Sunbutter Blondies for my Sunny Blondes

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I have been eyeing the Almond Butter Blondies from Elana’s Pantry for 7 weeks now according to Pinterest. However, Dora doesn’t like almonds, or any nuts for that matter. Yeah, if I didn’t witness her birth firsthand, I would question whether she really shares my genetics, at least as far as her food preferences are concerned. I wanted to make some sort of dessert for the family for St. Patrick’s Day, and I had seen some posts about how sunflower butter reacts with baking soda to make green cookies. I thought this would make a fun surprise for the girls. I also thought blondies would be appropriate to celebrate Dora getting her hair highlighted.

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Sunbutter Blondies

1 (16 ounce) jar sunbutter
1 cup agave nectar
2 eggs
½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dark chocolate chips

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I used Elana’s Almond Butter Blondie recipe and just substituted Sunbutter for almond butter.

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Preheat oven to 325. Beat Sunbutter until smooth and creamy.

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Add eggs and agave nectar and beat further. Add sea salt and baking soda, mix well.

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Mix in 1/2C chocolate chips.

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Random kitchen shot

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Pour batter into a well-greased 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Sprinkle 1/2C chocolate chips on top.

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Bake for 35 min.

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I called the family into the kitchen for snack time. I must confess that I took a tiny sliver of a piece to try myself, you know, so I could perform quality assurance. The rest of the family quietly ate their pieces, and I was concerned that they didn’t like it. Actually they just liked it so much they didn’t want to stop eating to talk! I thought it was fabulous myself, but since I haven’t had sweets in almost a month, I was concerned that I wasn’t a fair judge. I was excited to serve these up again later in the day after they had cooled off, since the green color sometimes doesn’t show itself until after the cookies cool.

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It turned out the St. Patrick’s Day trick was on me, because these never did turn green! I’d like to try these again with almond butter and see how they taste. I am so looking forward to finishing this Whole30! 3 more days to go!

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What turned out to be liver pâté

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I was very excited to finally find beef liver in the meat freezer at Earth Fare, so I grabbed a package even though I had no specific plans for it. The rest of my family put away the groceries, and the liver ended up in the meat drawer instead of the freezer. My first reaction of course was to panic, since I had meals planned out for several days and had bought plenty of other meat/fish/poultry that would need to be cooked. Then I remembered how well Tom and Jewel like liverwurst, and I decided that I would just make some for lunch over the weekend. I’ve never been one to let complete lack of knowledge stop me from doing something.

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So did you know that liverwurst contains regular cooked pork in addition to liver? I didn’t.
Also it’s probably pork liver, but I guess I never verified that. I didn’t want to to out and buy MORE meat, so I started looking for recipes for liverwurst that just called for beef liver. I found a few, but I realized that they were called beef liver pâté. Tom liked the foie gras we had at Cotton Row Restaurant, so I thought he’d probably be ok with it. I couldn’t find a recipe I was 100% happy with, so I came up with my own.

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Yep, there you go, folks, recipe for liver pate. Never mind the fact that it looks more like a grocery list and it’s written on the back of an envelope. See, this is the problem I’ve had in the past with recreating my own recipes. At best, I have a scrawled list of ingredients that may or may not be accurate. Part of my motivation for the direction of this blog is that it forces me to document my cooking. Let’s see if I can come up with a more coherent recipe:

Paleo Liver Pâté
3/4 pound beef liver, grass-fed and organic, if possible, sliced, rinsed and drained
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup butter or ghee
2 slices uncured bacon
1 tsp fresh rosemary
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2T lemon juice
1/2 tsp brown mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

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Fry the bacon in a skillet, set aside, leaving the bacon grease in the pan. Add 2T of the butter or ghee.

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Finely chop the shallots (a mini-prep works great) and add to the skillet. Sauté for one minute.

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Add garlic and sauté for another minute. This looks more burned than it really was because I cooked up 1.5 pounds of bacon yesterday morning before I started on the liver pate.

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Add the liver to the skillet. Warning: raw liver is extremely slippery and slimy. It grossed me out a bit, but cooked liver is like any normal cooked meat. Also add rosemary and thyme.

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Cook the liver for 3-5 min total. Remove from pan and set aside.

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I decided my bacon wasn’t crispy enough, so I broke it into small pieces and fried it a little longer.

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Transfer liver to food processor and process until smooth. If you want a completely smooth pate, add all the bacon at this point as well. If you want a crunchy texture, leave at least some of the bacon to add later. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

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I set aside some smooth-textured pate for Tom. Tom liked the flavor of the pate, but he did not like the texture of the crunchy version. He is using the pate in sandwiches.

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I have a hard time understanding want is not to like as far as crunchy bacon bits! I’ll admit that this is a very strong-flavored dish. It was too much for Jewel. She would probably like the version that included a couple shots of Scotch better. I may try that next time, once I’m done with Whole30. I liked the quite well.

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I am using it to stuff celery sticks.

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A Successful Salmon Dinner

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As usual, I bought the fish that was on sale at Earth Fare for our Friday Lenten dinner. This week it was Scottish salmon. Fasting is so difficult… I wanted to make sure that I didn’t over cook the salmon, although if life gives you well done salmon, make salmon cakes!

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I found this note stuck into the corner of my iPad.
I decided against the George Foreman grill in favor of a baked recipe, but I found surprisingly few baked salmon recipes. I found this recipe for Salmon with Lemon, Capers and Rosemary, which calls for grilling the fish, but someone noted in the comments that they baked it and it turned out well. I lured Tom into helping by pointing out that it was a “no clean-up” recipe.

Salmon with Lemon, Capers and Rosemary

Ingredients
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (I used 3 10oz fillets)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
8 lemon slices (about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/2 cup Marsala or white wine (I used apple juice)
4 teaspoons capers
4 pieces of aluminum foil

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Place each fillet on a piece of aluminum foil, brush each side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary. Tom and I had a sort of assembly line going.

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I used a truffle-flavored oil that is really delicious. Yes, I sometimes shop at TJ Maxx . It’s fun to look at their oddball gourmet foods. I don’t have the patience to shop there for clothes.

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Top each piece of fish with 2 lemon slices.

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Add capers and drizzle each fillet with lemon juice and apple juice or wine. Seal the foil packets up.

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The recipe said to cook for 25 min, so I started checking the fish at 15 min, much to Tom’s amusement. It was done at 22 min.

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Jewel called the leftover beet greens, so I ate the salmon with curried cauliflower and carrot sticks.

Eggs Benedict, Paleo Style

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I found a recipe for Paleo Eggs Benedict and decided it would be fun to try. Apparently Hollandaise sauce is supposed to be difficult to make, but I’m not sure why. So if you want to impress your friends just follow this easy recipe step by step. Do read through it all the way before you start cooking. I guess the big deal is that you have to serve the Hollandaise sauce right away, since it starts breaking down into something odd-looking pretty quickly.

Paleo Eggs Benedict
Ingredients:
two eggs
1 tbsp white vinegar
canadian bacon or ham
two egg yolks (I used the whites in a frittata and curried cauliflower)
4 tbsp ghee or clarified butter
juice from half a lime or lemon
a few pinches of salt and pepper
Tomato slices
Steamed spinach
Parsley and green onion for garnish

Start by heating up a small pot of water with the vinegar in it over med-high heat. Beat the egg yolks. Juice the lemon or lime and add to the egg yolks. Also add the salt and pepper. Set aside.

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Set up a double boiler melt the ghee in it. This will ensure that your ghee melts but doesn’t brown or burn (which would ruin the sauce).

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Crack the eggs into little bowls.

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When the water comes to a low boil (in between a simmer and a rolling boil) pour an egg into a ladle…

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…and gently lower the egg into the water.

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I tried to scoop the whites together as I pulled the ladle out.

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This worked fine. Cook the eggs for 2-3 min. They felt really squishy after 2 min so I left them in 3 min, and the yolks were still runny, which I like, but just sayin’…

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Pull the eggs out with a slotted spoon, cover to keep warm and set aside. Heat up some Canadian bacon. Cook some spinach and slice a tomato if you want. You could even toast an English muffin if you let that sort of thing in your house. I did these things somewhere in the process, and Jewel helped. Neither one of us is very linear so we have trouble with sequential order.

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Random pic, courtesy of Jewel.
Back to the Hollandaise sauce. Do NOT dump the egg yolk mixture into the melted ghee. You will end up with some sort of scrambled egg mess. Take a teaspoon and spoon the ghee into the yolks while whisking constantly. After you’ve transferred a couple tablespoonfuls it is safe to dump the yolk mixture into the ghee. Continue to whisk until a thick, creamy sauce comes together.

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I placed steamed baby spinach and sliced tomatoes on the plate, topped that with two pieces of Canadian bacon, put a poached egg on top of that, topped it with Hollandaise sauce, and made it fancy with Italian parsley and green onions. Looks damn impressive, if I do say so myself! I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, but no one else in the family cared for it. They thought the Hollandaise sauce was weird tasting and too lemony. I’m not sure if I added too much lemon juice, or if they just don’t like Hollandaise sauce. Honestly I was most excited about successfully making poached eggs. Every other time I’ve attempted it they turned into egg jellyfish. So something good came out of it anyway.

Pot Roast Vegetable Frittata

Whenever I make a pot roast, I seem to end up with extra vegetables left over, and I’m usually at a loss for something to do with them besides serve them to my family (again). This morning I decided to see how they would fare in a frittata. This is a variation on the Frittata ala Refrigerator Gourmet, so feel free to use what you have handy in your fridge.
Pot Roast Vegetable Frittata
Serves 3
Ingredients:
Bacon fat or olive oil for the skillet, if needed
Leftover pot roast vegetables or other leftover vegetables
Several handfuls baby spinach
8 eggs

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This looked like a good amount of vegetables to me. I had already poured off the stock and put it in the freezer.

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Once I dumped them in the skillet, it didn’t look like very much anymore. I didn’t add any fat or oil to the pan because I figured the vegetables already had enough fat on them, but maybe I should have because it did stick to the pan some.

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I added several handfuls of baby spinach. That looks like a lot now…

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But not so much after I cooked it.

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Preheat the broiler. Pour the eggs in the skillet…

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and cook until they start to get solid around the edges.

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I caught Jewel in the act taking this photo. She casually snapped it as she walked past.

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Pick up the edges of the frittata and allow some of the eggs to go underneath, tipping the pan as you pick up the edge. I couldn’t pick up the pan at the same time that I held the spatula and the iPad. When the frittata is mainly cooked but the top is still wet, place under the broiler for 2 minutes.

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The frittata will puff up and brown.

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I like salsa on mine. Jewel couldn’t quite finish her serving, and when she asked if anyone wanted the rest of hers, Tom yelled, “I do!”. That’s about the best compliment I could have received.

Paleo Chicken Tenders and Fries with Honey Mustard

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Although I don’t like the weekend to end any more than the next employed person, I look forward to Mondays now. Tom takes Dora to Lacrosse practice, and Jewel and I hang out and act silly and cook dinner in our easily distracted way. This past Monday we did well getting dinner on the table at all, because we got off on a tangent about maps and spread topo maps of northeast Alabama all over the floor of Tom’s study. But I had promised Dora homemade chicken nuggets, so we had to get to work.

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Chicken nuggets are not comfort food for me. McDonald’s didn’t come out with chicken nuggets until I was old enough to prefer food with a texture other than “partially digested”, so I never acquired a taste for them. I didn’t realize that adults ate them until places like Tenders started cropping up. Huh. I have had decent handmade chicken tenders before though, so I knew it was possible for them to still taste like chicken. I had my eye on a recipe for parsley root fries for awhile, and I was excited to find parsley roots at Publix. Jewel and I got in a hurry with this meal and therefore forgot to take many pictures while we were cooking.

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Our first step was to make the Parsley Root Fries. My parsley roots were much smaller and scrawnier than the ones pictured in the recipe.

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Cutting them into slim French fry shapes proved to be a bit of a challenge. We used macadamia nut oil for our fries. Jewel did most of the prep on the parsley roots while I threw together some homemade mayonnaise. The recipe for the chicken tenders was loosely written, so I’ll post it how we made it:

Paleo Chicken Tenders
Ingredients:
• 4 free-range boneless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
• 1/4C Homemade Mayo
• 1/2C Almond meal or flour
• 1/4C Coconut Flour
• Your favorite Seasonings (I used Penzey’s Forward)
• Salt + Pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 375. Cut the chicken breasts into tenders of desired size. Place mayo in a small bowl. Mix almond meal, coconut flour, seasoning, salt and pepper in a pie pan. Spray baking sheet with oil or grease with coconut oil. I found a spray coconut oil at Earth Fare so I used that. Dip tenders in the mayo to lightly coat, then dip in the dry mixture, place on baking sheet. I’m sorry I have no pictures, but it is the same process Dora uses for her fish sticks. Bake for 30 minutes, turning once.

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Dora was thrilled when she came home from practice to smell chicken tenders in the oven. She asked if we had any honey mustard, something I hadn’t even thought of. Jewel suggested that we make our own honey mustard, so I had her search for Paleo honey mustard, and she came up with this recipe.

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This meal was a huge hit with everyone. I wanted to capture the girls eating their meal, so Dora grabbed a carrot and Jewel grabbed her spoon.

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This is Jewel dissolving into one of her classic fits of laughter when she realized she had posed holding the tiny spoon.

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This was my meal after I already ate some of it. We also had leftover sweet potatoes and mustard greens. The potatoes were especially good because we baked them longer than usual. The parsley root fries were slightly sweet and completely delicious. Next time I’ll try using parsnips, which are more widely available and cheaper. The chicken tenders were not quite as crisp as I would have liked. I started them out at 350 as the original recipe recommended, but next time I’ll start out on 375. I also may try putting them on a rack. The flavor was superb. I really tasted the chicken rather than the breading or just salt. The honey mustard was not as sweet as commercial products, and it had both better flavor and texture. Even Dora commented that most honey mustards have an odd texture. She said that this is the best honey mustard she’s ever had, and she is a huge fan of honey mustard. I usually find it overly sweet, but this sauce was perfect. We had the leftover chicken tenders tonight, and Dora specifically asked if we still had some honey mustard left, so it is worth it to take the extra couple minutes to make the sauce. Enjoy!

Over Halfway Through Whole30 – A Rant

I am proud to say that I have made it over half-way through my Whole30 without completely cracking yet. On a positive note, my back is hurting less. There is a small but non-zero chance that this is related to the Whole30 Plan, but I think it is more likely related to the fluid from my failed epidural injection finally bring absorbed by my body. We’ll see if my back behaves any differently after I go back to my regular Primal diet. I must say that doing a Whole30 has made me appreciate how liberal the Primal diet really is! Here are my observations on Whole30 so far:
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1. It has made me irritable, that is, more irritable than baseline, which (in case anyone hasn’t noticed) is already pretty damn irritable.
2. I miss dairy more than anything. This is especially true of my snacks (more on that in a minute). I also miss using a strong-flavored cheese as a sort of condiment. A half an ounce of goat cheese, Gorgonzola or feta can go a long way in enhancing the flavor of a dish. I am constantly reminding myself that I can’t use Parmesan. This is a typical dilemma I face in cooking. Gourmet food is fresh food, simply prepared, which is generally consistent with what I consider healthy. However some dishes scream for heavy cream and cheese.
3. The snacks are tedious. I miss my homemade yogurt and my homemade buttermilk cheese. I’ve taken to making unusual concoctions of different combinations of nut butters, cherry or blueberry coconut bowls and banana boats. I’ve run out of grassed beef jerky, and sardines just haven’t sounded appetizing. So I’m eating too many nuts. Hey, what else is new? If I were able to get by eating 3 or 4 times a day, this would be a lot easier.
4. I don’t miss alcohol. Well I did for the first few days, then I pretty much forgot about it. I even went to a party last night where everyone was drinking and I didn’t really care that I was just drinking water. I do miss using wine for cooking.
5. I don’t miss eating desserts, even chocolate, but I miss making desserts. There are so many ideas I want to try!
6. This is a tough diet to follow while nauseated. I was very thankful that I had bone broth on hand and that I had made homemade chicken soup. I could also stomach hardboiled eggs, but I really wanted some toast! I’ve been trying to just tough it out. At least the Zofran allows me to keep my food down.
7. The only way that I’ve been flagrantly cheating is in weighing myself. I am not trying to lose weight, in fact, I’m trying NOT to lose weight. Hitting my lowest adult weight since college was not really my plan here. Of course, any time you eliminate broad categories of food, it is easy to lose weight. Give people more limited choices, and they eat less. Although Whole30 is a far healthier diet than the standard American diet, I’m not convinced it’s healthier than the standard Paleo diet.
8. At this point I’m having almost unbearable cravings for Bandito Burrito, although I know that that is the last thing my gastrointestinal system needs right now.
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So I guess I have alluded to the fact that I’m not going to extend my Whole30 throughout the whole Lenten season. See, my best drinking partner is coming back into town on day 31, and that was the clincher. Plus we plan to do a lot of cooking, and I’m sure we will need butter, heavy cream and cheese. 12 more days till Mom comes back – can’t wait!

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