Zesty Mac and Cheese (Vegan AND PALEO!)

So…. Let’s talk about fall. Let’s talk about….. how I have a closet full of sweaters, I’ve done really well and haven’t bought any new ones (because where the hell am I going, let’s be totally honest), but am bummed because normally I get to go to wineries, fun parties…. Who am I kidding, WORK is my fashion show. Even still, the little things I miss the most have gotten to me a bit… down.

So, I eat my feelings. Working on that…. But for now, we eat.

I’ve been trying to eat a lot less meat in general, and with that – I figure, why not reduce animal stuff altogether? It isn’t actually difficult once you know some basic swaps – vegetable broth for chicken broth, vegan mayo for regular, dairy-free milks (cashew, almond and oat for ones without flavor!)… even if you’re not looking to go “vegan” per se, I find that these little swaps are great ways to cut down cholesterol, sodium or calories in general, if you need to. That, and I have several friends that have dietary restrictions, so I love a challenge.

I was familiar with butternut squash as a sauce, but this was kind of a “winging it” type of thing. Some of these ingredients aren’t normal things one has in their kitchen, but they’re worth buying, and at least in my area, can be found pretty easily. If you have an immersion blender or regular blender, you’ll need it for tonight.

Please note… as good as this is, I realize that some of my friends reading this just want the real thing. Just shoot me an email if you want a real Pennsyl-tucky dairy filled Mac-and-cheese recipe…., my mama makes a mean recipe I also happen to know how to make…. 😉

Yum!

 

Zesty Mac and Cheese (Vegan with PALEO option!)

 

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 45 min

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups paleo-friendly noodles, like Jovial Cassava noodles
  • 2 cups of cubed butternut squash, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp vegan sour cream (I love this brand, search the link where to find it – omit if strict paleo!)
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 1 heaping tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Sprinkle of pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter, or ghee
  • ½ cup of vegetable broth, plus more if needed for texture

optional – breadcrumbs:

  • 2 tbsp almond flour (if not paleo, panko breadcrumbs can be used)
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • sprinkle of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of parsley

 

Directions

  1. In a sauce pan, add a tbsp of your preferred cooking fat, your onion and squash. Sauté your onion and butternut squash until soft, about 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover with a lid to ensure steam stays in to soften them faster.
  2. Once soft, add your vegetable broth. Continue to simmer for another 2-3 minutes, adding some salt and pepper. Now, add your paprika, garlic, cumin and chili powder.
  3. At this step, you can either use your immersion blender to puree until smooth, or place into a blender and puree until smooth. The texture should be somewhat thick like cheese sauce and soupy, but not thick like veggies or thin like soup. Add vegetable broth accordingly to adjust texture. Set sauce aside so that the flavors can meld.
  4. In a separate put, bring water to a boil – add your noodles, and boil until al dente.
  5. While they’re boiling, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a skillet or pyrex dish (my skillet is an 8 inch mini Lodge skillet).
  6. Once noodles are cooked and drained according to cooking instruction, Mix them into your sauce. It may look like you have “too much sauce”, but it will absorb slightly into the noodles once baked. Place into your skillet or baking dish, and bake until golden, about 20-25 minutes.
  7. While your macaroni is baking, if using paleo breadcrumbs, mix together all breadcrumb ingredients in a dry small frying pan and toast slightly over medium heat until starting to brown. If using regular breadcrumbs – no need to pre-toast. With 5 minutes left of cooking, remove the mac and cheese and sprinkle your breadcrumbs over top – bake another 5 minutes until starting to brown further, but not burning.
  8. Serve while hot. Enjoy!

-S

Bacon Wrapped Sweet Potato Wedges with Avocado Crema (PALEO!)

Sunday Funday! Except not, because we can’t really do anything.

Guys, I still have yams that I can’t seem to get rid of. When I bought so many, I really didn’t think about how creative I’d have to be to find ways to eat them… that weren’t super boring. Cue the bacon…

Though this year has been a lot different, I love going to the Kennett Square Farmers Market to get stuff like local produce, meats, etc. Though I don’t try to eat a lot of meat, I do prefer to know that it was responsibly farmed and that the animal lived as best a life as it could have. I like buying from Canter Hill Farm out of Malvern, PA – they take organic and animal welfare to the next level. I had some bacon in my freezer, and hot damn, it was the perfect thing to use with sweet potatoes. I’ve done a vegetable hash before, but I wanted to be ready with a great snack idea, once we’re all allowed to party again. Without further delay….

 

Bacon Wrapped Sweet Potato Wedges with Avocado Crema (PALEO!)

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 30-40 min

 

Ingredients

  • 2-3 large sweet potatoes, cut into about 8 wedges each
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 lb thick cut (preferably local!) bacon

for the crema:

  • 1 small container of Greek-style dairy free yogurt, or regular Greek yogurt if not strict paleo
  • 1 avocado, ripe/bright green
  • Juice from 1 lime, or 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • salt, to taste

Important supplies – a wire baking rack for your sheet (so the bacon doesn’t get soggy)

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease/spray your wire backing rack, and place on a foil-lined baking sheet (foil for easy clean up!).
  2. In a small mixing bowl, mix together your paprika, garlic and chili powder, with just a pinch of salt. On each wedge, sprinkle the seasoning on both sides of the wedge, and wrap the bacon around the wedge like a spiral, starting at one end and working your way to the other end.
  3. Repeat this for each of the wedges, placing them evenly spaced on the wire rack/baking sheet.
  4. If you have any leftover seasoning mix, sprinkle over the wedges.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until bacon starts to brown. It’s best to flip them halfway through, so that the bottom side is able to brown just as the top does.
  6. Meanwhile, while they’re baking, mash your avocado in a mixing bowl, so that no chunks remain. If you like particularly smooth avocado puree, you can do this step in a food processor. Quite frankly, I did mine by hand because it was 8:30pm and I didn’t want to dirty another dish, so it worked just fine.
  7. Once the avocado is mashed or pureed, mix in your Greek yogurt, lime juice and pinch of salt. Continue to mix until smooth. Place in refrigerator until use.
  8. Once your sweet potato wedges are cooked, serve immediately while hot, with your crema on the side.

 

Enjoy!

-S

Sweet Potato Medallions topped with Pesto Chicken (PALEO!)

Holy moly! This weather. Maybe it’s because my “desk” at home looks right out the window, so I’m super aware of every rain drop that falls outside. The most excitement I’m having these days.

Question for you all – how adventurous are you with ingredients? Will you make a substitution for something you really wanted to make, but don’t have all the ingredients? I wanted to make pesto, but didn’t have everything I needed…. I made some substitutes, and it turned out GREAT. Swapped out pine nuts because I didn’t have them, used walnuts. Wanted parmesan, didn’t have it, used nutritional yeast. Like, I may have eaten a spoonful of it by itself because it was so good, and because I am disgusting. Between that, and the sweet potatoes on my counter that were about to turn, everything was about to be disgusting. Until I had an idea.

I got out my Instant Pot, made some chicken, shredded it, and threw it together on some sweet potatoes. I couldn’t finish them all, so I threw the plate in the fridge with some foil and ate them for breakfast at 645am. Keeping the disgust going, that’s right.

Though the way I made them is more appetizer-style, these are just tasty when made as a regular baked sweet potato stuffed with this mixture. Highly recommend.

 

Sweet Potato Medallions topped with Pesto Chicken (PALEO!)

 

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 40 min (total)

 

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, skin on, sliced into rounds
  • 2 large chicken breasts

 

For the pesto:

  • 1 large bunch of basil, stems removed (approx. 2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes (if not strict paleo, you can sub for two heaping tbsp of shredded parmesan or pecorino cheese)
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (or pine nuts)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • sea salt, to taste

 

Directions

  1. Cook chicken breast by preferred method – I used my Instant Pot on the “Meat” setting for 14 minutes, but you can also bake in a pyrex dish at 375 degrees F for 30-35 min with a cup of water, salt and pepper. Once cooked, place in a bowl and shred with forks until no large chunks remain.
  2. In the meantime while the chicken is cooking, prepare the pesto. In a food processor, add your basil, garlic, walnuts, lemon zest/juice, salt, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until no large chunks remain, about 30-40 seconds total. Once emulsified, while the food processor is running, drizzle your olive oil in until fully mixed. Do a quick taste test, add more salt if needed.
  3. If you didn’t use it already to cook the chicken, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. On a greased or parchment lined baking sheet, brush your sweet potato medallions with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until golden, about 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove from heat once finished, leaving oven on.
  4. Once the pesto is finished, mix 1/3 to 1/2 cup of pesto into your cooked/shredded chicken and mix thoroughly. Chicken should be thoroughly coated – add a teaspoon at a time if it appears dry. Spoon the chicken mixture neatly onto your sweet potato medallions, and place back into the oven for another 5-7 minutes, reheating thoroughly.
  5. Optional: garnish with a small dollop of pesto. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

-S

Crispy Roasted Plantains with Cilantro Lime Aioli (Paleo, Vegan!)

Hey y’all!

It’s definitely been a while, I know I need to make an effort to post more. I’ve been cooking, I’ve just been terrible about documenting everything. Some fun stuff, some un-fun stuff, busy with work, the whole nine. I’m headed to the beach late next week, followed by a trip to Philly to see KHALID! (thanks work!), and I plan to just eat… NON STOP. I’ll have to fit some running in there, I think.

Guess what today is! It’s the start of Leo.  Where are my LEO’s at?! A lot of people near and dear to my heart are born under this sign, and I definitely feel a complete shift in energy, for the better. Interesting about this particular time is that when we are dead in the middle of this fixed Fire sign, there’s a lot more intensity, energy, creativity and overall happiness. People are back in their element. I like that, because all of those warm-weather summer projects are calling. Oh, and that intense heatwave is done, so I no longer have to carry my giant dog across the pavement to the grass for her to go to the bathroom.  It’ll only get better when mercury retrograde is done on July 31, when all the confusion and A.D.D.  slows down.

Let’s get to it! Who loves to dip stuff into..stuff? I do. My latest obsession is plantains. They’re the older brother of the banana… less sweet, starchier, can go sweet or savory. Though I feel like I’ll never live down the nasty, bouncy-ball, chewy charcoal briquette plantain slices I made a few months ago, my tribe… they’re good sports. They’ll try these again.

The key to making this dish is RIPE plantains. Borderline brown. Slice them down the middle, gently, and carefully peel them. They’re just so wonderful.

 

Crispy Roasted Plantains with Cilantro Lime Aioli (Paleo, Vegan!)

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 40 min

 

Ingredients

  • 3 large plantains, peeled, sliced into ½ inch pieces on a diagonal
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • sprinkle of garlic powder
  • sprinkle of onion powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the aioli

  • 2/3 cup paleo or vegan friendly mayo – i like soy-free Vegenaise
  • juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • 1 small garlic glove, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 heaping tbsp of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • pinch of Himalayan salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

 

Directions

  1. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, add 1 tbsp of ghee. Once up to temperature, add plantains, spacing evenly. Sauté until golden brown on each side, about 3-4 minutes per side. Use your remaining tbsp of ghee once you flip the plantains to the 2nd side, to ensure a consistent golden brown crust.
  2. As plantains are cooking, mix together your aioli ingredients and add to a small serving bowl.
  3. Once plantains are thoroughly cooked, tender and brown on both sides, transfer to a paper-towel covered plate to drain excess oil. Serve immediately while still hot.
  4. Garnish with cilantro, lime and one last dusting of salt.

 

Enjoy!

-S

Jalapeño Popper Deviled Eggs (Paleo!)

So, I’m starting to think that Fall is never actually happening… it’s sweltering hot, we’ve got hurricanes around every corner, there’s bugs…. There’s a lot of issues with this and it’s just not working out. You know what’s fun though? The Flyers playing, whatever other football game is on, baseball…. While I really only care about the Flyers, you know what I love about sports parties? FOOD.

I’ve had to behave myself and really eat well these last few weeks, because once a game comes on…. Well, willpower goes out the window I can’t help but eat everything in sight. What I really am trying to say is that I haven’t behaved myself at all, and I’ve been eating like a dump truck. Better get crackin’.

I don’t know about you guys, but while I love the coziness of sit-down Sunday dinners each week, I also love making snacks for game time so there’s more variety, and more choices to eat. A friend at work has brought me jalapeńo peppers, and I knew just what I wanted to make.

Deviled eggs!

The cool thing about them is a.) once you hard boil them, they’re pretty hard to screw up. Not to say I haven’t had a nasty deviled egg in my life, but if you mess them up, you can add different flavors little by little to fix them back up. A great way to jazz them up is to add bacon… because bacon is the best. With that, I had an idea… why not add jalapeńo?

I bring you… jalapeńo popper deviled eggs. I promise you, they’re worth a try.

Jalapeño Popper Deviled Eggs (Paleo!)

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 12 min

Ingredients

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise, plus more if needed
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp paprika, plus more for garnish
  • 1 large jalapeńo(stems and seeds removed), minced
  • 1 heaping tbsp of chives, chopped
  • 3-4 pieces of cooked bacon, chopped

Directions

  1. In a large pot, place your eggs in room  temperature water that covers the eggs completely. Add a pinch of table salt, and a dash of vinegar. (rumor has it this makes the eggs easier to peel).
  2. Bring to a boil, and let boil for 90 seconds. Turn the heat off, and cover. Let sit for 12 minutes.
  3. Once 12 minutes has passed, place your eggs in a bowl of ice water to prevent overcooking. This also cuts down on cool-down time needed before you start to peel. Once the eggs are cooled, gently peel the shells off and discard.
  4. Cut eggs lengthwise in half. Remove yolks and place into medium-sized bowl. Set your white halves on a plate, face up,  to use later.
  5. Mash your yolks with fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar and black pepper, mix well. Next, add your bacon, jalapeńo and chives. Add any additional salt to taste, continuing to gently mix.
  6. scoop the mix into a ziploc bag with the tip cut (big enough for bacon pieces to pass) or a spoon, fill each egg white half with the mixture to desired amount — be generous. Refrigerate, covered, to allow flavors to blend. Sprinkle with paprika just before serving, if desired.

Enjoy!

-S

Toasted/Candied Nuts

Picture from foodhomeandaway.com, image subject to copyright

Prep time: 5 min

Cook time: 15-20 min

This is the perfect staple to salads, pasta dishes, or even a snack/charcuterie tray. You can dress them up, make them spicy, the whole nine. Follow this simple “recipe” to make delicious, walnuts, pecans, or more! I always keep some on hand to throw into a recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 to 2 cups of your preferred nut (I often use roasted/unsalted pecans or walnuts)
  • Egg whites from 1-2 eggs, depending on how much nuts you have
  • Spices of your choice – for candied/sweeter ones, I’ll use maple syrup, coconut sugar, etc. For savory ones, I’ll use salt, garlic powder, dried herbs such as parsley, chives, thyme… whatever you want! Be very generous with seasoning

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Grease a large cookie sheet, or line with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, add your egg whites and seasonings to a large bowl. Using a whisk or a mixer, briskly whip your egg whites until they are quite foamy. You don’t want merengue-style egg whites, and you definitely shouldn’t have any peaks…. Just enough elbow grease to get the eggs pretty foamy and opaque.
  3. Add your nuts into a large Ziploc bag or bowl, and pour in your egg whites. Stir/shake to coat thoroughly.
  4. Add your nuts in a single layer to your cookie sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes, until starting to darken/crisp. Don’t be alarmed if they’re chewy when you first remove them from the oven… they will crisp up as they dry. Allow to cool.

Enjoy!

-S