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. 

Sunday, 15 January 2012

French onion soup

 Last week I made some beef bone broth with the intention of making French onion soup. Making the soup itself is not difficult. It's the broth that's a little time consuming which is why I have already ordered some more bones from our meat supplier with the intention of freezing the broth for later use. I have tried to make it with stock cubes and canned broth but the depth of flavor really isn't there. Of course this would be really amazing with the floating chunks of French bread and cheese but it was still pretty filling and went pretty quickly. You'll need a mixture of onions for best results, I used yellow, red and shallots.  I guess I used about 8 or 9 medium sized onions. I also sliced them in the food processor but you can cut them thinly by hand. Most onion soup recipes call for a little sugar sprinkled over the onions to help caramelize them, you can do it without the sugar, it just takes a few minutes extra.

Ingredients Serves 6-8
A mixture of 8-10 onions (e.g red, yellow, shallot- medium to large in size, thinly sliced)
 cloves garlic crushed
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 tablespoons ghee
2 litres of beef bone broth
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons cognac (optional)

 Place a heavy bottomed Dutch oven or pan on high heat and melt the ghee and coconut oil.
Add the onions to the pan and keep stirring them until the edges of them start to turn dark, this takes about 5 minutes or so. Then turn the heat down to the lowest setting, add the crushed garlic, stir once and then cook the onions and garlic, uncovered for a further 20-25 minutes without stirring. The bottom of the pan by this time, will be covered in a brown caramelized layer.
  Pour over the beef broth and season well with plenty of salt and pepper, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the caramelized onion flavors.
Bring it up to simmering point and then turn it down to the lowest setting and leave it to cook uncovered for at least an hour. Just before serving check for seasonings and add the cognac (if using) for a little extra warmth.
Serve piping hot.

Garlic & spinach cauliflower rice.


This is based on a Turkish recipe that I ate once, which calls for brown rice cooked with onions, garlic and spinach  and finished with a big knob of butter. This is another way of making it using 'cauliflower rice' It still tasted very good though and went well with the chicken curry. The best part is if you have a food processor it's really fast to make.

Ingredients serves 4-6
1 large cauliflower, leaves cut off and broken up into florets
ghee or coconut oil
1 large onion cut into slices
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 250g bag of roughly chopped fresh spinach ( I used frozen because it was more convenient, either is fine)
salt to taste.

First, place the cauliflower pieces in a food processor and pulse until it resembles little grains of rice. Set aside for a minute.

Heat a wok or deep pan over medium heat and add about 1-2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil, gently fry the onions and garlic for about 10 minutes until they are soft but not browned.
Add the spinach and toss until it is wilted (or melted if using frozen.) 
Turn up the heat to medium high, then add the cauliflower 'rice' to the pan and toss together with the spinach and onions until it is both hot and tender, this only takes a few minutes. I often  add a splash of water to the pan which helps to steam the cauliflower and cook a little faster, (by a splash I mean no more than 1 tablespoon of water, any more and you will get soggy 'rice' unless you cook off the all the water)
Add plenty of salt to taste and serve immediately.

Chicken curry

So it's glaringly obvious that I am a useless resolution maker. My promise of posting on a daily basis fell spectacularly by the wayside. We are still mostly adhering to the 30 day challenge, however it quickly became evident that I am an evil despot without my morning cup of tea and after 13 days, the husband made me a cup of tea and insisted I drink it because I was making everyone's life unbearable!! I am still trying to limit my intake to a max of two cups a day and I drink it with coconut milk so it's not all bad. Matters haven't been helped by the husband undergoing major dental reconstruction work, which has meant for the last week he can only eat soup, pureed food, scrambled eggs or whatever he can chew like a rabbit through his front teeth!! It has made meal planning somewhat difficult, after all there are only so many ways you can make mashed cauliflower!!

One of the dishes I made this week was a chicken and vegetable curry. I did use curry paste from a jar but a quick scan of the ingredients revealed nothing sinister, just oil, chili, garlic and ground spices. The instructions say to use yogurt but I've always added a can of coconut milk instead and it complements the heat of the curry quite well. I always make a large pot so there is plenty for leftovers and it freezes really well too.

Ingredients Serves 6-8
8 skinless chicken breasts chopped into 1"cubes
a little coconut oil for frying
1 tablespoon of Indian curry powder
1 onion roughly chopped
1 red yellow and green pepper chopped into 1" chunks
1 small sweet potato peeled and cut into 1" chunks
2 carrots cut into chunks
5-6 heaped tablespoons of Indian curry paste ( this equates to about 1/2 a jar, if you want extra heat buy a curry paste labeled hot or extra hot such as Vindaloo or Jalfrezi, for a milder curry use a milder paste like Korma or Tikka Masala.
1, 14 oz can coconut milk
1, 14 oz can tomato sauce
Fresh cilantro/coriander finely chopped

Heat a heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat, add the coconut oil, the chopped onion and the curry powder and fry for 2-3 minutes until the curry powder has infused flavor into the onion.
Add the cubed chicken to the onion and fry for 8-10 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink.
Then add all the remaining vegetables and stir well. In a separate bowl, gently whisk the curry paste with the can of coconut milk so it is well combined, add this to the chicken and vegetables along with the can of tomato sauce.

Turn down the heat to medium/low and cook for about 45 mins to an hour, until the vegetables are cooked through. Sprinkle with the finely chopped coriander/cilantro and serve with cauliflower rice.

this is the brand of curry paste that I use. For those of us who live overseas, it is not too hard to find in most Indian/Asian shops.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Beef bone broth

We are lucky that when we buy our grass fed meat that we also get 2-3kg of beef bones thrown in for free. The Weston A. Price foundation tells us
"Science validates what our Grandmothers knew. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily-not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons- things like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain"
With this in mind I made some beef bone broth in order to make a warming French onion soup the next day. It does take a while to do, but if you are wary about leaving it to simmer all day while you are out at work, you can cook it overnight. This can also be cooked in a crockpot but I used a heavy enamel Dutch oven. Some purists say there is no need to brown the bones in the oven before making the broth but I do as I feel it adds a deeper flavor to the liquid, It's up to you if you do, it doesn't affect the nutritional value at all.

2kg/4lbs beef bones
2 tablespoons of vinegar
1 leek
1 carrot
1 onion 

Preheat the oven to the highest setting and place the bones in a single layer in a roasting tray. Cook for about 20-30 minutes until the bones are well browned. Remove from the oven and put the bones into a heavy bottomed stock pan, enameled Dutch oven, or crock pot. Pour water over the top, enough to cover the bones and about 2 inches more, add the vinegar (which is an acid and helps to break down and extract the minerals from the bone)  bring to the boil and then turn down to the lowest setting on your stove top, it should be the most gentlest of simmers. Occasionally skim off and discard any scum that rises to the top. You can also add some root vegetables in the final couple of hours of cooking, such as leeks, carrots, parsnips for extra flavour, don't chop them into small pieces, leave them whole and drop them in the pan.

Cook for at least 12 hours (but as long as 72 if you want to be hardcore!), then drain the broth using a fine sieve, into another large pan. (drain it twice with a cheesecloth lined sieve for a nice clear broth if aesthetics are important, it doesn't affect the taste)  Discard the vegetables and bones (sometimes there are small pieces of meat left on the bones which I pick over and feed to my dog, a treat she loves!) and allow the broth to cool and a layer of fat to harden on the top which should be removed before using the stock.

It will keep for about 5 days in the fridge or 10 days if it is boiled again after 5 days. It can be kept for months in the freezer. Before reheating always remove any residual fat from the top. For a deeper flavour you can heat the stock in a pan over high heat which will reduce the liquid but deepen the flavour.

Use as required when beef stock is called for in a recipe, this also makes a nutritious drink or add a few veggies to make a simple and nourishing soup.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Kale chips

Yes still harking on about kale, I had to use the last of it up and had read about how amazing kale chips taste and that they really will satisfy a potato chip craving. Theses are so easy to make and even my picky kids liked them. I was telling some friends recently about something I had been waiting all of my 20 years as a parent to hear. We had kale with bacon and onions as a side dish with dinner and the kids wolfed it up and then my daughter asked "Mum are there any of those greens left? they were lovely"
It was the first time ever one of them had asked for extra vegetables!! As young children they would turn their noses up at anything that had even the remotest hint of green in it, yet lately they have discovered that green foods actually do not taste as bad as they thought.

Ingredients- Kale Chips
approx 8oz kale leaves, cut out the hard inner stalk and discard, then wash and dry in a salad spinner
a little olive oil
freshly ground salt
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F
Chop the kale roughly into bite sized pieces. Arrange in a single layer in a large baking pan and drizzle over about a tablespoon or so of olive oil and a couple of turns of freshly ground salt. Gently toss the kale in the oil and salt and then bake for 15-20 minutes.
After 10 minutes or so the pieces are starting to get crunchy
Try a piece to see if it's cooked, it should be light but crunchy. Add a little more salt if needed. Try and stop yourself from eating the whole lot in one go like I did, but console yourself with the fact that something this tasty is also healthy!  I have also heard it tastes really good with a little malt vinegar as well as the salt, might try that next time!


I'm really trying to adhere to this 30 day Paleo challenge. I suppose before, we ate what would be best described as low carb, so we could occasionally have a little cheese, a square of butter, some cream, etc. According to the Whole30  rules  the use of ghee is allowed (aka clarified butter) So I consulted the oracle that is Youtube for instructions and 15 minutes later had a small jar of organic ghee. It smells and tastes amazing, I used it to make eggs this morning and it gives you a really nutty, buttery, taste and I think I will be using it again tonight to fry some white fish coated with a little almond meal.
Buying a jar of it in our local organic shop costs approximate 8 Euro so this is a significant saving as it only costs you the price of a 1/2 pound of organic butter, and a coffee filter! The difference between ghee and regular butter is that the milk solids have been removed thus making it easier to digest because most of the casein and lactose have been removed. An added benefit is, it is better to use when cooking than butter because the smoke point is very high (approx 400 degrees) Ghee also has a longer shelf life than butter. There is less moisture in it and therefore no need to store it in a refrigerator. It can be kept in an air tight container at room temperature for 2-3 months or in the fridge for a year! You can also add flavorings to it, such as garlic and herbs, then maybe spoon a little of it over a hot steak in the manner of Krauterbutter,

Ingredients (Makes approx 250ml)
250g organic butter
you will also need a coffee filter, a kitchen funnel and a glass jar

Cut the butter into pieces and place into a heavy bottomed saucepan, don't use a huge pan because it will make skimming it more laborious at the end.
Place over low-medium heat (to give you an idea my stovetop has settings from 1-6 and I started on 3) DO NOT STIR the butter, just let it sit gently melting. You will see as it melts a white foam forms on the top of the pan, just let it sit gently bubbling until the butter is fully melted. It shouldn't burn, it will just be a gentle golden colour underneath the white foam.
Turn down the heat to low and let it sit for another 3 or 4 minutes. Then carefully take a spoon and skim off the white foam (which is the separated milk solids.) 
Try not to agitate the liquid, skim it off very gently, and while it is quite easy to scoop up, it doesn't matter if you don't get all the tiny bits of foam as you are going to filter it soon. What should be left is a beautiful, golden brown, clear liquid, this is your ghee, it's that simple!
Strain it through a funnel lined with a coffee filter or piece of lint free kitchen muslin, into a container. I used a clean glass jar.
Store for 2-3 months at room temperature or up to one year in the fridge. For a full visual description see the youtube instructions above.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Spicy chicken with vegetable ragu

Skinless chicken breasts are always a challenge, they need to be cooked quickly to keep them moist, there's nothing worse than a rubbery chicken fillet! The vegetable ragu is really easy to make, keeps well for next day leftovers, and uses up some of the less than stellar veggies that hang around the fridge from time to time. Try and marinate the chicken for at least 2 or 3 hours to allow the flavours to develop. I'm sure this would also be good cooked on a barbecue or even if you don't have a griddle pan, on a rack in the oven. The ragu takes about 40 minutes to cook, so start this before you griddle the chicken.

Ingredients for the spicy chicken
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 cloves of crushed garlic
the juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon spiced paprika
pinch chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper
coconut oil for griddling

Mix all of the ingredients for the spicy chicken together in a zip lock bag or bowl (except for the coconut oil) add the chicken and mix it around so it is well covered with the marinade. Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat the griddle over medium high heat and brush with coconut oil, place chicken breasts on the griddle and cook for approx 15 minutes, turning frequently until cooked through.

For the vegetable ragu
2 tbs coconut oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 eggplant (aubergine) chopped
1 red onion chopped
2 zucchini chopped
1 red pepper chopped
1 14oz can chopped tomatoes in sauce
dash balsamic vinegar
sprinkle of dried oregano
small handful of parsley finely chopped.

 Preheat a deep frying pan or wok over medium high heat and add the coconut oil. Fry the garlic for a few seconds until it releases its flavour into the oil, then add the eggplant (aubergine) onion, zucchini, and red pepper. Cook for 20 minutes stirring until the vegetables every few minutes until they are softened and browning a little.

Add the canned tomatoes, splash of balsamic vinegar and oregano, and cook for a further 20 minutes until the sauce is reduced and quite thick. Just before serving adjust seasonings and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with spicy chicken.

Breakfast Omlette

I don't really need to write a recipe for this because I think everyone knows how to make an omlette. Day 2, woke up starving and craving anything sweet. Have decided to forgo caffeine which really doesn't help when you wake up and are dying for a cup of tea or coffee. Breakfast today consisted of a few things that were lurking in the fridge, half a red onion, some mushrooms, a small amount of cubed bacon and a couple of soft tomatoes. I fried these together in a little coconut oil and when they were soft, added two beaten eggs and some chopped parsley. Would have definitely tasted even better with a large handful of cheese but I've sworn off the dairy too for the next 29 days!


Monday, 2 January 2012

Kale stir fry

Day one down of the 30 day challenge, 29 to go. Lunch today was leftover vegetable soup with some Kale stir fried with a little coconut oil. The addition of the kale made it very filling and I wasn't hungry until dinner time.

Dinner was some grass fed beef with some stir fried kale and a salad. Yes it does seem like I'm on a kale kick but I got a huge bunch of it so I figured I'd make the most of it.

Kale stir fry
1 onion
1 clove garlic
2 slices finely chopped bacon
handful fresh mushrooms thinly sliced
1 large zucchini cut in half longways and then sliced across
6-8 large kale leaves, washed and roughly chopped (remove the thick stalk) I wash mine in cold water and then dry it in a salad spinner
coconut oil for frying
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Heat a wok to medium high heat, add a tablespoon of coconut oil and when it's melted, fry the onion, garlic, bacon. mushrooms and zucchini until just softened.

 Add the washed and dried kale and continue to move it round in the pan until it is just wilted (about 3-4 minutes)  add the balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Whole 30 Challenge

It's been a while I know. The holiday season has come and gone and we may have indulged just a little too much. In the event of full disclosure I admit the following. There's been some of these
quite a lot of these
and a fair amount of this!!
Christmas day ended in a sugar/wheat daze where I swore I'd never do it again.......We did!
 Tomorrow we embark on the whole 30 challenge, no wheat, dairy caffeine (help!!) or sugar, just good quality meat, fish and vegetables and a small amount of fruit. Combined with some exercise it should set us right as we journey into the first half of 2012.  I'll be posting photos of what we eat as we go along with recipes or links for each day. Wish me luck!