Free-Range Paleo

Broken Range

That, my friends, is the saddest thing in the world for a food blogger: a defunct range.

Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, this happened because last night I got a wild hair in my eye and decided I should clean the oven. Conveniently, or so I thought, our range has a self-cleaning setting. So after roasting chicken and potatoes for last night’s dinner, I cranked the dial over to “clean” and let ‘er rip.

All seemed to go well, right up until the lights started flashing and the stove started beeping and would. not. stop. Nor would the oven door unlatch. We had to turn the stove off at the breaker in order to get some sleep. While our quick Internet research said that this is a pretty common problem with self-cleaning ovens — apparently they get too hot and some plastic bit or other melts — so we might need to replace a part, a few posts we found indicated that sometimes the range might just need a hard reset (e.g., turning it off at the breaker).

Unfortunately, that door proved just as stuck in the morning and the beeping has continued. We have ordered a part that we think will fix it; otherwise we may be investing in a new range sooner rather than later. (Frankly, I’m torn: my inner cheapskate would be happy to fix it; my inner cook is dreaming of switching from electric to gas. I grew up using a gas stove and much prefer it.)

In the meanwhile, how are we staying Paleo? Salads, of course, are the easiest things; this breakdown is giving me a chance to compose very pretty plates, and cold roast chicken is still darned tasty.

We still have the microwave, so can re-heat some things like the leftover roasted potatoes — and can even use it to cook sweet potatoes or a smaller squash. I’ve also got the water oven, thanks to Sous Vide Supreme, and can make hard boiled eggs, among other things, in that. The slow cooker is still available as well, so my favorite crockpot soups/meats are manageable, too.

Finally, we have some things in cans that we can eat straight out of the tin: canned olives, salmon, and the like are great additions to cold salads. Between these things, plus fruit that we can eat out of hand, and the occasional smoothie/parfait, we might not even miss the stove that much.

If you can think of anything else to help manage a range-free lifestyle, do drop a line in the comments.

Paleo Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Paleo Chocolate Avocado Pudding | Paleo + Life

I swear, this is blog is not becoming Paleo Desserts with Cher. I just happened to have some super ripe avocados that I needed to use, which brought the following to mind.

About ten years ago, I worked for a major grocery store chain. (Considering my obsession with food, I’m sure this surprises exactly no one.) As the community relations staffer, one of my responsibilities was scheduling our store’s classroom with interesting cooking classes.
At that time, the raw food movement was newly popular, and I met a lovely raw vegan chef who occasionally taught in our classroom.

One day, I poked my head into a class Jenny was teaching, and she offered me a sample of a delicious chocolate pudding. It was delicious, of course, but I absolutely did not believe her when she told me it was made with avocados. I thought it was brilliant. The whole raw foods lifestyle seemed so complicated, however, and since I knew I wasn’t committed to it, I eventually forgot all about it.

Fast-forward ten or so years: While I was at IFBC (the food bloggers conference), one of the samples I tried at the big Saturday night wing ding was a simple dessert featuring bananas and cocoa powder. When I sampled it, I knew it was something my kids would love, but without any fat, it would just zip right through your body. One of the first things I learned about cooking is that fat equals flavor — and fullness. (Nothing starches my linen** more than the kids coming back after dinner, complaining that they are still hungry.) So I wanted to figure out how to adapt this dessert, when from the depths of my memory, that long-ago taste of chocolate avocado pudding emerged. Immediately, I knew I’d found my answer.

The problem? Only one of the four kids actually likes avocado. So I knew I’d have to be a little devious about it. I whipped up a batch and let the oldest boy sample it. He adored it. I then fed it to the kids, without mentioning the contents, since Youngest Girl is especially particular and would have refused to try it point-blank.

The verdict was unanimous: Everyone ate it, happily, without so much as a complaint. I actually texted my husband during dessert, despite the fact that he was less than ten feet away:

Me: DON’T SAY ANYTHING OUT LOUD, BUT OUR CHILD JUST ATE AVOCADO. HAPPILY.
Husband: Huh.

(One of us may be more excited about this than the other.)

Now that I’ve perfected the recipe, will I tell the kids what’s in it? Eventually. Right now I’m just going to enjoy knowing that my kid is chowing down on a dessert I absolutely adore, sucking in healthy fats and tons of vitamins in the process. Score one for Mama.

Note that this is not super-duper sweet; I wanted the flavors to come through as cleanly as possible. If you prefer a sweeter taste, another two tablespoons of maple syrup will not hurt one bit. While the nutmeg is optional, I find the earthy, peppery flavor emphasizes the creaminess of the chocolate and avocado. The addition of berries and pumpkin seeds are just the icing on the … wait, maybe this is getting to be Paleo Desserts with Cher. Considering how delicious this is, I don’t think I will mind one bit.

**Yes, I just made that up. Y’all know what I mean.

Paleo Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Ingredients

  • Two Reed avocados (or 5-6 Hass avocados)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Berries
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in food processor or high-speed blender. Process until thoroughly combined (in food processor, this takes 1-2 minutes. With high speed blender, this will be faster). Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. To serve: top with berries,and sprinkle on a few pumpkin seeds and ground nutmeg.
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Paleo Babies

Weezy 1

Going paleo with the baby has been the easiest transition of them all. While the teens are doing what teenagers do, and the littlest girl has been quite a challenge, my tiny boy has never known anything else, so the transition has been rather straightforward.

Of course, the standard advice is to wait until babies are six months old before they begin solids. I was prepared for this, and at dinner time would give him spoons and bowls to play with. However, the little mister started to show interest in food around four and a half months. And by “show interest,” I mean that he literally snatched food from my hands and stuffed it into his own mouth. I figured that was a sign.
His pediatrician was fine with it, so we slowly introduced solids.

Primarily, I made extremely fine purées for him of steamed vegetables, carefully blended in the Vitamix. We also chose to offer him a very watered down gluten-free rice cereal. Our younger daughter had also had that as a first food, and we felt it would be acceptable. We always served it mixed with breastmilk, to make sure the babe was getting actually some nutrition from it as well as just allowing him to enjoy the process and the new experience of eating.

As he got older, we’ve progressed to chunkier foods, such as my homemade applesauce or cauliflower leek soup. Since the boy got teeth around six months, we have also let him have lots of soft foods like peaches, nectarines, all sorts of berries, tomatoes and whatever else he seems to like. He enjoys scrambled eggs most of all, though he is partial to beef heart, roasted chicken, and pulled pork as well. Feeding him has been rather simple. Nowadays, he has gotten more particular — avocado is off the menu, though he loved it six months ago — and I suspect we are headed toward a picky phase. For the moment, I am counting myself blessed that he is almost always willing to try new foods, and that he seems to like most of them. Squeezing in so many nutritious foods now will stave off the worst of my worries if we get to the point where all he will eat is nut butter and chicken nuggets. (We are also still nursing, so that eases my mind as well. WHO recommends nursing up to age two and beyond; we are big fans of it around here.)

What about you? If you are bringing up a Paleo baby, what are your best tips and tricks for feeding them? Drop a note in the  comments.

 

 

Figgy Pudding, American Style

American-Style Figgy Pudding | Paleo + Life

This past weekend, the family and I participated in a harvest with the Portland Fruit Tree Project (PFTP). For those who are unfamiliar with this wonderful organization, it’s mission is simple. Because of our temperate climate, Portland is full of fruit trees — but sometimes the homeowners cannot use the fruit they grown. Rather than letting it go to waste, PFTP gathers a group of volunteers who harvest the fruit. Most of it goes to homeless shelters, but the volunteers also are allowed to take some fruit home. The homeowners don’t have a big mess on their hands, the shelters get extra food, and the volunteers get community service time as well as free fruit: it’s a win for everyone involved.

On our harvest date, it turned out to be just our family and some folks from PFTP for the three hour session. Between us, however, we picked 226 pounds of grapes and figs. We took home about two pounds of figs, and 24 pounds of concord grapes. I was thinking I’d make grape jelly, but at the rate my kids eat them, they won’t last long enough for me to do that. I don’t mind, though: fistfuls of concords are so much better than a lot of things they could be eating.

This recipe, however, is all about the figs.

American-Style Figgy Pudding | Paleo + Life

 

The figs we harvested were incredibly ripe — like fall apart as you took them off the trees ripe — so I needed to use them in something where shape didn’t matter (i.e., not a salad or a cheese plate). I decided to cook them down into a concentrated American style pudding (as opposed to British puddings, which are something like fruitcake).
Then I started thinking about American Thanksgiving, since it’s only a month away (I know, I’m a touch early, but it’s my second-favorite holiday of the year and I am a little obsessed). Since this is our first paleo Thanksgiving, I wanted experiment with a simple fruit-based dessert. I added chocolate for depth, a little honey for sweetness, and a bit of cinnamon and vanilla to add warmth. I thought it just sounded like these might be good.
Little did I know it would turn out to be a sexy, smoky, intensely figgy treat that made me want to lick the bowl. Nope, I’m not even a little ashamed to admit that: this stuff is good. Even my fig-hating teenager loved it.

Top it with quickly candied nuts (I used pecans, but walnuts would be incredible, too) and brightly-flavored dried cranberries for a bit of contrast and zing. While I made it with the holidays in mind, it’s too good and too easy to save just for that day: this pudding is definitely going into the regular rotation.

Figgy Pudding, American Style

Ingredients

    Pudding
  • 4 cups figs, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Candied Nuts
  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Instructions

    Pudding
  1. Combine figs, cocoa, honey, vanilla and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until figs are mostly disintegrated.
  2. Remove pan from heat and blend the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth.
  3. Return to heat; cook for another 20 minutes, or until volume is reduced by half. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  4. Candied Nuts
  5. Combine all ingredients in a small skillet. Over medium heat, stirring constantly, toast nuts until fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat; allow to cool.
  6. To serve, layer pudding, nuts and cranberries in a dessert dish.
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The B Word

Buckwheat Coconut Pancakes | Paleo + Life

Buckwheat Coconut Pancakes, adapted from Chris Kresser and Stephan Guyanet

A couple of nights ago, my oldest opened the door to our neighbor T.
She’s a nice lady, and has been incredibly welcoming to us since we showed up in the neighborhood, with our motley crew of rowdy kids, just-shy-of-feral dogs and complete ineptitude at lawn care.
(In our defense, Husband and I are apartment kids: this business of having a giant patch of grass plus a fat swath of parking strip to maintain … well, that’s a post for another time. But I digress.)

As I was saying, my oldest boy opened the door to our neighbor. Our neighbor who stopped by…with a giant bag of bagels.
Yes, a giant bag of bagels. And I don’t mean a grocery bag, either. I mean a kitchen trashcan sized bag. Of bagels. At my gluten- and grain-free door.

Sigh.

I could have taken a stand. I could’ve ranted and bewailed the evils of gluten and how it is making this country fat and inflamed and killing us and for god’s sake I have an entire BLOG about not eating things made with wheat flour and and and.

Except that my oldest boy had his hand around the bag before I could blink and an ear-to-ear grin nearly as big as that sack of bagels.

(I took the bag.)

Except that my youngest girl, when told that we weren’t going to keep them, moaned  “Why?” and “I miss bread” from the depths of her soul. Not in the whiny-six-going-on-teenager annoying way that has been her habit lately, but in the quiet, honest way that she talks to me when she really has something serious to say. Hearing that sadness in her voice just about shattered my heart.

(Yes, I took the bag.)

Except that my baby boy, who eats with deep joy and wild abandon, happily devoured a chunk of cheesy bagel with his breakfast.

Sigh. I took the bag, and we kept a few, and gave most of it away, and you know what? The world has not ended. We are fortunate that the kids seem to tolerate gluten well enough that being gluten-free is more of a choice than a mandate in our house. So I took it.

I was brought up to be polite, especially to my elders. So I took the darned bag, I said thank you very much (we don’t really eat that sort of thing anymore, but thank you). Then I grumpy-mumble-mumbled about it under my breath the whole next day. In the end, it was less than a week with some bagels. We are fine.

But it started me wondering why.
Why was being polite so important to me? Why couldn’t I just say “No thanks, hope someone can use them, goodnight?” Why couldn’t I resist the social conditioning? Even if I had, what about the kids? If I let them have gluten outside of the house, is it really fair to restrict it inside the house? Am I confusing them? Sending them mixed messages? What about the WASTE? Someone has to eat the perfectly good** food, dang it!

Sigh. Sometimes being a grown up is really hard.

I listen to a podcast called The Paleo View (run by The Paleo Mom and one of the Paleo Parents), and last week’s episode on self-control and challenges really resonated with me. In that episode, the hosts discuss avoiding disordered eating and elimination diets and deciding what place certain types of food have in your life. It stuck with me because I remember very clearly that as much as I looked forward to the end of the elimination diet, when it did actually end, I was terrified to go off plan. I felt as if I were set adrift with no compass, and like I could just MESS IT ALL UP at any moment. That’s not a reflection on the elimination diet, which actually had a very sound plan for re-entry, but had a lot to do with my state of mind. I felt fragile, and uncertain, and very tentative. I liked the rules. I needed the rules. What would I do without the rules??? I would just be EATING. WILLY NILLY. OMG I CAN’T HANDLE ALL THIS FREEDOM.

(It took me a while to calm down.)

That reaction is why I really appreciated The Paleo View’s take on knowing yourself, being aware of/carefully considering the role certain foods play in your life, and why you might or might not choose to eliminate them.

For us, I am happy to make pancakes, breads and crackers. I’m not against those foods in and of themselves. However, a big part of the reason we started our paleo journey is because much of the time, the kids were eating those things instead of actual, nutrient-dense food. But if the occasional paleo-fied muffin makes it easier to get actual vitamins from fresh, whole foods into my kids’ bodies, I’m gonna happily paleo-fy the heck out of those muffins.

All of this to say that next time, I’m going to answer the door myself. I will say a polite but firm “no thank you.” Then I’m going to get back to my kitchen and make my own darned bread.

 

** Of course, by perfectly good, I mean unspoiled, not necessarily appropriate.

Cauliflower Leek Soup

Cauliflower Leek Soup | Paleo + LifeWhen people ask how I survived graduate school while raising a family, I usually say something about my amazing husband and his incredible support, or our kids, who are (mostly) becoming ever more helpful as they grow up. These things are true, and I certainly don’t want to take credit away from my lovely family, but if I could only to point to one thing in particular?

Soup. Lots and lots of soup.

I am pretty certain that 90% of dinners during the last four years involved some sort of crockpot soup concoction and either crackers or cheese toast. Since going paleo/Primal, we have switched to various types of homemade crackers, and have also made bread with Primal Girl’s excellent magic dough recipe.

Soup is generally a simple process, especially around here on a weeknight. Four steps, and we’re done: chop, cook, mash, and eat. There is a world of technique between “chop” and “eat,” of course, and endless choices of foods to combine, but that’s the fun of it. For this one, I was thinking of potato leek soup, but wanted something was less heavy.
(While some paleo and Primal eaters can handle them, white potatoes = starch bombs as far as the hub and I are concerned, so they were out.) Instead, I grabbed some cauliflower that needed cooking and a couple of kohlrabi that I literally scrounged from the back of the fridge (seriously, they’ve been there for about a thousand years). If kohlrabi is not available where you live, substitute broccoli instead.

Even though I wanted to make the soup quickly, I also wanted a deeper flavor. To accomplish this, I sauteed the leeks and garlic gently for a good long while and used the same fast cooking in a hot oven as for my Lime & Rosemary Roasted Broccoli. Cauliflower is less dense than kohlrabi or broccoli, so takes a little less time to roast. Chuck it all in the Vitamix, and voila: soup’s on. (Ahem. That was a French joke. Soupçon? Get it. Sorry. Forget I said anything. I am a nerd.)

If you are speedy at trimming your veggies, you can easily get this soup on the table in under an hour. Then you too can get back to studying, knowing that your family has been well-fed.

Cauliflower Leek Soup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil, divided
  • 1 lb cleaned, sliced leeks (frozen ones are fine)
  • 5 cloves garlic, slivered
  • One head cauliflower
  • 2 knobs kohlrabi (or two bunches broccoli)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cups herb stock

Instructions

  1. In a sauté pan over medium-low heat, warm 2 tablespoons coconut oil. When oil has warmed, add leeks garlic. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown slightly (~30-40 minutes).
  2. Wash and trim the cauliflower. Peel and slice the kohlrabi into rough chunks. Spread kohlrabi and cauliflower on cookie sheets. Drizzle the vegetables with the remaining coconut oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in a 425° oven. Roast vegetables until starting to color and they are fork tender: about 20 minutes for cauliflower, about 30 for kohlrabi.
  3. In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine half of the leek mixture with the roasted kohrabi and 2 cups stock. Blend until desired smoothness is reached:
  4. 20-40 seconds for a chunky soup; 40-60 seconds for a smoother purée. Pour into a large bowl. Add remaining leek mixture, remaining stock and roasted cauliflower to the blender and process (cauliflower is not as dense as kohlrabi so it will purée a touch faster). Stir to combine; serve immediately.
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Lime & Rosemary Roasted Broccoli

Lime & Rosemary Roasted Broccoli | Paleo + Life

Once in a very great while, going to the grocery store while hungry is a good idea.

If I hadn’t been hungry, I would not have noticed these broccoli crowns. They were just sitting there, in unassuming mounds of bristly green, looking for all the world as if a giant hand had scooped out a patch of earth from one of the tree-covered hills that surround us here in the Willamette Valley. But the contrast of the bright orange sale sticker and the robust green of the broccoli caught my hungry eye, and I thought, “Why not?”

Why not indeed? I am always looking for something my youngest girl will reliably eat; getting vegetables into her is always a challenge. When I saw the broccoli, I remembered how much she liked the roasted broccoli I made from this recipe. I decided I’d make it again.

Despite my plan to remake the dish, there is something just slightly fickle in me that refuses to ever make a dish the exact same way. Since I was just cooking to be cooking, rather than cooking for the blog (ha, I’m certain every food blogger has said this at one point), I figured I’d just tinker, leave my version in my memory, and go on my merry way.

But.

Lime & Rosemary Roasted Broccoli | Paleo + Life

You see that crust on the edges of the broccoli? Those caramel-colored crusty tips? That, my friends, is the intersection of health and heaven. When I pull the trays of broccoli out of the oven, that crust is what I look for first. That bit that always makes me snatch the tiniest florets right off the hot-hot-HOT pan, heat be damned, because I cannot wait: I’ve just got to eat it. right. this. second.

Sigh. Just thinking about it makes me want more.

Roasted vegetables, as I mentioned the other day, are perfect with a light dressing of infused oil. Since I had just made rosemary oil, that was what I used: the contrast of tangy lime with the deep piney flavor of rosemary is sublime. A generous sprinkling of nutritional yeast adds a cheesy tang, making this dish perfect for vegans and the dairy-intolerant. If you do eat dairy, try this with a grated hard cheese like Grana Padano.

Lime & Rosemary Roasted Broccoli

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds broccoli crowns
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons herb oil
  • 1 lime, sliced in half

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Break apart broccoli florets; lay them on two cookie sheets. Sprinkle each tray with salt, pepper, and olive oil; massage the oil onto the florets to coat.
  3. Place the cookie sheets into the oven, roast the broccoli until it is fork-tender and the tips are brown and crusty (about 30 minutes). Remove from oven.
  4. When cool enough to handle, scootch broccoli into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast, then toss. Add herb oil and toss, then squeeze the juice of one-half lime over the broccoli; toss again. (If desired, use the other half as well.)
  5. Serve immediately.
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Book Review: The Kitchen Ecosystem


Note to my readers: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review. All opinions are strictly my own.

The premise behind Eugenia Bone’s new book, The Kitchen Ecosystem: Integrating Recipes to Create Delicious Meals*, is a simple one: let nothing go to waste. When you’re cooking, you should use some of the food fresh, preserve some, make use of the scraps for another ingredient, use them, then use the preserves, in an ongoing cycle.
It’s a modern take on what our mothers might have called being frugal. Our grandparents wouldn’t have even had a name for it — it is just the way they cooked. Saving meat and vegetable scraps to make stock, making your own  mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup, recycling fruit peels into jelly or candies…these are all time-honored techniques for getting the absolute most out of your food dollar. Who doesn’t want to do that?

If you didn’t grow up in a kitchen that worked this way, it might sound like a miserly way of cooking. However, having your own kitchen ecosystem is anything but miserly — it’s freeing. When you have these basics like these in your kitchen, a good meal is always easy to create. Saving the water veggies were cooked in as a base for soup saves vitamins that would otherwise be lost to the cooking process. Rendering fat from a duck or a piece of pork adds a boost of extra flavor to a dish without adding extra cost. It’s the same principle as a paleo eater’s weekly cook up, where you make a bunch of recipes on the weekend and eat them over the course of the week, but on a longer timeline.

The Kitchen Ecosystem's Feral Greens | Paleo + Life

Feral Greens, p. 231

While The Kitchen Ecosystem is not a paleo/Primal cookbook per se, it is very paleo- and Primal-friendly. Ms. Bone emphasizes using fresh, natural ingredients;  eating real, homemade food. Many of the recipes are paleo, with no tweaks needed, while others require only simple substitutions such as trading zucchini noodles for pasta. For bread or grain-based recipes, you’d have to experiment, but many of the ideas are still usable, like using leftover whey from cheese making as the liquid in a bread recipe.

Speaking of recipes: this book contains hundreds. That is literal: each of the forty-plus foods included gets its own mini-chapter with a minimum of six recipes; most have eight or more.
Bone describes her kitchen as mostly Mediterranean, so many of the recipes are traditional ones that will be familiar to a lot of Americans (garlic, rosemary and olive chicken and zabaglione are included, as are many cocktail recipes). Others will be a little more exotic, such as flounder in grape sauce, but all of them are very do-able.

The Kitchen Ecosystem's Roasted Radishes | Paleo + Life

Roasted Radishes, p. 272

Do-able is really the watchword of this book. What I like most is that the author’s methods are very accessible. Her writing is friendly and encouraging, and many of the recipes have fun anecdotes or useful tips in the head notes. You always get the sense that you can ease into this way of cooking pretty simply. Do as little or as much as you want — for example, if you aren’t into canning, you still can make many of the recipes that call for that technique, but just use the foods more quickly. As you get more comfortable cooking this way, you can try more of the techniques and really make it your own.

All in all, I think The Kitchen Ecosystem is a solid addition to a cookbook library. If you have friends and family who are curious about a real foods diet, but are not ready to go full-on paleo, this book is a great place to start.

The Kitchen Ecosystem's Stewed Apples with Red Cabbage | Paleo + Life

Stewed Apples with Red Cabbage

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups finely sliced red cabbage (1 small head)
  • 2 cups chopped peeled apples or 1 pint applesauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the cabbage, cover, and cook until the cabbage is wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the apples, bay leaf, cloves, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook until the apples are hot and tender, 3 to 4 minutes longer.
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Food Lovers’ Fridays: Herb Infused Oils

Infused Herb Oil | Paleo + Life

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.

The Husband and I are pretty comfortable with our lack of hipster cred, despite living in the city “where young people go to retire.” We’re at a different stage now: somewhat shocked to be “the grown ups” in the family, still getting that urge to call our parents to come fix it when something goes wrong (though we usually don’t), but overall, we’ve settled more or less comfortably into a fairly traditional kids/house/dog lifestyle. Hubs has even gone to the dad joke, more than once.

However, today’s Food Lover’s Friday is about herb infused oils, which makes me want to learn all of the hot new slang, so that I can impress upon you the awesomeness of this technique.
For one, it’s dead easy. Two, it is incredibly quick. Three, this much flavor will seriously up your dinner game. Fr fr.

Now that I’ve embarrassed my children (Hey, kids! Get off the internet! KThxBai. <3, Yr Mom), let’s get down to business. Infused oils are simple, elegant, and bring a whole new world of flavor to your table. Use them as the base for your salad dressings, drizzle them into soup, splash some on roasted veggies, mix them with sour cream for dipping sauce  — basically, anywhere you need a shot of fresh herbal flavor. Thinking ahead to the holidays (I know, I know, but I’ve been seeing decorations in the stores since August), flavored oils are a great gift. It’s something people rarely think to make for themselves, but love to get.

Garden Herbs | Paleo + Life

Rosemary, oregano, purple sage, and salad burnet in the garden. No matter what we dish out, these tough plants can take it.

I grow a mix of perennial herbs all over our garden — these plants are gorgeous and can take all sorts of neglect. When I make infused oils, my homegrown herbs are mostly what I use, since they are there. I like putting in a bit of this and a pinch of that, but you can always buy mixes if you don’t feel confident making up your own. Mixed herbs are incredibly easy to find at your grocery store or spice shop (Savory Spice Shop is incredibly convenient for me, so that’s where I tend to go). Just make sure wherever you buy your spices does a brisk business: you don’t want to make your oil with spices that are too old (ha, see what I did there? Old spice? Ahem).

I almost always use olive oil as the base, simply because I always have it on hand, but do try other oils like sesame or macadamia nut; they will add another interesting flavor note to the mix. Keep these in the fridge for the best flavor, and use within a month.

Food Lovers’ Fridays: Herb Infused Oils

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive or other oil
  • Fresh herbs (for this batch I used 2 sprigs of rosemary, approximately 5" long)

Instructions

  1. Wash and dry the herbs; they must be absolutely bone dry.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the herbs and oil. Over medium-low heat, warm the herbs for approximately 5-10 minutes, or until their flavor has suffused the oil. Remove from heat. When cool, strain the solids from the oil. Pour the oil into the container of your choice and refrigerate immediately. Use within one month.
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Paleo Check In: September 2014

Welcome! Check ins are a monthly series of posts meant to document my progress towards better health, a stronger body, and general awesome paleo rockstar status. Find the first one here.

Food

Overall, the beginning of the month was great for me, in terms of clean eating. Around the middle, though, I attended the International Food Bloggers Conference. Travel is tricky at the best of times, and particularly when you have some dietary restrictions that are more of a choice that a necessity, it’s easy to go off the rails. When I returned home, I immediately plunged into a big project,  which did not help matters: I tend to stress eat and indulged more than I should. Adding insult to injury, I came down with some sort of evil 24-hour thing on the tail end of that project. Long story short(er), the second half of the month has been a challenge.

That challenge is part of why I’m really excited about October. We don’t have travel on the schedule, just the usual rat race, so staying more focused with the food should be much easier. Plus, my favorite holiday happens at the end of the month. I’m trying to imagine what paleo Halloween looks like and failing completely…

This month’s recipes:

Cinnamon Pepper Plantains
Salt-Roasted Beets
Fennel Scented Pulled Pork
Cinnamon Spiced Nut Butter
Duxelles (Sauteed Mushrooms)
Apple Sassy (Applesauce)
Plum Rhubarb Panna Cotta

Body

I stuck with my exercise goals for the month, which feels very satisfying. (As I’ve mentioned before, I am not exactly a fan of exercise, so sticking with it is something of a miracle for me.)  It helps that my goals are small enough that I can sort of muscle through them even when I don’t want to do so.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on getting more probiotics in my diet, since they are said to be so good for you. This has mostly been in the form of supplements and pricey, bubbly drinks; this month, I’m determined to get back into making batches of water kefir. I let this slide over the summer, but I could definitely stand to take up the habit again.

Mind

Attending the food conference was a serious highlight of the month — it was great to spend three days in the company of other food-obsessed folks who really ‘get’ my passion. I also discovered a lively local group of food bloggers, with whom I definitely want to connect.

I also finished a big project, which has been a huge weight off of my mind. It’s making me really think deeply about what my career goals are. I know what doesn’t make me feel good; the question is, what will feel best while allowing me to use my education and help support my family?

Goals

1. Stick with the walking as I can, and with the half push ups; aim for 8 reps twice a week.
2. Meditation: 10 minutes, twice a week.
3. Make sleep a priority — get to bed before midnight every night this month.

What are your goals for October? Anyone setting new challenges for themselves? Feel free to share in the comments.

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