Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sausage and Sauerkraut

I've been MIA. I know. And I don't have anything to say for myself.

That's a lie...

I started my SillyLittle blog as a creative outlet. A place to share what I've been cookin' and describe the mostly-harmless-and-often-truly-boring "adventures" I made for myself in and out of the CrossFit box. I had my pleasant little life. And I was happy enough. And everything was going along the way it is supposed to go along. And I convinced myself that it was everything I could hope for and more than I deserved.

But when it all came to a halt - and every plan I'd made from now until next forever instantly disappeared - I was shocked to realize that I didn't miss a single one of those lost plans. Not. One.

I had spent the better part of a decade concealing my potential, containing my spirit, convincing myself that I was less than, that I was simple, that I was scared of this big world. That I preferred my tidy, neat routine. That I was OK being city-stuck and working hard and playing little. And my future plans were a reflection of that false life.

(And maybe that's the risk of being truly happy, from the inside. Unless you take the time to consider your life, you'll go along as if what you're doing is actually living. Because you don't have any of the sadness or disappointment that would normally force you to reevaluate your existence... And I was - and still am - truly happy.)

So instead it took losing my entire future in one swift swoop to force me to do the work that needed to be done. To reach way way back and way down deep to find the girl I was before I had to hide the girl I am. It took me a little while to find her. But I did.

And you know what?

I love that silly little girl. I'm in awe of the girl who refused to apply for college and moved to Europe at 18 (on a whim and a prayer) to live with a family she'd never met and care for three children under age 5 who spoke no English. I adore the girl who delayed graduation to work in the space program. Who walked away from a PhD, over the violent objections of her father. Who followed her true calling and landed her dream job - even though it ultimately led to the demise of her marriage.

That girl is brave! And decisive. And would never ever settle for a tidy little routine life.

So now that I've rediscovered the SillyLittleCaveGirl that always was and should have been, I'm expending all of my energy building a new (infinitely better) life and making new (sometimes terrifying) plans. And it has been a ton of (beautiful) work. And it has required every ounce of my creativity and every molecule of my courage. And I'm nowhere near done yet.

In fact. I don't think I'll ever be done.

So what does that mean for SillyLittleCaveGirl the blog? First. It means I'm back, but in a new way. You'll probably notice that I don't really spend that much time in the kitchen anymore. This post should be your case in point. But I promise I haven't gone soft on nutrition. I'm still a CaveGirl through and through. I'm just expending my creative energy elsewhere.

So expect to see a few more plugs for other paleo websites. But I also promise to fortify you with all-new content from brilliant guest bloggers. And even from me when the spirit moves. And of course I will continue to share silly stories about my hopefully-much-less-boring-and-no-longer-in-quotation-marks adventures. It should be interesting - to me least - and equally delicious.

Thanks for sticking with me! And please enjoy the simplest recipe you've ever made:

Sausage and Sauerkraut

Not the prettiest picture I've ever taken. But then again, not the worst.

Ingredients

German sausage or bratwurst
Sauerkraut
German mustard

Instructions

This thing is so simple it totally doesn't count as a recipe. But it tastes amazing and is sure to please a crowd. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Strain the sauerkraut and spread it in an even layer in a baking dish. Lay the raw sausages on top. Bake at 400 degrees until the sausages are fully cooked. About 20 minutes. Makes as many servings as you make sausages. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tangy Turkey Meatballs

I had the kind of week that proves The Universe has a sense of humor.

I knew something had to be coming because last Friday was almost too good. And you can't sit at a peak-of-life forever.

I've been working on a project that has the potential to change the course of my career. It's my baby. I carried the idea inside me for months and struggled through a long and painful labor to get it into the world. And now that it's here and has had time to mature, it's exceeding my expectations, and I couldn't me more proud.

But back to Friday.

Last Friday, I left work drunk-with-joy over Baby achieving its next major milestone (we're way past first steps now, more like taking the training wheels off Baby's bicycle). I transitioned quickly from work to play and met a few of my #1 Loves from grad school at a concert. Shortly after arriving, I added drunk-with-alcohol to my joy and carried my bliss through the night. The concert was great. The company was as-always-amazing. And the night ended unexpectedly late after an over-the-top good time.

See what I mean? Peak-of-life.

Then. This week. I was knocked out hard by an allergic reaction. I've cried to you before about my weird list of allergies and annoyingly sensitive skin. But this time was bad! Emergency-appointment-at-the-dermatologist-skin-biopsy-two-stitches-blood-work bad. Thankfully my dermatologist is Grade A and she hooked me up with some aggressive medicine. And double-thankfully it was just an allergic reaction and not something much more serious (that blood work was well worth the lab fees!).

But it still took me all week to get myself under control. And it's not like I could hang out at home and suffer in peace. That basement cubicle isn't going to sit in itself!

And that is where The Universe and its devilish sense of humor comes in... Last week, Baby started doing even better than great: popping wheelies and riding with no hands (wearing a helmet, of course). I'm starting to gain the respect of people I thought would forever see me as That Little Girl. And a few long-suffering science projects are proving they were worth the effort. Basically, all the work is still working at work. And not only is it working, it's thriving and changing (my little) world.

I see what you did there, Universe. Thanks for keeping me humble!



There's no easy way to transition into describing this recipe. So I'll just plough forward. Turkey and sweet potatoes were a special request by TDH for this week's lunches. And because I think turkey tastes best when it tastes like Thanksgiving, I thought this would be a delicious twist. As always, I was right (that humility didn't last long, did it?). Enjoy!

Tangy Turkey Meatballs

I also served them with green beans, to get a little bit more nutrition into our lunch boxes.

Ingredients

2 lb ground turkey
2 eggs
3 celery stalks, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon herbs de provence
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Instructions

Place a skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and diced onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté veggies over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they become soft and start to brown. Add garlic and continue sautéing until everything is caramelized (and your whole house smells amazing).

Meanwhile, run a knife through the dried cranberries to break them into about 25%-size pieces (this will help more evenly distribute the tang throughout the meatballs).

Once the veggies are caramelized, add the cranberries and herbs de provence and mix until fully combined. Remove from heat and let cool so you don't scald yourself in the next step.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, eggs, and cooled veggie mixture. Roll mixture into evenly-sized meatballs.* My rule of thumb is to take the amount of meat I can fit balled between my two hands and quarter it. Then roll that quartered amount into a ball and place it in the baking dish (does that make any sense? If not, just go with your gut). 

Bake meatballs at 400 degrees until fully cooked. Mine took about 20 minutes. Makes 8 servings.


*Note: This also would be delicious as a meatloaf if you're too lazy to roll it into meatballs.







Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Bars

I spent last weekend with DrLindsey, my primary care physician / best friend / paleo-supportive-all-around-amazing-woman-to-know. We staged a mini-college reunion with another one of our good friends from back in the day. We drank a flood of cosmos (that's proof these are friends from waaaaayyy back), got all dolled up, ate amazing food, and laughed like lunatics.

Thankfully DrLindsey's husband was available to chaperone and shepherd our drunk-asses around town. We re-payed him by pretending he wasn't there during college-level girl-talk (good thing he knows us well, or he might still be in shock...).

It had been maybe 10 months since I last visited this crew. But we didn't skip a beat. Even though my new life is 180 degrees out of phase with DrLindsey's beautiful little family, I still mesh into their world as perfectly as ever. It's gratifying to know that our deep admiration for each other isn't situationally dependent. We've known each other since before we became the people we are today. We've loved each other like sisters through all the growing up that life requires. And we're still supporting each other 100% even though we're walking different paths.

DrLindsey and her husband have my back as I try to figure out my new single-girl life. They check on me often and squash any insecurities before they have a chance to bubble all the way up to the surface. For my part, I'm sharing every ounce of the health and fitness information I've pulled together during these two-and-a-half wildly successful years. That's friendship!


After the cosmo-fueled night (that still ended early because we're old. #32!), we did a little shopping, got our eyebrows threaded (just what I needed: a new beauty obsession to add on to shellac), and had a delicious family dinner with DrLindsey's parents, aunt, uncle, and sister. Lindsey's mom, ever the impeccable hostess, went easy on the grains in support of my lifestyle and served fillet with squash and pear soup. 

That evening, we watched a little Dora, put the baby to bed, and started playing in the kitchen. DrLindsey was on the hunt for easy paleo snacks to pack for her long days at the office, so she asked if I'd work some of my SillyLittle magic in her kitchen. I love to play with recipes, so I was excited to see what I could do with the paleo-friendly ingredients she had on hand.

We created this Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Bar recipe on the fly. It's basically a two-step version of my Pecan Bacon Maple Bars with a little less fuss (because DrLindsey didn't have a food processor). I think I shocked my sous chefs by how spontaneous my process is in the kitchen. Don't have a food processor? Let's use the hazelnut meal! Ran out of baking powder? Baking soda will be fine! What's the worst that can happen? It's still delicious paleo food. Just eat it and try something different next time!

Luckily these bars turned out tasty. But they still were slightly-less-than-perfect. The bar wasn't quite sweet enough to stand up to the bitterness of the chocolate. So for this post I've doubled the honey and reduced the amount of chocolate. If you're a super-duper-chocolate-lover, by all means double it back up. It's your kitchen! 

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Bars

That cell phone sure takes a pretty picture!

Ingredients

1 egg, beaten
1 cup hazelnut meal (we used Bob's Red Mill)
3/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
Coconut oil spray

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (we used Enjoy Life)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pinch of salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 1/4 cup coconut oil and honey together. In a medium bowl, mix together hazelnut meal, almond meal, baking soda, and salt. Add coconut oil-honey mixture, vanilla, and egg. Mix thoroughly to combine. Spray a loaf pan with coconut oil spray. Pour mixture into loaf pan and smooth into an even layer. Bake at 375 degrees until it passes the toothpick test. About 20 minutes. 

While the bars are baking, combine chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons coconut oil, vanilla, and pinch of salt in a small sauce pan. Place over low-to-medium heat. Stir continuously until the chocolate melts. Remove from heat and set aside.

Once the bars are baked, remove them from the oven and let cool for a few minutes so that the heat from the loaf pan doesn't burn your chocolate. Then spread the chocolate onto the bars in an even layer. Let cool to room temperature (so the chocolate firms up a bit). Cut into bars and enjoy. Makes 8 servings. 














Monday, February 17, 2014

Beet Soup

This Winter sure is trying to go out with a bang! Holy snowstorms!

We only have 4 weeks left according to our buddy Phil. And while I'm ready to give my Winter coat a break, I'm still enjoying all of the warm beverages, soups, and stews that taste so great in colder weather. I've been using my snowy days at home as the perfect excuse to let a pot of chili simmer all afternoon, and I've been collecting soup recipes from friends and family (that I will then repost here as if they were my own... Love you guys!).

The last week-or-so, I've also been on a beet kick.

It all started when I baked beet-based cupcakes for my 32nd birthday party (#32!). Then I used the leftover beet purée as the sauce for a spinach and goat cheese gluten free pizza.

Yes, that is bacon. No, goat cheese is not paleo.
Neither is GF pizza crust. Live your life!

Shortly thereafter my Ukrainian heritage kicked in and I started toying with the idea of a beet soup. I was sure I could make a creamy puréed soup, like my ever-popular Roasted Broccoli version. And I knew the beets would cook up well with typical soup-starters like onion and garlic. But I wanted to be sure it was slightly tangy to mimic the flavor profile of my pizza, without the added goat cheese. After a quick scan through what-passes-for-my-pantry I decided a splash of vinegar would do the trick (and beet salad is delicious, right? so it couldn't totally ruin the soup).

This recipe came together nicely and tasted even better than expected (which is really saying something. I have very high expectations for myself). It definitely tastes like beets, though. So if you're a beet-hater like my father, please skip along to the next post (sorry Dad!). If you're a beet-lover like me, then I definitely recommend it! How often do you get to eat pink food?! 

 Beet Soup

Pink Soup!

Ingredients

3 medium beets, peeled and diced*
1 large sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups beef stock
2 cups cauliflower florets
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Instructions

Pour olive oil into a large pot and place over medium heat. Add diced onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook onion until it starts to brown. Add garlic and continue cooking until onions begin to caramelize (be careful not to burn the garlic). Add cauliflower florets and diced beets and toss together until the cauliflower turns pink. 

Add beef stock and bay leaf. Season with a pinch of salt and a few shakes of pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and continue simmering until beets are tender. About 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly so that you don't scald yourself on the next step.

Use your immersion blender to purée the soup until creamy (if you don't have an immersion blender, carefully pour the soup into your standard blender and purée until smooth). Return the soup to medium heat. Add balsamic vinegar and re-season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir continuously until it just starts to boil. Remove from heat. Makes 6 servings.


*Pro Tip: Peel and dice your beets in the sink. Literally. I cleaned the sink and then put the cutting board in it to work. Otherwise, your kitchen will look like you massacred a herd of My Little Ponies.




Thursday, February 13, 2014

Baked Corned Beef Hash

It's been a while since I last explana-bragged about the sweat gear in my Silly Little Kitchen. So I figured it's about that time... This post is also quite timely because last weekend was huge for my Ninja Mega Kitchen System.

Yes there is a cult-of-the-Ninja. And you can hate if you want to. But I totally get it. My new Ninja was delivered only a few hours before CaveBoy moved out, so it (literally) sat on the shelf for a few months before I was motivated to get back in the kitchen and fully test its oft-praised features. Now I only regret waiting so long!

I had been coveting the Ninja for months because (spoiler alert) advertising works on me. And I wake up early on the weekends. And there is almost nothing to watch on TV but infomercials. And the end.

So after the third or fourth running, I finally decided I really did need a Ninja Mega Kitchen System. Not for me. But for all of you! Think of how many new and wonderful recipes I could create with such a tool at my disposal. So really this is all your fault!

I went online to place my order.

But wait! I "called" within the next 10 minutes, and the wonderful people at Ninja threw in a Ninja Mega Professional Prep System at no additional charge! And on top of that (for being so cute, I assume) they also gave me a Frozen Treat Accessory Kit. ChaChing!

Sweet deal, right?
So. Fast forward to last weekend.

A dozen of my favorite girls came over to celebrate my 32 years on Earth. The group was an amazing mash-up of my awesome worlds. The Fierce Ladies from the office came out in force, along with the CrossFit Beauties, and one of my #1 Loves from grad school. 

We drank (quite a few) margaritas and a few bottles of wine. I force-fed everyone shots of Fireball Whisky (whatever. it tastes like Valentine's Day). And then we went out and danced like crazy at the local 22-year-old-meat-market-that-passes-for-a-Club (they have a video DJ!).

But before that, we had cupcakes. Paleo Naturally Red Velvet Cupcakes made almost entirely out of roasted beets (like I said, these are good friends, people). And I used my Ninja food processor to puree the beets, mix the wet ingredients, pulse in the combo-flour, and otherwise rock the recipe in no time flat. And they tasted pretty good, too!

And then. The next day. After I had semi-partially recovered from my hangover (I'm getting too old to have any more birthdays), I got to work on Ninja experiment number two: Baked Corned Beef Hash. 

I'm a hash fan. I often keep freezer-bagged portions of sweet potato hash on hand to easily turn Saturday morning breakfast into something special. It's particularly great with the yolks of a couple "dippy" eggs oozing through the shredded veggies (my mouth is watering). And with Saint Patrick's Day coming, Whole Foods has corned beef back in stock. 

With my Professional Prep System (and it's shredder attachment), I was able to pull this recipe together with minimal effort and get back to convalescing on the couch. The flavor was amazing and exactly what I needed to make a full recovery! Enjoy.

Baked Corned Beef Hash

EXTREME CLOSE UP!

Ingredients

1.5 lbs corned beef
2 pink lady apples, shredded
1 large sweet potato, shredded (seriously, get the biggest sweet potato you've ever seen, or two medium)
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Instructions

Cook the corned beef according to the package instructions (I put mine in the Crock-Pot because I didn't feel up to babysitting a simmering stock pot). Then set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine shredded/diced veggies and olive oil in a baking dish. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Place baking dish in oven. Cook until sweet potato shreds are softened, but not mushy. About 1 hr 20 minutes. Be careful not to let the bottom burn! I pulled mine out every 20 minutes to stir. 

Shred corned beef* and combine with cooked sweet potato mixture. Re-season with salt and pepper to taste.** Makes 5 servings.


*Note: CB recommends that you cube the corned beef into chunks instead of shredding it, so that it isn't all the same texture. I think she's probably on to something...

**Note: Yes. That's it. I told you it was hangover-proof.