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Archive for February, 2010

Roasted Mixed Nuts

For most of us who follow a primal/paleo diet, nuts have become a daily staple as they are a quick satisfying snack that also provides us with a good dose of essential fats and minerals.  In addition, many nuts including almonds and walnuts have also been linked to reduced cardiovascular risk. 

However, having to deal with food allergies has also opened my eyes to what is really included in commercially roasted nuts.  While it’s easy to reach for the roasted nuts over the sugar laden variety in the store, roasted nuts can often contain added unfavorable oils (i.e. corn, soybean or peanut), refined sugars and/or preservatives (i.e. wheat starch), thus making these commercially prepared varieties unacceptable under the primal/paleo eating plan and also very dangerous to those with food allergies. 

Roasting raw nuts at home is an easy way to avoid these hidden dangers and also produces what I believe is a fresher tasting more flavorful product then anything you can buy in the store.  When selecting what nuts to roast keep in mind that peanuts and cashews are not considered paleo as peanuts are in fact a legume and cashews contain a poisonous toxic making them inedible when raw.   For my nut mix, I selected almonds, walnuts and pecans, all acceptable under the primal/paleo eating plan and are also of similar size making them easy to roast together. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of mixed nuts (I’ve used raw almonds, raw walnut pieces and raw pecans)

Let’s get Roasting

  1. Spread nuts into single layer on an aluminum baking sheet
  2. Roast in 400 degree oven for 12 minutes or until the nuts emit a fragrant aroma.  Turn once during cooking

Note:  Keep and eye on the nuts to ensure they don’t burn.  If you’re using a non-stick baking sheet, the nuts will cook much faster and will need to be turned more frequently to ensure they are evenly roasted.

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For many of us, switching to a primal diet has forced us to give up many favourite breakfast meals including; cereals, pancakes and of course everyone’s favourite Eggs Benny.  But, with a little creativity, it’s easy to recreate a very similar dish that I have to say is even more delicious.  Using one of my new favourite primal foods, Spaghetti Squash, you can easily make some great fritters to replace the traditional english muffin.  The coconut flour in this recipe will help the mixture bind together and hold when cooking. 

Curried Spaghetti Squash Fritters

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 medium-sized spaghetti squash, cooked (see note below for cooking instructions)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp onion, minced
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder (or to taste)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

Let’s get Cooking:

  1. In bowl combine all ingredients except oil and mix well
  2. Heat oil in fry-pan over medium heat
  3. Drop a spoonful of squash mixture into hot oil, flatten and fry until crisp and lightly browned, flip and repeat on other side
  4. Remove to paper towel lined plate
  5. Continue cooking remaining mixture
  6. Yields approximately 6-8 Fritters

To assemble the Eggs Benny:

  • squash fritters
  • fresh spinach, wilted
  • Fresh tomato slices
  • Eggs, poached (to poach – drop each egg into pot of boiling water and cook for approximately 1 min, remove)
  • Salt  & Pepper to taste

To assemble each Eggs Benny, place one squash fritter on plate and top with one tomato slice, ~  1 tbsp wilted spinach and one poached egg.   Season with Salt & Pepper.

Note:  Cooking Spaghetti Squash

This can be done in two different methods

  1. Microwave – Wash squash.  Pierce outside flesh all over with fork.  Place in microwave and cook for about 3-4 minutes per pound (average squash will take about 8 minutes).  Once flesh dimples when touched, remove from microwave and lets stand for 5 minutes.  Cut squash in half, remove seeds and scrape out flesh.
  2. Oven – Heat oven to 425.  Cut squash in half, remove seeds and rub inside with olive oil and season with salt & pepper.  Place squash cut side down on baking sheet, cover with foil and bake in oven for about 30 minutes or until flesh dimples when touched.  Remove from oven, turn to cut side up and when cool enough to touch remove flesh.   Careful not to burn yourself when turning squash over as it will be hot and full of steam. 

I usually cook a spaghetti squash at the beginning of the week and then use it as needed.  This recipes was a classic example of what to do with leftover squash.

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Being a Vancouver resident, and a new one at that, you can only imagine how exciting the past few weeks have been with the lead up to the Olympics, hence the lag since my last post!    This City has truly come alive and it almost surreal to believe that the Olympics is happening right in my backyard… literally!  It is only Day 5, but it has already been an unbelieveable past few days, with memories to last a life time and ones that I’ve been able to share with some great friends and family.  To kick it all of and get the party started right, I hosted a  “Go Canada Go!!!” Opening Ceremonies party.  

Seeing that I love to bake and am a huge believer that any good party is only complete when it has a great cake, I wanted to create a dish that was as primal as possible, but still a crowd pleaser for all my non-primal friends.  Like most of my baking, coconut flour forms the basis of this recipe as I prefer it to almond flour as it’s lower in fat and when sifted is of better consistency for baking cakes and muffins.   It doesn’t hurt that it is also high in fibre and very low in carbohydrates, making it an excellent primal choice.  

For the Cake:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups coconut flour
  • 12 eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas mashed
  • 4 tbsp grape seed oil
  • 4 tbsp coconut milk
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp gluten & corn free baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Let’s Get Cooking:

  1. In large bowl beat eggs until light and fluffy
  2. Add oil, milk and maple syrup and beat for ~ 1 min
  3. Add banana and vanilla and beat until well combined and mixture becomes a bit frothy
  4. In separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt
  5. Add flour mixture to liquid mixture and mix on low speed until well combined
  6. Stir in pecans
  7. Pour into 9 X 13 parchment paper lined baking dish and bake in 375 oven for 20 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean

Note: For a smaller cake, you can cut the recipe in half and cook it in an 8X8 square pan or alternatively, make muffins instead. 

Semi-Primal Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 250 g cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp vanilla 

Let’s Whip it Up

  1. In bowl beat whipping cream until stiff peaks appear
  2. In separate bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth
  3. Add maple syrup and vanilla to cream cheese, beat until combined
  4. Fold in whipped cream to cream cheese mixture until combined
  5. Refrigerate until ready to use

To assemble, turn cake on to plate and spread top and sides of cake with frosting.   For the leaf and rings I added a small amount of food colouring to the icing mixture and piped it onto the cake.   The cake is equally as good minus the frosting if you want to be a little bit more paleo/primal conscious. 

GO CANADA GO!!!

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Today is Superbowl Sunday and with that there is usually an array of all things non-primal and non-allergy friendly.   The wings, the beer, the nachos, the chips… you name it, it will all likely be there.   While I do support the need to have a good cheat day every once and a while, many of our favorite party foods can be easily modified with just a few simple changes and little creativity.   Being extremely short on time today and also in need of an easily transportable dish that could be served cold, I came up with this little number.   It took only about 20  minutes to prepare and is a great refreshing, healthy and primal friendly dish that will be sure to please any crowd.   

Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Salt & pepper

Cilantro Lime Pesto

  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 large bunch of cilantro
  • 4 springs of mint
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • juice of 1 -2 limes

Let’s get Cooking

For the chicken:

  1. Season chicken with salt & pepper
  2. Heat coconut oil in fry pan over medium-high heat
  3. Add chicken and sauté until cooked through, remove from pan and cool

For the Pesto:

  1. In food processor, purée pepper, garlic, ginger and coconut milk until it forms a paste
  2. Add cilantro and mint and pulse until the herbs are blended
  3. Add salt and with food processor running add limes, one half at a time.  Taste after you have added 1 lime to see if you want more flavour, if so add the remaining lime
  4. Remove from food processor and serve.
  5. The pesto will also keep refrigerated in a sealed jar for up to a month. 

Note:  The chicken can be served either hot or cold.  As I needed a dish to transport, I’ve opted to serve my cold. 

If you’re looking for more primal friendly party food ideas, check out my friend Cosmopolitan Primal Girl’s blog for some great primal twists on a few classic dishes.

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I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a bit of a kitchen nerd.  I read cookbooks like novels, have cupboards full of dishes and cooking appliances and even own a chef’s uniform – yes I’m serious!    But, about 10 months ago I made my best purchase yet … my Excalibur Dehydrator!  I can’t say enough good things about it and my friends will attest to me bragging about my 15 square feet of drying space!    The purchase was in large part due to my need to find a way to pack healthy non-perishable paleo snacks for overnight work trips and to help me stay fueled during my various outdoor pursuits.  Having also lived in Ontario up until recently, it was also a great way for me to savor the summer berry harvest all year-round.    The great thing is that pretty much any fresh food item can be dehydrated, giving you clean, natural and portable healthy foods free of preservatives.  This is especially true when it comes to Beef Jerky. 

All of my jerky recipes start with about 2 kg of very lean beef.  It is important that you use a lean cut of meat, trimmed of any excess fat as it is the fat that can make the jerky go rancid if stored for a long period of time.  Lean meat is also great on the wallet as the leaner cuts also tend to be the cheaper ones.  I’ve had great success with flank steak, sirloin tip or inside round, each having a slightly different texture when dried.  Lately, I’ve been using an Inside Round Roast (aka Pot Roast) as it is a bit more tender then the others, marinades well and slices easily.  

Ingredients:

  • Lean Beef, trimmed of fat and sliced against the grain 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 tbsp Old Fashioned Grainy Dijon mustard – I like the Maille brand
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • freshly ground salt & pepper

Let’s get Drying:

  1. In large bowl, mix together mustard and maple syrup.  Season with salt & pepper
  2. Add sliced beef to marinade and toss to coat
  3. Cover and marinade in refrigerator overnight
  4. Lay beef out in single layer on mesh dehydrator trays
  5. Dehydrate at 160 degrees for about 8-10 hours – total time will depend on meat thickness
  6. The beef is done when you take a piece and bend it in half and it cracks but does not break apart
  7. Beef can be stored in air tight container in cool dry place or refrigerator for a couple of months – but I”ll be surprised if it lasts you that long!   

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I have to admit that at first, the idea of cooking a whole chicken to feed just myself  seemed just a little bit excessive.  However craving a good old-fashioned Sunday Dinner like my Mum makes,  and knowing that it would give me lots of leftovers for the week, I decided why not give it a whirl.  The great thing about this one is it takes just minutes to prep the chicken and then you just let the oven do all the work.  All it takes is a few simple ingredients placed inside the cavity of the chicken to give you a wonderfully tender, moist and flavourful meal. 

Ingredients

  • 1 small roasting chicken
  • 1 lemon, washed and cut in half
  • 10 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
  • Freshly ground salt & pepper
  • Olive oil

Let’s get cooking: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. If the chicken has been tied, remove the string and also ensure you remove the bag of giblets inside the cavity if they came with your chicken
  3. Rinse chicken in cold water, both inside and out, dry thoroughly as this will make sure the skin crisps up.
  4. Season the chicken cavity with salt & pepper
  5. Layer the thyme, garlic and lemon halves inside the chicken cavity
  6. Place on roasting rack, breast side up.   No need to tie it back up as it will cook faster spread eagle style!
  7. Rub skin all over with olive oil – I used about 1/2 tbsp
  8. Place in oven and roast at 350 degrees for about 1 hour and 30 minutes.  The time will depend on the size of your chicken.  Best way to check is to make sure the chicken registers 165 degrees when tested with a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh.
  9. Once cooked, remove from oven and tent with foil for 10-15 minutes. 

Note:  I used thyme for this one, but any spices will do so don’t be afraid to experiment.  Rosemary, sage, shallots would be great as well.

Stuck on what to do with the leftovers – Why not whip up a batch of Chicken and Kelp Noodle Soup.  Using cooked chicken will save you about 10 minutes cooking time.

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Primal Nut Balls

In looking for a portable snack with a touch of sweetness to take with me on outdoor adventures that would also be easy to eat in sub zero temperatures, I came up with this little number.  Dried fruit can be especially high in natural sugars so to help reduce this slightly, I’ve used organic apples slices and prunes, while still using a few dates to help the mixture bind together.  A touch of maple syrup, while not technically primal, and a bit of cinnamon help add a nice flavour to this nutty little treat. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried natural organic apples roughly chopped
  • 5 mejoul dates – pitted and roughly chopped
  • 10 pitted prunes – roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened unsulphured coconut
  • 2 tbsp flax seed
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp Ceylon cinnamon, or more to taste

Let’s get cooking:

  1. In food processor coarsely chop nuts.
  2. Add coconut, flax and cinnamon to food processor and pulse a few times until fairly fine, but still some remaining chunks of nut, remove and reserve to bowl.  
  3. Add fruit to food processor and chop until fine
  4. Add fruit to nut mixture and begin working the mixture together with your hands until mixture begins to come together
  5. Drizzle with maple syrup and continue kneading until mixture comes together into one large ball
  6. Using hands, form mixture into individual 1 inch balls, set aside and continue with remaining mixture
  7. Place in refrigerator to cool and set. 
  8. Balls can be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator for a few weeks, but I doubt they’ll last that long!

Note: 

  1. If the apples are quite dry, soak for ~ 10 minutes in warm water, drain and then add to food processor
  2. For a time saver, the mixture can also be pressed into a parchment lined pan, cooled in refrigerator then cut into bars

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