Food Lovers’ Fridays: Compound Butter

Food Lovers’ Fridays: I’m a big fan of bringing classical cooking methods and recipes into the home kitchen. Today’s post is part of a series meant to highlight those traditional techniques and recipes that can be used in or adapted to paleo cooking.

I have been dragging lately. These days I cannot seem to get motivated and I am cranky when I have to try. I guess the whole bar experience took more out of me than I realized. It doesn’t mean I am not thinking of food, or wanting lush, expansive doses of flavor — it just means I’m leaning more heavily on the culinary tricks that offer the most bang for the buck.
Thus, today’s FLF is one of the simplest, but most amazing things I know how to make: compound butter.

It really is as simple as it gets: warm some butter, dice some herbs, moosh together, and serve. If you are a more strict paleo eater, you’ll use ghee. If you aIre vegan, I would try a combination of equal parts red palm oil and coconut oil. The red palm has a rich, carroty flavor that is reminiscent of butter or ghee, and the coconut oil makes that flavor a little less intense, so that the flavor of the herbs can shine.

Because compound butters so simple, they allow for endless variations. My favorites, I think, are  fresh herbs from our garden with just a touch of salt. A single herb works just as well as a blend, so use whatever you’ve got. Compound butters don’t have to be savory, though — a vanilla and coconut sugar version, for example, would be great on a paleo muffin or bread.

I call the attached version Scarborough Fair Butter after the song; it’s my go-to for seasoning our Thanksgiving turkey. Because rosemary and sage are more dominant flavors, I’ve balanced them with a stronger dose of thyme and parsley. It is equally adept at livening up any number of vegetables (try roasted beets or sweet potatoes) or swirled atop a gorgeous grilled steak. That extra hit of flavor is divine.

Food Lovers’ Fridays: Compound Butter

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley leaves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine parsley, thyme, rosemary and sage, and salt. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  2. Continuing to stir the mixture, add the softened butter. Mix thoroughly. Serve immediately.
  3. If preparing for later, roll the mixture into a cylindrical shape. Cover with plastic wrap, then wrap the bundle with aluminum foil. Place in freezer until ready to use.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/food-lovers-fridays-compound-butter/
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Sage & Pepper Pork Chops

 

Sage & Pepper Pork Chops | Paleo + LifeI am pleased to report that I am done with the bar exam, and my life has started to regain a bit of normalcy. As normal as it ever is, at any rate.

This means I get to focus a bit on fun things, like figuring out how to take pictures again. I am still very much a novice food photographer, and with the last two months being taken up with other things,  my beginning skills seem to have flown the coop. I really want to spend a lot more time playing around with my camera again.

These pictures were not taken when I had time to fiddle around with the camera, but just as we were sitting down to dinner. I served these with sides of butternut squash and sauteed peas, but really, they work with just about anything.
I love chops because they are so easy to customize to your own taste. Mild and meaty, pork chops take on flavors exceptionally well. I love to marinate them (or cook them in the sous vide), because they can be rather dry, but oiled chops, as they are here, stay pretty moist, too. This recipe is one of the simplest, but it works because the combination of earthy sage and sharp black pepper just sings on the palate.

Sage & Pepper Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 6 pork chops
  • 3 tablespoons oil of choice (leftover bacon drippings are especially excellent)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6-8 whole sage leaves

Instructions

  1. Rinse the chops; pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Coat both sides of the chops with oil. Salt and pepper both sides, then place them on a baking sheet. Top each chop with one or two sage leaves.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, or until chops are lightly browned and tender. Serve immediately.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/sage-pepper-pork-chops/

 

 

California Citrus Tea

CA Citrus Tea

My in-laws were here for an all-too-brief visit recently. We spent as much time with them as we could, considering that I was deep into my studies, my husband was working and the kids were all in school. Still, it is so rare that we get to see them, so any time at all is a treat.

They also happened to bring a few treats with them. A few adorable things for the kids from their trip to the Bay Area, and some pomelos for my husband and me.

Pommelo Bl

Pomelos are hard to describe. It’s a huge citrus fruit — larger by far than most; it is actually called Citrus maxima. After you’ve peeled the ruggedly bumpy skin, and removed the inch or so of fluffy white pith, you’re left with a fruit that’s about the size of a grapefruit. Speaking of grapefruit, the taste is somewhere between a grapefruit and a lemon, but without the hint of bitterness that gives grapefruit its savor. Instead, it has a gentle fragrance that is slightly floral with a tiny bit of musk. These are light, bright and delicious.

While my immediate thought was how wonderful it would be to candy the peel — seriously, one fruit is so big you’d have it forever — my first taste of the tart flesh changed my focus. Trying to stay healthy while the family drops like flies around me, I knew I needed to turn it into this delicious, soothing tea.

All of the ingredients are so healing: turmeric, full of anti-inflammatory curcumin, and the black pepper which helps activate it; honey and ginger, which help fight off nasty bugs; and of course, pomelos are full of vitamin C. This is not the prettiest drink, by any means — I nearly called this “Ugly Tea” — but the soothing heat and tangy flavor are gorgeous.

Pomelo & Spice Tea

Ingredients

  • 2 segments pomelo, peeled and separated into small chunks (may substitute lemon or other citrus)
  • 1" knob of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Instructions

  1. Combine pomelo, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, and honey in a cup; add 1/2 cup boiling water. With a fork, mash the ingredients together, then add enough water to fill the cup.
  2. Serve immediately.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/california-citrus-tea/

Paleo Off-Roading

image

Lately, I am having the sorts of days where I do things like wash a load of laundry and then accidentally pour laundry soap on it again. Or I start to do something walk into a room and then forget why I came into it. Where I look into the fridge and the only food to be found is a bunch of rainbow carrots, a bottle of lemon juice and a jar of strawberries I pickled in 2013.

 I can just about manage a load of laundry every other day — the piles that six people create are frankly shocking — and by and large, I remember to feed us all. Our little routines are taking on more importance; family movie night was always important, but is now a Big Deal, and Friday afternoon pizza seems to be A Thing for the youngest two. (I just discovered that our favorite pizza place does gluten free slices, which is very exciting.)

Speaking of pizza, I wanted to talk about “off-roading”, which is my phrase for foods that aren’t strictly Paleo. We do a fair bit of off-roading here, particularly when I’m in a busy period like the one I’m having now.

While I’m still avoiding the biggest Paleo no-nos (gluten, I’m looking at you) , I do think that there are solid reasons to consider these foods:

Beans: These get a lot of flak, because of their gas-inducing qualities, and also because their natural defense mechanisms are believed to be irritating to the gut. Dr. Alan Christianson, author of the Adrenal Reset Diet, makes a pretty good case for not worrying about eating beans in this article.

Rice: Of all the foods, I think rice was what my second-most missed during my Whole30 (oatmeal was most, believe it or not). But when I gave it a try during the re-introduction period, I my body reacted very strongly. I got the shakes and was dizzy about 30 minutes after eating.  Since then, I have cautiously re-introduced rice to my diet. As long as I don’t have too much at a sitting, and I accompany it with a good portion of protein and fat, I do okay.
Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple explains why, surprisingly, the occasional meal with white rice is not that bad, as long as it isn’t displacing better, more nutrient-dense foods in your diet.

White Potatoes: This one, oddly, feels like the biggest “cheat” to me. It’s largely because when I started eating paleo via a Whole30, we gave up white potatoes entirely. My husband, as I’ve mentioned, has diabetes, and white potatoes were not on the menu for us much anyway, but going off them was still a big deal.
However, as explained by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig in this post, white potatoes are actually pretty nutritious and thus, are now permitted on the Whole30. Because they are still pretty dense sources of carbohydrate, when we do have white potatoes, I tend to combine them with lower-carb veggies like cauliflower or rutabaga, or to use them as an ingredient in a stew or casserole rather than as a dish in their own right. It works for us.

What are your gray area/off-road paleo foods? Let me know in the comments.

Not a Four-Letter Word

Silly Cher | Paleo + Life

On our honeymoon, 2005

My, oh my.

At this moment, I am feeling deeply moved by Sarah Ballantyne, The Paleo Mom, who has shared a truly epic post about stress an]e last two years of her life. I highly recommend you take a look. I have not been this inspired by a blog post in a good long while.

Deeply inspired, but also really, really tired.

I am trying to take the lesson from Sarah and be pro-active in managing my stress. To do that, I have to admit sooner rather than later that I am feeling the strain. Bar study, combined with my regular family responsibilities, is really pushing me over the edge.

That doesn’t mean that I want to stop doing any of what I’m doing. I love blogging; it’s an immense relief from thinking about civil procedure and constitutional law and wills and trusts and all the other 4,037 rules of law that I am supposed to know, cold, when I finally take my exam. And of course, I can’t exactly leave my family behind — nor would I want to do so (mostly; sometimes, when the bickering starts, a desert island doesn’t sound so bad).

So I’m trying, instead, to help myself by recognizing the overwhelmed feelings and being pro-active about getting a little relief. I’ve shared my current supplement routine here before. These days, I’ve added ashwagandha and NAC to the mix. Ashwagandha is another adaptogenic herb meant to support the immune system, which makes me less likely to come down with the creeping crud, while NAC helps my body produce glutathione (an incredibly important anti-oxidant for general health that can be lacking in people under a lot of stress or who have autoimmune conditions).

I’m also attempting to get more sleep (always a difficult thing for me), and to be more present when I am not actively studying. Sleep, obviously, makes everything else I do for myself better and more effective — it’s just a matter of remembering that fact when I am tempted to short-change myself.
Presence, of course, is always something to strive for. It is often incredibly difficult for me to disentangle from thoughts of what else I “should” be doing … and it always seems there is something else I should be doing. So this challenge to myself will be even more important as I enter the home stretch of my studies. Just because I need to focus on the bar doesn’t mean the rest of my life needs to be neglected.

What about you? As you head into the second month of the New Year, what are the things you want to focus on? Please feel free to drop a line in the comments.

Curried Oven-Fried Chicken

Curried Oven-Fried Chicken | Paleo + Life

When I was a kid, I loved having chicken for dinner, because the drumsticks were mine. There was something so perfect and satisfying about them. They were just the right serving size, and even had a convenient handle built in. Let other people have the thighs, wings or the often-dry and boring chicken breasts: I was all about the legs.

As an adult, I have reluctantly ceded the drumsticks to our children. I do find I appreciate the other parts more — a nicely roasted chicken thigh is a thing of culinary beauty, but sometimes, I find that I miss them. Fortunately, I can usually find packs of them on sale. When I do, I am happy to scoop them up.

This particular recipe is almost too simple (i.e., perfect for a weeknight). A hot oven and a dash of a few quick spices take hardly any time at all. Curries come in such variety that it’s impossible to say which is my favorite. This Madras-style spice blend is a good one that I’m enjoying of late. It is perfect with all kinds of meat, and if you are near a spice shop, it’s very easy to find a good one. (I like this one from  The cooking is pretty much hands off; the eating, happily, is the exact opposite.

Curried Oven-Fried Chicken

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 pounds chicken (I used only drumsticks, but a cut-up chicken would also work)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon madras-style curry powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Pour half of the olive oil onto a baking sheet, with a basting brush, coat the entire sheet.
  3. Wash and pat dry the chicken, placing it on the baking sheet. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and curry powder; drizzle the remaining olive oil over the meat.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, or until flesh is firm, skin is brown and the juices run clear. Remove from oven; serve promptly.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/curried-oven-fried-chicken/

There Is A Season

Birds flying -- Lincoln City, OR

Birds flying — Lincoln City, OR

I am shell-shocked at the moment; one of my dear aunts passed away today.  While I know there is nothing I can do except cherish my too-limited memories of her, and that life goes on, I cannot focus my mind on the usual paleo + life stuff at the moment.

I will try to take the advice I always give in bereavement — isn’t it ironic how hard that is to do? But I will try to be patient and gentle with myself, and to share it with my little ones as appropriate, so they understand why I am sad.
Mostly, however, I just want to send all my love to my precious cousins who’ve lost their beautiful mother.

Playing in the Kitchen

finished soup

Today, I thought I’d dive in to recipe development in a bit more depth.
Recipe development: that sounds so fancy, doesn’t it? It’s not fancy in my head. Really, it’s just playing in the kitchen — usually because we’re starting to get hungry and need something fast. So here’s how a typical dinner happens around here.

raw veg

This one started, as they often do, with the realization that dinner needed to hit the table pretty darned soon, and I had no plan. Sigh. I spy some veggies in a wooden bowl, and think I should use that squash. The weather’s been cold and damp today; soup sounds good. I chop up the squash, and peel some carrots. Roasting is usually quick, and gives really good flavor. Roasting brings out the sweetness, so I’m pretty sure even the littles will like it.

Thinking I’d like something warm and Mexican-inspired, I pull out salt, pepper, cumin and cinnamon, and sprinkle those on the veggies. I quickly melt a bit of coconut oil, and pour that over them as well. Pop the trays in a 425 degree oven, and that’s underway.

I send a text to the husband, trying to convince him to pick up a rotisserie chicken on his way home. Husband says nope, can’t do it. Another dramatic sigh. I’ll pull something out of the freezer.

pork jowl

A quick dig around in our small freezer brings me to this chunk of smoked pork jowl. I figure hey, that’s basically bacon. I’m going to slice it up and fry it to go with the soup.

While the meat is cooking, I start thinking about the final dish. Since I’m going to puree the veggies in the Vitamix, I know the soup will be super smooth and silky. Crisp pork will make a nice contrast to that, but I want a bit of crunch (and color) as well. How can I do that? I pull out the hand grater and shred some red cabbage.

Onions in Pork Fat | Paleo + Life

I think about adding some of the garlic I roasted last week to the soup, but am torn. Like the roasted veg, the garlic is sweet, but the flavor’s a bit stronger than I want. Instead, when the pork is done cooking, I slice an onion really thin, and cook the slices in the rendered fat. The onion slices start to caramelize as they cook, starting to develop a deep, sweet flavor, but also picking up a bit of the smoky flavor from the cooking fat. As I taste them, I think: Yup, that was the right choice.

When the onions are done, I pull them out of the pan and set them aside. By this time, the carrots and squash are fork tender, so I pull them out of the oven. I let them cool for a few minutes, but since we need to dish dinner up PDQ I’m handling them while they’re still hot. The carrots are already peeled, and just need slicing, but the squash needs the peel taken off as well. I toss the chunks into the Vitamix, and blend away.  Because of the quantity of veggies, I do this in two batches.

Once the soup is blended, dinner’s basically done. I scoop a hefty portion into a bowl for each of us, topping it with the red cabbage, bacon and fried onions.  No time for fancy plating: we’re starving, and it smells fantastic. We dig in.

Got Up and Went

Oh, did I start the day with good intentions. Take the little one to baby playtime, get a giant chunk of studying done, do several loads of desperately needed laundry…you know the drill. All of the life stuff that gets ignored when you are actually busy living your life.

But? Eh. The husband is down for the count with the creeping crud, the children are all randomly full of coughs and oozing various bodily fluids, and I cannot separate the youngest one from my leg without a chisel. I think that means its time for our group to regroup and get some rest.

I don’t want to leave you empty-handed, though, so here’s a quick glance at some of the interesting things I’ve been reading this week. Some are recipes, some aren’t, but all are worth a few minutes of your time:

Healthy Crush’s The Truth About Eating Paleo

The Huffington Post on the newest steak cut: the merlot

Lauren Lives Healthy’s Banana Almond Swirl Ice Cream

Urban Poser’s Paleo Caramel Topping

Women Who Live on Rocks (hilarious tales about life on various islands)

Camille in the Kitchen’s Shaved Asparagus and Citrus Salad

Chris Kresser on budget healthy living

Vegan Parmesan from e. zontho

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Spicy Orange-Parsley Chimichurri, from Tasty Yummies

Jicama Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and a Citrus Vinaigrette

Enjoy. I’d love to know what you are reading. As always, feel free to let me know in the comments.

Potatoes and Pecans

Potatoes & Pecans | Paleo + Life

How goes your January clean eating challenge? So far, so good around these parts. As opposed to last year, when I did my first one, I am actually enjoying it. I feel far less stressed about the process –it’s more of a reminder to myself, since I’ve basically got the “rules” down from a year of being paleo. It also helps that it’s a less restrictive challenge this time around. While I appreciated jumping into the deep end as a paleo newbie, the 21-day primal feels more compatible with my day-to-day life.

Which brings me to sweet potatoes (bear with me, it will make sense in a moment).

Sweet Potatoes & Pecans | Paleo + Life

I have always loved sweets, even pre-paleo, though I tended to reserve them for holiday eating. But it turns out they are full of vitamins A and B-6, among other things. With those kind of benefits, I am happy to eat them year-round.

We steam, mash, bake turn them into fries, pie, breads, even muffins. But at the moment, I’m focusing on quicker dishes, so my daily diet has been more about “how fast can I get food into my face and get back to my work?” than the patient cooking sweet potatoes require.

In order to make that happen, I’ve turned to the microwave. Ours has a “potato” setting, though I usually find that I need to set the machine for two potatoes instead of one (or three instead of two, etc). Still, it helps me get this vitamin-filled deliciousness onto my plate in a hurry. Topping them with coconut oil, pecans and coconut flakes adds healthy fats and makes even a fast snack feel luxurious.

Potatoes and Pecans

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil or ghee
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Instructions

  1. Wash potatoes and dry them; poke them with a fork several times.
  2. Microwave potatoes on high for 12 minutes, or until tender enough to pierce easily with a fork.
  3. Remove from microwave; slice potatoes in half and place into serving bowls.
  4. Split potatoes vertically; slip a dollop of coconut oil or ghee into the potato and mix it into the flesh thoroughly.
  5. To serve, top each half of potato with apple sauce, cinnamon and coconut flakes, and chopped pecans.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/potatoes-and-pecans/

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