Monthly Archives: November 2014

From The Caterer’s Kitchen: Understanding Food Terminology

dice

I’ve been wanting to get back to this series for a couple of weeks now, but kept putting off this particular post. Why? I suppose it is because the topic is immense — there is just so much to know when it comes to food terminology. There are so many terms to learn and techniques to master, especially if you are new to the world of food. I thought I might never be able to stop writing.

Because the vast possibilities in the topic, it’s just too much to tackle all at once — it has to be broken up over several days to really do it justice. So I am offering a very small part today, and will revisit the topic of cooking terminology with more tips next time.

While there is so much techniques to learn, in my opinion, how to chop is the most fundamental piece. Even if you never turn on your stove or oven, you can still make hundreds of dishes just by combining various chopped items. The cutting techniques I use most often are the chiffonade, dicing, and mincing.

Chiffonade

I’ve shown you a chiffonade before, but wanted to demonstrate it here because it is such a useful technique. Any leafy greens or herbs can be sliced in this way. You simply stack them leaves like so:

stacked leaves

Then roll them up:

rolled leaves

and slice into little ribbons.

Slicing leaves

Use wider slices for salad greens or side dishes, narrower ones for coleslaw or stir fries, and skinny ones for herbs or garnishes. If your leaves are especially large, cut them in half along the stem line after you’ve done your chiffonade.

Dice

Dicing is beautiful. It’s equally simple, too – just slice your produce vertically, and then horizontally:

dice cuke

Et voila — you are done. Dicing, obviously, has a multitude of uses: salsa, salads, garnishes, or anywhere you want your food to look good. Dice food into smaller or larger pieces, depending on the use — small pieces in something like bruschetta, or larger dice for use in soups. Diced food cooks faster, and also looks nicer than a rough chop. If the appearance of your dish is important, it is worth doing a good dice.

Mincing

Mincing is like a much smaller, finer dice, but with a little less care taken. Usually, this is for ingredients that you want to use to flavor the dish overall, but that you don’t want to be the star of the dish or taste in quantity. Think of using slivers of garlic or onion in Chinese food, where they are primary ingredients, versus the subtlety of minced garlic or onion in a soup or casserole.

mince

Minces are cut in the same way as dices, just smaller. As a reminder, here’s a photo of dice and mince together:

dice and mince

Mincing is also good for potent leafy herbs — if I’m making a salad with fresh parsley or oregano, but don’t want them to be the most evident flavors in it, mincing them works really well to make them more subtle accents rather than having them take over the dish.

So there you have it:  my top three cutting techniques. Because they are fundamental, knowing these will get you pretty far in the kitchen. But as I said, this is such a huge topic that it will require several more posts to even scratch the surface. Drop a line in the comments if there is something in particular that you want me to tackle first.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick post today to wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving, assuming you are in America and/or you celebrate it.

I had hoped to do a Thanksgiving series this year, but life, as it so often does, had other plans. Perhaps next year I’ll be able to make that happen. Instead, I’m offering a quick round up of my most Thanksgiving-appropriate recipes. If you’re a host(ess) cooking for a friend and they say they are paleo or primal, try these sides and desserts. They will be very comfortable, familiar flavors to serve. Or if you are a paleo person heading to a family gathering, these recipes will ensure there’s something delicious on the table that you can eat.

For quick paleo Thanksgiving side dishes, try:

Salt-Roasted Beets
Mushroom Duxelles
Carrots and Nigella
Warm Fennel Salad with Bacon
Butter Braised Radishes
Lime & Rosemary Roasted Broccoli

For paleo desserts, try:

Figgy Pudding, American Style
Apple Sassy Applesauce
Chocolate Avocado Pudding

See y’all on the other side of T-day. I’ll have some fun new things to share with you soon.

 

Super Duper Sale

Just fell off the plane and back into P-town, but wanted to share this quickly:

11/25 Sale

Today only, these paleo/primal/ancestral health books are on sale. I’m buying several of them for myself — I think they are a great way to get started (and by the way, will also make excellent gifts).
I signed up as an affiliate, because I think this is an incredible deal. Check it out here.

In The Caterer’s Kitchen

Collards & Cabbage | Paleo + Life

Collards & Cabbage

The silver lining of this trip, which was for such a sad purpose, was being able to see my mother and stepfather again. They came out to visit us in late May for my graduation, and I didn’t expect another visit before 2015.

My mom is a nurturer — as I’ve mentioned, she has been a nurse for decades — and she is also one of those folks who shows her affection with food. If she takes the time to make a nice meal when you visit, you know you matter.

Mom's Ribs | Paleo + Life

Mom’s Ribs

It’s always a joy to be in my mama’s kitchen. Mostly because I don’t have to do anything; I can just hang out and know that there is a delicious meal coming. Although I adore cooking and getting creative in the kitchen, sometimes it is nice not to be in charge of that.

While I was there, I was also taking notes and getting ideas for future blog posts — the collards and cabbage, for example, is a great side dish that is perfectly Paleo. I will have to snag that recipe from her soon. As for the ribs, well — those may remain a family secret for a while longer, though I suppose I can get some tips for those of you looking to up your skills in that area.
But I’m so grateful I got a chance to catch my mom in action again. She’s a professional, and it is a pleasure to watch her do her thing.

Rounding Up, Taking Stock

We are out of town for the memorial service, so posting will be brief today. Instead of chatting as I usually do, I wanted to recommend that you check out the little tidbits I add to the Facebook page (that’s www.facebook.com/PaleoPlusLife).

Lately I have found some good posts on Issues like:

  • what to give at the food bank
  • taking control of your health and well-being
  • a chocolate truffle macadamia recipe
  • Really cool, modern French presses
  • A fascinating article on raising “elite meat”

Have a wonderful weekend. Hug someone you love. I will be back with you all next week.

 

 

Cranberry Coconut Smoothie

Cranberry Coconut Smoothie| Paleo + Life

My husband has been out of town for several days, which has made me responsible for all of the children, all of the time. He is a pretty good wrangler of kiddos when he is here, and I am missing his help. More than once, I’ve delayed breakfast because I didn’t have time to make myself something and get the kids out of the door on time.

This is where smoothies come in. While they might not be the ideal breakfast, for me, they come pretty close. Some days, when I wake up, I just cannot even stand the idea of chewing. Does that happen to other people? It seems weird when I say it out loud. This was especially true when I was pregnant and dealing with morning sickness — some days, the idea of eating made me gag.

Instead of forcing something down, I’d make a smoothie. Something simple, quick and delicious is exactly what I needed, and made it easier to get through the rest of my day. Adding greens, which I’ve recently begun to do, makes them even better.

Because it’s nearly Thanksgiving, fresh cranberries are readily available. My husband and oldest boy both snack on them like candy, but the ladies of the house are not convinced that these tart little treasures are worth eating. Because cranberries are so good for you — helpful in fighting infections as well as post-meal blood sugar spikes — it is worthwhile to get some into your diet on days other than Thanksgiving. 

Cranberry Coconut Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk of your choice (I like coconut milk)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup protein powder (I prefer NOW Foods Eggwhite Protein, 1.2 Pound)
  • 1/2 banana, preferably frozen
  • 1/3 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (optional: divide and reserve for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed spinach (optional: divide and reserve for garnish)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Combine milk, coconut oil and protein powder in a high-speed blender. Blend on high for 10-15 seconds, or until combined.
  2. Add banana, berries, spinach and honey; blend again for 15-30 seconds, or until mixture is completely blended and smooth. If desired, garnish with a sprinkle of unsweetened, shredded coconut, a few berries, and a spinach leaf.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/cranberry-coconut-smoothie/

 

Taking Care

Normally I would have something zippy planned today, but my heart is heavy and my zip is rather zapped. A family member has been sick for a very long time, and is now in his last illness. We have known for some time that the end would come sooner than later, so it is not a surprise, but it is still a huge hurt. I dearly wish I could make it better.

Since I can’t actually improve things, instead, today I want to focus on taking care of yourself.
I know that, as a wife, mom and daughter, it is very easy for me to put myself last. Everyone else needs so much! But if you keep putting yourself last and not filling your own cup, eventually you have no more left to give. I keep having to learn this lesson over and over and over again,  especially when grieving. I like to think I am getting better at remembering this, but in the moment, a refresher always feels good.

Here’s my quick list of the best advice I found on taking care of yourself:

If you’ve found any other great self-care tips, please share in the comments. The more, the better, I say.

The Paleo View Book Tour

Oy vey – it is late in the day and we are all exhausted, but I have to share a quick post about tonight. I dragged my kids to the mall (tough life, I know) to see Sarah, The Paleo Mom, and Stacy of Paleo Parents on their “The Paleo View” book tour.

The Authors | Paleo + Life

Stacy Toth and Sarah Ballantyne of The Paleo View. Bonus author featured: that’s Mickey Trescott, author of The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook*, standing by the wall!

Sadly, this is the best I could do for a photo between chasing the toddler and answering the grade schooler’s questions about why we were there doing “boring adult stuff.” I didn’t even get a chance to have my picture taken with the ladies, since I had to bribe placate the little girl with waaay more screen time than she normally gets so that I could listen. The teens were content to wander around the mall, in the time-honored tradition of teenagers staring at the other teenagers who were also wandering aimlessly around the mall.

On the other hand, I did manage to secure this bit of awesomeness:

Exo Bar| Paleo + Life

…which I literally caught in one hand while squatting and holding my nursing toddler with the other. Whatever athletic feats may  be accomplished in the future will pale in significance next to this one. The mic has been dropped.

But I digress. Back to the book signing.

Both Stacy and Sarah talked about their paleo journeys, and how they have both lost tremendous amounts of weight, and how — more importantly — they have also gained health along the way. I was particularly inspired by Sarah’s comment about finally figuring out that “thin” and “healthy” are two separate things. That really resonated with me; I used to conflate those two things as well.

There was a good long Q&A, during which both ladies really emphasized the importance of sleep and stress reduction in our quest for better health as well as weight loss. They also talked about going paleo with kids — a big part of why Stacy and her husband Matt chose to write Real Life Paleo* (you can see my review here), and how the 80/20 rule works for them.

Finally, I bought myself a copy of The Paleo Approach*. It was full price, which was a bit of an ouch — but I wanted to support the store hosting the event, and get my book signed. (I have read the book already; my review of it is here.). I even got to skip ahead in line, since I had the tot with me — so kind of them, considering we were out quite a bit past the little one’s bed time. I even got a hug from Sarah, which made my night complete.

In short, it was a lovely evening and I’m so glad I was able to attend. I highly recommend taking the time if they are ever in your neck of the woods. Both Stacy and Sarah were so warm and genuine, it was a real pleasure to see them in person.

* = affiliate link.

Book Report: Real-Life Paleo

Note to my readers: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. As always, all opinions are my own.

Matt McCarry and Stacy Toth are the dynamic duo behind Paleo Parents, and prolific authors of paleo cookbooks, including one on eating nose-to-tail (Beyond Bacon: Paleo Recipes that Respect the Whole Hog)* and one for kids (Eat Like a Dinosaur: Recipe & Guidebook for Gluten-free Kids)*. Their newest offering is Real Life Paleo: 175 Gluten-Free Recipes, Meal Ideas, and an Easy 3-Phased Approach to Lose Weight & Gain Health*, which suggests a slower, three-phased approach to taking on a paleo diet.

Quick Banana-Chocolate Souffle Cake from Real Life Paleo | Paleo + Life

Quick Banana-Chocolate Souffle Cake, p. 146

In brief: this book is a gold mine. While I am a “jump in with both feet” kind of person, not everyone can handle that approach, and it is so easy to get overwhelmed. Stacy and Matt’s very encouraging tone gently leads the reader by the hand, always explaining why certain foods are encouraged or discouraged, letting them get more comfortable with the idea of paleo eating while offering tasty, kid-friendly recipes. It is written in a very conversational, friendly tone: I had to wrestle it away from my oldest in order to read it for this review!

In Phase 1: Swap, you swap out the worst foods in the diet. This means going gluten-free, as well as taking out refined and processed foods, changing dairy products and meat (full fat, organic and grass-fed are king here), and eating more veggies. The book has a useful tear-out grocery shopping guide that you can use in the store to remind you of products to look for while shopping, and tips for going out to eat. (As the primary cook in our house, this may be my favorite part of the book.)

In Phase 2: Remove, you focus on removing other grains, dropping dairy, legumes, and processed oils. (In this phase, you ‘go paleo.’) Matt and Stacy share more shopping tips here, and share suggestions from their family’s transition, as well as lists of paleo kitchen staples and suggestions for family activities (some food related, some not).

If Phase 2 is Paleo 101, then Phase 3: Heal is the next course in the sequence. In this phase, organ meats, bone broth, fermented foods and more are added to the diet. These are considered paleo super foods, in that aren’t just good for you, but can actively help heal your digestive system. This phase also emphasizes lifestyle aspects of paleo, since they can be just as healing as the foods you’re eating.

Green Onion and Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese from Real Life Paleo | Paleo + Life

Green Onion and Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese, p. 238

There is much more to the book: suggested menus, meal plans, and spice blends, as well as close to 200 recipes. Speaking of those: all of the recipes are categorized by phase, and all are indexed to help those who need to avoid specific allergens. There are lots of recipes for staples like coconut milk, and many good ideas for less-sweet alternatives to both breakfasts and desserts. Thus far, my favorite new-to-me recipe is the Green Onion and Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese (one of many squash recipes) — the husband went for seconds and thirds, and the meat loving oldest boy was barely done with his dinner portion when he asked to have some for breakfast. That dish is definitely going in the permanent rotation, though it may be a while, as my must-try list is about a mile long. The book strikes a good balance between safe, simple flavors kids will like, and a few adventurous ones that stretch the palate a bit (both the homemade beef energy bars and the mussels are on my list).

The Real Life Paleo approach is a really sustainable way to get folks eating healthier, one meal at a time. I wish I had had this book when we started our paleo journey: I dare say my kids would have been far happier if we had gone paleo this way. Still, I’m glad to have it now. This book has earned a place on my bookshelf for everyday inspiration.

Healthiest Ice Cream Ever from Real-Life Paleo | Paleo + Life

Healthiest Ice Cream Ever, p. 384

Healthiest Ice Cream Ever

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 1-1/2 kosher or sea salt
  • 1 (13-1/3 ounce) can full-fat coconut milk or 1-3/4 cups homemade
  • 2 large pastured egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Slightly Sweet & Salty Snack Mix, for garnish*

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Remove the ends of the squash, slice it in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Then peel and cube the squash. Spread out the squash cubes in a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Let cool completely.
  3. Place 2 packed cups of the cooked squash and the remaining ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender and puree until smooth.
  4. Put the mixture in an ice cream maker and churn, following the manufacturer's directions, until stiffened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Freeze in an airtight container for at least 30 minutes before serving. If frozen for more than four hours, let rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. (Natural ice creams don't contain chemical softeners, so they set hard like ice and require time to soften.)
  6. Scoop into bowls and top with the Slightly Sweet & Salty Snack Mix.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/book-report-real-life-paleo/

Note: if you can’t find butternut squash, any winter squash will do. Most grocery stores sell prepackaged peeled and cubed butternut squash to make this recipe even easier, but we’ve heard that pumpkin is a fan favorite.

Don’t have an ice cream maker? Never fear. After cooking and cooling the squash, place it in the freezer to harden for a few hours. Then, once partially frozen, add the squash and remaining ingredients to a high-speed blender and puree — you’ll have instant soft-serve.


* = Affiliate link.

 

Paleo No-Grain Granola

Paleo Grain-Free Granola | Paleo + LifeWe were so lucky to have a rain-free day this weekend. A little rain doesn’t stop us, of course — we Oregonians are practically waterproof — but it was lovely to have a break from the drizzle.
Getting out and about in the autumn weather makes me wistful for the early days of our marriage. At the time, my husband and I lived in Minneapolis. As footloose newlyweds, we had rather more free time, and would occasionally pack some snacks and spend an afternoon just biking and exploring the Twin Cities.

While we aren’t quite so fancy free anymore, I still love snack food. At the beginning of my paleo journey, I had just gotten into making homemade granola, and I thought I had really hit my stride. While going paleo has had many more benefits than drawbacks, losing that crunchy, chewy treat was a disappointment.

Ironically, I know there are tons of paleo granola recipes out there — I own several cookbooks that include them — yet none of them felt quite right to me. I guess I just needed to figure this one out for myself. I was encouraged by a trip to the store for school snacks (the littlest girl takes lunch to school). While shopping, I found some grain free granola*. I tried one and thought it was really good, but I knew I wouldn’t want to spend that much every time. So into the kitchen I went.

Paleo Grain-Free Granola | Paleo + Life

This combination is delicious, and is definitely a money saver. Sprinkle some on yogurt, if you dig that kind of thing. Or have it with whatever milk you prefer. Homemade granola also has the advantage of making your house smell phenomenal. If you have kids, double the batch. Trust me on this.

Best of all is how adaptable granola is. Change the spice, or the types of nuts and seeds, or the fruit as you see fit. In this cool season, I’m loving this combination of cocoa with apples, raisins and allspice, but I’m envisioning cranberries, clove and dried orange, or golden raisins, cinnamon and candied ginger when it gets colder… whatever floats your boat. Or pedals your bike, as the case may be.

Paleo No-Grain Granola

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raw walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup raw cashew pieces
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup dried apples, chopped (about 4 rings)
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, coconut, allspice, cocoa powder and coconut sugar in a large bowl. Stir thoroughly to combine. Continue stirring, pouring in the melted coconut oil as you do so.
  3. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper; pour the granola onto the sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove granola from the oven, stir thoroughly, and replace baking sheet in the oven. Bake for another 3-5 minutes (watch it closely; granola can get very toasted very quickly). Remove from oven.
  4. Pour the granola back into the bowl. While still warm, add the chopped dried apples and raisins; stir thoroughly. Allow granola to cool before serving.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/paleo-grain-granola/

* = Affiliate link.

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