A Pasta Alternative

Here are some of my thoughts on the train ride home one evening from work…

“What should I make for dinner?”

“We don’t really have anything fresh at home, should I go to the grocery store?”

“Which grocery store is the most convenient and on the way?”

“Nah, I don’t really want to make an extra stop.”

“I think I have some sweet potatoes and a couple of pork chops in the fridge… Maybe I can make pasta out of the sweet potato, similar to zucchini?  Would that work??”

As I got off the train, I sped walked to my car, rushed home (don’t worry, I stayed within the speed limit), walked into the house and started on dinner right away.  I had a mission and I was excited to try it!

Well, needless to say, sweet potato gets two thumbs up as a pasta alternative in my book!  It’s great to just eat on its own since it’s already so flavorful.  No need to add tomato sauce or any other sauce, but that’s my personal preference.

Sweet Potato “Pasta”

Serves 2

  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes, skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon coconut butter
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  1. Using a mandoline, select the appropriate julienne blade insert.  You want the strips to be thin, but not too thin and flimsy.  Julienne both sweet potatoes, set aside.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add coconut butter.
  3. Add julienned sweet potatoes and saute for 5 minutes, or until tender.
  4. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  5. Serve with a protein of your choice.  I did grilled pork chops topped with a runny egg.

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Ziggy also wants to say hello!!! 🙂

 

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Happy (Meatless) Monday!

Another wonderful meal made out of just vegetables.  I love the layering technique since you are able to jam so many flavors into one little bite.  I also included a lot of ingredients because I was skeptical about the kale.  I’ve been trying to get into it and am not a fan of raw kale.  Cooked, however, tastes divine!  Saute it with some olive oil, garlic, and onions, and this is easily one of my new favorite vegetables!

I’ve also been working on my plating skills.  I’m not professional, but I try to have fun with it!

Vegetable Tower

  • 4 slices of eggplant
  • 2 oz. kale, chopped
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 2 oz. sundried tomatoes
  • 2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled (can forego this to make it Paleo or Vegan friendly)
  • 1 basil leaf, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  1. In a medium sized pan over medium heat, drizzle olive oil. Place eggplant on pan and cook each side for 4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In the same pan, drizzle olive oil, add garlic and onions. Add in kale.  Saute for 5 minutes or until kale is cooked through.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Place one slice of eggplant on the plate, then a layer of kale, roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, and goat cheese.  Repeat until all ingredients are used up.  Top with chopped basil.

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It’s Simple – Food Should be Real

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my culinary adventures, it’s this…. Food should be real.  This is your body and the last time I checked, you only get one – so love it and treat it right by nourishing it with natural and nutritious foods.  Next time, read the label of your next boxed meal and let me know if you can explain what each and every ingredient is and how it’s produced.  When you cook with real food, the ingredients are simple.  Zucchini pasta is made out of, well, zucchini.  Mashed cauliflower is made out of cauliflower, garlic, and butter.  Bacon is meat from the side of a pig, but who knows what turkey bacon is? I could go on and on, but I think you get my point.

I stopped buying bottled salad dressing once I started to cook Paleo.  I read the label one day of my Trader Joe’s fat-free balsamic vinaigrette and was perplexed.  Vinegars (Red wine, balsamic, cider, white distilled) – fine.  Water – fine.  Xantham gum – what?? Caramel color – why?  I’ve switched to balsamic vinegar and olive oil and have never looked back.

Tonight’s dinner was a simple salad with a really easy homemade dressing.

Lemon Dijon Dressing

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons, dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon, olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Add all ingredients into a mixing bowl.  Using a whisk, mix well.  Adjust taste to your liking (if it is too sour, add more dijon).
  2. Store in air tight container in fridge for up to one week.

 

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Oh, hey Ziggy!!!

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Another Wonderful Pasta Substitute

I’m such a sucker for Trader Joe’s marketing.  I was grocery shopping over the weekend and picked up a bag of their seafood blend in the frozen section.  Right above the price tag, in a bright neon yellow sign says, “Try it with our Arrabiata Sauce!”  Without hesitation, I grab the sauce that is so brilliantly placed right above the seafood blend and go on my merry way.  A few aisles later, I’ve tossed a bunch of other things into my cart (not on my shopping list) and end up spending way more than expected.

So, what else do I need to purchase to serve with this seafood blend and Arrabiata sauce?  Pasta, of course!!  But, how can I make this a more nutritious meal?  Zucchini pasta!  I bought this amazing julienne peeler from Home Goods for only $2.99.  It’s the perfect tool (small and easy to use) to make zucchini pasta instead of spending money on another clunky tool to add to the mix of kitchen appliances.

Tonight’s dinner features 3 main ingredients, with a few additional spices to enhance the flavors.  It does take some time to prepare, so I wouldn’t call it an easy and quick weeknight dinner, but something to try if you have ~45 mins in the kitchen!

Zucchini Pasta with Seafood & Arrabiata Sauce

Serves 2

For the zucchini pasta:

  1. Using the julienne peeler, strip the zucchini down to the seeds.  Place julienned zucchini into a large bowl.  Season with some sea salt and mix well.
  2. Prior to cooking, squeeze the zucchini pasta to get rid of the excess water.
  3. In a medium sized pot, add butter and garlic.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add zucchini pasta and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove from pot and set aside.

 

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For the sauce:

  1. Using the same pot, add butter and garlic.  Saute until the garlic becomes tender.
  2. Add seafood blend and saute for an additional 5 minutes or until cooked through.
  3. Add half a jar of arrabiata sauce.  Add red pepper flakes (optional).
  4. Simmer on low for 10 minutes.
  5. Serve over zucchini pasta.

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And here’s a picture of Ziggy, chillin’!!!

 

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Weekends are always awesome, right?

It’s always interesting when you go into work on Monday and everyone asks “How was your weekend?”  Isn’t the answer always “IT WAS AWESOME!!!!!”?!?  No need to wake up early, drive 20 minutes to the train station, park, walk 5 minutes to get the train platform, spend another 5 minutes (sometimes more if it’s running late, which it always is) on the platform to wait for the train, try to find a seat and be somewhat comfortable on a ~27 minute train ride, fight the other commuters to get downstairs to catch the work shuttle, pile into a crammed vehicle with your other commuter colleagues to get from the train station to the office, and finally arrive at work 1+ hours later.  So yeah, since I don’t have to get up and do that on Saturday and Sunday, then yes, my weekends end up being pretty awesome.

We’re starting to experience Spring-like weather, so I was out and about this weekend.  I went to cardio boxing on Saturday, hot yoga on Sunday, and did some shopping and cooking in between.  We picked up some fresh cod fillets which paired really well with the vegetables we had on hand.  Light and flavorful – the perfect meal to end a great weekend.

Pan Fried Cod with Roasted Red Peppers and Sundried Tomatoes

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cod fillets
  • 4 asparagus spears
  • Olive oil
  • For the breading:
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup, almond meal
    • 1 teaspoon, Old Bay seasoning
    • Sea salt
    • Black Pepper
  • For the topping:
    • 1 roasted red pepper (jarred), chopped
    • 2 tablespoons, sundried tomatoes (jarred, in olive oil), chopped
    • 4 basil leaves, chopped
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the egg.
  2. In another small bowl, mix the almond meal and seasonings.
  3. In a medium skillet over low to medium heat, drizzle olive oil.  Meanwhile, pat cod dry with paper towels.  Dip in egg, dredge in almond meal mixture on both sides.
  4. Add cod to the skillet, cooking for 7 minutes on each side.  Remove from heat.
  5. Lightly coat the asparagus spears with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in skillet for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Plate by placing the cod first, then two asparagus spears.  Top with 2-3 heaping spoonfuls of roasted red pepper, sundried tomato, and basil mixture.

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Baked Chicken with a Touch of Honey

I guess another reason why I love the snow is because I’m forced to stay in the house, which is sometimes a good thing.  I finally cleaned off the dining room table (scattered papers and mail everywhere), organized, and spent lots of time in the kitchen.

Soup for lunch and baked chicken for dinner.  No empty bellies here!

Honey Roasted Chicken

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).
  2. Mix all ingredients (except for the chicken) in a bowl.
  3. Place chicken thighs on baking tray.  Brush with marinade.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes.  Brush the remaining marinade and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

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Feeling Lazy

We’ve been eating so poorly lately.  I’ll usually get home around 6 or 7 during the week and am often too tired to cook.  I have tons of recipe ideas buzzing in my head, but am having some trouble finding the energy to work my magic in the kitchen.  I must find a new routine.  We cannot continue eating like this.  One night, I came home and Bjorn had already eaten dinner.  What was his dinner? “Pizza bagels and pigs in a blanket”, hah!

I always love a good salad.  Good salads always require a little bit of extra effort, but it sure is worth it in the end.  The mango and avocado were getting super ripe, so I knew I had to include that in my meal tonight.  Since I didn’t plan ahead, I could only include seafood as my protein (easy to defrost).  Turned out pretty good for a last minute dish!  Took about 15 minutes from start to finish to prepare and cook.

Baked tilapia over chopped Romaine

  • 1/2 head of Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 tilapia filet
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 mango, cubed
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 10 grape tomatoes, halved
  1. Season tilapia filet with sea salt and black pepper.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until cooked through.
  2. Place mango, avocado, grape tomatoes, and lime juice in a bowl.  Mix well.  Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  3. Place the chopped Romaine on a plate, top with tilapia and mango mixture.  Serve immediately.

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In Honor of Cinco De Mayo…

I love shopping clearance at Target.  You honestly never know what you will find!  I peruse the clearance shelves in every section.  Clothing, cosmetics, personal care, home decor, stationary, grocery – ah, the list goes on and on.  I found these packets of Frontera taco seasoning packets and thought I’d give it a try.  The ingredients aren’t too bad (Tomato, water, New Mexico mild chile pepper, onion, tomato paste, guajillo chile pepper, garlic, chipotle peppers (chipotles, tomatoes, salt, sesame oil, paprika, vinegar and spices), salt, evaporated cane juice, white vinegar, agave nectar, expeller pressed canola oil, extra virgin olive oil, and oregano.).  Rick Bayless is one of my favorite chefs, so I knew this would be worth the $2.11.  No more Old El Paso for us…

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Chicken Tacos

Makes 10 tacos

  • 1 packet of Frontera taco skillet sauce
  • 1 lb of boneless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil
  • 10 corn tortillas (use Romaine lettuce as shells for a Paleo recipe!)

Avocado Salsa

  • 1 avocado, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 6 tablespoons cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • A bit of lime juice
  • Sea salt
  1. In a medium skillet over medium to high heat, drizzle olive oil, and saute onions for about 5 minutes.
  2. Drizzle additional olive oil, add in chicken breast and cook until browned around the edges, an additional 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add Frontera taco skillet sauce and mix well.  Remove from heat.
  4. In a separate bowl, add all salsa ingredients and mix well.
  5. In a separate skillet (or in the microwave), warm up the tortillas.
  6. Place tortilla onto plate, spoon on chicken and onion mixture, top with avocado salsa.  Serve with lime wedges.  (Optional toppings – sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese).

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Herb Garden Dreamin’

I love fresh herbs.  One of my goals this summer is to start a small herb and vegetable garden.  It’s going to be a learning experience for sure… I can work it in the kitchen, but not so much in the garden.  I can’t even keep my bamboo plants alive and those do not even require watering.  Surprisingly, Bjorn has the green thumb.  A few summers ago, he planted basil, tomatoes, and green peppers! It was wonderful.

The key to keeping rosemary nice and fresh is to wash it, wrap it in a damp paper towel, and store in an airtight bag.  The rosemary that I bought two weeks ago is still amazingly green and vibrant!

This meal took me about 45 minutes to prepare (including the mashed cauliflower), but less than 5 minutes to consume.  Yes, it was really that good.

Honey and Rosemary Glazed Pork Chops

Serves 4

  • 4 pork chops
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 2 rosemary sprigs, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  1. Mix honey, rosemary, and olive oil in a bowl.  Brush generously onto pork chops.
  2. In a large skillet, over medium to high heat, cook each pork chop for 5-6 minutes on each side.
  3. Serve with your favorite side dish (obviously mine is mashed cauliflower).

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Raw Almonds with a Makeover

Raw almonds are so delicious.  I much prefer them over salted almonds… there’s something about the raw almond that tastes so natural and wholesome.  I usually make my own trail mix snack; it’s more cost efficient and I also get to add what I like into it!  Raw almonds, pistachios, raisins, dried cranberries, dried mango, some dark cacao nibs – yum!  I love it, but sometimes you need to spice it up a bit. (Enter first a-ha! moment for today’s recipe.)

During a meeting for work last week, we got to talking about our personal diets and eating healthy.  It was so interesting to hear about everyone’s personal health experiences – we had a Vegan, a Gluten intolerant individual, a woman preparing for her upcoming wedding (so many juices in the mix), and a fellow Paleo-er!!  I loved sharing our foodie stories over lunch, especially those that involved the wonderful cauliflower and almond!  We talked about a recipe for dates which sounded so good, though I’ve never had dates before… I bought dates this weekend at Trader Joe’s and will report back on that one.  We also talked about a simple and easy oven roasted almond recipe.  This was perfect since I was geting a little bit bored with my usual trail mix.  (Enter second a-ha! moment for today’s recipe.)

Oven Roasted Almonds with Sea Salt and Rosemary

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of raw almonds
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
  2. Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and toss well.
  3. Lay almonds onto a baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.

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