Sunday, July 29, 2012

How I Learned to Love Breakfast ~ Homemade Breakfast Sausage

I never ate breakfast growing up.  I despised most breakfast foods.  I didn't like eggs, bacon, pancakes, cereal with milk, toast, sausage, or danishes.

There were a few exceptions:


Waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream

Apple cinnamon walnut pancakes with butter and cinnamon sugar

Biscuits and Gravy  

Hash Browns

Pilsbury Cinnamon Rolls in the pop tube

Those were special occasion foods reserved for Birthdays, vacations, and Holidays. I only ate breakfast when those were on the menu.  And even then, it wasn't until mid morning, hours after I stumbled out of bed.

I am not a morning person AT ALL.  It takes me a while to roll out of bed, and even longer before I'm functional.  The thought of food or coffee within the first couple hours of me waking up was nauseating.  I used to get sick on car trips as soon as dad cracked open his green thermos full of coffee.    

Once, when I was about 7, we were visiting my Grandparents in Washington, and they took the whole family to a super fancy brunch at a restaurant overlooking Snoqualmie Falls. Rumor has it that the breakfast was very expensive, even for children, and that I only ate a few strawberries.  My Grandparents were NOT happy with me.  

Most mornings I skipped breakfast.  My mom was always on me about eating breakfast.  Sometimes she could get me to have a poptart or a glass of Carnation Instant Breakfast.  But most times I'd just wait till I got hungry around lunch time.

I know, I know. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day blah, blah, blah. 

As I got older, I still couldn't really eat until I had been up for a while.  But I had started to like some breakfast foods.  Bagels and cream cheese?  Yes, please.  Leftovers from the day before?  Sure.  A grilled cheese sandwich or a quesadila?  Always.  But still no eggs or "traditional" breakfast foods. Eventually, I learned to like an egg breakfast casserolle my mom made for Christmas breakfast every year.  It barely tastes at all like eggs and is full of bread, sausage, cheese, and a mushroom sauce. 

Mom, I can't wait for Christmas breakfast.  I look forward to it all year long.  We'll make an allergy friendly one again this year! 

When I met Dave, he was a breakfast person.  I'd want to go out for an early Sunday lunch.  He would want a big, Sunday breakfast.  Most places won't serve lunch until 11.  But every Sunday morning hangover needs a filling, greasy meal to make you feel better.  I usually ended up getting a side of hash-browns or a side of biscuits and gravy.  Sometimes I would order a meal and ask for the eggs on the side and give them to Dave.   I always wanted to order the fruit bowl, but they always have melons, and I'm very allergic to them.  Sometimes I timidly asked if they would make an exception to their lunch service times and ordered a sandwich or a burger. I got mixed responses.  I never went hungry, but I didn't understand the obsession with breakfast. 

As slowly as I introduced him to new foods, like cheesecake, he introduced me to breakfast foods, like bacon and cheese omelets .  Then suddenly breakfast became my favorite meal of the day.  I couldn't get enough of omelets.  Fluffy eggs stuffed with veggies, meats and cheeses.  A pile of hash-browns.  A side of gravy.  Sourdough toast slathered in butter.  Then came the love of bacon.  Glorious bacon. 

I could eat an enormous breakfast Sunday morning and then not eat again till dinner, or even Monday morning. 

As I've gotten older, my body has decided that it functions much better on a protein heavy morning meal.  I am more awake and less hungry throughout the day. It just makes me feel better.  

Last year, Dave started working and living out of town, so I ended up cooking scrambled eggs for myself most nights.  It was quick, easy, and filling.  I was loving breakfast so much, I was now making "brinner."

Then in February, I found out I was allergic to eggs.  The food that I had grown to love, ripped away from me.  

Once again, my dear friends, who both eat a paleo diet, found me recipes that didn't have eggs, or could be made without eggs, but were still filling.   One of the recipes was a root vegetable hash topped with meat and avocado and a fried egg.  Leave the fried egg out of the recipe, and I would have a tasty breakfast! 

My local grocery store makes amazing homemade sausages.  They have so many flavors, including an Italian breakfast sausage.  Right now, I can't eat it because it contains bay leaves and some other ingredients that I tested positive to.  

The other day, I really wanted some sausage on my breakfast hash, so I decided to figure out how to make it myself.  

I am a lazy cook, I admit it.  So instead of starting out with a whole pork roast and pork fat and grinding it myself, I decided to buy plain, organic ground pork and just season it for myself.  I added salt, pepper, some of my fermented garlic cloves, and a chopped up red bell pepper.  I mixed it all together and browned it in the skillet.  I could have stuffed it into casings or even made patties, but that's so much work, and I was hungry! 

I ended up roasting my sweet potatoes in the oven only because they end up using so much fat when you cook them in a skillet and they get a bit too greasy for my taste.  I know that one should get plenty of healthy fats in their diet, and I would already be eating lots of other healthy fats in this meal. 

 Everything in moderation, right?!?!

While the sweet potatoes were cooking, I added a diced up onion and added it to the browned sausage.  I let it cook until it was soft and translucent.  When the potatoes were done, I added them to the skillet with the cooked sausage and tossed it.  I served it with sliced avocado on top.  You could definitely add a fried egg or two on top.  I was getting low on veggies when I made this, but I will add more veggies in with the onions, like some chopped baby spinach or some shredded zucchini.  And with any breakfast, it would be great topped with some hot sauce.  But the eggs and hot sauce will have to wait for me right now.  But you should try it and tell me how it was!  

Homemade Breakfast Sausage 

2 lbs organic ground pork
2 tbl salt
2 tbl of pepper
1 red bell pepper, minced
4 tbl fennel seeds
10 (fermented - opt.) garlic cloves, minced

Mix all ingredients together until just combined.   Can form into patties first if desired.  Brown in the skillet or use in your favorite recipe! Always cook pork thoroughly until no longer pink in the middle. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Seared Scallops with Grilled Pineapple Salsa

I love seafood.  Sushi is by far my favorite food ever.  I'm not talking about a deep fried cali roll but actual fresh fish made into an amazing piece of sashimi, nigiri, or an inventive roll.

I also love cooked seafood.  Crab.  Shrimp.  Lobster.  Salmon. Trout.  Anchovies.  I love it all.

Growing up so close to the ocean, and into a family that loves to fish, I have had the privilege of eating such a wide variety of seafood.  I've had fresh abalone hours after it's been pulled from the ocean.  I've eaten fresh lake trout pan fried the same day it was caught.  I eat seafood every chance I get.  I've eaten at fine dining restaurants overlooking the Ocean, and fish tacos in my car from a local fast food place.

When I eat something amazing at a restaurant, I am always determined to recreate it at home.  I can't afford to go out and eat sushi, or salmon, or lobster.  But I can afford to make that stuff at home on a fairly regular basis.

Last week, I made some amazing Grilled Pineapple Salsa.  It was sweet and spicy.  It reminded me of being back in Hawaii.  Hawaii also has such wonderful, fresh seafood. Instantly I knew that this had to be paired up with an amazing seafood dish.

I had a bag of scallops from Costco in the freezer.  These are the big scallops, about 8 count per pound!  I grabbed out 8, placed them in the colander, and ran cold water over them to thaw them quickly.

When they were thawed, I dried them off on a paper towel.  Seasoned them lightly with salt and pepper and quickly cooked them in a hot skillet with a little bit of coconut oil.  You have to be so careful when cooking scallops.  A few seconds too little and they are mushy in the center.  A few seconds to long, and they end up rubbery and taste like a tire.

As soon as they were done, I placed them on top of a bed of lettuce and crisp cucumber slices.  Topped them with the chilled pineapple salsa, and sprinkled a tiny bit of raw goat feta cheese on top.  I wanted to add some avocado slices, but I was all out.

It.was.delectable.  Hubby said it was light and refreshing, yet filling.

This is one of those dishes that makes you genuinely sad when you finish your plate.  I could eat this every day, all summer long.  

Seared Scallops with Grilled Pineapple Salsa Salad

1 lb fresh/thawed large sea scallops
salt and pepper
1-2 tsp coconut oil

4-6 cups mixed baby greens
1 cucumber, sliced thinly (peel and seed if desired)
2 ounces raw goat feta cheese, crumbled

Pat scallops dry.  Season with salt and pepper.  Heat a large skillet or grill pain over medium high heat. Add coconut oil.  When oil is hot, add scallops gently to the pan.  Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown and just barely cooked all the way through.

Divide lettuce among plates or salad bowls. Add several cucumber slices.  Top with hot scallops and pineapple salsa.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Serve immediately!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Crockpot Shredded Peperoncini Beef

Ever had a week so jam packed that it feels like you go to work to relax?  Me too. 


Being on a restrictive diet complicates things so much.  No longer can I grab take out and skip cooking.

But what about when you don't have time to cook, but you want to eat more than a Larabar?

You cook with your crockpot!

I love my crockpot so much.  It frees up so much of my time.  Who doesn't love coming home to a hot dinner waiting on the counter?

It's so hard to find recipes for the crockpot that don't involve cream of something soup or a bunch of packaged mixes.   When you have dietary restrictions like I do, you have to stay away from most prepared foods. Not to mention those soups and mixes are terrible for you, full of nasty ingredients like MSG.

In 2008, when Stephanie O'Dea started her 365 days of crockpotting blog, I was excited!  I found her early into her adventure, and was excited to see recipes that weren't full of the soups and packets, but actual real recipes.  Her family eats GF, too, so I knew it would be a little bit healthier than most recipes I typically see. 

When I started eating GF, I already knew a little bit about eating GF, thanks to her blog.  It made it seem less overwhelming and I eased right into the new lifestyle.  Now that I'm even more restrictive, I can still find some recipes that I can eat! 

This recipe is great because it takes about a minute to prepare before you leave for work.  And if you are like me, that one minute is a huge deal.  It's 2 ingredients, and the leftovers can be used multiple ways.  I usually use a 4-5lb roast and 2 pints of homemade pickled peppers. i usually just serve it alone with a couple veggie sides or a big salad.  Thank you, crockpot 365, for such an awesome recipe!

 Shredded Peperoncini Beef

1 chuck roast, about 2 lbs
1 16 oz jar of peperoncinis

Place roast in the crockpot.  Leave the fat on the roast while it cooks.  You will discard the fat after it cooks.  If you trim off the fat now, the meat will dry out in the crockpot.  Add entire jar of peperoncinis, including liquid.  Put lid on crockpot.  Turn on low.  Set timer for 8-10 hours.  When you are ready to serve, shred the meat, discarding the fat, and peppers, if desired.  Add some of the juices to keep the meat moist. 

Pre-cooking.  I was so hungry, I forgot to take a picture when it was done.  My peperoncinis are red and green because they are home grown and home canned.  The peppers actually turn red at full maturity...and are way spicier too!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dairy-Free Pesto

I've always been a picky eater since I was little.  When I was 3 or 4 years old, I supposedly told my Grandma "I CAN'T like liver."  I remember nights sitting at the dinner table for hours because I refused to eat my dinner.  Mom would wrap it up and try to get me to eat it the next day.  I would go on a hunger strike until it was deemed inedible.  

Beef stew 
Chicken and Dumplings
Brussels Sprouts
Canned peaches in sugar syrup 
Sloppy Joes  

I would have rather eaten dirt. 

I also had this weird thing about foods touching.  It wasn't like I couldn't eat spaghetti and meat sauce.  I just didn't like two foods that shouldn't be together touch.  For example, when I was about 7, I was served a plate with a Sloppy Joe and canned peaches.

Together on the same plate.  

Nothing separating those two items.

The sugar syrup from the peaches flash flooded my plate and drowned my Sloppy Joe.  It made the bun soggy, and the Sloppy Joe had a sickeningly sweet canned peach taste to it.  I was grossed out.  I politely feigned a stomach ache and went hungry. 

Partly as a joke (but mostly not), my mom now keeps a plastic divided child's plate in the cupboard for me when I come over for dinner.
Amazingly, one thing that I actually did like as a kid were sauces.  They made food more delicious.  And they made icky food semi-tolerable.

One of my favorites was a "mock hollandaise" sauce that we ate on green veggies. A little bit of mustard stirred into some mayo.  Man, did I smother that on asparagus, brussel sprouts, and broccoli.   And gravy...I could eat that on EVERYTHING.

Now that I'm older and my taste is more refined (or it's dead taste buds from getting "old"), I find myself liking things that I didn't as a kid.  I love grilled or roasted asparagus.  I will eat peas if they are in risotto.  I still don't like canned peaches or Sloppy Joes, and I still don't like my food to touch when it's not meant to touch (Sorry for all the extra dishes)

I still love sauces and try to make them often.  I feel like they add so much to food. A piece of fried chicken is delicious, but add a rich tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese on top and you have chicken parmigina. Chicken and mushrooms are good, but add some sweet wine, butter and stock and you have Chicken Marsala. 

Even the names sound more appetizing.  

I've heard that you can tell a person is a good cook if they can make a good sauce.  I've made it my personal cooking goal to become good at making sauces, stocks, and soups.

Pesto is one of my favorite sauces I've learned how to make.  I love it so much that I planted 10 basil plants in my garden this summer.  I love to make it all summer long, freeze it in ice cube trays, and then use it all winter long when Basil is out of season.

When I found out I couldn't eat dairy, at least for now, I was so bummed because so many sauces are dairy based.  Most of them have butter, cheese, or cream in them.  Pesto has a generous amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in it, giving the sauce a salty, sharp, nutty flavor.  But lucky for me, one of my friends who eats a Paleo diet, informed me that she made a dairy free pesto and it was great!  She just took her regular recipe, left out the cheese, and it was perfect.

I pruned back my herbs this past weekend and had so much basil.  I knew it was time to make a big batch of pesto! 

I started out by toasting some raw almonds briefly in the skillet.  Just a couple minutes because you don't want them to burn.  You could also use walnuts or the traditional pine nuts, but all I had in the pantry was almonds.  

I washed my basil, discarded the stems, keeping only the leaves, and put the leaves in the food processor with the almonds, and a few cloves of fermented garlic cloves.

I pulsed the food processor a few times until it was chopped up into fine pieces. 

After everything was chopped up, I turned the food processor to the "on" position and very slowly began adding in the olive oil.  Drizzled it in very slowly until the mixture reached a "sauce" consistency. 

Finally, season to taste with salt and pepper.

You can use it immediately in your favorite recipe, freeze in ice cube trays (store in a container or ziploc so they don't absorb the freezer smells), or store for a few days in the fridge.  When I store it in the fridge, I like to pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top to prevent it from drying out and turning brown. 

Dairy Free Basil Pesto
2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
+/- 1/2  cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3-1/2 cup toasted nuts (pine nuts, almonds, walnuts)
3 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste.
Put the basil, garlic and nuts in a food processor and pulse until everything is chopped.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil until it reaches desired consistency.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Use immediately, store in a sealed container in the fridge for about 7-10 days, or freeze. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Changing traditions

Every July, Dave and I make our way to Chevys Fresh Mex, so he can indulge in their fresh Watermelon Margaritas.  I'm the DD and indulge on chips, salsa, and steak fajitas while he drinks watermelon margarita after watermelon margarita after watermelon margarita. 
While Chevy's isn't nearly as good as our local Mexican places, I do love getting the fajitas...the sizzling platter of meat on a pile of grilled veggies, surrounded by all the tasty "fixins"....that dollop of sweet corn tamalito served on a dried corn husk....the piles of soft, fresh flour tortillas to use as a vehicle to get all that deliciousness in your mouth...

Chevy's summertime watermelon margarita trips were pre-food allergy diagnosis.

Now that it's July, and watermelon margaritas are back in season, I can't join my hubby in our summer Chevy's date.  I'm allergic to wheat, soy, cumin, coriander, and a bunch of other things that are typically in Chevy's food.  While they do have a limited GF menu, I still have all the other allergies and just can't eat there, at least for now.  It makes me really disappointed to not be able to continue our summer tradition this year.  Hopefully, by next summer, my stomach will be tolerating many of those foods again and I'll be able to join him.

But for now, I cook at home, using ingredients that I know won't make me sick.But I still wanted our Chevys date.  What should I do?  I don't want to eat myself sick, but it's hard to not do things you love to do...

I remembered a few years ago, Chevy's put out a cookbook of some of there most popular items.  I did a quick search and saw that Chevy's was also kind enough to share many of their famous recipes online.  I found the recipe for their famous steak fajita marinade called "Aqua Negra" or "Black Water." I decided we were going to have our own at-home edition of Chevy's steak fajitas that would be safe for me to eat.

When you have food allergies and sensitivities, any time you make a new recipe, you need to look over the ingredient list and see if everything is safe for you to eat.  If there are things that aren't safe, then you need to ask yourself if there are safe versions of that item you could swap with, if there is something similar you could use instead, or if you could just leave the item out without ruining the recipe.

For example, if you want to make a quiche, but are allergic to wheat, you can use a gluten-free crust.  If you are allergic to cow's milk and the recipe calls for cheese, you could use goat, sheep or soy cheese, or just leave it out.  But if you are allergic to eggs, you may want to rethink making that recipe, and find something that would be easier to make with your restrictions.

The recipe called for soy sauce.  I'm allergic to both wheat and soy.  Most soy sauces have wheat in them, and all of them obviously have soy.  My friend who eats a Paleo style diet introduced me to a product called coconut aminos.  It's a wheat and soy free soy sauce alternative.  It's actually really good and tastes way less salty than regular soy sauce.  I've recently re-introduced cumin into my diet and haven't had any negative reaction, so I'm using that sparingly in my diet from now on.  I revamped their recipe and made a safe one for me to enjoy!

First, I thawed out my meat. Safely. In the fridge.  Please don't thaw your meat on the counter and get food poisoning.  And never in the microwave, because it makes it rubbery and gross.  

I buy my beef in bulk from a local ranch.  It comes individually wrapped and labeled.  It can be frozen for up to a year.  Much better prices than buying it on an "as-needed" basis at the grocery store. 

Next, I mixed up my marinade in a Ziploc bag.  I don't mix it in a separate bowl.  Why dirty another dish?  I think that the bags are much better for marinating than in a container becuase you use less marinade yet the marinade is always touching the meat.  

Meat marinating for 48 hours

I added my meat, squeezed out as much air as I could, sealed the bag, and squished everything around. Then I let it sit in the fridge for 2 days. Every 12 hours, I turned the bag over and squished things around to make sure the meat was soaking up all those yummy flavors! 

The night you are ready to eat the fajitas, start by prepping all your fixing.  The meat will grill up in no time.

all the "fixins"

fresh sliced heirloom tomato

 Then grill up your meat to a medium rare. 
Any more, and it will get overcooked, tough, and dry.   

Grilled carne asada

Now it's time to assemble all your ingredients and eat!  

Que aproveche!!!

 Carne Asada Fajitas

1.5 lbs organic, grass-fed carne asada
1/2 cup coconut aminos
1 cup crushed pineapple in 100% juice
1 tablespoons ground cumin
3 cloves minced garlic
1 lime freshly squeezed

Your favorite "fixins":  shredded lettuce,  chopped tomatoes, beans, rice, salsa, crema/sour cream, guacamole/sliced avocados, shredded cheese, salsa, cilantro, diced onions, tortillas, etc...

Combine all ingredients in a Ziploc bag.  Add carne asada. seal, taking out as much air as possible.  Lay flat in the fridge, turning every few hours.  Marinate at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.  

Remove carne asada from marinade.  Discard marinade.   Cook carne asada on a hot grill until medium rare, about a minute or two on each side, depending on the thickness of your meat.  Chop carne asada into strips or bite size chunks.  Serve hot. 


We grilled up a tray full of sliced onions and bell peppers, a tub of fresh pineapple spears from Costco, and slices of fresh yellow squash.  We wrapped everything up in a gluten free corn tortilla that had been softened in coconut oil.  You could definitely serve this without the tortillas or put on top of a salad!  

It was delicious.  It was the next best thing to going to Chevys. 

Actually, it was probably way better for us. 


I forgot to make the watermelon margaritas for Dave. 

The watermelon is still sitting on the counter.   


Next time.

I felt so bad, I took him to happy hour after work today
so he could have his watermelon margarita.  I stuck to a Sprite
and cooked us dinner at home.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Kalua Pork...the crockpot edition

For anyone who has ever been to Hawaii, or knows anything about Hawaii, you know that they are known for a few foods:  Spam, Pineapple, and Kalua Pig.  
Yes, those are SPAM flavored macadamia nuts. 

Spam.  Side note...go see Spamalot.  We went and saw it this spring in San Francisco and it was magical.  I've seen several musicals, and this has to be my second favorite one I've ever seen.

You can buy spam at the grocery store, but you probably don't because it's terrible for you.
I hope you buy pineapple every chance you get, because it's delicious and really good for you.

Kalua pig.  If you are lucky enough to live near an authentic Hawaiian restaurant, you may be able to get it there.  I don't think any of us have the ability to roast a whole pig in an underground pit covered in banana leaves.

Dave and I at the Luau
My aunt and her family go to Hawaii about once a year.  She always talks about how good the food is there.  Like the pineapple shrimps (yes, shrimps) from the hole-in-the-wall place they like to visit.  We finally had the opportunity to go in November 2010, and I fell in love with the Island of Oahu.   Honolulu was decent, (it was like SF with warmer weather...I love SF, but I can go there anytime), but I really loved the other parts of the island that were less over-run with tourists.  I could definitely see myself visiting there many more times, maybe even take up temporary residency for a year or two and learn to slow down and live on Island Time.
The famous pineapple shrimps from
Fatty's Chinese Kitchen
International Marketplace - Honolulu
Luau Food - Yum yum yum!

One food that I have fallen in love with is kalua pig.  What is better than smoked pig? It's just so amazing, I started to try to find recipes to make it at home.  As I did some research, I found that people have been making an at home version of kalua pig by taking a pork shoulder/butt, covering it in the traditional Hawaiian Sea Salt, adding some liquid smoke for flavor, wrapping it in banana leaves and then foil, and slow roasting it in the oven for several hours.  

If you can slow roast something in the oven, that says to me that you can slow roast it in the crockpot.  I did a quick google search and found dozens, if not hundred of recipes for making pork in the crockpot!

I love my crockpot.  It doesn't heat up the house, and it uses way less energy than running an oven for hours.  Not to mention, it has dinner ready for me after work on the days where I'm too tired to ten get dinner from a drive-thru.  

The thing I love the most about this recipe, is that it helps me sleep later in the morning.  You actually start it the night before you want to eat it.  That appeals to this girl who hates waking up early, and would rather have 5 extra minutes of sleep than take 5 minutes to start the crockpot for dinner.  

 Around 9 or 10PM, gather your ingredients.

 1 Pork shoulder/butt, about 6-7lbs
Red Hawaiian Sea Salt
Liquid Smoke 

Place the pork in the crockpot fat side up.  

DO NOT TRIM OFF ANY OF THE FAT.  RESIST everything that Weight Watchers, South Beach Diet, Jenny Craig, and every other diet you have done for the past 20 years has told you. It will keep the pork moist as it cooks.  You will discard the fat AFTER it cooks, not before.  If you trim off the fat now, you will end up with very tough, shoe leather like pork, and that's not even appetizing to the dogs.

Add 2-3 tbl of liquid smoke.  Then sprinkle the roast with 
2-3 tbl of Red Hawaiian Sea Salt, covering the entire top of the pork. 

Now, set your crockpot for 20 hours.  

Yes, you read that correctly, 20 hours. 

Now for the hardest part of all.  

Put the lid on and walk away. 

Just like Christmas, there is no peeking!  Leave that lid on for all 20 hours.

Wake up the next morning to the smells of something akin to bacon wafting throughout your house.  

Resist the urge to cut off a chunk to eat on your way out the door, it's not ready yet.  It will be tough.  Go to work, and spend your day dreaming about a luau.  Because that's what your dinner is going to taste like tonight!

Then when your 20 hours is up, remove the pork from the crockpot to a large bowl or dish.  Reserve the juices.  Grab two forks and start to shed up that meat.  Remove any hunks of fat.  Add back some of the juices to keep the meat moist. 

Then you will have a nice, beautiful bowl full of mouthwatering "kalua" pig.  

I like to serve it plain, on a bed of shredded cabbage with a side of rice, just like at a luau.  Turn on some Iz, close your eyes, and pretend you are in Paradise.

Unless you are feeding 14 people, you will probably have a ton of leftovers.  That's awesome!  Because now it can be made into dozens of different recipes.  Oh and did I mention, it freezes great?  Just pop a couple cups into a freezer ziplock and pull out for your next amazing meal.  I wouldn't freeze it longer than 2-3 months or else it will get freezer burned.

Some of the things I have made with the leftovers:

Taco/Burrito Filling - crisp up in a frying pan with some diced ortega chilies and taco seasoning.  Serve with mango salsa. 

Enchilada Filling - Mix with Green Enchilada sauce, spoon not a tortilla, roll up, top with cheese and more sauce, bake until hot and melty. 

BBQ pulled pork - Mix with your favorite BBQ sauce.  Serve hot on it's own or on make it into sliders using King Hawaiian rolls with a small scoop of coleslaw on top. 

Omelet - Add pork with your favorite omelet fillings

Nachos - Top a pile of chips with your favorite kind of cheese, add pork, green onions, and pineapple salsa

Breakfast scramble - Fry up potatoes, veggies, and pork.  Add eggs and scramble.  Top with some cheese and your favorite hot sauce. 

Soup - I actually haven't made this, but my coworker did.  We had a pulled pork taco bar potluck one time.  She took leftover pork, mexican rice, refried beans, salsa, and a bunch of other things, threw it all in the crockpot and make it into a delicious soup.  (Note to self:  get that "recipe")

Words to the Wise: I have found out that if you use a smaller, leaner piece of pastured pork instead of say a giant fatty roast from Costco, the pork will dry out, it won't create any of those yummy juices that keep it moist, and it will burn.  While I always advocate to use organic meats that were raised locally and humanely, I can't say that this is the best option for the recipe.  I would work with your local farmer to make sure you get a large, fatty piece of meat, or buy one from a store you feel comfortable with. If you do use a leaner cut of meat, I would add water to the crockpot, or else it will dry out and burn.  

Shared at Full Plate Thursday's

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Grain-Free Summer Fruit Crisp

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism." ~Erma Bombeck

Ah, the 4th of July.  A day for celebrating our country with BBQ's, alcohol, and explosives.  A day off of work to spend with your friends and family surrounded by piles of food.  A day spent hopefully near a body of water - a lake, a swimming pool, a slip-n-slide - to help you manage the summer heat.  

When you have food allergies, and you are going to a BBQ, instant panic sets in.  What will I be able to eat?  What if I eat something that makes me sick?  Should I just pack all my own food?  Will I offend the host if I don't eat any of their food?

As I get further along my journey, I have become more pro-active about making sure I will be able to eat when I go somewhere.  I am learning to speak up at a restaurant to ensure I don't accidentally eat something I shouldn't.  I am carrying snacks in my purse in case we are out later than anticipated and I need a quick bite to eat.  I am bringing my own food to BBQs so I can guarantee that there is something I will be able to eat.  

A couple days before the 4th, I asked my in-laws what was on the menu:  cheese burgers, chili dogs, spinach dip, broccoli salad, potato salad, cake, peach cobbler.  All the family 4th favorites.  Nothing I can eat.  

I had to get creative.  Nothing is worse than feeling like the odd man out.  I'm watching you eat your cake while I eat an apple.  Sure, it's a million times better for me, and it's not going to make me sick, but I really miss having cake with everyone else.  

I searched and searched.  I came up with a menu for the day that will be 100% things that I can eat, but will also be foods like everyone else is eating, and yummy enough to share.  

Grain-Free Fruit crisp

It was going to be a yummy 4th of July for me.  There would be no surviving on a lara bar for me today!  And best of all, there would be no stomach aches and no food hangovers!  

I have a dear friend that has started eating a "Paleo" based diet.  She eats nothing processed, no grains, no dairy, no soy, no legumes, no sugar.  Nothing but lean meats, fish, nuts, fruits, and veggies.  Eating just like someone in the "Paleo" era, or a Caveman, would eat.  She has lost tons of weight, has become super active, and feels amazing.  She is so inspirational to me!

Lately, I get much of my cooking inspiration from paleo style recipes.  With the exception of eggs and a few other minor things, I can eat many paleo recipes, unaltered.  Even though I don't eat this way exclusively, I try to focus most of my meals around this food lifestyle.  I feel so much better during the day if I skip the carbs and fill up on proteins that will fuel my body hours after the carbs have burned off.  

Paleo desserts?   

Who knew there was such a thing?!?!?!  

I love peach cobbler so much, but can't eat that soft, buttery, sweet, cake-like biscuit on top.  Crisps and crumbles are also my favorite, but they are full of oats, flours, and butters.  More stuff I can't eat.  

Enter the grain free crisp.  

I found this amazing sounding grain-free apple crisp at Stacy's Paleo Kitchen.  I read the recipe, and my mouth was already watering.  

A quick call to mom.

"Can you make apple crisp with other fruits, like peaches and berries?  Can they be fresh? Frozen?"


And a bit of advise. 

"Make sure to add some extra thickener to the fruit if you don't use other fruits besides apples or else it may get too runny." 

I went in the kitchen, grabbed out all my favorite fruits, fresh and frozen, and went to work.  I'm a really bad baker because I don't usually measure anything.  I just dump, sprinkle, and pour 'till it looks and tastes right.  Which is probably why I'm so bad at baking where measurements really matter.  This recipe is really forgiving because it will work even if you just use a big spoonful instead of exactly 2tbl of coconut oil! 

Grain Free Fruit Crisp 

4-6 cups mixed fruit, washed, peeled, seeded, cored, etc(apples, plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines, blueberries, raspberries, etc)
1-2 tbl cornstarch  or arrowroot powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbl raw honey
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 - 3/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 - 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbl coconut oil
1/3  cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350*.

Place fruit in a medium sized glass baking dish.  An 8x8 square, large pie pan, or a casserole dish. I never measure the fruit, just keep adding until the dish is full.

Sprinkle fruit with arrowroot powder, cinnamon, and honey and stir gently to combine.

In a medium bowl, mix together, almond flour, coconut, pecans, cinnamon, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt.

Top the fruit with the crumble mixture and bake until the top is browned and the fruit starts to bubble, approximately 45 minutes.  Serve warm.

This post was shared on whole food fridays.

Friday, July 6, 2012


Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd: The worlds most overplayed, over-requested song. 

Fourth of July morning.

It came on the radio just like it always does.

"I'm as free as a bird"

I started thinking of my friend's beautiful memorial tattoo to her sweet sister. The picture of the painting she put on fb (sorry I borrowed it w/o asking)

A tribute to her sister.

 A free bird. 

Freedom from the cage of Batten disease that held her body captive for so long.

"to be absent from the body is to be present with the lord" by KW


I tried.  I couldn't turn off the song.

"'Cause I'm as free as a bird now, 
And this bird you cannot change. "

The last half of the song comes on. That amazing guitar solo.  One day I'm gonna learn to play guitar like that.  

In my mind, I can see her clapping and laughing and dancing to that music.

Often, I struggle with deep thoughts like if there is a heaven and what happens after we die. I like to think it does because it's such a comforting thought.  If it does, I know you are there, and I'm hoping you are hanging out with my dad. He'll take good care of you cuz he was such a good dad to us kids, just like your dad was to you and still is to your siblings.  I'm sure he's already got you running a marathon with him. He loved running. He used to make me ride my bike with him when he ran, even though I complained incessantly.  What I wouldn't give for one more chance to do that.   I hope you haven't forgotten to give him that hug Mrs. A. asked you to give him from all of us.  I promise as soon as I'm feeling better, I'll run a race for both of you.  Thank you for all you taught me and always reminding me by example to have always have a smile on my face, no matter how bad I think it is.

Miss you sweet girl.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Honey Apricot Pork Chops

Dave got a small bag of apricots from his sister's tree last week.  They were about the size of a large walnut and were the sweetest apricots I had ever tasted.  They were very ripe, so I knew I had to use them up quickly before they spoiled.  

When I was a kid, my mom's friend made this luscious dish called Apricot Chicken.  She would put a bunch of chicken pieces in a baking dish, smother with a jar of apricot jam, and roast it in the oven.  It's one of my favorites to this day.  I wanted to make that for dinner, but I had pork chops in the fridge that I needed to make. So I looked for some recipes that could combine apricots and pork chops.  I found one at and adapted it to my tastes and what I had on hand.  The sweet apricots and honey complimented the juicy pork chop perfectly. 

Sweet Apricot Pork Chops

2 thick cut boneless pork chops
salt and pepper
1 tbl grapeseed oil (or other high heat oil)
1/3 cup local honey
12 fresh apricots, pitted and cut into wedges
1/2 c sweet white wine (like a Riesling)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbl fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons

Preheat a large cast iron skillet on medium high heat.  Sprinkle both sides of pork chops with salt and black pepper. Add oil to the skillet and heat.  When oil is ready, add pork chops until and sear until browned on both sides, about 3-5 minutes on each side.  Stir in honey, apricots, wine, and garlic.  Simmer until the pork is tender and no longer pink inside (145* internal temperature), about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with basil, and serve topped with the apricots and pan juices.