Good news for those that like science to back up the eating of their favorite foods!

I’m personally not a huge chocolate head, which I know is like ladyhood betrayal or something.  But, I know almost everyone around me loves that dark temptress, and I am here to give you scientific reasons to indulge in the Lady Cocoa.  Note that this study is specifically related to dark chocolate, so those that favor the milkier variety— no support for you! Haha,  just joking!  Come to the dark side, we have cancer-fighting qualities!

Chocolate is good for you says the American Cancer Society!

Iced Mocha “Latte”

During the course of my collegiate career I developed a very, very healthy coffee habit and since graduating it’s still going strong.  While I used to drink it black, black coffee has become one of the triggers of the chronic heartburn I’ve developed over the past couple of years (the addressing of which is one of the factors that motivated me to take a Paleo lifestyle seriously, a topic I will eventually devote at least one blog post to).  I am a devoted Fresh Direct customer, especially as I continue to heal from breaking my leg, so when I ran out of almond milk yesterday and my grocery delivery isn’t scheduled until this afternoon, I had to come up with a creative preparation for my coffee today, because momma needs her fix. 

In my pre-Paleo life, I was a huge baking nerd and a well-meaning-but-terrible banana eater which means that I have a ton of very-ripe bananas stacked in my freezer like firewood, waiting to be turned into banana bread as their fresh-eating life has come and gone.  While I first bemoaned this thinking, “how will I get rid of these now that baked goods are largely off the table?!” I’ve realized that they’re fantastic for making smoothies (duh) in my lovely roommate’s NutriBullet, which I definitely use more than she does. 

These bananas and NutriBullet have once again come in handy for this poor, caffeine-addicted lady as they facilitated one of the most delicious solutions to my coffee crisis.  I’m calling what I made a “latte” as opposed to a shake or smoothie because while thicker than straight coffee, by no means is it thick enough to give a straw a workout.  This turned out so yummy I drank it before I even had a chance to take a pic!  Maybe next time around!  Here’s what I did:

Paleo Iced Mocha “Latte”

First, get this!:

1 medium to large (over)ripe banana, frozen

2-4 TB organic cocoa powder (I used Equal Exchange’s Baking Cocoa)

2 cups black coffee, chilled

Pinch of high-quality sea salt

1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

1tsp honey or sweetener of choice (I eyed my roommate’s liquid vanilla stevia but stuck with the lesser-processed honey in the end)

Now, do this!:

Combine and blend the hell out of the ingredients, stick a straw in it, and get down with your bad caffeinated self!

NB:  Want to make this into a ridiculously healthy shake, or, don’t like/are allergic to bananas?  Use 1/2-1 chilled avocado either in addition to or in place of the banana and add a bit more sweetener if you like.  Boom.

SOUPSOUPSOUP!: Roasted Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup!

My favorite part of the colder months is tucking into a huge bowl of steamy, comforting soup. Usually soup’s good for Paleo peeps because it’s one of those things where you just throw whatever into a pot of soup base and call it a day—  meaning that leaving the noodles, potatoes, and beans out should be a cinch. However, if you’re like me, chowders, bisques, and other rich cream-based soups are both your greatest love and Paleo downfall (to borrow from Nom Nom Paleo’s Michelle, “Faileo”). So, I’m setting out to create, or in some cases re-create, the luxurious flavors and gut-coating satisfaction of a heavy dairy-rich soup but in Paleo-approved fashion.

Yesterday I put together an amazingly satisfying soup using local organic carrots and butternut squash. The texture is that of the richest, velvety pureed cream bisques, but this version is completely dairy free, and is easily made vegan as well, by subbing out the animal fat for coconut oil or even extra virgin olive oil.  Here are the deets:

First, get this!

1 butternut squash, halved lengthwise

4-5 large carrots, cleaned

1 medium onion, diced very fine

2-4 TB chopped garlic (I used the pre-minced kind that comes in a jar from Costco. Wheee!)

2 TB Olive oil (extra virgin, y’all)

2 TB Trader Joe’s valencia orange champagne vinegar

1 tsp dried tarragon

1/2-1tsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sea salt to taste

2 TB Trader Joe’s valencia orange champagne vinegar

2 TB bacon fat/duck fat/chicken fat/lard

2 qts chicken or veggie broth

1 TB coconut aminos

Now, do this!

Preheat your oven to 450. Line a cookie tray with foil. Chop carrots into chunks suitable for roasting, I usually do them in little carrot logs 2 inches long, then halved or quartered depending on how thick the carrot is. In a small bowl, mix olive oil, vinegar, tarragon, TJ’s seasoning blend, pepper, and salt. Pour over carrots and toss to coat. Pour carrots and extra dressing onto your foil-lined cookie sheet. Loosely cover with more foil. Pop tray into the oven and bake until carrots are soft and flesh will give to gentle pressure with a fork, about 45min-1 hour. NB: I have a teensy apartment-sized oven and totally recommend roasting your carrots ahead so you don’t have to make an all-day affair of souping. Once carrots are done, remove from oven and set aside to cool.

If your oven is big enough or you’re lucky enough to have a double oven, you can do this part concurrently with the carrot roasting process. Scoop the seeds out of the butternut squash and place cut-side down into a glass baking dish. Add about ½ inch of water, cover tightly with foil, and bake in a 450-degree oven for about 45min. After 45 minutes, remove from oven, uncover, and flip the squash so the cut-sides are facing up, pop back into the oven, uncovered for an additional 15 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, melt the bacon fat (or fat of your choice). When it begins to look all wobbly, add your garlic and onions. Cook, stirring frequently until transparent being careful not to brown them.

Add 2 cups of the broth and reduce heat to low. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and add to the saucepan with the onions, garlic, and broth. Dice cooked carrots and add to saucepan as well, along with any leftover oil/vinegar mixture from roasting. Add the remaining first quart of broth and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to keep from burning. Remove from heat.

If you have a stick/immersion blender, use that to puree the soup until smooth, gradually adding the second quart of broth until fully incorporated, adding more or less to achieve desired consistency. I found that my immersion blender still left a fairly lumpy texture and, after immersion blending ran half the soup through a high-powered blender to smooth it out, but still leave some texture. Once your soup is the desired thickness and consistency, return to the pan on medium heat, stir in the coconut aminos (for a non-paleo version, 2 TB of white miso mixed into the second quart of broth may be added either instead of the aminos), taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. I usually add another tablespoon or so of black pepper and a sprinkle of coarse salt. This makes about 2.5/3quarts of soup that can be enjoyed within roughly 5 days or frozen.

nomnompaleo

Paleo Cran-Cherry Sauce

I just want to say that Nom Nom Paleo is probably my favorite blog right now.  Michelle Tam is hilarious, awesome, and makes really really yummy food.  Though she’s more lenient on the Paleo spectrum than I’m aiming for, her recipes are easily convertible and what I’ve tried so far is fracking delicious.  I’m definitely planning on using some of her recipes for my Thanksgiving feast with my momma in Michigan, and they all look so good I had to share.

Happy feasting!

nomnompaleo:

It’s Part 3 of my Nomtastic Thanksgiving series! (Check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you’ve just joined the cooking party!)

Paleo Cran-Cherry Sauce by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Sweet and sour is one of my favorite flavor combinations. It perfectly describes my personality. And although I never tried cranberry sauce until I began attending the annual Thanksgiving potluck at my in-laws’, I fell hard for it right away. It didn’t matter if I got a dry piece of turkey breast; a dollop of tangy cranberry sauce would make it all better. But sadly, once I started eating Paleo, I had to skip the cranberry sauce altogether. After all, I knew that most recipes are sweetened with LOADS of white sugar.

But this year, I was determined to come up with a Paleo-friendly version of cranberry sauce—one inspired by the cranberry-cherry-apple juice blends from my childhood. By themselves, cranberries can be unpalatably bitter and sour. But by adding an equal amount of cherries and simmering the fruit in apple juice, I was able to counter the mouth-puckering tartness of the cranberries with some natural sweetness. Prefer a sweeter sauce? Just a touch of honey will do the trick. And if you make this Cran-Cherry Sauce a day ahead and allow the flavors to meld further, it tastes even better.

Paleo Cran-Cherry Sauce by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Although the cherries and apple juice add natural sweetness, adding a spoonful of honey balances the tartness just the right amount. Another bonus about this recipe: It tastes even better if made a day ahead.

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Random things that are tasty

So, this isn’t really a science-y post, but a food prep one.  One of the things about me that makes Paleo awesome is that I love love love veggies (shout out to my momma for raisin’ me right!).  When my mom would take me to lunch when I was little, I would always order broccoli soup and spinach pie, which never seemed to fail to elicit a curious if not suspicious look from the waitress.  Yes I’m sure that’s what I want, yes I know what it is.

If I see a veggie on a menu I haven’t had or a novel preparation I will totally order it.  Same thing with fruits.  Hell, the same thing with animals.  Except terrestrial arthropods: I will not willingly/knowingly eat bugs.  Nope nope nope. 

Anyway, the exciting thing for me about cutting grains, legumes, and ‘tatoes out of my diet is that I don’t clutter my plate with anything except delicious meat and a ton of veggies.  And it also pushes me to experiment with the preparation of veggies to challenge both my skill and palate while enhancing the variety of things on my plate.

So far, on my less-than-one week commitment to Paleo I have resurrected some of my favorite veggie-prep go-tos and figured I’d share.  I’m gonna start with my ol’ reliable — simple, easy prep, easy clean up, and you can futz around with prepping other things while they cook.

1) Roasted vegetables. 

There are few things as gorgeous as a huge cookie tray brimming with the rich colors of a variety of roasted veggies, and there is so much room to play the varieties are endless.  I love picking about 3 veggies, cutting them into appx 1”x1” cubes, tossing in some extra virgin olive oil with some herbs and/or garlic, and roasting those suckers for 30-60 minutes at 450 degrees (depending on the veggies and the amount of bite-back I still want them to have).  The prep is easy, and if you line your cookie tray with foil, clean-up is a snap.  Just sprinkle with a high-quality sea salt after roasting, and you’ll forget potatoes/rice/pasta were ever something that belonged on a plate. 

My favorite roasting veggies, in no order, are: carrots, radishes, turnips, parsnips, squashes, onions, garlic, and brussel sprouts — especially brussel sprouts when the leaves on the outside get a bit charred and crispy.  Sweet potatoes, too, for the Paleo lenient.

You might notice that I’ve omitted one of the most loved roasting vegetables from my list: beets.  Yup.  Don’t like ‘em.  Beets, okra, and cauliflower are the three veggies I really couldn’t care less about.  I still eat them when they’re on my plate, but I don’t think I’ve ever purchased and prepared them on my own.  Meh.

The most important thing I’ve found for harmoniously roasting vegetables is to pick veggies that take about the same time and temp to reach your desired level of “doneness.”  For example, I roasted carrots and radishes together the other day, and while they were fine, the carrots were still too underdone for my taste when the radishes were done perfectly.  So, just something to think about.  Trying to match flavors I think is much less important.  Delicious veggies will be delicious, and sometimes pairing the unexpected can yield wonderful results.

Hopefully I’ll get better at taking photos of what I prep as I go so that these posts get more colorful!