Monday, 14 January 2013

oniony braised red cabbage

This tastes better the longer it cooks, it's not as acidic as the red cabbage recipes that use apples and vinegar, so it's not such a contrasting taste, it's more of a complimentary one when served with the pork and onion gravy.

Ingredients Serves 4
1/2 medium sized red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 medium onions, sliced
2 large knobs butter
1/4 cup chicken stock
a little salt for seasoning

 Preheat a heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat, add a large knob of butter and once melted cook the onions until they are lightly browned and translucent  Add the sliced cabbage and toss together well, add another small knob of butter and the chicken stock and turn the heat down to low. Put a lid on the pan and cook for about an hour or until the cabbage is soft. Season with a little salt, if you feel it needs it.

Pork Shoulder with onion gravy

There's a restaurant within stumbling distance from our house that serves the best Schweinebraten ever. It comes with a huge chunk of Maultaschen and potato salad. It's German stodgy goodness on a plate, real stick to your ribs food and perfect for this colder weather. I've been looking for way to recreate this dish, sadly without the Maultaschen or the potato salad (or the glass of red wine I have with it!) Instead I serve it with slow braised, oniony, red cabbage and rich onion gravy. This is actually a very simple recipe, just a few ingredients, a few hours in the oven (or crock pot) and your house smells warm and welcoming. There are quite a few onions involved, but they cook down to make a sweet gravy that is the perfect accompaniment.

4-5 pounds of pork shoulder roast, or pork butt ( I used two smaller pieces so will adjust cooking times a little)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium onions finely sliced
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (reduce to 1 cup if using slow cooker)
salt & pepper
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
a small sprig of fresh rosemary (for dried use a small pinch)
a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme (for dried use 1/2 teaspoon)
a couple of sprigs of fresh sage (1/2 teaspoon of dried)

Preheat oven to 175C/350F
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a heavy Dutch oven pan. Roll the meat in the oil and then season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the caraway seeds.
Add the 4 sliced onions, the herbs and pour over the chicken stock.

Place a lid on the Dutch oven and bake for about 2 1/2 -3 hours until the pork is cooked, slightly browned but not falling apart.

Remove from the oven and allow the pork to rest for a few minutes. With a stick blender, blend the remaining onions and pan juices with a knob of butter until smooth. You don't have to do this but I find it makes the gravy a little thicker.

Slice the pork and pour over the gravy. Serve with oniony braised red cabbage.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Quick microwave cauliflower rice

Cauliflower rice is a great alternative to the old staple of white rice. Initially you need a food processor to chop it into rice sized pieces, you could also finely chop it with a knife, which would probably be time consuming but would work, maybe grating it on a large holed grater would also be a viable option.There are many recipes out there for rice that you can adapt to cauliflower, just by adding a few ingredients, it takes on a whole new flavour. You can add peppers, garlic, chili, cilantro and tomatoes to make Mexican style rice, you can eat it plain with a little salt or you can add a little cilantro to make cilantro rice which goes well with stir fry or Indian based curries. Previously I have stir fried this rice which is easy but messy as the grains tend to spill out of the pan onto the stovetop, I don't have a delicate hand! I also have a friend who just eats it uncooked. Today I thought I'd try it in the microwave. this was simple and definitely the way I'll do it in the future.

1 head cauliflower roughly chopped
1/2 pack chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons water


Pulse the cauliflower in the food processor until it resembles fine grains of rice. Tip it into a microwave proof bowl and add the chopped cilantro. Add the water and mix through with a fork to distribute. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Fluff it up and that's it. How simple is that, no fuss, no mess!

stir fry

Back to basics here, this is a quick way to get a lot of vegetables in one dish, more vegetables mean you feel fuller but without that heavy, carby, beached whale, bloated feeling. At this time of year when it's grey and dark outside, you need to eat your fill of brightly coloured veggies to get the maximum vitamin and mineral intake. Add a litte chicken, or some beef or shrimps and you've got a balanced meal. You can also up the spice if you like it hot. I just ate a bowl of this with some cilantro cauliflower 'rice' and I feel stuffed, but I know it's a good type of stuffed :)
I used some gluten free tamari instead of soy sauce and just a teaspoon of local unpasteurised honey for the sauce, along with some lime juice. I am aware that honey is a sweetener but 1 teaspoon divided by 6 servings isn't that bad. I don't use it every day so I feel that it is justified. You can omit the honey if you wish and it still tastes fine.

I've read that quite a lot of people prep their veggies for recipes for the week ahead, and store them in the fridge in ziploc bags, thus saving valuable prep time when they get in from work.  If I had the room and a big fridge I'd probably agree, but instead, I buy smaller amounts more often. Definitely pre-slice the vegetables and chicken before you start cooking this, it just makes everything so much easier. I've listed the ingredients I had on hand but you can add or take away pretty much anything. Just slice whatever it is thinly so it all cooks evenly. I'd probably sub the chicken breasts for chicken thighs next time because the dark meat is a bit moister and has more flavour.

Ingredients serves 6

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, thinly sliced ( you can also use beef or shrimps)
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper thinly sliced
I smal onion thinly sliced
3 carrots....yep thinly sliced!
1 zucchini thinly sliced
half a dozen mushrooms sliced
Finely chopped cabbage or chinese leaf
2 chopped tomatoes
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 red chili chopped
2'' piece of ginger grated
1/2 large bunch coriander/cilantro
2 tablespoons tamari
2  tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
coconut or olive oil (not extra virgin) for frying


Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a wok until it is very hot, add the sliced chicken and stir fry it until it is no longer pink (about 5 minutes) Add all of the chopped vegetables to the pan and continually stir fry them for about 5 or 6 minutes until they are just beginning to soften.

Add the garlic, ginger, chili and the coriander/cilantro, along with the tamari, lime and honey.

Toss for another minute or two until the pan ingredients are piping hot and the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink. Serve with quick microwave cauliflower rice.

She slinks back in........

Hey there! It's been a while, and isn't that the understatement of the year? Where did 2012 go? If I'm honest it probably went to my thighs and waistline  :)
2012 was a challenging time for our family. Part of it was very stressful and stupidly, with that stress went my resolve to eat healthily.  Seeing as I do 95% of the cooking, everyone else was forced to eat like mum. I sought solace from our problems in my favorite things, bread, cake, chocolate, wine and candy!  Working out was limited to flexing my typing fingers scouring Pinterest, looking for more cake recipes. I was geting sick on a weekly basis, please don't ask me what my blood pressure is, I'm too scared to check it. Over Christmas and New Year, the couch and I became one, I had no energy to do anything unless you count unwrapping those lovely shiny candies you get in your stocking, and lifting the remote to change the channel to watch the Sound of Music for the 44th time (I'm not kidding!!) By years end I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I knew what needed to be done. This past week has been spent in a carb free, cold turkey, haze. I have had a lot of trouble making coherent sentences and needed to take one or two naps during the day!! 

2013 promises new challenges, some exciting things on the horizon but still the scariness of what is unknown. I believe the only way we can face this is to have a positive attitude and eat well. There is no doubt about it that Devil's food cake tastes amazing, but I don't like what's in a boxed cake mix and I really don't like how I feel when I eat it. One week in, and already I'm craving spicy food and vegetables, the sugar cravings are slowly diminishing and I'm now planning meals again. It's not going to be easy but I do have a new mantra that I found on Pinterest during my slug phase to help me!! 

So I hope you will check back for recipe ideas because I really want to commit to the this and feel as good as I did two years ago. I have plenty of books for inspiration and reference, they should be enough to keep me going for a while. The working out phase will begin as soon as my energy levels rise, that shouldn't be too long now.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Picnic chicken salad

Today I thought I try and recreate the old picnic staple of chicken salad. I had already poached a chicken for 12 hours, which left me with a litre and a half golden bone broth and a lot of cooked meat. After that amount of simmering there was no doubt the chicken was well and truly cooked, albeit slightly bland as poached chicken generally is. It needed to be mixed with some interesting flavours to liven it up a little. Now as I couldn't bulk it out with elbow macaroni it needed some other additions. Languishing in the fridge (amongst other dubious furry green objects!) was a small, slightly wrinkled kohlrabi and a small head of broccoli. I figured I could use these along with the old faithfuls of celery, green onions and freshly made mayonnaise to make it extra tasty.

As I  am hypothyroid, I have been advised not to eat raw cruciferous vegetables as they have been shown to inhibit thyroid function due to chemicals in them called goitrogens. Cooking or steaming the vegetables destroys these chemicals, so to err on the side of caution I blanched the broccoli and kohlrabi for about a minute in boiling water and then drained them in cold to stop them cooking further. The short cooking time doesn't make them soft and of course you can leave your broccoli and kohlrabi raw if you have no thyroid issues.

This dish keeps well and even benefits from sitting overnight in the fridge to give the flavours a chance to meld together. Use a whole chicken, double the other ingredients and bring this to your next potluck and watch everyone wolf it down. Once they taste it, they won't even realise that it hasn't got the macaroni in it and even better you can eat it safe in the knowledge that it's whole 30 approved, paleo and gluten free.

Ingredients serves 4-6
1/2 of a whole cooked chicken, skin removed and chicken shredded into small pieces
4 sticks of celery finely chopped  (I prefer mine this way, if you like chunks then go for it!)
2 green/spring onions, finely chopped (use all the onion including the green part)
1 small head of broccoli cut into small pieces (and blanched for 1 minute in boiling water-optional)
1 small kohlrabi coarsely grated (and blanched for 1 minute in boiling water-optional)
1/2 red onion finely sliced
1/2 cup fresh mayo, (this is a great foolproof recipe from Sarah Fragoso, watch how easy it is to make)
fresh chives
freshly ground sea salt.

Set a pan of boiling water on the stove over high heat if you wish to blanch the broccoli and kohlrabi, (If not go ahead and use these raw). Finely chop the broccoli and coarsely grate the kohlrabi, add to the boiling water and let it cook for one minute. Strain and rinse with cold water to prevent it cooking any more and becoming soft.

Finely chop the celery and green onions and thinly slice the onion. Shred the cooked chicken with a fork and set aside.

Freshly poached chicken, buy a whole deli chicken if you want to save time
Mayo with fresh chives, once you taste it you'll never go back to the stuff in the jar

In a large bowl mix together the shredded chicken, the broccoli and kohlrabi, along with the celery, green onions and red onion. Add the mayo and stir well to combine. Sprinkle over some freshly chopped chives and don't be afraid to be generous with the salt. The chicken is quite bland and the salt helps to bring out all the flavours of the vegetables. If in doubt add a little salt, let it rest a while then taste again and add more if needed. Allow to rest covered with cling film in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but ideally overnight is better. Serve on lettuce leaves, spooned over salad, or do as I do and eat it greedily by the spoonful straight from the fridge!!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Garlic Chilli chicken

 We love spicy food in our house, so when I saw this recipe on the BBC Good Food website I knew it would be well received. Ideally, I would have like to have used chicken thighs, as called for in the original recipe, but strangely they are hard to come by in the supermarket at the moment. Instead I used boneless chicken breasts which were a good substitute if you are trying to cut out unnecessary fat. I also tinkered around with the spices, purely because we like things hot, adjust spices to suit your own palate.

Ingredients serves 6 (adapted from A BBC Good Food recipe)
 6 chicken breasts cut into cubes
1 large onion very finely chopped
3 green chillies finely chopped
4 garlic cloves crushed
1" piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
6 large tomatoes cut into chunks
400g fresh baby spinach leaves

Melt the coconut oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat, add the chopped onion, green chillies, crushed garlic cloves and grated ginger and stir for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the cumin, turmeric, chili powder and curry powder and stir for another minute or so until it is all combined.

Add the chicken pieces and mix well with the spicy mixture in the pan so it is well coated with the onion and spice mix. Cook for 10 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink.

Add the chopped tomatoes with 1/2 cup of water, cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes.

 Finally, add the spinach to the chicken and cook for a further 10 minutes. Taste and add a little more spice or a little salt according to taste.

 Serve with cauliflower rice  However, instead of adding peppers to the rice I gently fried 5 crushed cardamon seeds to infuse in a little oil, removed the seeds and then gently tossed the cauliflower rice in the oil to give it a light Indian flavour,

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Bacon fried spinach with poached eggs

 I love eggs and could probably eat them for every meal. My absolute favourite ways to eat them are poached, soft boiled, or scrambled to a soft creamy consistency. If you are going for the first two choices, you need something to soak up the yolk because it would be criminal to waste any of that golden eggy goodness. Seeing as how my childhood favourite of egg with toast soldiers (a Great British tradition) is now but a distant memory I needed something to catch all those last drops of yolk. This is good for a Sunday brunch, serve it with a couple of slices of good bacon and you'll be good to go until teatime!

There are many schools of thought on how to make the best poached eggs. I have tried the classic chef's method of pouring them into a deep saucepan of simmering water that you swirl around just before you drop the egg into it. All it left me with, was a solitary bobbing yolk and whites that resembled egg drop soup! I found the best method that works for me, in Cooks Illustrated Magazine and it really is quite simple. Of course you can also buy nifty saucepans with poaching inserts and also microwave egg holders. I have a tiny kitchen and no room for unnecessary gadgets so I do them in the frying pan and in 99% of cases they turn out great. If you're really not in the mood to poach your eggs you can also make this with soft boiled eggs or a sunny side up fried egg, whatever floats your boat.

Ingredients Serves 2
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 slices thick bacon chopped into small pieces.
500g bag of freshly washed spinach leaves. (you can use the equivalent weight of frozen spinach for this, just be sure to microwave it until it is no longer frozen and then squeeze out all of the excess water)
2 eggs (or more if you are feeling greedy!)

Pour about 2" of hot water into non stick skillet, add 1 tablespoon white vinegar and bring to the boil. Once it is boiling turn heat down to low/medium so it is very gently bubbling away.

While the pan of water is heating up, add the bacon and onion to a preheated non stick frying pan (Medium high heat) and cook until the bacon is just crispy and the onion is slightly browned.
Add the spinach and toss gently until just wilted. Turn down the heat and cover with a lid
 Crack the eggs into two separate cups and gently pour them into the simmering water, don't pour them from up high, keep the cup as close to the pan as you can when pouring them in. This helps to prevent the white and yolks from breaking up and this way they don't move about too much so you get a neater poached egg. The eggs should take about 2 1/2 -3 minutes to cook depending on how well done you like your yolks.
To remove eggs from the skillet, use a slotted spoon and blot off any excess water with a paper towel 
Spoon the spinach and bacon onto a plate and top with the poached egg, cut it in half to let that lovely yolk ooze into the spinach and bacon.....Enjoy!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Chilli lime chicken with avocado feta salsa

This chicken dish is really delicious, even for those who aren't keen on plain avocado (me). I found the recipe on Chowstalker which featured a blog called Peace love and low carb  Do go and look over there for some great recipe inspiration. I tinkered with it a little bit because a) I detest artichokes, which were in the original recipe b) that's just what I do, and c) I didn't read the instructions properly!

However for the most part I stayed pretty true to the original ingredients and the whole family really loved it. I cooked the chicken on the barbecue grill, but you can do them under the broiler or in a griddle pan instead. As I said, I didn't read the instructions properly and used the olive oil, garlic and lime juice as part of the rub (more of a marinade), the end results were still great though!

Ingredients (serves 6)
6 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts
juice of 1 lime
2-3 tablespoons olive oil or melted coconut oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chilli powder ( I used Spanish smoked paprika instead)
2 fresh garlic cloves, crushed  (or 1 tablespoon garlic powder)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground spicy red chili powder or 1/2 fresh red chilli finely chopped
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro/coriander finely chopped
salt and pepper

Combine all the marinade ingredients, put the chicken into a ziploc bag and pour over the marinade. Reseal the bag and let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill, while you are waiting for it to get hot, make the salsa. ( I made more salsa than was needed and used it as a side salad rather than a salsa type dressing)

1 large avocado skinned and roughly chopped
6 large tomatoes roughly chopped
1/4 cup capers
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 cup feta cheese (crumbled)
1/2 red onion finely chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro chopped
juice of a lime
olive oil to drizzle

This is just before I added the avocado
Combine all the ingredients and mix with the lime juice to prevent the avocado browning. Just before serving drizzle with a little olive oil. No salt is needed because the capers are very salty.

When the grill is nice and hot, cook the chicken pieces on both sides until cooked through. Serve with the salsa and a side salad.

Eggs on the run!

I was hoping to just sneak back in here and hope nobody noticed that I've been gone since January....... Winter bought the blahs with it, and the inclination to blog was taken over by the inclination to eat copious amounts of chocolate instead! However recent temperatures seem to indicate that spring has sprung, I have regained my blogging mojo, jumped back on the Primal eating wagon, taken tenuous steps into beginners Crossfit (ouch!) and have a large backlog of photos and recipes to post. So keep checking back because there are some really delicious ones to come!

Today's offering is for breakfast on the go. You will probably have seen these before on the internet, but the combinations of flavors and ingredients you can add are just endless, so I thought I'd make some and report back. What you DEFINITELY need is a silicon muffin tray or individual silicon cupcake cases. I tried this with a metal non stick cupcake tin and it was an epic failure!! With the silicon ones, the finished eggs slip right out, without the 30 minute scrubfest of the pan afterwards. These are great for mornings when you have an  early workout but don't want a huge breakfast beforehand, just bring a couple of these and pop them in the microwave when you get to work. These keep for up to a week in the fridge, so make them on Sunday night and breakfast worries are over for the next few days.

Ingredients makes 6
6 slices of bacon
4- 6 beaten eggs depending on size (start with 4, you can always whip up a couple more)
1 Spring (green) onion or half a small onion finely chopped
1/4 bell pepper finely chopped (whatever color you have on hand)
3 or 4 mushrooms finely chopped
1 or 2 sausages finely sliced
some fresh herbs (if you feel like it, fresh chives always go great with eggs)
small sprinkling of cheddar cheese on top (if you do dairy products)
black pepper freshly ground

Preheat oven to 190C/375F
On a microwave safe plate, cook the bacon for about 3 minutes or so, then blot with paper towels ( I tried using uncooked bacon at first, but found it made the eggs a bit greasy. You don't want it to be really crispy, but it's definitely better to start out with cooked bacon. (I've found that bacon cooked in the microwave covered with a paper towel is the best way to cook it and clean up is much easier than using the frying pan, whatever method works best for you is fine!) I suppose you can also trim off some of the fat, if you want to save time pre-cooking the bacon or even use strips of deli ham instead.

Please say you haven't seen the dust on the cases, dust is organic right?

Place the silicon muffin cases onto a baking tray (easier to do it now when they aren't full of eggs!!)
When the bacon has cooled a little, wrap it around the edge of the muffin case, it doesn't have to be perfect as the eggs and fillings, will cook into any gaps.

I know, I said to use cooked bacon, this was my first (rather greasy) attempt, either trim the fat, use pre-cooked bacon or deli ham instead

In a non stick pan fry the chopped sausage, onion, mushrooms and bell peppers (feel free to add more toppings of your own choice) until just cooked. 
Spoon into the center of the bacon wrapped cases. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and a good grinding of black pepper. Whisk the eggs together in a jug and pour over the muffin cups, fill to just over 3/4 full. Add the freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle a little cheddar on top.
 Bake for 25-35 minutes until slightly risen, lightly browned and the eggs are set. 

Allow to cool for a few minutes then gently ease them out of the muffin cases and let them cool further on a paper towel lined cooling rack. (do not take a big bite out of one when it is fresh from the oven, I still have missing skin on the roof of my mouth!!) When cool put into a tub in the fridge or into individual portions in ziplock bags. Reheat in the microwave for  about 20 seconds, you can also eat them cold, I'm strange and really like cold eggs!!

Variations are endless but try,
Well drained spinach with feta
smoked salmon, chopped spring (green) onions, and chopped dill
ham and cheese
spicy mushrooms
pepperoni and cheese with a sprinkling of oregano (kids like these 'Pizza eggs')

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Spicy Barbecue sauce

So the 30 day challenge went slightly by the wayside at the weekend when a freak bread craving, resulted in an unfortunate Turkish pizza incident! Back on track now. Part of the problem arises when I don't plan out meals in advance, then I get hungry and my willpower deserts me over convenience! My goal this week was to have meals planned out (at least in my head, the night before!) I recently ordered a copy of 'Well Fed' by Melissa Joulwan. In it she describes how she plans and preps, a weeks meals in just one hour every Sunday. This appeals to me and so I'm hoping to try this at the weekend. At the very least I need to empty the freezer so even if I plan what we're having with what we've got on hand, that'll be a good start.

Today's offering is for Barbecue Sauce as I'm making pulled pork in the crock pot today. If you read the ingredients on bottles of barbecue sauce you'll see it's full of sugar and HFCS along with food additives I can't even pronounce. I turned to the website Chowstalker for inspiration. Chowstalker is chock full of recipes that adhere to the  Primal / Paleo / Whole 30 / low carb way of eating. Updated daily it is a great resource and features recipes gathered from all the major websites that offer this way of eating. I found a few recipes and using them as inspiration, cobbled together a recipe for a spicy barbecue sauce that is simple to make and will be used later for my pulled pork. There are a couple of tablespoons of Maple syrup in this recipe, if you wish you can substitute with half a fresh pineapple if you don't use honey or maple syrup as an occasional sweetener.

Ingredients (Makes Approx 500ml sauce)
4 diced tomatoes, use those wrinkly ones in the bottom of the salad drawer in the fridge!
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup natural, (no added sugar) apple juice (Naturtrub)
2 tablespoon maple syrup or honey (you can substitute this with 1/2 pineapple peeled and cut into chunks)
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Put all ingredients together in a pan and cook over medium heat until it starts to bubble. 

Turn the heat down to low, cover with a lid and cook for a further 45 minutes.
Allow to cool a little, then blend it until smooth (but don't overfill the blender jug as I did....oops!) 
Store in the refrigerator until needed.