Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jalapeño Poppers + Avocado Ranch

This recipe is brought to you by the kindness of one of my colleagues. She lives in a different city, and I've been working on a big project with her - long distance - for a few years. Last fall I was visiting her city and she invited me over to her house for a home-cooked meal (that type of kindness is a real blessing and luckily not too rare in my cubicle-bound world).

My colleague shook up a mean ginger martini, and she and her husband prepared a cornucopia of vegetable dishes (hot and cold). All were delicious, but the shining star of the evening was her husband's beautifully grilled ribeye. Now, if you haven't noticed, I'm a food-lover. I know an excellent steak when I eat one. So I started interrogating them about how they could possibly have made something so simple - that I have enjoyed countless times - so incredibly delicious.

That's when they let me in on their secret: Muzzy's Magic Texas Jalapeño Seasoning with Cilantro. They seasoned both sides of the steaks about 30 minutes before putting them on the grill. Super simple. Major pay off.

This revelation brought so many thoughts to mind. First: Be still my adopted-Texan heart! Then: Why have I never tasted this before? And finally: Where do I get some for myself?

I so enjoyed the meal that they doubled-down on their kindness and sent me home with my very own bottle of Muzzy's Magic (we're friends for life at this point. how could we not be?). I've been using it on everything. Chicken. Pork. Beef. Everything. So when I decided to take a stab at protein-packed, bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers, I knew I had the perfect seasoning in my spice cabinet.

If you're not lucky enough to have Muzzy's Magic in your spice rack, you can make an adequate replacement with salt, pepper, and garlic. But don't kid yourself, it won't be the same. I strongly recommend (to a friend) that you order a bottle!

Jalapeño Poppers

Seriously, take my advice. Toothpicks are important!


12 large jalapeño peppers
1 1/2 lb chicken breast
12 strips center cut bacon
1/2 cup coconut milk
Muzzy's Magic (or Garlic Powder, Salt and Pepper)
Toothpicks (recommended)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken in a baking dish and season liberally with Muzzy's Magic. Bake at 400 degrees until chicken is fully cooked. About 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool enough to touch.

While the chicken bakes, split the jalapeños in half lengthwise and remove the stems and seeds. Then slice each bacon strip in half. 

Shred the cooled chicken. Mix in coconut milk and re-season with Muzzy's Magic to taste. Press a small ball of chicken mixture into each jalapeño half and wrap with a  bacon strip. Secure the bacon to the jalapeño with a toothpick (recommended. I skipped this step to save time, and made a mess of everything! Haste makes waste....). 

Arrange stuffed-and-wrapped jalapeños on a backing sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until bacon is fully cooked. About 20 minutes. 

Avocado Ranch


1/2 cup homemade paleo mayo (and yes! you should pasteurize your egg)
1 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper


In a small bowl, mash the avocado with lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Then fold in the mayo. Serve immediately (the avocado will begin to brown, so you don't want it to linger too long before serving).

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Banana Muffins + Bonus Recipe

So. Things have been pretty fantastic lately.

I moved into a fancy, new single-girl cave that also happens to be right in the center of my social universe (location, location, location!). And even though it has been freezing, I'm doing my best to learn my new neighborhood.

I've walked my reusable bags to the grocery store (which totally counts as a workout, by the way). I've met friends out for drinks and sushi and other-more-different drinks. All without getting lost or catching frostbite. Last night I pushed the limits of my new land navigation skills and headed to a concert outside my immediate five block radius (winning!).

And then, this morning, when I woke up with the slightest-touch of a hangover, I was so happy to find a dozen paleo banana muffins all boxed up on my kitchen counter. I baked them as a birthday treat for one of my co-workers (he won't miss one, right? or two?), and I hadn't even thought about how great they would be as hangover-food!

OK. That's a lie. Maybe I secretly thought about it a little bit. But I mean. If you can't/won't/don't eat normal hangover-food, what else are you supposed to do?

Banana Muffins

Such a pretty little life-saver.


3 eggs
2 large bananas, mashed
1/2 cup tapioca flour (starch)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup grass fed butter, softened
2 tablespoons raw honey (optional but recommended)
2 tablespoons dark rum (or pineapple juice)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients (coconut flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, and salt). Make sure everything is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

In a medium bowl, cream together butter, eggs and honey (if desired). Add rum, vanilla, and mashed banana. Whisk to combine.

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

Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees until the edges are brown, the center is firm, and the muffins pass the toothpick test. About 30 to 35 minutes.

Bonus recipe: Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Artistic, right?

Even before I ditched wheat, I often complained about store-bought muffins and popular muffin recipes (yes, I know I'm the worst). If you add frozen blueberries to your vanilla cupcake batter, does that make it health food?! Or appropriate for breakfast? But! If it's acceptable to turn cupcakes into "muffins" why not turn muffins into cupcakes? Just add 1 cup dark chocolate chips to the batter, and frost with dark chocolate icing. Voila!

This recipe re-make was such a hit, the CrossFit boys didn't believe they were Paleo. We can debate the finer points of that definition later. Bottom line: these cupcakes are processed-sugar free, grain-free, and delicious. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mediterranean Dirty "Rice"

If you can't tell, I'm a big fan of cauliflower. I like to mash it (with and without sweet potatoes). I use cauliflower to thicken soup. I whip it into hummus. And I chop it up fine to make paleo fried "rice."

The fried "rice" recipe is one of my favorites, actually. And it's one that always earns compliments from CB. So when I was brainstorming sides that would go well with my Banana Pepper Pulled Beef, cauliflower "rice" immediately came to mind. Only, plain-old roasted/chopped cauliflower wouldn't do. I had to make something that could stand up for itself next to the bright flavor of the banana peppers.

Enter dirty rice (the concept).

Dirty rice is a mixture of rice cooked with meat and veggies. Besides bringing a ton of flavor to the lunch box, dirty rice gives you the opportunity to add even more vegetables to your diet. And if the veggies and seasoning are well-chosen, it can be a perfect side-dish to accompany any protein.

Banana peppers always bring Greek salad to mind. So, for this version, I pulled together my other favorite Mediterranean flavors to dress up the "rice."

Mediterranean Dirty "Rice"

OK. So my olives are a little more "rough" than "chopped."


2 heads cauliflower, cut into florets
1 small eggplant, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 12 oz jar kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the cauliflower florets with 2 tablespoons olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees until the cauliflower is tender. About 30 minutes.

While the cauliflower is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet. Add onion and eggplant and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until eggplant is tender and onions begin to caramelize. Add olives, lemon juice, basil, and garlic powder. Stir to combine. Remove from heat and set aside.

Once the cauliflower is done cooking. Remove from oven and let cool enough to touch. Once cool, roughly chop the cauliflower into rice-sized pieces. Return the pieces to the baking sheet. Pour the onion-eggplant-olive mixture over the cauliflower and combine well (it's easiest to just use your hands). Makes 8 servings.

Note: If you're not keeping it super-strict, you also could add a cup of feta to your mixture, right at the end.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pineapple with Dark Chocolate Sauce

So. How are the resolutions going?

A few years ago my friends and I started sharing our goals for the year and checking in with each other every quarter to see how much progress we've made. It helps keep us accountable. And the quarterly check-in lets us reassess and create new goals when life inevitably fails to live up to our expectations.

We always have a few career-associated goals and plans to improve our social- and family-life. And of course health and fitness goals. For example, in 2014 I plan to establish a new fitness routine. Life interrupted my CrossFit membership (even though I still love it!) so I need to figure out how to hold on to the precious gains I've made over the last two years.

To that end, I'm following the programming on (download the app! It's sooo cool). And I'm getting my nutrition back under control (see ya later, holidays!).

I imagine many of you are in the same boat.

But then what do you do when you're craving something sweet? Or if your party-loving friends haven't changed their plans to accommodate your resolutions? Turn nature's dessert into something a little special!

Pineapple with Dark Chocolate Sauce

See how fancy they are?


16 oz pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup dark chocolate chips (I prefer Enjoy Life)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon vanilla


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Skewer the pineapple chunks with toothpicks and arrange on the parchment paper. Add chocolate, coconut oil, and vanilla to a small sauce pan and place over low heat. Stir continuously until chocolate is melted and sauce is combined. 

Using a spoon, drizzle the chocolate sauce over the pineapple (you won't use all of the sauce, but it keeps well in a sealed container in the refrigerator). Place tray of pineapple in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden the sauce and make the skewers less messy to arrange on a serving dish (or carry individually to the living room for midnight snack). 

Credit where credit is due: For the sauce, I used the ingredients from a chocolate frosting recipe I found on Elana's Pantry.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What I learned in 2013

Happy New Year!

2013 didn't exactly turn out as I had planned. I continued to improve my health and fitness, got even more creative in the kitchen, and earned thousands of visitors to my Silly Little Blog (thank you!). I kept climbing ever higher at work (not out of my basement cubicle, but figuratively).

I also took a major blow.

All told, I am proud of 2013. Unlike last year, I don't have a list of lessons to share. I only have the one, but it's a big one.

The grass is greenest under your own two feet. 
Put another way: you are responsible for your own happiness.

This lesson came into clear focus this Fall when CaveBoy left in search of greener pastures. Initially, I was devastated. I did all the things a CaveGirl can do to try to make him change his mind. But the thing is (and this is a lesson I learned long ago) you can't make a grown-up do anything they don't want to do. And CaveBoy didn't want to stay.

So then I had to get down to the business of disentangling my life from someone I loved for a decade and begin the process of creating a life for myself. Luckily, I have an amazing circle of friends and an outrageously-supportive family. They wanted to help in any way they could. And - independent as I am - I let them.

I outsourced my rage to my best girls so I could focus on being practical and protecting my future. I followed my big brother's advice to the letter. I relied on the strong shoulders of my CrossFit friends and the sound logic of my co-workers. And I moved at break-neck speed to do all the things I needed to do to begin again.

At times, the logistics became overwhelming. Other times I worried that I was becoming too much of a burden on my loved-ones (honestly how many times can you call someone just to make them listen to you cry?).

I watched the pep talk more than I care to admit.

But even though my life was in chaos - and everyone would have understood if I flaked out or broke down or gave up - I achieved the greatest successes in my career (to date). I had some great laughs with friends and my force-of-nature little sister. With the process of divorce crushing down on me, I still woke up each morning excited for what the day would bring. Multiple times each day - even on my saddest most stressful days - I thought to myself, "I love my life!"

Photo Credit: My good friend Meredith

It's true.

I'm happy.

Sure. I still feel anger and disappointment when I'm pushing though my Divorce To-Do List. But those feelings never last long. They're no match for the gratitude I feel for my friends and family. Or the excitement I feel about the meaningful work that I do every day. Or the wonder and curiosity I have about what this life has in store for me next.

I was happy before CaveBoy left, and I'm still happy today.

There is nothing for me to seek. I have more than enough right here. And there is no better lesson than that!