Entertaining Ideas, Part II: Bacon-Braided Asparagus (Paleo!)

Spring MAY have finally sprung, this week. We have forecasted temperatures in the 70’s, and it’s not even weird! Hoping that good weather is here to stay for us. I heard birds this morning, our front flowerbeds have blooms, and the horse’s coats are finally growing out to their spring coat. Party time!

I’ve had a few fun purchases come up, all TOTALLY different… but let me give you an idea of what I’ve been doing:

5 spools of cotton cord rope. Bought the whole darned store out. Currently making a plant hanger… will let you all know how it comes out

A 10 inch ring so I can make another dream-catcher… TBD, y’all will love this (when will I have time to do these things??? Literally laughing out loud as I type this)

A saree….! To wear for a wedding I’m going to in two weeks in North Carolina

A shedding blade for my dog because our hardwood looks like carpet at the moment

What’s on my list though in the immediate future is just getting friends together to enjoy the warmer weather, and food. I can’t wait to do some wine-tastings,  some fun outdoor barbequing, making crafts outdoors, and just fun springtime stuff! I shared a delicious cocktail idea with you guys last week, so with your drinks you’ll need some hors d’oeurves to go with it.

I think asparagus gets a really bad rap and I just don’t know why. Aside from stinky-tinkle (sorry), they’re just delicious, not to strong of a flavor, and are just an all-around really good veggie to have on hand. To that, why not just… wrap it in bacon? I steamed a bunch of asparagus, just to the point of being soft but not mushy. Add a little bacon, crisp them up, and you’ve got yourself a delicious treat that’s easy to eat at a party.

Entertaining Ideas, Part II: Bacon-Braided Asparagus (Paleo!)

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 20 min

Makes about 16-17 stalks

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches (lbs) of thin asparagus, washed and trimmed, about 32 stalks
  • 1 lb of thick-cut bacon (organic, nitrate-free, if possible!)
  • ¼ cup water

Directions:

  1. Trim your asparagus about 1 ½-2 inches from the bottom, discarding the tough part of the stem.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once brought to temperature, add your asparagus, and your ¼ cup of water. Cover with a lid and let steam for 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the top layer of asparagus is moved to directly to the pan. Once soft, remove from heat and set aside on a plate to dry and cool.
  3. In the meantime, take your bacon and cut each piece in half, length-wise. Try to keep in as clean of a cut piece as possible. If finished prior to asparagus, place back in the fridge to keep it cool. (colder bacon is easier to work with, optional!)
  4. Once your bacon is cut and asparagus are cooled, take two stalks of asparagus and one piece of bacon. Starting at the top, weave the bacon under one piece and over the other, alternating sides like a braid. If your bacon is longer than your stalks, make the bacon weave more tightly through the asparagus stalks from the top.
  5. Once finished, heat your large skillet back up over medium heat and saute your stalks, flipping once browned on each side (about 3-4 minutes). Remove from heat, blot any excess drippings with a paper towel and serve!**

**uncooked stalks can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days prior. If serving for a party, these can be cooked and kept warm in an oven on low heat.

Enjoy 🙂

-S

Entertaining Ideas, Part I: Lemon-Basil Vodka Spritzers (Paleo!)

I am so done with this cold. It’s April 7th, and yet somehow, there’s still snow in the forecast. I realize that we’ve gotten snowstorms over the years before as late as April, but to be honest, ayeye! It’s cold, I want to go get my herbs to plant this year, and here we are, still wearing Winter jackets. One of these days, it’ll be about 75 degrees and I’ll wonder what happened to Spring. Well, that dingus groundhog saw his shadow (or something) and really stuck it to us with our 6 more weeks of Winter. What he meant was actually 10 more weeks of Winter, with no Spring, right into Summer. But, I digress.

During those fleeting moments of good weather, I absolutely get the itch for Springtime parties and the like. Entertaining, friends coming over, dinner parties, my FAVORITE. Fortunately, I had some time yesterday, so a little playing around with some flavors was in the itinerary. Now, I don’t really ever drink liquor – I especially don’t drink vodka (personal choice)… however, I realize some of my friends like it a little now and again. I have a mystery handle of vodka sitting in my freezer, and I had a thought – what about a little Springtime aperitif? The herbs at the grocery store are so beautiful, why not… drink them, too? I love spices, flavoring anything, so putting herbs in your drinks is perfect (hello, Mojitos!). And there it was – my Lemon Basil Vodka spritzer. My spring cocktail was born.

This requires a little bit of patience, and a few kitchen (or bar) tools, but I promise it’s worth it. It’s refreshing, and you can omit the vodka and soda and just have a nice lemonade. One editor’s note…. I don’t actually know how much vodka one prefers in their drink… so…. add that at your discretion. In fact, i’ll preface this recipe with the fact that drink ratios are all about preference. If you like sweet lemonade, add more sweetener. If you like to taste your alcohol, add more. Change it up!

Actually, another editor’s note – if you have Celiac’s disease, be cautious of your vodka brand. Though it’s a distilled spirit and there technically should NOT be any gluten in your vodka, a wheat-based vodka may be made in a facility that is cross-contaminated with wheat products. If avoiding gluten as a major health concern, stick to brands that are derived from wheat-free foods, such as Ciroc (grapes), VuQo (coconuts), or Karlsson’s (potato). Other brands such as Absolut, Grey Goose, Stolichnaya, SKYY and Smirnoff are wheat-based, so be cautious if wheat is a concern.

 

Lemon-Basil Vodka Spritzer (Paleo..!?)

Prep time: 5 min

Cook time: 25-30 min

Makes about 2 quarts

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Ingredients

  • ~1/2 cup of honey or maple syrup (or sweetener of choice), plus more to taste if needed
  • 1 cup firmly packed basil leaves
  • 4 1/2 cups water, divided
  • 1½ cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (6 to 8 lemons)
  • 1 1/2 cup club soda (sodium-free, if possible)
  • 6-8 shots of vodka….or more, or less, this is a guess

 

Directions

  1. In a medium sauce pan, muddle the basil with a tsp of water together with a wooden spoon, until the leaves are broken and bruised. Add 2 cups of water and sweetener, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until all of your sweetener has dissolved. Be careful not to bring your mix to a rolling boil, as you’ll burn off the basil flavor.
  2. Remove from the heat and allow the basil to steep in the syrup until cool – feel free to add any extra fresh basil if preferred. Once cooled, strain your mixture into a pitcher. Add 4 cups of water and the lemon juice, and stir well.
  3. Add your club soda, and continue to stir.
  4. To your preference, add your vodka – since this makes a pitcher, I’d add about a shot per drink serving, and since this will serve approximately 6-8 people, add 1 shot per person. Allow to cool completely before serving – serve over ice with a garnish of basil and lemon.

Enjoy!

-S

Cheddar Bay Biscuits (Gluten-Free!)

Hello, internet! It’s already April, and wouldn’t you know it, we got snow yesterday morning. Some surprise.

I’ve been a lot busier than I’d like to be these days. The good news is that now that it stays lighter for longer, I don’t feel the need to close up shop shortly after getting home from work. I can cook when I get home, I don’t need to rush, and I can photograph my food without needing to work from home… I mean, what? I don’t do that.

My friend came over this weekend and we made Indian food — Chicken Curry, it was delicious. I even had some leftover naan bread, spiced some chick peas, the works. The best part was that after, she asked me to do Reiki on her. I didn’t have a lot of time to give it enough thought to say no, but I realized how apprehensive I was do actually practice Reiki. Will people think I’m weird? Will they believe what I’m actually doing? If I do sessions on people, will they actually think that what I’m doing is legitimate?

I did a quick half hour session on her, and oddly enough, once I did it, I stopped worrying about the legitimacy of the practice and fell right into it like a seasoned habit. I was able to pick up on physical energy blockages that manifested from what was going on in her life and I was able to clear them to set her on the right path. It was nice hearing from her yesterday that she said she felt a lot better and truly believes that it makes a world of difference after she receives Reiki. Perhaps as I study it more, I’ll practice on more people 🙂

No other updates from me, but I wanted to leave you a little treat. I LOVE biscuits. Like, I can’t even convey in words how excited I am when a restaurant has good biscuits, or biscuits and gravy (HUGE points… love it so much). Here’s a little gluten free treat, cheddar Old Bay biscuits!!!

Cheddar Bay Biscuits (Gluten-Free!)

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 25 min

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1 tbsp tapioca flour
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste (after you add your Old Bay!)
  • 2 eggs

For the topping:

  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • ½ tsp old bay
  • ½ tsp garlic powder

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. In medium bowl, mix together almond flour, tapioca flour, cheese, salt, chives and garlic powder. Mix in the cold butter cubes with your hands until the mixture is chunky and the flours are thoroughly pressed into the chunks of butter. Add your eggs and sour cream and stir thoroughly.
  3. Divide into your preferred biscuit size on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  4. As the  biscuits bake, mix together your spices with your butter. During the last 5 minutes of your biscuits baking, brush with butter mixture and return to oven.

Enjoy!

-S

Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes (Paleo)

Spring Equinox. Mercury retrograde. Snow. Rain??? Cold?? No, not that bad.

There’s so much going on !??!! One of these days soon, I’m going to get my life together and get organized. I just need some time, sigh. On a brighter note, the snow that came Wednesday is melting rapidly. The birds are out, and it looks like it’s going to stay in the 40’s and 50’s for the next two weeks. It’d be lovely if it got into the 60’s, but I’m afraid to ask.

I stocked up recently on all my favorites from Athleta recently (thank you work for providing me a gift certificate for an award I received!), and I am absolutely loving my new  tank tops. You can find them here! They’re stretchy but not too tight, and they come in great colors. I’m excited to use them for yoga, lifting, etc.

Not a whole lot of other things going on with me, just dropping in to remind you to remember your intentions for Spring, stay true to yourself, be kind to yourself and others, and have fun! There’s no reason these days to not enjoy yourself every now and again. Stay tuned for more delicious recipes this weekend… for now, here are some matcha green tea cupcakes.

Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes (Paleo)

Prep time: 20 min

cook time: n/a

serves 3-4 as a meal, 6-8 as an app

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp almond milk
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp matcha green tea powder

For the icing:

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews soaked in filtered water for at least 4 hours**, drained, rinsed, and gently dried
  • 2/3 cup coconut cream chilled*
  • juice from one lemon, about 2 1/2 tbsp
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, room temperature (solid)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup of maple syrup, plus more to taste
  • pinch of ground sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp of matcha green tea powder

Directions:

  1. preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cups.
  2. In a food processor, blend cashews on high until they form a paste. Scoop the excess paste down from the sides to ensure the mix forms properly.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and continue to blend or process on high for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is creamy. Refrigerate until using, for up to 24 hours.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, almond milk, honey, vanilla, and then coconut oil. Slowly add your almond flour, baking powder and salt. Distribute your batter evenly among the cups. Bake for about 20 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven, transfer to a rack and allow to cool completely before frosting. You can either frost with a spoon, or with a pastry bag.

Enjoy!

-S

Jalapeno Popper Chicken Salad (Paleo)

It seems there’s a blizzard every week here! It started to snow today, but the real stuff is tomorrow. Will likely be a “work from home” kind of day.

Interesting happenings, these days! I had an amazing hot yoga session last night. It was more difficult than I thought it’d be, but I think it was exactly what I needed. It was a Spring Equinox Yoga workshop, and the focus was all about intentions, and manifestation, and setting the pace for Spring and everything that comes with it. Stepping out of the mud, peeling back the layers, all of it.

Honestly, to some people, no matter how you frame it… sometimes talking about this kind of thing never goes more than surface level. It sounds nice, or it sounds weird, or it sounds like total BS. It didn’t hit me until last night in this class that unless your whole self, whole presence and whole mind is behind something you want to change or have happen, it’s like flying a plane with no pilot, or a car with no steering wheel. Where’s your direction?

So… back to this class. It was the first hot class I’d done in a while. It takes a LOT to get me to sweat, which didn’t seem to be a problem last night. I lift weights, quite heavily, 6 days a week. I ride. I exercise. I eat healthy (except for my beloved cheeseburgers now and again). We started moving in this class and I was SO not in sync with what was going on. I was concerned with my towel bunching up, I touched the girl’s hand behind me with my foot, thought about how strange I must’ve looked trying to balance in this position when, apparently, I seemed to have lost my ability to balance in any direction.

That’s when it hit me. I am literally ignoring the very reason I am in this class. I am here to shed the nonsense, start fresh, press the reset button… and here I am still flopping around in the mud.

I did a mental check of why I was denying myself the ability to just disconnect from everything around me, and more literally than figuratively, I was just holding on to everything I shouldn’t have been. Have you ever grabbed  your laundry out of the dryer and tried to carry it all upstairs in your arms? Dropping socks, picking them up only to drop more… and so on, and so on. It was time I just drop it all and walk away.

It’s both a blessing and a curse to be so acutely aware of these “Aha!” moments. It was as if I heard the record rewind, and I thought to myself… ‘Okay, why did I even bother coming if I’m just going to sit here and worry about all this crap?’ After that point, I pushed through my shaking muscles, the stretching, and didn’t care if I wasn’t as limber as I once was when going through my sequences. No one else cared what I was doing, not one bit. No one else would suffer from me being distracted, except me. The rest of the class went like a breeze. We then sampled some interesting juice, and off we were.

The moral of the story here — whenever you have your “aha!” moment, you’ll get it. Unless you’re there, wherever you are, 100%… you’re at a standstill. and that’s on purpose — that’s the universe’s way of saying “hey! big plans need your full attention!” Once you’ve trained yourself to put yourself in the here-and-now, you can set the pace however you went when you shed all the crap you’re holding onto, preventing you from changing whatever it is that you want.

For now, enjoy this delicious little snack! you can eat it on crackers, in a wrap, however you want.

 

Jalapeno Popper Chicken Salad (Paleo)

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Prep time: 20 min

cook time: n/a

serves 3-4 as a meal, 6-8 as an app

 

Ingredients

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, white meat picked out (set aside dark meat for another use!)
  • 1 large jalapeno, minced; ribs and seeds removed
  • 1 lb. of bacon, cooked until crisp
  • 1/2 of a red onion, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup paleo mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste
  • pinch of sea salt

Directions

  1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar and sea salt. adjust to taste. if it’s too tangy, add a bit more mayo and whisk. Likewise, add more vinegar or salt if needed. Set aside.
  2. Place your chicken in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer (or fork if you’re really old-school), shred chicken until desired consistency. It should be fine and stringy, like pulled pork, enough to thoroughly mix with the sauce.
  3. Crumble your bacon and add to the bowl of chicken, along with jalapeno and red onion. Gently mix until combined.
  4. Now add your sauce — again, gently stir until combined. Garnish with slices of jalapeno. Enjoy!

-S

Cabbage, White Bean and Potato Hash (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

This holiday is a strange tradition in that it’s celebrated widely, but few truly know its origins (ok, so I guess it’s not that strange).

The day is to commemorate Patrick, who was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Though his mission and praise is widely accepted in the Christian community (obviously), I wanted to point out a few key things.

Typically, when people think of St. Patrick’s Day, they see it as celebration of Irish pride, acceptance of immigrant culture and supporting diversity. That’s a beautiful avenue to take this holiday through. However, St. Patrick’s Day is actually a day of religious observance, especially within the Catholic Church in Ireland. St. Patrick is credited with the conversion of “thousands” of Irish Pagans to Christianity, steering them away from what appeared to be a life of sin and toil. A little bit of background on the Paganism, shall we?

By now, I suppose a few of you are feeling that Catholic guilt, by even reading on about what Paganism is. I know I did when I first learned of it. But really, what’s the issue with someone holding different beliefs than you, that are more rooted in nature (pun intended)? And that’s perfectly fine – Christians and other mainstream religions are often brought up to equate Paganism with a sense of hedonism, impurity, or without fear of holy reprisal. If that’s what you’re taught, it’s really all you know, right? Well…. let’s reconsider.

Interestingly enough, Paganism is a blanket term for any religion not recognized as “mainstream”. Pagan rituals typically focus on honoring a deity or deities rather than complete devotion; observing natural patterns such as seasonal changes, moon phases and lifetime rites of passage. They feast, honor nature through ceremonies, and incorporate the earth and its offerings into almost everything they do. Sounds harmless, right? Well, it is. Check your pre-conceived notions at the door and do some googling – if you find yourself eye-rolling as you read, you’re denying yourself and your soul the opportunity to learn and see something different.

Much like anything else deemed “abnormal”, or weird, I think we’ve ignored a lot of what originates from Pagan tradition and how a lot of modern religions honor this. Even what we know today, of Saints, religious symbolism within Christianity, isn’t so different. I think everyone has the God-given right to believe what they choose, and no one can take that away from them. What I think is even more important is that you also cannot take that away from anyone else, either. We live in a world with 7 BILLION+ other souls – and the idea that each one can see the same thing much differently is absolutely crazy, isn’t it?

Moral of the story, I am not pro or anti- St Patrick’s Day. Some years I get into it, others I like to honor other sides of the traditions that it comes from. If you do decide to do some research today in honor of St Patrick’s Day. I hope you learn something that moves you, and drives you to be accepting of others. I hope that you can draw some correlation to how maybe we haven’t really lost touch with the roots of this holiday, but are celebrating it in spite of what it started out as. Again – believe what you choose, and be passionate about it. But there’s 7 billion seats at this dinner table, and everyone deserves to be there. Honor yourself by honoring others! 🙂

*note: sources of this information are from my own education on these topics. If you would like to do research, please make sure you are relying on fact-based outlets, educational and scholarly articles, and moderated/unbiased media.

 

Cabbage, White Bean and Potato Hash (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

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prep time: 10 min

cook time: 30 min

 

Ingredients

  • 1 small head of green cabbage, sliced, core and large stems removed
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 can of white kidney beans (cannellini), drained and rinsed
  • 3 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ in cubes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil, for sautéing

 

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, add your oil over medium heat. Add onion – sauté until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add your potatoes and cover, allowing to steam. Stir every few minutes and sauté until potatoes are slightly soft, about another 10 minutes or so. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. Turn your heat to low. Add your cabbage and stir to mix – cover and let steam, stirring every few minutes. Once mixture is visibly wilted and browning in spots, add your beans. Stir to mix, and cover. Let cook for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Once mixture is thoroughly heated, remove lid and turn heat back to medium to allow the starches in the potatoes and beans to dry. Sauté for another 4-5 minutes and remove from heat. If you prefer crisp, continue to sauté until at your preferred level of browned cabbage and potatoes. Serve and enjoy! (Optional for non-Vegans – crumble some bacon over the top).

 

🙂

-S

 

Irish Potato Candies! (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Ahh…. A nice and welcome break from work. I have not stopped cooking and though I don’t plan on doing anything crazy for St. Patrick’s Day, I cooked up a storm! I’ll make this short and sweet… I made these little potato candies and I just love them. They remind me of when I was a kid and we would make them in elementary school.

Irish potatoes are a dessert that originated in the Philadelphia area. Despite its name, they aren’t from Ireland, and they have no potatoes in them (and definitely shouldn’t, ew). Also, don’t let anyone tell you that any nuts belong in them, either. Double ew. Then you roll them in cinnamon, and just like that, you have a little potato!

These are made without dairy, gluten, or any crap that makes you feel bad. More treats to come, enjoy 🙂

Irish Potato Candies! (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

prep time: 20 min (active)

chill time: 20 min

makes 25 potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups of unsweetened shredded coconut (the fine strips, not ground)
  • 1 oz package of Tofutti “cream cheese”
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tbsp light agave, plus more to taste
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cinnamon, separated
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar

Directions

  1. Add your shredded coconut, cream cheese, vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon, coconut oil and agave to a large mixing bowl and blend with a mixer. If the mixture appears runny, add ¼ cup of shredded coconut and continue to mix until you have a pasty mixture that you can shape.
  2. Chill in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the refrigerator and roll into small potato shaped balls and set aside on a baking sheet. Once your potatoes are formed, add the remaining cinnamon and coconut sugar in a large plastic bag and shake to mix.
  4. One at a time, place each potato in the bag and gently shake to coat thoroughly. Remove and place back onto the cookie sheet.
  5. Chill until ready to serve – remove 15 minutes prior to allow to come back to room temperature.

Enjoy!

-S