These are a few of my favorite things….

Every time I say that, I think about the Sound of Music…. and cringe a little. I was never a fan of musicals, but I love to sing. I have mixed reviews of my singing abilities…. so I’m going to go with the notion of WHATEVER! I’ll sing WHENEVER! WHEREVER! As I sit here waiting for my brown sugar BBQ chicken to cook, and my sundried tomato orzo to absorb, I was thinking of a few of my favorite kitchen staples. Food, utensils, gotta have the goods. I may or may not have opened a bottle of wine my co-worker “sent me home with”, and I may be drinking it because I love a good Pinot Noir. Didn’t have to twist my arm on that one.

fullsizeoutput_26fGarlic Press – I love this thing. I have a hangup where I don’t like touching garlic, so I avoid mincing it whenever I can. This Little puppy, by OXO, is a godsend. I don’t even really have to get my hands smelly when I wash it, because you can press a lever and the thing comes apart! Wildly in love with it, highly recommend. You can find it here at Williams-Sonoma for about $20.

 

fullsizeoutput_288     Garlic Peeler – Did I mention I love garlic? This thing takes the agony out of getting the peels off of garlic. Just throw a clove inside, roll, and you’ve got all bare little clove of garlic. It’s a timesaver….and a lifesaver. Find one here on Amazon.

 

fullsizeoutput_273   A good silicone baking spatula – I found this in a bucket at Williams-Sonoma on Black Friday weekend last year, and I think it was mis-marked. I paid about $5 for it and I’ve been using it obsessively ever since. Le Creuset is a favorite of mine; their products really do stand up to the test of time. Mama 2 has a Le Creuset baking dish from when she got married…. I made some roasted veggies in it a few months ago when I was at their house. You do the math. Find it here for about $14.

 

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A (really, really, REALLY) sharp knife – Down the street at my actual house growing up, Mama 1 had some weird fear of sharp knives, so I never really grew up appreciating how convenient a super sharp knife is. This knife, by Shun, was a Christmas gift one year — runs you about $182. Trust me when I say you notice a difference — WELL worth the money. It’s my baby, and it slices a ripe tomato like a bodybuilder tearing a piece of tissue paper. That was terrible, please forget I said that. But i’m keeping it because I feel like you got the point.

 

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A good tea kettle – In my life, we don’t believe in microwaves. Anything that can voodoo-zap the moisture out of something until it heats up is freaking weird — don’t be jaded. This tea kettle (obviously very well loved, until I tried to get the tarnish off of it….) is by Il Mulino, which I found on sale and unfortunately haven’t seen once since. It’s used for everything — tea, tea, more tea, hot water for anything. I love it. A copper tea kettle is such a cool addition to your kitchen, we never put it away. It looks like it’s on it’s last leg, but it’s still kickin’.

 

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Sundried tomatoes – I get these from a local natural foods store called Harvest Market, and they are so delicious. They’re organic, and not super crispy — I like to put them in boiling water to soak, but then i’ll mix them with some olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper to liven them up a bit before I add them to things. Delicious addition to anything starchy, or chicken.

 

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Arrowroot powder – this is a paleo staple. Since regular wheat flour can’t be used as a thickener, this is a lifesaver. It’s 1:1 to cornstarch, but you use them for different things.  Arrowroot is used for sauces with acid like fruits, vinegar, etc, slow cooking over low heat, and things you want to freeze. Cornstarch is best for recipes with dairy, or things cooked in the oven, like pies. I use Bob’s Redmill Arrowroot powder, which is available on Amazon for about $8. A little goes a loooong way.

 

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a good “normal” starchy side – I love couscous… there’s so much you can do with it. I realize that not everyone who comes over eats like a vegan, paleo or gluten-free person, so this is a great staple that i love to have on hand. It cooks quickly, can take on any flavor, and makes a ton once cooked. Pick yours up at Acme, or you can pick up at Amazon.

 

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Good cutting/serving boards – I use these for everything. They’re sturdy enough for normal use as a cutting board but pretty enough to display on (you may see some of them make a cameo in my photos…). Always a go-to for entertaining. Pictured – top is by Anthropologie circa 2010; the skinny one is by Cynthia Rowley.

 

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Good cooking fats – I use olive oil on a lot of things, but I do love my grapeseed oil. Grapeseed and olive oil are the same in unsaturated fats and calories, but grapeseed oil has 2x as much Vitamin E… plus it’s a bit milder in taste. Available at Wegman’s, and Whole Foods!

 

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Quality vinegar(s) – I love making dressings for salads, and some just need a bit of something different. Apple cider vinegar is my staple, but I love balsamic for something different. The other one, Aronia Berry vinegar, by KeepWell, was picked up at a local farmers market.

 

Leave some comments on your favorite kitchen essentials — tools, ingredients, you name it!

Enjoy 🙂

-S

Paleo Lemon-Poppyseed Muffins with Raspberry Drizzle

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While I probably shouldn’t start this post off having you doubt my baking abilities as I tell you to bake something, I will say that I am REALLY surprised these came out, because  I cook. I usually only cook. Because I. Cannot. Bake. Well, I couldn’t, at least not until today. Chalk this up to a victory!

Sundays are a weekly tradition of cooking a huge meal and inviting everyone over. The Sunday crew folks are my guinea-pigs, which so far has worked out quite well. I usually experiment with some crazy flavors, and so far, no one has complained, thrown up or died… so we keep it going. The family pastry chef was en route back home from a fun weekend up at Penn State for Arts Fest, so I had to step in and whip something up. I don’t have a sweet tooth, so fruit it was. Lo and behold – these babies were born. I lucked out, they came out pretty good in the first batch… even added a little coconut to give them a summery flavor. Even still, I don’t have any aspirations to own a bakery…. So these will do for now. And they’re paleo, wahoo!

One fun addition to these is the salt I used in the muffins… I really love salt. I could’ve been a farm animal in another life, with their little salt blocks they have. Years ago, I can remember being too young to drive myself to the local saddlery, so my mom would take me to go get supplies for the horses; treats, supplements, a salt lick, etc. I was sitting in the front seat of my mom’s car holding one of the blocks, wondering if it really just tasted like salt.

For the record, yes, it does. Yes, my mom was horrified. And yes, I just admitted to licking a salt block for horses. Final thought: 7 out of 10, would do it again. But, I digress.

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This salt, by Gourmet Himalayan in California, is a mix of vanilla beans and Himalayan sea salt, which is a fun addition to baked goods, or maybe even some salted caramel chocolate? I sense another experiment coming up.

The best part about using raspberries in recipes like this is because they’re in season, it’s summer, and it makes SUCH an amazing color that these pictures don’t really do it justice. This time of year is such a great time to experiment with dinner and dessert. Everything is ripe, the colors are amazing and vibrant… there’s nothing like eating dinner outside on the deck, barefoot, listening to all the little birds as the sun goes down. If you’re ever feeling like you’re moving too fast, or don’t have enough time to slow down, just grab a muffin and go sit outside and stare at a freaking tree… instant calm.  Once you’re out there, it’s that much easier to see that there’s just so much to be thankful for.

Paleo Lemon-Poppyseed Muffins with Raspberry Drizzle

Prep time: 40 min

Cook time: 20 min

Note: fruit could probably be added to these, but also adds moisture. For about ¾-1 cup of fruit, I might add another tablespoon or two of almond flour to absorb. Riper Fruit = more watery.

For the muffins:

  • 1 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan vanilla salt
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup of raw honey
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (not the bottled stuff!), plus zest of 2 lemons. This required about 2-3 lemons with a really good juicer
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the sauce:

  • ¾ cup raspberries
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ½ tsp arrowroot powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix honey, lemon juice, ¾ of the lemon zest (leave a little for the garnish), coconut milk, eggs, coconut oil and vanilla extract together in a bowl.
  3. Separately in another bowl, mix the flower, shredded coconut, coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and poppy seeds.
  4. Combine the ingredients and let stand for a few minutes to let the dry ingredients soak everything in.
  5. In a greased muffin pan, fill the cups about 2/3 the way full. Paper liners stick to these, so I would recommend using just a regular muffin pan.
  6. Bake about 18-20 minutes. To test if they’re done, stick a toothpick of a knife in one; nothing should stick to it if they’re done baking.
  7. Meanwhile, as the muffins are baking, heat the raspberries, water and honey in a pan on medium low heat until it begins to bubble, about 2-3 minutes. Turn to low and let stew for another 2-3 minutes.
  8. Once the berries soften, add to a mixer or blender and pulse until consistent texture… this didn’t take more than a few pulses, as there wasn’t a lot of berries and a Vitamix is super aggressive.
  9. Return mixture to pan on medium low heat, stirring in arrowroot powder slowly. Unlike corn starch, this doesn’t stay clumpy so you can usually add it right to what you’re cooking. However – it thickens VERY quickly when heated, so make sure you stir it in right away, and continue to stir until you use it!

The muffins should be done around the same time as this sauce, so once you have them out of the oven, drizzle the mixture over-top immediately. A little melting and dripping makes them pretty, so no need to let them cool before adding the drizzle.

Sprinkle the remaining lemon zest over them and serve. Enjoy!

-S

I wanna taco ’bout Mexican Food… Paleo Beef Enchiladas

Hola muchachos y muchachas! How are y’all livin? There’s something about Tuesdays that really makes me love Mexican food…. I just can’t quite put my finger on why I would love, say… a taco, on a Tuesday.

My hometown is so rich with Latino culture, it’s amazing. I feel like a lot of people take it for granted. From living here I was able to learn fluent Spanish, bust out some mean pico de gallo salsa, and appreciate some good ol’ Reggaeton music. The mushroom industry is huge here and it employs a lot of the Mexican population, and they are some of the hardest working people who are so loyal to their family and their faith. Let me tell you, there’s nothing that beats their FOOD, though. Mexican restaurants are always within walking distance, and their homemade tortillas, sauces and spices… just so good.

One interesting thing about Mexican culture is how transparent they are in fusing their faith in their daily lives. To be religious is pretty casual but still very important; they hold their faith in high regard. While they aren’t common here around my hometown, there are curanderos in Mexico, or spiritual healers, who serve vital roles in people’s spiritual and medical lives.

The practice of curandurismo, or holistic healing, combines, psychic healing, prayer and herbal remedies as modalities to cure illness. They can incorporate Catholic elements into their healing, such as holy water of pictures of Saints, but most remedies involve natural elements, or even adding herbs to your food to help nourish yourself or cure any ailments.

This is why Cumin became such an important staple to Latino cuisine, and shares roots with other deeply spiritual cultures in the Middle East. It has been known to be used in a poultice, a diuretic and can even help settle your stomach. I love the delicious spicy smell to it – which is why I had to make an amazing paleo alternative to one of my favorite dishes at my favorite Mexican restaurant….I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

 

Paleo Beef Enchiladas

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Prep time: 30 min

Cook time: 30 min 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef. If you feel fancy, you can use a nicer cut of beef and chop it.
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, minced
  • 1 can of petite diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 can of no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 brown rice tortillas
  • 1 8oz can of Refried beans
  • 2 tsp taco seasoning, more to taste
  • 1 tsp salt, more to taste
  • 1 tsp pepper

 

Enchilada sauce*:

  • 3 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 1 8 oz can of  tomato paste
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

*Note: leftover enchilada sauce can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to a week.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a saucepan, melt the ghee or coconut oil over medium heat. Add tomato paste and chicken stock and whisk until combined, allowing mixture to bubble. Continue to whisk, adding chili pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, onion powder.
  3. Cook for approximately 5-6 minutes, and then turn to low heat. Add arrowroot powder, and whisk to ensure the right consistency. Once mixed, set aside on low/simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent it from cooling down and getting too thick.
  4. In a larger frying pan, add ground beef and minced onion. No need for any oil – the beef should have enough fat to keep the pan contents from sticking. Stir occasionally, ensuring beef is thoroughly cooked and browned.
  5. Once cooked, add beans, mushroom, taco seasoning, salt and pepper. Continue to stir and cook on medium high heat for another 4-5 minutes until the mushroom is cooked and remove from heat.
  6. Using a clean workspace, spread refried bean mixture across top of tortilla, covering the entire thing. Add scoop of beef mixture, and tightly roll the enchilada up. You want to work quickly, as the rice tortillas can dry out more so than a corn or flour one.
  7. Add a large spoonful of enchilada sauce to the bottom of a greased baking dish. Arrange the enchiladas side by side. My baking dish fit 4 across and 2 perpendicular next to them, so you can get creative with how you arrange them if they come out bigger than expected.
  8. Add enchilada sauce, using enough to cover all of the tortillas and bottom of the pan. Drizzle over edges of enchiladas to prevent them from burning. Cover with foil and bake for 15 min, removing foil for last 5 min until edges are golden. It’s alright if the tortillas don’t remain intact — they’re still tasty 🙂

Best served with a nice side of rice, or a side salad.

Enjoy!

-S

Maple Ginger Salmon (Paleo)

fullsizeoutput_239.jpegThere’s something about this recipe that really just brings back great memories. When I was 14, I worked at a sandwich shop near my house. Though it wasn’t in a populated area (the store itself was actually in the woods, next to a creek), people came from all over to eat deli sandwiches, buy penny candy, sip coffee and stop in to bring home dinner for the evening. The “regulars” took on a few different personas, depending on what time of day it was. There was the coffee crew, a collective group of older men that would make their way down to the storefront in their pick-up trucks and wait out front until the door opened at 6am. This sounds a bit menacing, but these were the grandfathers, fathers, great uncles and brothers of prominent business owners and other fixtures within the community; they were the friendly 2nd, 3rd and sometimes 4th generation men who were always there to help. Following this group were the landscapers,  construction foremen, local law enforcement, and of course, the kids came around once school let out. The last group that you could always look forward to consisted of busy mothers with children in tow, or a hurried husband designated with the task of manning that night’s dinner. Each person was there for something a bit different, yet the sentiment was always the same. This is where you came to grab a quick bite, an ingredient for later, or just some conversation with another local about when that darn bridge would get fixed. There is really something to be said about having a communal gathering place in a small town and the camaraderie it promotes… but then again, this was a REALLY small town.

I had started out behind the counter, making sandwiches and operating the cash register. My older sister had started there a few years prior, and had shown me how to make several of the staple recipes; the egg salad and deviled eggs, the Caesar salad dressing for the pre-made salad kits, the marinade for the salmon. If one knew anything about us, it was that we were (are) both perfectionists. As such, we had developed quite a reputation for making our sandwiches, neatly and symmetrically stacking our sliced deli cheeses, or throwing out “old” food maybe a bit prematurely (much to the dismay of our store owner). We made sure everything was made exactly the same way, every time, and that was what people came back for. While that was nice and all, I’m not sure what happened since then, because I can’t remember the last time I read a recipe and thought, “Wow, I am going to make this without changing a damn thing!!!” I change everything. I duplicate nothing. It’s only a problem if you think of it as a problem!

fullsizeoutput_23e.jpegOne of the previous store owners was a chef – people would line up out the door if they knew he was making one of his specialties. Of all the things we helped make, the Salmon was, by far, my favorite. Like I said before, my recall of how it was really made has since left me, but that’s probably for the best so I don’t infringe on his true recipe. I’ve tweaked this over the years, and FORTUNATELY, I remember my measurements so it comes out the same each time. I’m all for catering to individual preference though – if you like yours to have a bit more zip, add whatever you’d like. A friend of mine “helped” me make this once, and dumped 2 tbsp of sriracha in the sauce bowl when I wandered away. We called that ‘Hell House’ salmon…. and that’s where we left it.

At the end of the day – there’s something to be said for nostalgia. To have something that you’re able to fondly look back on keeps your perspective of the past, and sets a precedent for your future if you approach it with the same positivity you look back at happy memories with.

Maple Ginger Salmon

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Prep time: 20 min

Cook Time: 15-20 min

Serves 4

Note: You can marinate the salmon prior to cooking – I usually try to do at least 2 hours in the fridge, if I have the time. Not mandatory, though!

Ingredients

  • 4 half-pound fillets of wild caught salmon, skin and bones removed
  • 1/3 cup red or brown miso paste, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup; more to taste if needed
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, very finely minced, or ground with a zester
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup tamari (soy sauce can be used for non-gluten free alternative)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup scallions, sliced thin

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix miso paste, maple syrup, ginger, garlic, half of the scallions and tamari together in a bowl. Slowly drizzle olive oil in until emulsified. The sauce should be thick, but not like a paste. If too thick, add more oil, slowly. Feel free to taste and add more of each ingredient as necessary – some like their salmon a bit saltier, some a bit sweeter.
  3. If cooking immediately in the oven, brush the bottom of a 3 quart glass baking dish with some of the marinade. Place salmon in the dish, allowing space between the fillets so they can cook evenly. If you’re grilling, just make sure you switch out your plate from the raw salmon to a fresh one – always a good idea with raw meats.
  4. The salmon should be cooked after approximately 15-20min – you don’t want it too dry, the salmon should be opaque and starting to flake. Once removed from the oven, garnish with remaining scallions. Enjoy this with some Garlicky Tahini Kale. 🙂

Enjoy!

-S

Hasselback Potatoes… “Prana Potatoes” (Vegan)

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I’m not sure why, but this side dish always reminds me of football. I guess maybe since some potatoes are like little mini footballs? I’ve seen so many variations on Pinterest about a “super special game-time treat”, but since I really don’t care (unless it’s Penn State, and even then… I don’t care a whole lot) about football, why wait for the Superbowl to make something like this? Why wait for any occasion? As long as you have the time, treat yourself to some peace and quiet and make a snack. I’m learning how increasingly important it is to slow down sometimes, and I made a few of these a little while ago, wrapped each one up and pawned them off on everyone I could. If you see me approaching you with a potato wrapped in foil, I come in peace. I made a few variations that I’ll share over time, but this one is one I made for a friend who is vegan.

As I write about this potato, I just want to emphasize how important it is to dedicate time  out of your busy day, or week, to take a pause… a potato pause. Remember that you are human, you can only do one thing at a time, and if that thing isn’t benefiting you, strengthening you, preparing you or teaching you, then stop doing it. I try to pack a LOT of stuff into my day, which is made harder by my self-imposed/non-negotiable bedtime of 9:30. Even so, I still try to take 20-30 minutes to read a book, make some tea, or have a 90’s Alternative jam session at the kitchen table. You wouldn’t drive a car with a cloudy windshield or empty gas tank, so why try to can’t operate the same way physically? You wouldn’t make it very far.

With that said, set some time aside in your day and make yourself a prana-potato. Namaste.

Vegan Parmesan Hasselback Potatoes

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Prep time: 30 min

Cook Time: 80 min (total)

Serves: 2

Note: non-vegan equivalents can be subbed for this recipe; I made one for myself that was non-vegan with butter, real Parmesan and a bit of cheddar, and it came out quite delicious.

Ingredients

  • 2 large russet potatoes, rinsed/scrubbed
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup cremini mushrooms, finely minced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tbsp vegan butter or olive oil
  • ~1/4 cup Vegan Parmesan, plus more to taste
  • 1 tsp Himalayan or sea salt, or more to taste (I really like salt…..)
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp parsley, minced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely minced

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Coat potatoes in vegan butter or olive oil, and cover with foil. I don’t scour the edges or poke them with a fork in this case, since I don’t want to compromise the potato skin for when I slice it later. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Once cooked, take out of the oven, uncover and set aside to cool and to allow the skin to dry a little, in preparation for slicing.
  3. While the potatoes are cooling, cut your onion in half (length-wise, top to bottom). I start slicing opposite from the fuzzy side, so that it stays together all the way through cutting. Sauté on medium low heat until translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, and mushrooms to pan, ensuring you’re stirring to prevent them from burning. Season with a pinch of salt, pepper, paprika and parsley. Continue to cook for 5-7 minutes, until everything starts to brown.
  5. Separately, mix the 3 tbsp olive oil with your ¼ cup vegan parmesan – it should form a paste. Set aside.
  6. Meanwhile, get your potatoes on a cutting board to slice. There’s a few schools of thought here – I’ve done it both ways. If you’ve got a flatter potato, you can use two chopsticks underneath the potato to prevent from cutting all the way  through. Personally, I’m just very careful and make sure I cut them very sloooooowly. Cut the potatoes into very thin slices – if possible, about 1/8 inch. You want the bottom of the potatoes to have all the slices still attached.
  7. Drop oven temperature down to 400 degrees. Place potatoes on greased cookie sheet or in a baking dish. Brush with the remaining tbsp of olive oil or vegan butter, and add a generous pinch of salt and pepper over the surface.
  8. Spread half of the vegan parmesan/olive oil paste throughout the slices on each potato, being careful not to detach each of the slices.
  9. Add your toppings, tucking the mushroom and onion mixture in between the slices. It won’t all fit, so I just throw whatever doesn’t right top of the potato. Optional: sprinkle a little extra vegan Parm on top.
  10. Bake for another 20 minutes, until toppings are golden brown. Serve with some Maple Ginger Salmon.

Enjoy!

-S