Zoodle Pho (AIP, Whole30, Paleo, GF)

titleAs I promised on instagram, after it appeared in my meal plan twice in as many weeks, today I am bringing you Zoodle Pho.  This is one of my favorite dishes, and has been super easy to make AIP-compliant.  Just cut the rice noodles, bean sprouts, spicy peppers, and anise seed.  Replace with some equally flavorful, AIP-compliant ingredients.

All of you anti-zoodlers, wait!  Don’t go!  I admit, I too, am really not a fan of zoodles.  (Did you know that in the UK, since zucchini are called courgettes, some people call zoodles “courgetti”–like spaghetti, but courj instead of spag?)  I might like the term courgetti better…But whatever you call them, I am now a zoodle acceptor!  At least, in pho.  I think, since there are so many other tidbits in pho: herbs, meat, etc, that you are slurping up with the zoodles, the difference in noodle texture is less noticeable.  Plus, it pack a little more vegetables into this dish, which is always a plus.

zoodles

Pho relies on really good broth–it’s one of those dishes where bone broth really stands out.  And that means that it is extra good for you while on AIP, since bone broth is an important part of the protocol.  In fact, I’ve been adding additional gelatin and collagen to my pho stock whilst on the AI Protocol.  These additions are included in the directions, but are optional, of course.  If you only have regular broth, adding gelatin and collagen can round it out, adding that silky sort of touch that is so nice in pho.

I always do my pho broth in a crockpot, so dinner is quick to assemble when I get home from work, but I’ve included stovetop directions as well.  I also make my own bone broth fairly regularly, to help with our food waste, so I usually have a stash in the freezer.  I flavor my pho broth with onion, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, a touch of sweetener, cinnamon, cloves, and–usually–anise seed.  Anise is not AIP compliant, since it is a seed pod.  (Cloves are, but I cannot remember the rationale…must not actually be a seedpod…maybe they are berries?)  In lieu of the licorice-y anise seed, I turned to another source of licorice-y flavor: fennel.  The actual vegetable, not fennel seeds–which are not AIP compliant.  Thai basil can also taste a little like licorice, and would be a good addition, if you can get your hands on it.

If I have a few extra minutes in the morning, I like to broil my fresh vegetables and roots before I add them to the broth, just until they start to blacken.  The char adds nice flavor.  I, obviously, do not stick the dried spices under the broiler, because they would burn.  So the broiled veg + dry spices go into the crockpot with the broth (and gelatin) and spend 8-10 hours infusing into a delicious, delicious broth for the soup.

Then, at dinner time, it’s just a matter of chopping any fresh toppings and cooking up the meat.  Spiralize up some zoodles/courgetti, plunk it all in a bowl,top it with piping hot broth, and dinner is on the table!

toppings

I prefer shaved steak or pork in my pho, so, in theory the meat is thin enough to be put in the bowl raw and cook in the broth like in Vietnamese restaurants.  However, the broth has to be boiling for this to be achieved, and I have found that the amount of meat that I want in my pho bowl is usually too much for a few cups of broth to cook.  So I just spend 5-10 minutes at the stove, quickly cooking the shaved meat before adding it to the bowl.

Also, this totally makes great–if slightly messy–leftovers for lunch the next day.  The flavors in the broth continue to meld.  Usually, I travel with two containers: one of broth + meat/mushrooms and one container with zoodles + fresh toppings.  I microwave the noodles just enough to take the chill off, then pour over super hot broth right when I’m ready to eat, so my bowl of pho is nice and fresh!

The directions are long, but trust me, it is a fairly quick dish.  Especially when made in the crockpot.  After making it a few times, I hardly have to think about it.  I regularly make this on a weeknight, sometimes even after class, and it comes together very swiftly!  Make some pho this week!

bowl top

Zoodle Pho

Serves 4 | Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 15 min (+ more, unattended)

For the broth:

  • 6 cups broth (beef or chicken is best, as is bone broth–the silky gelatin is a bonus here)
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 fresh fennel bulb, green stems removed*
  • fresh ginger, 1 thumb-sized piece
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 7 whole cloves
  • 3 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • optional: 1 Tbsp. honey
  • optional: up to 4 Tbsp of gelatin powder and/or 4 Tbsp. collagen powder

For serving:

  • 1 lb. shaved beef or pork
  • 2 medium-large zucchini (or 3-4 c. pre-spiralized zoodles)
  • Coconut aminos

+Any combination of below:

  • Lime wedges
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Green onions
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Fresh mint
  • Fresh basil or thai basil
  • Raw or pickled red onion
  • Bean sprouts**
  • Fresh jalapeño**

*When not on AIP, replace with 4 anise seed pods–skip the broil and treat like other whole spices

**Only when not following AIP, these pulses & nightshades are not AIP-compliant

Crockpot Method:

In the morning, set the broiler to High.  Slice the onion in half, remove the paper-y skin.  Slice the half of the fennel bulb in half again.  Slice the ginger in half (it can be peeled, if desired, but I usually just leave the skin on).  Place onion, fennel, and ginger face-up under the broiler for 5-15 minutes, until beginning to blacken.

Meanwhile, if using gelatin powder, add up to 4 tablespoons to a bowl of about 3/4 c. cool water.  Allow to bloom: the gelatin will soak up the water and no longer be a dry powder.

Add remaining broth ingredients (broth, cinnamon, garlic, whole cloves, fish sauce, honey–if using) to the crockpot.  I tie up the cloves in a bit of cheesecloth or drop them into a tea satchet to keep them together.  You can add them loose, but just need to remember to strain them from the broth in the evening.

Add the blackened onion, fennel, and ginger to the crockpot.  Add in the fully-bloomed (no longer dry) gelatin powder.  Stir, cover, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Stovetop method:

Stove top is entirely the same as above, but, instead of adding the ingredients to a crockpot, put them in a large stock pot.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then turn the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1-2 hours.

Serving:

When ready to serve, strain out the onion, fennel, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.  Discard.  Just broth should remain.  If using collagen powder (up to 4 tablespoons), add to the broth at this point.  Sprinkle over the hot broth and stir until dissolved.  Turn the crockpot back to High, or turn the heat under the stockpot up to medium.

Spiralize the zucchini into noodle shapes.  I prefer to leave the skin on and I break the strands every 8 inches, or so, so that the noodle length is manageable.

Prep the toppings: slice the limes and green onions, slice and sauté the mushroom, chop the herbs.  Set aside.

In a large, shallow pan, cooked the shaved meat over medium.  I separate all the thin layers with my fingers before laying in the pan, to ensure the pieces cook evenly.  Once the meat is browned, add a splash or two of coconut aminos.  Cook for two minutes more.

To assemble a bowl:  place 3/4-1 c. of zoodles in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds-1 minute.  The aim is just to get the zoodles warm, but not to actually cook the zucchini.  Lay the warm meat and any desired toppings over the warm zoodles.  Top with about 1 1/2 c. of hot broth.  Enjoy.

To store: place un-warmed zoodles in a large container, with or without additional fresh, cold toppings (herbs, onions, etc).  In a separate container, store meat and mushrooms in the broth.  Reheat and re-assemble when ready to eat.

bowl side

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Butternut Squash Soup (GF, DF, AIP, Whole30, Paleo)

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This soup kicked off our first AIP dinner almost two weeks ago, because I knew exactly what I was doing–thus it was a sure success.  I’ve made it plenty of times before, and knew that I just needed to omit the curry powder and cayenne, and swap coconut milk for the cream.  The squash adds a nice lusciousness to this thick soup, making it extra filling!  I usually make it with bone broth, since that is what we tend to have around.  I recommend it for anyone on AIP, because bone broth is an important factor in the protocol.  But veggie broth is an easy swap to make, which would result in a vegan dish.

Blended vegetable soups, like this Butternut Squash soup, or the Carrot-Ginger Soup that is on the plan for this week, are great options for my AIP.   Carrots and squash both add a natural sweetness and the dense vegetables easily make for a thick and smooth soup.  I love autumn/winter squashes and I love root vegetables, so tranforming them into soups was pretty obvious.

Pre-AIP, this soup was inspired by Panera’s Squash Soup.  The honey, listed as optional here, is a necessary addition to get close to a Panera-copycat taste.  Their’s is definitely a sweeter soup.  It’s kind of like vaguely-savory pudding…but in a good way!  Some honey/sweetener is allowed on AIP–it’s better if it is natural, of course.  And there is a limit to sugar that should be followed.  I can’t remember the exact grams, but it equals about 2 pieces of fruit per day.  Two weeks in, I can feel myself leaning a little on sugar–I’ve always been a fruit-loving person.  I’m trying to limit myself to just a piece of fruit with lunch, thus saving a little sugar for where I feel it is best spent: dinner.  Especially in all of these Thai- and Asian-inspired dishes, a bit of sweetness can round out all of the tangy-sour-umami-salty flavors that are favored in these dishes.  That being said, while on AIP, I’ve left out the honey in this soup, leaving it a little more savory.  It is still a very tasty soup–especially with a little crispy bacon crumbled over top.

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Butternut Squash Soup

Serves: 4-6 | Prep Time: 20+ min  | Cook Time: 10-15 min

  • 1 butternut squash (about 1.5-2 lbs)
  • 1 medium onion, yellow/vidalia/sweet preferred
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 large apple, or 1/2 c. applesauce (unsweetened for AIP)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin puree (pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • pinch of ground mace (or nutmeg, if not following AIP)
  • 3 c. bone broth (chicken/poultry broth is the most “neutral” flavor vs beef, pork, etc)
  • 1 can (15 oz) coconut milk
  • optional: 1 Tbsp honey
  • non-AIP optional: 1 tsp. curry powder*
  • For serving: cooked bacon, sliced green onions

*contains nightshades, do not add when following AIP

Prep the squash: If you have time, roast the squash for a slightly richer flavor (caramelization is your friend!)  Carefully slice off each end and then split the squash lengthwise with a large, sharp knife (the skin will be pretty tough to get through).  Scoop out the seeds and place the squash halves face up on a baking sheet.  Roast at 400 degrees F for 30-45 minutes, until fork easily pierces the squash.  OR Microwave the squash for a faster prep time:  slice off the very ends of the squash and split in half lengthwise with a large, sharp knife.  Scoop on the seeds and place the squash halves face up on a microwave-safe plate.  Microwave for 6-8 minutes, until a fork easily pierces the squash without resistance.  Remove from microwave or oven when cooked and set aside to cool.

Prep the vegetables: peel and chop the carrots, peel and dice the onion, mince the garlic cloves.  Dice the apple.

In a large pot, add the coconut oil.  Heat until shimmering, then add the chopped onions and carrots.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and apple and stir for one minute, until garlic is fragrant.  Scoop the cooked and cooled squash out of the skin and add to the pot with the vegetables.  Add the pumpkin puree and all of the spices, stir to combine.

Add the broth, stirring until the mixture is mostly uniform.  Bring to a boil, stirring often.  Once boiling, remove from heat.  Add honey, if using.  Blend until smooth with an immersion blender straight in the pot; or ladle soup into an upright blender–but be sure to only fill it halfway.  The hot soup will expand and could overflow/cause burns if the upright blender is filled up.  Blend in batches or in the pot until the soup is uniformly smooth.  Add the coconut milk and whisk or immersion-blend until fully incorporated.

Serve immediately, garnished with crumbled bacon and green onions for AIP, or with pumpkin seeds if not following AIP.


Thanksgiving Round-Up 2017

 

chicken pan

 

Are you ready??  When are you starting your prep?   Thanksgiving is only 5 days away!  Out of necessity, I will be doing my shopping tonight and cooking my first prep work (corn bread for stuffing) tomorrow night.  The corn bread needs time to dry out–usually only 3 days, but I will not have a chance to make it on Sunday or Monday.  So Saturday it is!

salad side

We are having the big day at M’s mum’s, like last year.  We will have a fairly large gathering, including M’s sister and brother-in-law visiting from the UK.  His brother-in-law has never attended Thanksgiving, so it should be quite fun!

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Several guests are bringing dishes to share, and M’s mum is handling the turkey, so our contribution will be: Green Bean Casserole, Stuffing, and a couple of pies (probably Pecan and Pumpkin, maybe a third).  I may even break out my Cranberry Chutney & Brie appetizer.  Usually I save it until after Christmas, but since M’s sister and her husband are here, I might make an exception.  If I cannot restrain myself, this recipe for glazed shallots looks amaaaaazing and may end up at the table as well!

carrot soup

I did want to take a moment to round up some of my favorite recipes for Thanksgiving (and for Thanksgiving leftovers) that are on the blog.  If you are still planning your menu, or looking for some leftover inspiration, check out the links below!

stuffing-baked

Gluten-Free Knock-off Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing — a total requirement each year!

Roast Chicken — can be inspiration for your roast Turkey.  The aromatic and herbs would all work wonderfully.  Be sure to adjust the cooking time to suit the size of your turkey!

Kale Salad — a super simple salad that is hearty enough to stand up to all the other Thanksgiving dishes!

Ginger-Carrot Soup — would be a lovely start to a more formal Thanksgiving meal with different courses.

brownies 1

My Favorite Gluten-Free Pie Crust — here’s a hint: make an extra batch of pie crust and stick it in the fridge.  It’s my secret weapon for leftovers: wrap up turkey and veg to make hand pies, top a turkey pot pie, make a quiche, or roll it out, cut into pieces and bake for dipping into turkey pot pie soup!

Cranberry Chutney — if you can’t fit it into your Thanksgiving menu, you have to try it for your holiday parties!  One of my favorite things EVER and one of those iconic dishes that no one forgets.  Once December hits, everyone is always checking that I am bringing the cranberry chutney!

Rosemary & Honey Mustard Almonds — an easy, make-ahead recipes for nibbles, if you don’t want to commit to a full appetizer!

breadbriegrapes2

French Bread — make a batch to have on hand for soaking up all that turkey gravy!

Popovers — another twist on the bread roll accompaniment!  A little lighter and airy, they won’t weigh you down nearly as much.

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies — an easy handheld dessert and always popular with kids!

Coconut-Pumpkin Custard — looking for a dairy-free and grain-free dessert?  This still sticks close to those fall flavors!

Leftovers

tb-quiche-top

Turkey Broccoli Quiche — my favorite quiche of ALL TIME and one that I only make once or twice a year, due to the need for turkey.  It is sooo good!

Turkey Pot Pie — riff off of my go-to biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie, by simply subbing cooked turkey for the cooked chicken

pot-pie-dish

Turkey Pot Pie Soup — for something a little different, but still comforting.  I love baking up wedges of pie crust to dip into this soup!

Turkey Hash — the classic breakfast for post-Black Friday shopping.

Mashed Potato Pancakes — another easy post-Turkey Day breakfast, with a little less meat!  These savory pancakes are delicious with a runny-yolked egg!

pie-line

 


Ginger Carrot Soup

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I had to pop in and share this recipe!  I tossed it all together without much thought yesterday morning, but it turned out so good that I’m sure it will soon become one of our staple soups in my house!  The carrot base is cheap and the crockpot cooking makes it easy (although, I’ve included stove top directions that are very simple, as well).  I used chicken broth, as that is what I had on hand, but since this recipe is already dairy-free, it can be made vegan just by choosing vegetable broth!

This soup is super silky and feels rich.  The lemon juice at the very end adds brightness, while the curry powder and turmeric provide depth below that punch of ginger flavor.  The carrots add their own natural sweetness, making this the perfect soup for those gray, rainy autumn days!  Coming home to this soup after 12 hours of work and class was pure heaven!

I have had carrot soup on the brain since receiving two giant carrots in my Hungry Harvest Produce Delivery Box.  Seriously, they were each as tall as a wine bottle!  Hungry Harvest is a service that delivers recovered produce (fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go uneaten/be sent to the trash) to my door on a weekly basis.  The variety in the boxes forces me to get creative in my cooking and meal-planning, and I feel great knowing that I am helping to reduce food waste!  Those incredible carrots were rejected at the grocery store for being too big, and, without Hungry Harvest, would have ended up in a compost pile–or worse–a landfill.  The vegetables that I receive aren’t rotten–they could be too big, small, or “ugly”, or even have just been packaged or transported differently than the grocery stores requested.  I am absolutely a “happy customer” of Hungry Harvest, and I’m also a Hungry Harvest Ambassador.  If you would like to join me as a #hungryharvesthero and try your first HH box, you can follow this link: http://hgryhv.st/2hoYVUj and use the code “HERO5” for $5 off the box (that’s over 30% off!).  Full disclosure: If you choose to try a box through my link, I will get a discount on my next HH box as well!

carrot soup

Ginger Carrot Soup

Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 40+ min | Serves: 4

  • 6-8 carrots
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 inch fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 inch turmeric root*
  • 3 c. broth (chicken or veggie)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger, heaped
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, leveled
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder, leveled
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 lemon

*You can use 1 tsp. ground turmeric if you don’t have actual turmeric root (mine is stashed in my freezer from months ago when Hungry Harvest sent fresh turmeric in one of my produce boxes)

Place the top oven rack at the middle of the oven and set the oven to high broil.  Spread parchment paper over a pan.  Peel the carrots, onion, ginger, garlic, and turmeric (be careful, the turmeric will stain!  With this little root, I usually use a paring knife to peel it over the sink, so I’m not staining a cutting board.  If you need a surface, a small ceramic plate will usually hold it’s seal and won’t stain.) 

Spread all the peeled vegetables and aromatics in the pan and place in the oven.  Broil for about 10 minutes, or until the onions, garlic, and ginger are beginning to brown.  The carrots will soften, but won’t brown.

Tip all of the broiled vegetables into a crockpot.  Add the dry spices and the broth.  Set to cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.  Alternately, tip the vegetables into a sauce pot and add the spices and broth to the pot.  Bring to a boil, then cover and bring down to the barest simmer for 30 minutes, until a fork easily pierces the carrots.

Once finished, whether by crockpot or stovetop, add in about 1 cup of the coconut milk.  Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth right inside the cooking vessel, or carefully ladle into a blender.  If using a blender, only fill halfway to avoid the scalding liquid from escaping!  Puree in batches until smooth.  Strain the soup through a sieve, to pull out the thread-like ginger that will never get smooth.  Squeeze the juice from one whole lemon into the soup and stir to combine.  Serve hot, a little fresh cilantro is nice, too.


Ambrosia Salad

ambrosia title

As much as I am interested in new food trends, there are a few classics–especially those that I grew up with–that will always have a special place on my table.  As a child of the ’90s, some of these dishes waver on that edge of decidedly old-school, especially as we look at cold salads.  Ambrosia is one of those.  I am seeing this creamy fruit salad less and less these days, but, in my mind, ambrosia is one of those quintessential summer dishes.  Due to the lack of vegetables and the inclusion of fruit, it was a universal favorite in my house while I was growing up.  It also made an impression on our extended family (here is the recipe, finally, Lizzie!)  Ambrosia was always a true sign of summer (even though, using the canned options, it can be made almost any time of year that grapes are in stores).

ambrosia fruit

I’ve sampled a few ambrosia salads at various barbecues, either a store-bought salad or by someone else’s recipe.  And I was always disappointed, if not disgusted.  They were always horribly sweet.  There are rules about Ambrosia Salad (in my adamant opinion! 😉 ).  Rule #1: no maraschino cherries.  Listen.  I love maraschino cherries.  Especially the un-natural, bright-red ones.  A visit to any fro-yo place usually ends with most of my money paying for at least one extra ounce of weight made up entirely of half a dozen maraschino cherries.  However, they do not belong in ambrosia salad.  The juice makes it all vaguely pink and the flavor just doesn’t fit.  No maraschinos.  Rule #2: no vanilla.  This is often linked to the third and most important rule: Rule #3: don’t cover the fruit with a sweet topping.  I’ve tried this dish made with whipped cream, cool whip, vanilla yogurt….all of those options will leave your teeth aching and your mouth crying out for water from the sugar.  The marshmallows and the coconut and, you know, all the fruit, provide plenty of sweetness.  Even vanilla extract adds a heaviness to the salad.  You just don’t need it.

In adhering to rule #3, I will finally admit the ingredient that may give you pause.  Yes, the topping that mixes everything together into creamy goodness is…. sour cream.  Gasp!  I know!  Just reminiscent enough of those terrible 1950s recipes calling for mayo and shrimp and jello and other horrors to make you stop and reconsider.  But hear me out:  Sour cream is great here.  The tang balances the sweetness of every other ingredient and after a couple of hours, the marshmallows break down into soft little pockets and the sugar on the outside of the marshmallows has blended with the cream to make the whole thing perfectly sweet.  Yes, I suppose I would allow swapping plain yogurt for the sour cream, if it really rattles you.  But let’s be honest with each other.  Sour cream achieves a texture of delightfully-creamy-without-being-heavy that no other dairy product can.  Greek yogurt would be too thick and heavy, regular yogurt would be too watery, especially combined with the juicy fruit.  Sour cream is the best option.  Just don’t think about it too much and do me a favor: try it with sour cream first.  Trust me.

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I was delighted, in fourth grade, when I started learning about Greek mythology, to learn that ambrosia was the food of the Gods.   Having had this dish for many summers, I couldn’t imagine anything more appropriate to feed Athena, Artemis, Zeus, and Apollo. So try it out…it is the food of the gods, after all!  Not to mention a really great addition to any barbecue or potluck and the perfect option for a summer evening!

ambrosia mixed

Ambrosia Salad

Serves 6-8 | Prep time: 10 min. + resting | Cook time: N/A

  • 1 c. mini marshmallows
  • 1 c. crushed pineapple, drained (or 1 c. fresh, finely chopped)*
  • 1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 c. shredded coconut (sweetened is traditional, but unsweetened would be fine)
  • 1 c. grapes (red or green), slice in half
  • 3/4 to 1 c. sour cream**

*My pineapple is fresh, but chopped too large in these photos.  As soon as I took a bite, I knew I should have chopped it much finer, when using it fresh.

**Depending on how juicy the fruit is, you may need less or more.  Gently fold in the smaller amount first, and then decide if you need the rest.

Combine the fruit, marshmallows, and coconut in a large bowl.  Gently fold in sour cream, being careful not to break up the mandarin orange pieces too much.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving, to allow flavors to meld.


Kale Salad: Building Blocks

salad title

It’s been a bit of a rough week, in terms of stress management.  The most frustrating part is that I am not even at the actual busy, stressful time yet–I’m just worrying about it.  Anxiety life.  Oy.  But, if I can just keep on picking away at my assignments and project prep: a little bit of work this evening or that morning, I shouldn’t have any problems at all.  I’ve just gotta remind myself that the best thing I can do is to break everything into manageable tasks.

Kale Chop

Freshly chopped.

I also have to find some stress relief.   That is currently in the form of watching season 1 of Once Upon a Time (I’m behind, I know.  But I am also totally over whiny James and would just like him to disappear, please!) and planning a mini patio makeover for us.  We haven’t done much with the space in our two years here.  We brought a pair of plastic adirondack chairs we found at the curb of our old neighborhood, and purchased an Applaro table + chairs + stools from Ikea when we moved here, which I still love!  Every piece folds up, so its a total space saver!  Other than that, we have my herb planter and a very old, giant grill that was another curbside find.  M and I agreed that we would be getting a new grill this year (possibly even this weekend!) and I was feeling like things needed a little sprucing up, in general.  I want to enjoy my time on our patio, rather than simply abandoning it to the bugs.  Since the beginning of this year and our grocery budget revamp, I have also been trying (semi-successfully) to purchase our groceries with cash.  I almost never carried cash before, so this has been a huge shift for me.  But, our ATM only allows withdrawals in sets of $10, so, with my $35 to spend at the grocery store, I’m left with $5 that isn’t budgeted for groceries.  It had been easy enough to stash this weekly $5 bill in a jar and forget about it.  Now, four months into the year, I have a nice little cash fund that I can use towards a patio update: to get some string lights, pillows, and maybe a lantern or two!  Since we are hosting our families for a small Easter lunch, I am hoping to have the patio finished by then!  I’ll be sure to share the results when I do get things done.

Kale Ready

After “massaging” the kale.

Today, I am sharing our absolute favorite recipe for kale.  This is the only salad that we eat consistently, but it never disappoints, even when it is so simple.  It’s gleaned from several different recipes across the web and also from a few kale salads that we have sampled in restaurants.  By thinking of this salad in flavor building blocks, rather than in specific ingredients, we always have enough “building blocks” on hand in our pantry to make this salad, and we have endless combinations to try!  There are 5 important parts: Sweet (some kind of dried fruit works best), Crispy (breadcrumbs or croutons), Crunchy (nuts or seeds), Salty/Creamy (cheese), and Tangy (vinaigrette).  Add each of these elements to some kale and you will not be disappointed!  This salad is almost more like a coleslaw in terms of the thinly shredded greens and the ratio of greens to other ingredients.

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Kale Salad

Serves: 4-6 | Prep time: 10 minutes |Cook time: (optional) 3-5 minutes

  • 1 bunch curly kale
  • 1/2 c. dried fruit
  • 1/3 c. tiny croutons (about 1-2 slices of bread)
  • 1/3 c. sliced/chopped and toasted nuts or whole, shelled, toasted seeds
  • 1/4 c. shredded parmesan or other hard, salty cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 5 Tbsp. vinegar, divided (red wine, champagne, or apple cider vinegar is best)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 6-8 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • salt & pepper

Place the dried fruit in a small bowl and add 2 Tablespoons of water and 2 Tablespoons of vinegar.  Microwave for 30 seconds and allow to sit while preparing the rest of the salad ingredients.  This allows the fruit to rehydrate slightly, making it softer and adding a chewy bite to the salad.

Remove the leafy part of the kale from the stems.  Stack the leafy part and slice the greens into thin strips.  Add to a large bowl and massage the kale greens.  The greens will get softer, will slightly change color, will shrink a little in mass, and will begin to smell like grass.  Your hands may even turn a bit green.  This breaks down the tough leaf without cooking and makes the raw salad infinitely more palatable! Check out the photos above–can you see the difference?  Set the greens aside.

Chop the bread slices into the tiniest pieces that you can manage.  I prefer this to breadcrumbs, as it gives a more hearty texture.  Plus, then I don’t have to keep GF breadcrumbs around.  I’ll be totally honest, we usually freeze the ends of bread loaves for this exact purpose!  Place the bits of bread in a skillet with a glug of olive oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until these tiny croutons are a little toasted.  Set aside.

Mix up the dressing: add 3 Tablespoons of vinegar, 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, 6-8 Tablespoons of olive oil (the usual ratio is 1 part vinegar to 2 parts olive oil, but we prefer less oil for a tangier dressing), 2 teaspoons dijon mustard*, and 2 teaspoons honey into a jar.  Lid tightly and shake until the dressing is combined.  Taste the dressing and adjust as needed–perhaps more honey or more vinegar.  If I need more vinegar, I’ll first use the water-vinegar combination from my soaked fruit!  You can jazz up this vinaigrette by using different types of vinegar and oil, adding herbs or garlic, etc.

Put together the salad: Drain the soaked fruit and add the fruit to the greens.  Add the nuts/seeds, then the cheese.  Pour over about half of the dressing.  Sprinkle salt and black pepper over the salad, fairly liberally.  Toss all of the salad together until thoroughly mixed.  Add more dressing if needed.  Last, add the croutons, and mix in.  This helps to prevent them from getting soggy.  Serve immediately or set in the fridge for up to an hour before serving.  Leftover can be stored in the fridge tightly covered for up to 2 days, but you will lose a lot of the texture from the nuts and croutons as they soften.

*The mustard helps the oil and vinegar emulsify, so do your best not to skip it!

Some of our favorite combinations are:

–Dried cherries, pumpkin seeds, and parmesan

–Dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and parmesan (in the photos)

–Dried currents, toasted walnuts, and asiago

salad top


Homemade Granola: Your Way

titleI mentioned in my last meal-plan post that I was planning to make a batch of granola for my breakfasts this week.  Granola is one of those items where I almost always have the ingredients on hand, without even trying, as it’s super flexible and made entirely of pantry staples.  It is also one of those items that I forgot how much I enjoy it until it in right in front of me, on the spoon, on it’s way to my mouth.  I love granola!  I prefer it over yogurt or treated like cereal, in a bowl with milk, but when you make it at home, you control how large/small the clusters of granola are, so you can keep the clusters large and take the granola on the go, dry, for a crunchy snack.

dry ingredients

I also was thinking (though I’m sure that I am not the first), that it wouldn’t be to hard to swing granola’s flavors into a savory-sweet option too.  Curry, rosemary, spicy–it would make an awesome topping to salads or a “savory” yogurt (I’ll admit, I still haven’t tried those…and I’m a little hesitant) or even as an accompaniment to a cheese board!

wet mix

As I said, granola is super-customizable, but it is also very easy.  Just think of it as a ratio!  My basic ratio is: for every 1 cup of (gluten-free) oats, I have 1/3 cup (total) of mix-ins, 2 tablespoons of fat and 2 tablespoons of liquid sweetener.  I like to bump up my omega’s too, so I bargain for 2 teaspoons apiece of chia seed and flax seed.  With the variety of mix-ins, fats, sweeteners, and spices, the granola possibilities really are endless!  Here are some ideas for each:

baked

My granola looks extra dark because of the molasses–it’s not burnt!

Customizable Granola!

Be sure to use oats that are certified and labeled “gluten-free”–otherwise you risk cross-contamination.  Combine up to two different fats and two different sweeteners (just be sure the total volume remains the same) for extra depth of flavor!

1 cup GF rolled oats, plus:

Fats (2 TBSP per 1 c oats):

  • melted butter
  • melted coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • safflower oil
  • 1/2 nut butter + 1/2 fat choice above

Liquid Sweeteners(2 TBSP per 1 c oats):

  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • Lyle’s golden syrup
  • honey
  • agave nectar

Mix-ins(1/3 c total per 1 c oats):

  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, macadamias…)
  • Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, squash, sesame, poppy seeds, millet…)
  • Dried fruits (cranberries, raisins, blueberries, chopped apricots, cherries, figs, goji berries…)
  • Other (dried shredded/flaked coconut, chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, crystallized ginger…)

Plus 2 tsp chia seeds and 2 tsp ground flaxseed and about 1/2 tsp each of spices (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, nutmeg, chili, etc), with a pinch of salt and a dash of extract (vanilla, cinnamon, lemon, etc) with 1 cup of rolled gluten-free oats.

jars 1

My batch that is in the photos above a larger triple batch.  I just multiplied it all (roughly) by three!

jars 2

Pantry Clear-out Coconut-Almond Granola

Serves: 10-12 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 25-30 minutes

  • 3 c rolled oats, raw
  • 1/3 c. pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 c. sliced almonds
  • 1/3 c. shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 6 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. Lyle’s golden syrup
  • 3 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • big pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Lightly spray with cooking oil.  Add the oats, mix-ins, spices, and other dry ingredients to a large bowl.  Mix until combined.  Stir together the melted butter, golden syrup, molasses, vanilla extract, and salt until combined.  It may take a minute or two for the fat to mix into the liquid sweeteners.  Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir until all of the dry ingredients are coated.  Spread into a thin layer on the lined baking sheet and baked for 25-30 minutes.  Remove the granola from oven and allow to cool completely on the pan without disturbance.  This will allow the granola to stick to together.  Gently lift an edge of the granola–it will begin to break into pieces.  Stir and crumble until clusters reach desired size.  Store is a tightly closed container at room temperature for up to 10 days.

yogurt