often; it’s only when I become too strict about my food choices—stressing about FODMAPs or nightshades, for example—that I end up consuming too little and become crazy hungry (read: stark raving “get out of my way kids, mommy is STARVING!” lunacy.)

It’s a challenging balance to strike when you adopt a primal lifestyle—eating the kinds of foods your body thrives on and eating enough of them to keep you thriving. However, the balance becomes easier as you find what foods are best for your body, discover recipes you enjoy, and find time-saving methods for preparing them. 

I'm slowly adding to my repertoire of paleo recipes and Juli Bauer's recipe for nachos from The Paleo Kitchen: Finding Primal Joy in Modern Cooking is good enough to make again and again. Here's my take on her version.

As a side note, I typically don't care whether something is vegan or not, but I do respect people who choose a vegan diet and am happy to offer recipes that please everyone. If you're sharing this meal with meatless friends, swap the chicken for black beans or simply skip it altogether. 

Loaded Paleo Nachos 
Serves 2 to 4 
1 large sweet potato, scrubbed
3 tablespoons coconut oil 
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
16 ounces cooked chicken, diced 
1 cup guacamole
1 cup pico de gallo
1 cup homemade paleo barbecue sauce, see below
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro 
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Slice the sweet potato in ultra thin slices with a good chef's knife or a mandoline.
  3. Toss the sweet potato slices together with the coconut oil and sea salt. 
  4. Arrange the sweet potatoes on the baking sheet being sure not to overlap. You may have to roast them in batches. 
  5. Bake for 15 minutes. After the 10-minute mark, remove any that have browned and allow to rest on a cooling rack. Cook all of the sweet potatoes this way. 
  6. To serve, top the freshly-baked sweet potato chips with chicken, guacamole, pico de gallo, and barbecue sauce. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve immediately. 

Homemade Paleo Barbecue Sauce Recipe
yields  2 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 cup diced onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons brown mustard
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
juice of 1 lime
  1. In a small sauce pan, cook the onion in oil for 5 to 7 minutes, until slightly softened.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. 
  3. Pour in the tomato sauce, vinegar, spices, and salt. 
  4. Simmer on low for 15 minutes uncovered. 
  5. Finish with lime juice and adjust the seasonings. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Easy Baked Chicken with Fennel and Sausage

This chicken drumstick recipe strikes the perfect balance between ease of preparation and depth of flavor with fewer than five ingredients! As it cooks, the fennel caramelizes and produces a soft,  creamy texture that complements the savory Italian sausage and chicken legs beautifully.

If you're concerned about the nitrites in the sausage, you may want to read Chris Kresser's post on processed meats. I read it while working on a cookbook for a client who challenged my use of sausage in a recipe. Before my research for that book, I believed that purchasing nitrite-free bacon was important. However, I've come to believe it's akin to purchasing a product simply because the label says it's gluten-free. Don't get me started.

Kresser explains the issue well, but in a nutshell, our bodies produce nitrites in far greater amounts than we could obtain from food. Moreover, processed meats contain fewer nitrites than do foods that we'd never think to restrict, green vegetables for example. While processed meats shouldn't form the basis of your diet, they're a delicious complement to an ancestral way of eating.

serves 2
1/4 cup olive oil 
4 chicken drumsticks
1 fennel bulb
2 hot Italian sausages
Freshly ground pepper
Sea salt 

1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
2. Slice the fennel bulb into quarters and then into 1/2-inch thick pieces. If you wish to leave the base of the bulb intact, it will keep each of the slices held together but is too tough to be palatable.
3. Slice the sausage in 1- to 2-inch-long pieces.
4. Arrange the fennel, chicken, and sausage in a large baking dish.

5. Drizzle with olive oil, tossing to coat.
6. Season with pepper.
7. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the fennel is soft. If the chicken and sausage cook more quickly, you may remove it to a serving platter and continue cooking the fennel for another 10 minutes.

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