Saturday, November 30, 2013

CaveLife: Paleo Skin-Care (Faces)

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22* (just kidding, I'm not... But my skin sometimes does, and not in a good way).

Thankfully, I'm slowly learning how to combat my skin issues. Emphasis on slowly.

When I first joined my local CrossFit gym, I already ate pretty clean, and had eliminated sugar and many processed foods. But a few weeks in, when they started a paleo nutrition challenge, I made the conscious decision not to participate. And when I did start eliminating grains, I started with bread and pasta but held on to occasional fried food for another 4 months. I didn't fully eliminate dairy until 3 months after that and I'm still in a love-hate relationship with Diet Coke. I'm just not one to drink all the kool-aid all at once.

That attitude applies to my skin-care, too. I have long-abandoned harsh and harmful acne treatments (figuring that if it isn't safe for pregnant women, it's probably not really safe for anybody). And when I started eliminating all processed food and unnecessary chemicals from my diet, it seemed natural to start eliminating potentially dangerous chemicals from my beauty routine. But experimentalist that I am, I just couldn't (and still can't) jump into the hippy-skin-care aisle with both feet. I need to make one change at a time, and determine if it works for me before changing something else (that's just good science!).

And on top of that, I love my Mary Kay tinted moisturizer and waterproof mascara. L.O.V.E. And I am a huge fan of the MK mineral bronzing powder and mineral highlighting powder. That quartet is pretty-much all I wear. So it's going to take something über-fantastic to get me to change - and besides, they're made of minerals (right?!).

But I have made significant changes in other areas of my skin-care. Right around Christmas (last year) I started to break-out more than usual, way more than usual, actually. And I was both shocked and disturbed. First, because my skin had been amazing ever since I had eliminated dairy. And second, because the break-out was more painful than any I had experienced (including high school).

I went straight to the cloud and amassed as much (conflicting) information on acne and natural skin-care as I could find. I read rave reviews for The Body Shop's Seaweed Ionic Clay Mask and had a jar shipped to the house (I love you Amazon!). Although I'm not quite clear on the physics of the clay's "negatively charged ions," I will say that using the mask twice-a-week reduced my healing-time and overall improved my skin texture. And it smells great, too!


www.thebodyshop-usa.com/


Through my research, I also stumbled upon cavegirleats.com (full disclosure: it wasn't my first time visiting CaveGirlEats. I had briefly perused the site when I started this blog and searched the internet for all permutations of "paleo" and "cavegirl," to avoid infringing on anyone's copyright).

It turns out my new best friend Liz (not really, but I wish!) had suffered a similar predicament. Through trial-and-error she healed her skin and eliminated break-outs through proper nutrition, supplementation, and  oil cleansing. I thought I'd give it a try.

I started by taking two capsules of butter oil and fermented cod liver oil with my fish oil in the morning.  It is an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins, many of which promote skin-health. The capsules did help, and reduced my break-outs considerably. At the same time I started experimenting with oil cleansing, but abandoned the efforts after a week.

www.greenpasture.org

Then, in the summer, started to moisturize my face (and skin) with coconut oil. I used a tiny dab in the morning (before my makeup) and evening (before bed). I found it to be moisturizing and soothing, and it didn't cause any breakouts. At first (more on that later).

In the mean time, Liz from CaveGirlEats published her Skintervention Guide e-book. I downloaded a copy and worked my way though it. I started following (more of) her recommendations, with great results.

purelyprimalskincare.com
Don't you want to have her skin?
I already drink a Citrus Kombucha every week to give myself a probiotic boost. So to better heal my digestion and (hopefully) gain full use of the nutrients in my diet, I started drinking a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar diluted in a cup of warm water every morning. Then a few weeks later, I started drinking Bone Broth in the evenings before bed. I was amazed that such simple steps helped stave off the usual mini-break-out I suffer when I eat potato chips or french fries (the first step is admitting you have a problem..).

Finally, in early August - fully convinced of Liz's genius - I re-kindled my relationship with oil cleansing. Only this time, I resolved to take my time and do the full cleanse and toner method (recommended in the e-book) at least every other day, instead of the speedy alternative version she describes on her blog.

The results were... terrible (are you shocked that I'd admit that?) and I quit (again) after two weeks. I expected to break-out a little more in the beginning, as my skin adjusted to the new routine. But when that little bit turned into a lot during the second week, I cried uncle.

I rely on my cuteness to counteract my meanness at work. It allows me to get a ton accomplished without alienating people (too much). But it's a fine line. I cannot let fresh-faced (innovative!) become young-looking (immature...), or I will lose my credibility. With the way my skin looked, I was inching ever closer to you-remind-me-of-my-teenage-daughter territory. And on top of that, acne is gross and it hurts, and it makes me feel self-conscious. And none of that = happy CaveGirl.

So. I went back to my normal face wash and called my friend to order an aggressive (and expensive!) acne treatment line from Rodan + Fields (desperate times call for desperate measures). I also bleached my pillow case, brewed up a fresh batch of bone broth, grabbed an extra bottle of apple cider vinegar, and started chugging ginger lemon tonic. I was on a mission. I did get myself back to some level of normal, but it took almost a month.

https://www.rodanandfields.com/Shop/Unblemish
I'm still not sure which part of the oil cleanse mixture caused such a strong reaction. I've always had sensitive skin (hence my desire for soothing, natural skin-care), and I have a bizarre list of food allergies (most of which cause an adverse skin reaction), so it really could be any number of things. But I'm not willing to suffer the potential consequences of systematically working through the ingredients to determine the culprit (not even for the sake of science). That mystery will remain a mystery...

Despite all that, I wasn't ready to give up my quest for a more-natural skin-care routine. And I needed a moisturizer to supplement my super-expensive (but crazy effective) face wash. For some reason, the coconut oil wasn't doing the trick anymore. After a little research I realized my problem. It has a really high comedogenic rating, meaning it's known to clog pores and cause acne. The hippy-skin-care blogs didn't mention that part!

I re-doubled my research to find a moisturizer that is non-comedogenic, low in chemicals, and if-at-all-possible chock-full of skin healthy vitamins. That's when I found this article from Weston A. Price and some anecdotal evidence from paleo and mommy bloggers. I figured it was worth a try and ordered a 2 oz jar of Primal Care Skin Balm.


primalcare.net
Cute right? And it came with a hand-written note. 


This stuff is amazing! It smells a little game-y but that goes away after a few seconds. And even if it didn't it would be worth it. I had to do some extra research and learn some new words (sebum, anyone?) to understand how it works. Turns out: the tallow is similar to our natural body oil and helps tame the over-active bits. I found a little dab morning and night to be soothing and light enough to wear under normal make-up. After six weeks, I'm still using it daily with no breakouts to speak of!

I'm so happy with the results, and the night-and-day difference from this time last year, that I'm going to stick with what I'm doing. I admit my routine doesn't count as paleo skin-care, because the R+F is definitely not all natural. But I really tried.

And I feel strongly that the bone broth, ginger-lemon tonic, and fermented cod liver oil are responsible for a much greater proportion of my success than the topical treatments. I leave the R+F at home when I travel for work, and I have yet to suffer a relapse (even when I lose control of my diet and alcohol consumption at social events). That indicates to me that my many months of effort have healed my skin from the inside. And I'm pretty satisfied with that!

What about you? What natural skin-care treatments have you tried?



*Note: Yes, I know this is a moldy pop culture reference. But this post was almost a year in the making. Good science takes as long as it takes... 





Saturday, November 23, 2013

Un-Stuffed Sausage Stuffing

Full disclosure: Thanksgiving isn't really my meal.

Don't get me wrong, it's a delicious plate of food. And I love the opportunity to hang out with friends and family around the dinner table. But if you really think about it, the typical American Thanksgiving plate is about as beige as can be. And now that I don't really eat sweets, the pies and crumbles and crisps aren't the draw that they used to be.

But I am a big believer in tradition. Especially family traditions. They anchor us to our true selves when the world gets topsy-turvy. So even though I've reformed my meal-planning, I'm not willing to completely abandon one of my family's best-loved holidays.

This Un-Stuffed Sausage Stuffing is my attempt to de-beige our Thanksgiving spread. It is savory and tart and bright and packed with nutrients. It tastes amazing with a little (primal) gravy and adds another source of animal fat to an otherwise poultry-heavy day.  It's also great reheated with fried eggs in the morning (if you somehow end up with left-overs).

Enjoy!

Un-Stuffed Sausage Stuffing

See: It's only a little bit beige.

Ingredients

1 12 oz package breakfast sausage
16 oz mushrooms, diced
1 head celery, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cups diced butternut squash
1 cup dried cherries, chopped
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Instructions

In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook until onion becomes translucent. Add breakfast sausage and cook until sausage is brown. Add mushroom and poultry seasoning and cook until mushrooms are tender and most of the water is boiled off (otherwise you will end up with stuffing soup).

In a medium baking dish, combine sausage mixture, butternut squash, and dried cherries. Bake at 400 degrees until squash is tender. About 45 minutes. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

CaveLife: Spiralizer Review

Guess what?!

The spiralizer I've been coveting is on sale on Amazon! And now I've got one!!

I was super-double motivated to get one after I read this post at Nom Nom Paleo (love them!). I expected the spiralizer would help take my "pasta" recipes to the next level. But Nom Nom Paleo convinced me that with this tool in my kitchen, the possibilities are endless.

I waited with anticipation for the 2-3 days of shipping and processing. And when it arrived at my door, I put it to immediate use.

Like the hair of an angel.

I had built my expectations up to near maximum, which was a risk, I admit. What if it didn't solve all the worlds problems while simultaneously providing me with joy and entertainment? Luckily my risk paid off! I does all of that, and more!*

It was simple to assemble and easy to clean. It required no real instruction prior to use (besides "don't touch the sharp parts," duh). It turned 50% more yellow squash into "noodles" than I can with my Julienne Peeler (all without slitting my wrists). AND the "noodles" are much longer and twirlier than julienne slices, making them 500% more fun to eat!

Bottom line: I recommend this one to a friend. Especially because it is still on sale!

And then you can use it to make my Tomato-Bacon Yellow Squash "Pasta" recipe.

Enjoy!


*Note: It doesn't actually do any of those things. Well, it did provide me with joy and entertainment! Watching the "noodles" curl out of the spiralizer reminded me of the Play-Doh Beauty Shop toy from my childhood.







Thursday, October 31, 2013

Smokey Pumpkin Chili

Happy Halloween!!!

Whether you're watching your little ones march in a Halloween Parade, sprinting around the house to prepare for trick-or-treating, or hosting a Hocus Pocus watch party for your girls, this promises to be a busy night!

So, before the inevitable sugar rush has you and yours running amok (amok amuk amuck!), fill your bellies with this delicious (and easy and fast) protein-packed but still Halloween-appropriate meal. One pot and done. Before the little devils and spidermen and princesses start knocking at your door.

Smokey Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin seed garnish optional.

Ingredients

3 lbs ground beef
2 yellow onions, diced
2 green peppers, diced
1 can pumpkin purée
Sauce from 1 can Chilpotle Peppers in Adobo (save the peppers for your pork)
2 cups beef stock
5 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon all spice
1 big pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

Instructions

In a large pot, warm olive oil over medium heat then add diced onion and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Once the onion becomes translucent add the ground beef. Stir continuously until the meat is browned. Pour in stock, adobo sauce and seasonings and stir to combine (don't forget to add salt and pepper at this step!). Let simmer of medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Add pumpkin and continue simmering for another 15 minutes. Re-season with salt, pepper, and chili powder (if necessary). Makes 8 servings.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Banana Pepper Pulled Beef

You can tell by now that I love my Crock-Pot. It makes preparing a week of meals in one afternoon so much simpler by freeing up my oven for other work. And on top of that, the food is delicious after cooking for hours in flavorful juice. So I always have a Crock-Pot recipe (or two) in mind, when I start meal planning for the week.

This recipe was inspired by an episode of Diners Drive-ins and Dives where they visited a restaurant that made italian beef sandwiches. I realized while watching the show that I haven't been to a deli in forever. Makes sense, but it's also sad. I used to love a roast beef (or turkey or tuna salad) sandwich piled high with deli sliced banana peppers.

So, I decided to take a page from my own recipe book and modify my popular Pepperoncini Pulled Pork to replicate the delicious deli flavors I've missed for so long. Unlike my pulled pork, I decided to keep the banana peppers out of the Crock-Pot to preserve their texture and bright flavor. I'm glad I did! I think you will be too.

Banana Pepper Pulled Beef

Pretty, right?

Ingredients

3 lbs beef roast
6 cloves garlic, diced
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 16 oz jar deli sliced banana peppers
1 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Black pepper

Instructions

Add onion, garlic, and seasonings to your Crock-Pot. Place beef roast on top of the onions. Pour in beef stock and juice from the jar of banana peppers (reserve the peppers for later). Set on high and cook until beef pulls apart with a fork. About 5 hours. Turn off heat and let cool enough so that you don't scald yourself in the next steps.

Remove roast and onions from the Crock-Pot. Set aside. Pour juice into a medium skillet. Boil over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces by half. While the sauce reduces, return the cooked roast and onions to the Crock-Pot bowl. Shred the roast using two forks. Add the sliced banana peppers. Pour the reduced sauce over the meat and peppers and combine well. Makes 8 servings.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

BLT Soup

Back in the old days, tomato soup was my go-to midnight snack. CaveBoy would doctor up a can of condensed soup with Emeril's Essence, and we'd share the bowl while we watched Futurama. It was warm and comforting and it put me right to sleep (just like my new go-to midnight snack).

Now that I know what high fructose corn syrup and wheat flour do to my body (and it ain't good!) I avoid condensed soup at all cost. Including missing out on the delicious, creamy, tomatoey, goodness of a steaming bowl of tomato soup. Until now.

I served this BLT Soup with baked chicken thighs for dinner last week. And it was just what the doctor ordered. The days are getting shorter, and it's pitch dark and chilly when I finally get home from work. After spending all day in a basement cubicle, missing the afternoon sun can feel like an added insult. But this warm, inviting bowl of soup washed all of those thoughts away, and set me on the right track for a relaxing evening.

BLT Soup

Classy. Right?

Ingredients

3 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 12 oz package thick-cut bacon, diced (look here for Whole30 Approved bacon)*
6 stalks celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, diced
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 head romaine lettuce (just kidding - I only used lettuce for garnish)
1 bay leaf
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine (or replace with chicken stock for Whole30 option)
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

Instructions

In a large pot cook diced bacon until fat is rendered out and bacon is fully cooked. Remove cooked bacon and set aside. Pour off 1/2 of the bacon grease and discard (or save in the refrigerator for breakfast). Re-heat remaining bacon grease over medium heat. Add onion and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook until onion begins to brown. Add garlic and cook unit the veggies begin to caramelize. Pour in white wine (or chicken stock) and deglaze the pan. 

Add diced tomato, chicken stock, basil, red pepper, and bay leaf. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat so you don't scald yourself while you blend the soup. Remove bay leaf and discard. Blend the soup until it is creamy using your immersion blender. Re-season with salt and pepper to taste. 

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with cooked bacon. Makes 8 servings.

*Note: For my vegan friends (and YES! I have some of those, so don't judge...) you can replace the bacon with 2 tablespoons olive oil. 





Saturday, October 19, 2013

Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk

Sweetened condensed milk is a staple in many cultures. It is added to Vietnamese iced coffee and is a key ingredient in Mexican flan and other desserts. It was one of the tres leches in CaveBoy and my wedding cake. And it is an absolute necessity for pumpkin pie. Trust me.

I tried to avoid it when I first started eliminating refined sugar from our diet. But I just couldn't get the filling to come out right. It was too loose and nowhere near creamy enough. So I started making my own. First by further reducing evaporated milk, sweetened with a few tablespoons of sugar. Then when we cut sugar out altogether, I replaced it with reduced apple cider.

This past spring we cut out dairy. So when pumpkin pie season opened, I had to re-vamp my recipe again. And here it is: the new Silly Little CaveGirl standard. This Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk is perfectly paleo and relies only on fruit juice for its sweetness. It tastes delicious on its own and bakes up beautifully in a pumpkin pie (recipe coming soon).

Enjoy!

Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk

Ingredients

1 can coconut milk
2 cups apple cider (or Simply Apple if cider is out of season)

Instructions

Add coconut milk to a small pan over medium heat. Whisk together if the solids have separated. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until the coconut milk reduces to 1 cup.

While the coconut milk is reducing, pour apple cider into a large sauce pan (the more heated surface area you have in your pan, the faster this process will go). Boil cider over medium high heat until it becomes a syrup. You will know you're close when the whole surface starts to foam up. When that happens, lift the pan of the heat to judge the consistency. 

Once you have a cider-syrup, pour the condensed coconut milk into the cider pan and whisk until fully combined. Makes 1 cup.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Roast Chicken and Gravy

Warning: You have to start this recipe a day ahead!

I'm picky about roast chicken. I like my white meat to be just as juicy as my dark meat. I want the skin crispy and well seasoned. And I don't want the cooking to take all day. For the most part that means I buy my chickens already-cooked from the Peruvian restaurant down the hill (not a bad option). But I don't always crave the Peruvian flavor (it's OK to be shocked!) and there is carrageenan in grocery store rotisserie chicken (no bueno). That left me with no other option than to roast my own chickens.

To satisfy my roast-chicken-requirements without rigging a make-shift rotisserie in my oven, I applied the same technique CaveBoy and I use for our Thanksgiving turkey: Brine + Spatchcock.

We developed this technique after minutes of intensive research through a holiday issue of Martha Stewart Living. She recommended a brine for one of her roast turkey recipes and later in the issue she included step-by-step instructions for removing the backbone and flattening a turkey to reduce cooking time. We combined to two to great success and will never cook a turkey another way (ok maybe if we had a frier we'd try that. But that's it!).

So, knowing how delicious and amazing brined + spatchcocked poultry can be, I pulled together the necessary ingredients for my roast chicken. And I wasn't disappointed. The skin was crispy. The meat was juicy. And the spatchcocking process allowed me to use the removed chicken parts to create a delicious gravy. After the preparations and overnight part were done, I was able to pull the meal together pretty quickly. I'd recommend this one equally for cook-ahead CaveGirls (like me) and work-night paleo chefs.  


Roast Chicken and Gravy
To round out the meal, I made Bacon Braised Greens and
simply-baked acorn squash. It was magical.

For the chicken:

Ingredients

2 whole roasting chickens
4 bay leaves
1 head garlic, cloves smashed
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup pepper corns
1/4 cup dried onion flakes
2 tablespoons rubbed sage
2 tablespoons dried tarragon
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried rosemarie, crushed
2 tablespoons grass fed butter (for roasting)
1 teaspoon dill seed
Water

Instructions

Remove the gizzard pouch from each chicken and set aside for the gravy. With a pair of kitchen scissors, spatchcock each chicken (aka remove the backbone so that the chicken can be flattened for cooking). Place the chickens in a large container (we use clean, unscented trash bags - because we're classy like that). Add all the ingredients to make the brine (everything on the list besides the butter). Add enough water so that the chickens are covered. Seal tightly and refrigerate overnight.

When you're about ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the refrigerator, carefully remove the chickens from the brine, and arrange them on a baking sheet (you might need to use two baking sheets depending on your chickens). Press firmly on the breast bones to fully flatten the birds. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut the butter into little chunks and arrange on the top of the chickens. Place in oven and roast at 450 degrees until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. About 45 to 55 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

For the gravy:

Ingredients

Gizzards from two chickens
Backbones from two chickens
6 cloves garlic, smashed
3 stalks celery, cut in half
1/2 yellow onion, cut into 4 pieces
1/3 cup potato starch (to thicken the gravy at the end)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons herbs de provence
Salt and pepper
Poultry seasoning
Water

Instructions

Place all ingredients (except potato starch) in your Crock-Pot. Fill with water. Set on high until it begins to boil. Reduce heat to low and let cook overnight. In the morning, remove from heat and let cool. Remove bones and strain liquid. Set aside until you are ready to make the gravy.

Pour eight cups of chicken stock into a large stock pot (store any remaining stock in freezer bags for future use). Bring to a boil. If you have the desire, and the timing is right, pour the pan drippings from the roasted chicken into the gravy pot. Stir to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together potato starch and 1 cup of cold water. Slowly pour potato starch slurry into boiling stock and whisk continuously (to avoid lumps). Return liquid to a boil. It should become a thickened gravy. Re-season with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste. Makes 8 servings.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pumpkin Bread

It's October.

That can only mean one thing.

It's time for pumpkin-flavored things! All the many delicious pumpkin breads and pies and drinks and smoothies and soups and stews and side dishes. Yum. Yum. Yum. It's a little-known fact that the 10th month of the year was named October because it is the primary month of pumpkin-picking season, and the capital "O" looks exactly like a pumpkin (I totally made that up).

We are a family of pumpkin super-fans. CaveBoy would eat pumpkin pie every single night if we had it in the house. He's been known to claim an entire pumpkin pie for himself on Thanksgiving morning (and hold us to that claim). And my sister and I spent our childhood fighting over my aunt's pumpkin bread.

Even though we now follow an anti-inflammation eating plan, our tastes haven't changed. We still love pumpkin-flavored things. So I've been working hard to develop paleo versions of our favorite recipes. Many of you might think, "oh, it's the holidays! It's just one time a year! Consider it a cheat and eat the real thing!" And you'd have a point... Except... I can't... I'm straight-up allergic to wheat. Too much sugar makes me feel awful. And I don't tolerate even the tiniest bit of dairy (yep. I know. I'm a mess.).

The good part about all that is I'm super-motivated to develop delicious, health-promoting versions of my favorite treats. And it means that you can take advantage of these recipes, to nourish yourself and enjoy the season, without declaring every day a cheat day.

This recipe took me four tries before I was happy. The first version was based on the batter for my Banana Cream Cake. The banana version was so amazing I figured it would be easy to make it into a pumpkin bread. Unfortunately, the bread turned out super dense (whereas the banana cake was light and airy). It tasted amazing. But it wasn't quite worthy of comparison with my aunt's traditional recipe.

Then I found a recipe for Naturally Red Velvet Cupcakes. These little babies look so delicious I just know they will be one of my go-to birthday treats. I also was attracted to the "velvety" texture for my pumpkin bread. So, I took note of the wet-to-dry ratios and started working on a pumpkin version.

While I stuck pretty true to her recipe (besides my addition of all the right seasonings), I did reduce the sweetener quite a bit. I find that most paleo treat recipes are overloaded with honey or maple syrup (at what point are they no longer paleo?), and they leave a funny taste in my mouth. I prefer to taste the pumpkin and the spices instead of just sweet. If you have more of a sweet tooth than I do, you might want to double the maple syrup (or try it my way first and see why I like it so much...).

Pumpkin Bread

So delicious, you won't want to share.

Ingredients

3 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1/2 cup tapioca flour (starch)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup grass fed butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional, but recommended)
2 tablespoons orange juice (or apple cider)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1/4 teaspoon dried ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 
1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients (coconut flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, cinnamon, all spice, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and salt). Make sure spices and baking powder are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and maple syrup. Add eggs, orange juice, vanilla, and pumpkin. Whisk to combine.

Slowly add dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture. Whisk to fully combine.

Grease two small loaf pans with coconut oil spray. Pour in batter and smooth into an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees until the edges are brown, the center is firm, and the pumpkin bread passes the toothpick test. About 35 to 45 minutes.

You also could use this same recipe to make 12 pumpkin muffins. Just reduce the baking time to 30 to 35 minutes.

How pretty are these?


Monday, October 7, 2013

BBQ Beef Casserole

It's time for another casserole remix!

This BBQ Beef Casserole is a paleo-upgraded version of a BBQ-beef-with-tater-tots casserole recipe that my sister-in-law shared with CaveBoy back in the poor old days. It's super-economical and comforting after a hard day at work. So much so that CaveBoy overused the recipe when he was a bachelor and swore off of the concept entirely when we moved into our shared Cave.

Now (six years later) he's interested in the idea again. He even weighed in on my debate over topping the casserole with sweet potato rounds or sweet potato mash (because sweet po-tater tots are full of vegetable oil, sugar, and corn starch - ugh). Sweet potato rounds won out. And I'm happy with the result. It's a nice change of texture compared to my other starch-topped paleo casseroles and a little bit more interesting on the plate.

But the real question is: what does my sister-in-law think? This is a riff on her recommendation, after all. I know she's a Silly Little CaveGirl reader (hey girl!) and has tried some of my recipes in the past. I'll let you know if she sends any comments, and if this recipe passes the nephew-test. Fingers crossed!

BBQ Beef Casserole

I was a little too vigorous when I tossed the rounds with butter - and they disintegrated.

For the sauce*:


Ingredients

4 cups beef stock
4 cloves garlic, diced
4 dates, pitted and diced
2 jalapeños, finely diced
1 can tomato paste
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1/3 cup BBQ dry rub (I like Pork Barrel BBQ - I got it at Costco)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Instructions

In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and jalapeño. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until onion becomes translucent. Add garlic and cook until it just starts to brown. Pour in beef stock and vinegar. Add dates and bbq seasoning and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer 20 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Continue simmering until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

For the casserole:


Ingredients

3 lbs ground beef
8 small sweet potatoes (or 4 large)
2 yellow onions, diced
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons BBQ dry rub
1 tablespoon olive oil
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange sweet potatoes on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until potato is soft to the touch. About 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool enough to touch. Once cool, cut sweet potato into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Place rounds in a large bowl and toss with melted butter. 

While the sweet potatoes cook, add olive oil and diced onion to a large skillet over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Once the onions start to warm through, add the ground beef. Cook over medium heat until beef is browned. Add BBQ dry rub and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Pour browned beef into a medium baking dish. Pour homemade BBQ sauce over meat and spread into an even layer. Arrange buttered sweet potato rounds in a single layer over the BBQ beef. Sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Place casserole in oven and bake at 400 degrees until sweet potatoes begin to brown. About 15 minutes. 


*Note: You could modify the sauce recipe to suit your taste - omitting the jalapeño for example. Or, to make the casserole recipe even easier, you could use your favorite bottled paleo BBQ sauce (so many options!).






Sunday, October 6, 2013

Banana Cream Cake

This amazingly-delicious paleo Banana Cream Cake recipe was inspired by my own fancy-cooking-tool ignorance (and lack of reading comprehension).

This Summer on our family beach vacation, my mom brought along a Pampered Chef catalog to fish for Christmas present ideas. When we were children, my sister and I didn't write letters to Santa. Instead we circled our greatest desires in the advertisements we found stuffed into post-Thanksgiving newspapers. We would each pick our own marker color, or jot an initial next to our circles, so that Santa wouldn't get confused. Most of the time it worked. And our circled toys magically appeared under the Christmas tree each year.

We've carried on the same tradition now that we're older. Granted, we spend much less time perusing the Toys R Us catalog than we did in the old days. But still. Circles turn into Christmas presents. So, when I saw the Pampered Chef catalog in my mother's room at the beach, I knew exactly what to do.

To my surprise, Santa shipped my Christmas presents 3 months early (lucky me!), and because I'm a total grown up and live 1000 miles away, my mom can't make me set them aside until Christmas comes around (that used to be the rule - presents that come in the mail early go under the tree). So, for the past week-or-so I've been playing in the kitchen with all my new toys.

When I opened up the packages, I also realized that I have a lot to learn in the fancy-cooking-tool department. One of the boxes contained two torte pans. This is exactly what I ordered, but not at all what I expected. I thought (and this is where reading comprehension becomes important) I would be getting tart pans.

In my defense, they don't look all that dissimilar in the pictures. I did think it was a little weird that the torte pans came as a set of two. But I just figured Pampered Chef was being generous. Turns out, the pans are not the same. A tart pan is for making shallow pies and quiche (that's what I wanted to make). A torte pan is for making filled cakes (I had no idea I wanted to make that).

The torte pan shape turns the cake into a crust.
I know! This is some strange new magic...

I'm not one to be intimidated by a cooking implement (or anything else for that matter). So, it took about 15 seconds to come up with a use-case for my new pans. I'd been playing with a banana bread recipe (based on a plantain cake recipe I found online) and I'd been plotting a new banana pudding recipe for CaveBoy (Christmas is coming sooner than you think). I'd imagined that once I got the banana pudding down, I would convert it into a Banana Cream CavePie (based on the wild success of my other two CavePies). But then, when these magical torte pans arrived, the Banana Cream Cake was born.

I tested the recipe out on the CrossFit Beauties during Girls Night In. Rachel said she liked it even more than the Key Lime CavePie (if you can believe that's possible).

Banana Cream Cake

And don't worry. The banana cake is sturdy enough to stand up to the pudding.
It won't become a soggy mess if you chill it over night.

For the cake:


Ingredients

4 eggs, separated
1 large ripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup coconut flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In your stand mixer, combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Whip on high until it forms stiff peaks.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolk and coconut oil. Add vanilla extract and mashed banana, and continue whisking until fully combined.

In a small bowl (relax! your dish washer isn't broken), combine coconut flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Make sure cinnamon and baking soda are evenly distributed throughout the mixture. 

Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture. Whisk to fully combine.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Using a spatula, add banana-coconut flour mixture to the egg whites one scoop at a time. Fold gently to combine. Then add another scoop of banana-coconut mixture. Repeat until the batter is fully combined. 

Grease a torte pan* with coconut oil spray. Pour in batter and smooth into an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees until the edges are brown, the center is firm, and the banana cake passes the toothpick test. About 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, invert cake onto a large plate or serving dish.

For the filling:


Ingredients

5 eggs
1 1/2 large bananas, sliced
1/2 large banana, mashed
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup spiced rum (or pineapple juice)
1 tablespoon raw honey (omit if using pineapple juice)

Instructions

In a small bowl, whisk together rum and mashed banana until it becomes a delicious banana slurry (you'll want to drink it. don't.).

In an un-heated medium sauce pan whisk together eggs, coconut oil, honey, and rum-banana mixture. Once fully combined, place over medium heat and whisk continuously until the filling begins to thicken. Lift from heat and continue whisking until the filling is thick (about the consistency of home-made pudding). Transfer into a medium bowl. Refrigerate for 45 to 60 minutes.

Spoon the filling onto the banana cake and smooth the surface. Arranged sliced banana on top. Serve immediately or refrigerate (so the pudding doesn't run). Serves 8 to 10.


*Note: If you don't have a torte pan, get one, they're fun! Or, you can use a 9x9 baking dish and make Banana Cream Bars.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

CaveLife: Girls Night In (and Skinnygirl Cocktail Review)

I almost couldn't write this post. I wanted to write it, believe me. But I had the kind of day that left me feeling like I'd finished 16 rounds of the Sucker Punch Drill. And I refuse to add to the negativity on the internet. I don't use this forum to complain. I named this blog Silly Little CaveGirl for a reason. I want this space to promote happiness, health and well-being in all forms. But because life isn't always peachy, I'm not always in the right frame-of-mind to uphold the Silly Little CaveGirl moniker.

I was worried when I hit my blogger's block that I was entering into another decidedly un-silly period. But then while I was surfing the internets, whiling away my evening - feeling sorry for myself, I stumbled upon hannahbrencher.com. To say this site is an oasis in the worldwidedesert is an understatement. I feel uplifted. I feel important and beautiful and useful. And now I can happily tell you about the amazing evening I shared with three CrossFit Beauties and three bottles of Skinnygirl ready to serve cocktails (and you only had to suffer two slightly-off-topic paragraphs to get to the good stuff - let's all thank Hannah together).

Girls Night In (and Skinnygirl Cocktail Review)

I hadn't had the girls (or anybody really) over to the Cave since Tiff's Birthday and I was feeling the itch. I like to spend time outside the gym with the CrossFit Beauties. They're amazing people, great cooks, and always up for anything. Who wouldn't want to hang out with a crew like that? With our Whole30 coming to a close, this past weekend presented the perfect opportunity for a Girls Night In. We had our health to celebrate!

I'd also been rolling a party idea around in my head for a while. I'm a Bethenny Frankel fan from way back (OK not all the way back to The Apprentice: Martha Stewart - but that's because I'm not much into contest shows. Back to RHNY Season 1 and the on-screen invention of the Skinnygirl Margarita). So I've kept close tabs on all the new Skinnygirl Cocktail flavors that have been bottled and distributed in recent months.

But, up until this weekend, I hadn't tasted any except the Original Margarita. I'm just one CaveGirl. And I don't really drink that much. What if I bought one and didn't like it? I'd have 75% of a bottle to waste (and nobody wants a partial bottle of an unloved pre-made cocktail in their stocking - I checked). So, my brilliant party idea was to divide and conquer the new flavors. Between the 4 of us, I knew we could consume the better-part of three bottles in an evening.

We chose: Original, White Peach, and Cosmo
I'll get to our review, but first we need to talk about the rest of the party and the food (the most important part).

When I sent out the invite, I made sure to let the Beauties know that this party was casual. Yoga pants casual. I wanted to catch up, hang out, watch a girl movie, and relax. I asked the girls to bring a few snacks, and I chilled the Skinnygirl. I also pulled together a few treats (I wasn't going to miss an opportunity to test new recipes).


Our snacks.
The Beauties brought plantain chips, guacamole, fruit, and veggies. I made a newly-invented paleo snack (recipes coming soon): shredded chicken jalapeño poppers with avocado ranch dip. And because the Whole30 protocol doesn't allow any paleo baking, I made a super-special paleo treat: banana cream cake. 

When the girls arrived, we poured the drinks and made ourselves comfortable around the dining table. We laughed and talked and caught up, and we started the Skinnygirl taste test. I then offered my movie choice for the evening: Sarah Jessica Parker's smash hit Girls Just Want to Have Fun (yes, I own it on DVD, as every good 80s girl should...). Rachel was excited, and Tiff was curious. Unlike Rachel and I - who saw this movie (and all the other amazing 80s dance movies) as children - Tiff was born 4 years after Girls Just Want to Have Fun debuted

Despite her youth, Tiff has a deep love for everything awesome. So I knew she'd enjoy the spectacle. I also thought this would be a good educational experience for her. How can she truly enjoy 90s, 00s, and future dance movies if she's never seen the dance movie that set the template for all future dance movies? I was performing a public service, really. 

We started the movie (it was as entertaining as always) and continued the Skinnygirl taste test. When all was said and done, Tiff loved the movie, and we ranked the Skinnygirl flavors. First, as expected, was Original Margarita. It was stronger than the girls anticipated, in a good way. I think they expected a watered-down, overly-sweetened wine cooler-like drink. But the Original Margarita is none of those things. It was refreshing and full of tequila (just like our homemade versions). I recommend a squeeze of orange, but it's just as good straight from the bottle.

Second on our list was the Cosmo. Not everyone tried this one (something about a bad experience with vodka-cranberry back in college...) but those that did enjoyed the flavor. And Linda even ranked it #1 on her list. The Cosmo was tart and strong (just like a good Cosmo should be) and ideal for our SJP-themed evening.

Last of the three was the White Peach Margarita. It wasn't a bad cocktail, but one of them had to be last. It was a little sweeter than I like my drinks to be (I'm a tequila shot girl, after all). I'm sure there is a market for the White Peach Margarita, but it won't make a re-appearance in my Cave. Especially if there is Original Margarita available.

And there you have it. What Skinnygirl flavors have you tried? What did you think? 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Paleo Bagels (What!?!)

I made these.
I smushed them a little too much on the baking sheet. Don't do that. 

Then I turned one into this.

Yes, that's double ham. Thanks for noticing!
I used this recipe (but substituted sesame seeds).


Whole30's over.




Friday, September 27, 2013

Caramelized-Onion Cauliflower Mash

You guys know our routine: CaveBoy works his shifts and I work all the time. So we rarely get to see each other at dinner-time. When we do share a meal, it feels like such special occasion that we usually go out to eat, often to a local burger joint or Thai restaurant.

Sometimes, however, I have my shush together well enough in advance that we can cook dinner for ourselves. This scenario is especially rare because it requires me to know on Saturday that we'll be together sometime in the week, remember that fact when I grocery shop, and buy one meal worth of food to cook (instead of my normal 4 to 5 meals-per-person bulk shopping).

Recently, that became much easier to plan and execute. I loaded up the freezer with on-sale steaks and individually wrapped salmon steaks. Now, I only have to know one day in advance that we're going to have a cook-at-the-Cave date, and I can pull out the right protein to thaw. We're saving money and avoiding that-much-more vegetable oil (double-whammy!).

Grilled steaks and baked salmon take no time to cook, tho, so my side veggie can't take all day. My favorite Roasted Cauliflower Sweet Potato Mash takes almost an hour (no bueno). Tangy Shaved Brussels Sprouts are awesome with steak but disgusting with salmon, so that recipe is disqualified despite the short cook-time. Cauliflower, on the other hand, goes with everything. And frozen cauliflower keeps forever. So I added a few bags to my beef and seafood stockpile, and now we're in business.

I pulled this recipe together on the fly. I was preheating the oven for our salmon steaks and needed to move fast to get the veggie done before the fish was ready. I always have onions, garlic, and chicken stock in the pantry (because those three ingredients go with everything). Add a few tablespoons of grass fed butter et voilà: dinner is served.

Caramelized-Onion Cauliflower Mash


This was so good, CaveBoy and I ate the whole batch by ourselves.

Ingredients

1 bag frozen cauliflower florets 
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons grass fed butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Instructions

Place a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add frozen cauliflower florets and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking until cauliflower is tender. Increase heat and boil until all the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat.

While the cauliflower is cooking. Add olive oil and onion to a medium skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Cook onion until it begins to brown. Add garlic and continue cooking until garlic begins to brown and onion is caramelized.

Once the onions are caramelized, mash cauliflower using a potato masher. Add butter to the onion skillet and stir continuously until it melts. Add mashed cauliflower to the skillet and stir to combine. Re-season with salt and pepper. Serves 2 to 4 (depending how many of the diners are CaveBoy).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jamaican Beef Patty Pie

You've probably noticed by now that I thrive on routine. I like my life to be structured, organized, and predictable. I plan my work schedule weeks-to-months in advance. And I structure my home-life around fulfilling my basic needs: sleep, food, and fitness. On the food front, I traditionally meal plan sometime during the week, with my final decisions made on Saturday morning. I shop on Saturday evening (after the stores are mostly cleared-out of crazies). And I cook on Sunday afternoon.

Sometimes, though, my secondary needs (fun with friends, activities outside on beautiful Fall days, dates with CaveBoy, etc - not necessarily in that order) interfere with my routine. Take today for example: I'm headed to play outside with friends this afternoon, right in the middle of my normal cooking-block. But you know what? I have a plan for that, too!

On days like today, I plan meals that have only a few steps and require little babysitting. This helps me multi-task and still get everything done for the week in a compressed timeframe. I also split my cooking-block in half, starting the make-ahead steps (like baking sweet potatoes and chicken thighs) while I cook breakfast. I let them cool while I'm away (having fun) and then turn them into dinner when I get home.

Even though I am willing to skimp on time, I can't cut corners on flavor or creativity. Our cook-on-Sunday-eat-all-week plan only works if the food can hold our interest over multiple meals. Otherwise we end up in the drive-thru seeking bun-less burgers. And that's a waste of everything.

This Jamaican Beef Patty Pie recipe was born out of my need for a simple, flavorful, babysitting-free, paleo (actually Whole30-approved) casserole that I can whip up in a flash on days like today. It's a pie in the sense of Shepherd's Pie or my recently invented Drover's Pie.

The flavors are based on a Jamaican Beef Patty recipe I found on Martha Stewart's website. And the cooking method for the Mashed Plantain also comes from Ms. Martha (hey - use your resources, right?). But make no mistake, the execution is all Silly Little CaveGirl.

This recipe was such a mega-hit with CaveBoy that I know I've created an instant classic!

Jamaican Beef Patty Pie

Guaranteed* to wow everyone at your next pot-luck!

Ingredients

3 lbs ground beef
6 ripe plantains
3 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 scotch bonnet peppers, finely chopped
1 cup beef stock
1/4 cup olive oil + 1 table spoon
1/4 cup grass fed butter or ghee
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon potato starch (optional)
Salt and pepper

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peal and slice each plantain in half lengthwise. Toss sliced plantains with 1 tablespoon olive oil and arrange cut-side down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn plantains over. Return to oven and bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Mash plantains with a potato masher until they become a chunky purée. Add butter (or ghee) and 1 tablespoon curry powder, and stir to combine until butter is melted.

While the plantains are cooking, add 1/4 cup olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add diced veggies and ground beef and cook until beef is browned. Add 2 tablespoons curry powder, thyme, and beef stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 

If you're not on the Whole30, consider thickening it with 1 tablespoon potato starch mixed into a half cup of cold water. Add the potato starch slurry and stir continuously until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat. If you are on the Whole30, or are just keeping your diet super strict, simmer an additional 5 minutes to let more of the liquid evaporate. 

Grease a medium baking dish with coconut oil spray. Pour beef mixture into the baking dish and smooth into an even layer. Spoon mashed plantains on top, ensuring that meat mixture is evenly covered. Bake at 375 degrees until plantains begin to caramelize. About 10 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Our peppers weren't very hot (nature!) so we served ours with extra hot sauce on the side.

*Note: I don't actually guarantee anything.






Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sausage-Stuffed Zucchini

This recipe was inspired by my Grandfather's farm (and the Trader Joe's produce section).

Throughout the summer, I've been confronted with beautifully-stacked zucchini during my weekly grocery run. But I never brought any home because I know how much CaveBoy detests the fruit (how do you like that proper use of the definition?). But then last week while I was shopping, as I passed the zucchini pile, I recalled my mother's stuffed zucchini recipe, and I was sold.

When I was growing up, my GrandpaG lived on a farm (the same farm my mother grew-up on, but that's a story for another day). GrandpaG kept cows, a lake stocked with fish, a giant pear tree, and a huge garden. He grew corn, peas, tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini, watermelon, and all sorts of other things. He also had rows and rows of raspberry bushes. It was a produce paradise (he also had a batting cage, a swing set, and a huge barn. So it actually was a multi-genre paradise.).

Unlike the zucchini you normally find in the grocery store, GrandpaG's zucchini was HUGE. One stuffed zucchini (two halves) could feed our whole family. This recipe is a modified version of my childhood memory. First because I don't have access to gigantor-zucchini, and second because my mom's recipe was not Whole30-approved.

And just incase you're worried, CaveBoy (grudgingly) ate the stuffed zucchini with me. He complimented the filling (so that's good!) and requested that next time I stuff it into a pepper instead. But he also agreed that if I am willing to eat broccoli with him, then eating zucchini once a year isn't all that bad. On that note: I say this recipe still counts as a success!

Sausage-Stuffed Zucchini

Like a smile on a plate.

Ingredients

8 medium zucchini
4 lb Italian sausage
4 eggs, beaten
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 red onion, finely diced
1 head garlic, cloves finely diced
2 cups pork rinds, crushed (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Instructions

Remove stems from zucchini and slice in half lengthwise. Remove seeds from each zucchini half (I used a melon baller).* Make sure to leave enough zucchini to have a sturdy zucchini-boat. Arrange on a baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook onion until it becomes translucent. Add garlic and cook until it becomes aromatic. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine sausage, onion mixture, and egg. Mix well. Divide into 16 evenly-sized meatballs. Press each meatball into a zucchini boat, filling the space. Shape the meatball so that it is evenly distributed along the zucchini-boat, for more even cooking. Bake at 400 degrees until pork is fully cooked. About 45 minutes. If desired (and I recommend it!), remove the stuffed zucchini from the oven and sprinkle crushed pork rinds on top. Return to oven and bake for 5 minutes. Makes 16 4 oz portions (or 5 servings each for CaveBoy and CaveGril).


*Note: Don't throw the zucchini centers away! I put mine in a Ziplock bag and stashed them in the freezer. I plan to use them to make zucchini bread once the Whole30 is over (and share it with someone other than CaveBoy).



Monday, September 16, 2013

Tomato-Bacon Yellow Squash "Pasta"

This recipe was so beyond-expectations delicious that I almost made it two weeks in a row!

At first, I wasn't sure how it would turn out. When I conceptualized this recipe, I wanted to make it with spaghetti squash. But I wasn't willing to wait a few more weeks for it to come back in season. Luckily for me (and CaveBoy) there was a huge pile of yellow squash at Trader Joe's, and I have a julienne peeler. Dinner was saved!

Now that I've experimented a little bit, I think I prefer the yellow squash. Spaghetti squash can hold a lot of water, which works just fine when combined with a red sauce (or made into a soup). The extra water boils off when I re-heat my portion each night, and prevents the whole dish from becoming dry.

BUT for an oil-based sauce, too much moisture could be catastrophic. Roasting the squash-noodles (instead of steaming or boiling them) kept them from becoming soggy or mushy and helped them stand-up to the tomatoes and bacon.

Now, I can't wait to try my hand at a yellow squash-noodle carbonara (dairy free, of course).

Tomato-Bacon Yellow Squash "Pasta"

It's a pretty substantial side dish.
Serve with something simple and light like grilled chicken.


Ingredients

8 medium-large yellow squash
1 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
1 lb thick-cut bacon, diced
1 red onion, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
4 oz arugula
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Julienne the yellow squash into the longest squash-noodles possible (I use a julienne peeler in long motions covering the full length of the squash). Once the narrow neck becomes too thin to continue julienning, continue peeling the thicker part of the squash until you hit the seeds (You will have noodles of different lengths, but they will still cook evenly. And this way you don't waste any food).

In a large bowl combine squash-noodles and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Mix with your hands to ensure even coverage. Use 1 tablespoon olive oil to grease a large baking sheet. Distribute squash-noodles onto baking sheet in an even layer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Stir and redistribute squash into an even layer. Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes. You want the squash to be cooked, but not mushy. Remove from oven and set aside.

While the squash-noodles cook, add bacon to a large skillet and render out the fat. Once the bacon is fully-cooked, remove from pan a set aside. Pour off 3/4 of the bacon grease. Return pan to heat and add onion. Cook until onion begins to caramelize. Add garlic and cook until it starts to brown.

Pour in the white wine and stir with a wooden spoon. Scrape the bottom of the pan with the wooden spoon to deglaze. Add the chicken stock and cherry tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are warmed through. Season with basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Return cooked bacon to the pan. Add squash-noodles and toss with tongs to ensure everything is evenly distributed. Remove squash-pasta mixture from pan.

Quickly, while the pan is still hot, add arugula and a pinch of salt. Toss arugula with tongs until it is heated and just begins to wilt. Remove from pan. Serve squash-pasta in large bowls with arugula on top. Makes 6 servings (I set out to make 8 servings, but it didn't last that long. It was just too delicious!).




Sunday, September 15, 2013

GuestBlogger: Grilled Flank Steak With Whole30 Sides

Congratulations! We're half-way though the Whole30. To celebrate our continued success, another amazing woman has agreed to GuestBlog about her experience with the protocol.

DrLindsey and I go waaaaayyyyy back (back before I met CaveBoy). It would be an understatement to say that we grew up together. Even though we were technically adults when we met, we developed into the women that we are today in each others' company. Sometimes pushing each other (and letting ourselves be pushed by the other) to overcome our self-doubt and youthful selfishness.

And we're still growing-up together! Supporting each other though the multi-year-gut-punch of higher education, the stress-filled-joy of our weddings, the pleasure of building our little families, and the hard-work of opening a medical practice (DrLindsey-obviously) and climbing out of a basement cubicle (me).

Throughout the (many) years, we've also supported each others' health and fitness goals. And you have Dr.Lindsey to thank for inspiring this month's Whole30.

Now, here's DrLindsey...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Hi folks! 

I’m Lindsey Mansueto DC, a chiropractor who usually focuses on hands on techniques to treat people with musculoskeletal pain. However, taking many hours of nutrition classes has taught me that if people are eating the wrong foods it will lead to aches and pains regardless of structural integrity. So when CaveGirl asked me to do a guest blog, I was thrilled to oblige.

The first thing you need to know about me is that I love food. I mean LOVE food. Growing up with a father who is a chef, it was standard to have five courses at dinnertime. Now that I am a mom, I want to instill a love of food to my daughter but also ensure that she loves the right foods: a ripe pear, sweet cantaloupe, freshly scrambled eggs, and of course green veggies.

CaveGirl asked me to do the Whole30 with her almost a year ago and my initial reaction was pure terror. You mean no creamer in my coffee? No dark chocolate before bed? No bagels with butter in the morning? But as the year went by and I did more research, I felt more comfortable with eliminating dairy, grains, beans, and processed foods from my diet. 

So I started the Whole30 on September 1st and it took 4 days for me to get used to my new eating style. The amazing thing is that during that transition I started to sleep better, poop better, think clearly, and have more fun during the day. 

Don’t get me wrong, it does take a great deal of planning. But when you are planning ahead for your meals, it gives you more time to think about the important things: playing with your kids, getting more done at work, and of course showing your spouse a little affection (hubba hubba).

So today I want to share with you one of my favorite meals from my first week of the Whole30:

Grilled Flank Steak With Whole30 Sides



CaveGirl: You can tell that cooking is in here genes!

Ingredients

For the Flank Steak

Grass fed local flank steak
Shallots
Ginger
Garlic
Onion Powder
Coconut Aminos
Pink Himalayan Salt
Pepper

For the Whole30 Sides

Green beans
Sweet potato
Arugula
Olive oil
White balsamic vinegar
Tomato
Red onion
Cilantro
Carrots
Salt and Pepper

Instructions

Combine all the ingredients* in a shallow dish or Ziploc bag. Allow the steak to marinate overnight for intense flavor.

Start the baked potato.. I usually do 350 degrees for 1 hour depending on the size (you can do this in advance and just reheat the day of). Because these sweet potatoes were big, I just used two and gave family members slices. 

Preheat the grill to get it nice and hot. Wash and steam the green beans. Put the marinated steak on the grill. Cook for 7-10 minutes per side (I had a huge flank steak). While the steak is cooking, go throw the arugula salad together. Once the steak is done, allow it to rest so it soaks up all the juices and you have time to finish up the rest of the meal. 

It is a healthy Whole30-approved meal that the whole family can enjoy!


*Note: CaveGirl: DrLindsey is creative in the kitchen and doesn't often measure. Use this recipe as inspiration and just make enough marinade to cover the flank steak. Judge your portions for the other ingredients based on how many people you plan to feed.