Transformation Tuesday: Paleo Pad Thai

NutritionI LOVE food with an Asian influence. I love Chinese food, Japanese food, Thai food- all of it. But in New Hampshire it’s pretty hard to find much food of this persuasion that isn’t filled with processed grains, MSG, preservatives and all kinds of sugar. So needless to say, I’ve been craving the stuff lately!

To help me get over this craving, I decided to use my regular Transformation Tuesday series to do a little “take out, fake out,” and make over one of my all-time favorite dishes: pad thai! While my version isn’t exactly the same, it’s just as delicious and much healthier!

I used my new spiralizer to make noodles out of zucchini and summer squash, and then added some chicken, mushrooms, bean sprouts, scallions and a really yummy almond sauce (in place of the traditional peanut sauce). This would also be a great way to sneak in even more veggies!

DSC_6550

Here’s how to make this in your kitchen:

For the stir-fry:

  • 3 cooked chicken thighs (meat removed and shredded)*
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 zucchini and 1 summer squash (or two of each), spiralized into veggie noodles**
  • 1.5 cups baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 oz cashew (or other nut) chopped
  • chopped cilantro (for garnish)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the sauce:

  • 5 tbsp coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tsp ginger puree or fresh grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 limes (1.5 limes juiced, 1/2 lime saved for garnish)

1. Begin by making the sauce, mixing all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl or liquid measuring cup (I like using those to mix my sauces because they make it easy to pour the sauce later). Whisk the ingredients until smooth and set aside.

2. Melt the coconut oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil has melted, add the garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Once the mushrooms begin to soften, add in the cooked chicken and stir to combine.

3. Add the spiralized zucchini and squash to the pan and stir to combine with the other ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce into the pan and stir to coat everything with the sauce, cooking the whole mixture, stirring, until the squash is tender, about 2 minutes.

4. Turn the heat down to low, and push the stir-fry mixture to the sides of the pan, creating a blank space in the center of the pan. Add the egg into the center of the pan and scramble. Once the eggs are cooked through, mix them into the stir-fry mixture and remove the pan from the heat.

5. To serve, plate the stir-fry and top with a handful of fresh bean sprouts, about a third of the chopped cashews, the chopped scallion and the chopped cilantro. Add a slice of the lime wedge on the side and use it to squeeze some more lime juice on top of the dish.

6. Eat and enjoy! This is also great topped with some sriracha sauce.

*I used leftover cooked chicken thighs to make this dish, but if you don’t have any pre-cooked chicken, simply cut fresh, boneless chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and cook them in the coconut oil before adding in the vegetables.

**If you don’t own a spiralizer, you should! I just got one and it is the best! If you don’t have one and want to make this dish now, however, you can use a jullienne cutter or a simple veggie peeler to make your zoodles.

DSC_6569

Let me know if you try this recipe and how it works!

Recipe: Sun-dried Tomato and Lemon Chicken

IMG_0758One of my favorite ways to create new recipes is to stare into a somewhat empty fridge and figure out how to use the random ingredients found inside. That’s what I did tonight, and it was one of my best half-empty fridge creations yet! I’m calling it: Sun-dried Tomato and Lemon Chicken.

This was beautiful enough to make for a dinner party or significant other, but is simple enough to make any night of the week! It would be really easy to switch out the tarragon I used in this dish with any other herb, too, and really make it your own.

This would be great on top of some spaghetti squash or spiraled veggie. We simply served ours with some roasted beets and crispy Brussels sprout chips on the side. NOM

Sundried Tomato Chicken

Here’s how you can make this in your kitchen (serves 2):

  • 1 chicken breast, sliced in half lengthwise to form two thin cutlets
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup hot water or chicken broth
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, prepared and chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1 tsp arrowroot powder (dissolved in 1 tsp water)
  • 1 tbsp grass-fed butter (or ghee)

1. In a medium saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the two chicken breast halves to the pan and sauté until cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

2. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the sun-dried tomatoes. I buy the kind that are completely dry and come in a plastic bag (not the kind packed in oil). To soften the tomatoes, soak them in the 1 cup of hot water or broth. After about 10 minutes, remove them from the liquid (but keep the liquid, which should now be red) and chop.

3 Add the garlic to the same pan in which you cooked the chicken and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the water or broth used to soak the tomatoes to the pan. Add in the lemon juice, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture reduces by about a third, about 3-5 minutes.

4. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and chopped tarragon to the sauce and stir to combine. Add the arrowroot powder (dissolved in water) to the sauce and stir to combine fully. The sauce should begin to thicken immediately. Once the sauce has reached your desired thickness, stir in 1 tbsp butter.

5. Reduce the heat on the pan to medium-low, add the chicken breasts back into the pan with the sauce and cook for an additional 1 minute. Serve the chicken with the sauce poured on top.

6. Eat and enjoy!

This would be great with basil, with some mushrooms or greens added in, or paired with some spaghetti squash. We had a bit of sauce left over, and I think it will also be great on eggs or stirred into a hollandaise sauce this weekend!

Let me know if you try this recipe!

 

Transformation Tuesday: Dairy-Free Buffalo Chicken “Mac n’ Cheese”

NutritionI LOVE mac n’ cheese. In fact, before I began following this paleo lifestyle, my personal Twitter account listed me as a “macaroni and cheese connoisseur.” In 2013, I even entered a state-wide mac n’ cheese bake-off, cooking up 50 pounds of what I called a “Philly Cheese Steak Mac n’ Cheese,” complete with a beer cheese sauce.

Needless to say, I miss the stuff. While I do eat dairy sometimes, my time being completely dairy-free during Lent this year helped me to see that it does my body some good to limit my intake (more on this in another post). I haven’t eaten pasta (even the gluten-free stuff) in months. So what’s a recovering mac n’ cheese addict to do? Make a dairy-free version of course!

This week’s Transformation Tuesday post is just that: a dairy-free, grain-free version of my former stand-by: Buffalo Chicken Mac n’ Cheese. I have to say, while this new version may not be the same as the original, it truly is just as good. And I don’t mean in a “I’ve gone so long without proper grains and dairy in my life that this tastes amazing but is actually crap” good. I mean REALLY GOOD. HUSBAND-APPROVED GOOD. MAKING THIS ALL THE TIME GOOD.

Try it for yourself and you’ll (hopefully) see how creamy and delicious a dairy-free “mac n’ cheese” can really be!

DSC_6488

Here’s how to make this in your kitchen:

  • Large spaghetti squash, prepared (see instructions on how to do this here) (should make about 4-5 cups of cooked squash)
  • 2 cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 large butternut squash (about 3-4 cups chopped)
  • 1/3 pound cooked chicken breast, chopped small (I used 1.5 breasts and just baked them)
  • 2 tbsp butter, ghee, coconut oil or other cooking fat
  • 2 large celery stalks, diced
  • 1 cup buffalo sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot), divided
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is preheating, place the coconut milk and the chopped butternut squash in a medium saucepan (you want the coconut milk to just cover the squash) and bring to a boil. Cook, covered, until the squash is soft, about 7-10 minutes.

2. While the butternut squash is cooking, add your cooking fat to a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the diced celery and some salt and pepper to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add in the chopped, cooked chicken and stir to combine. Pour in 1/2 cup of the buffalo sauce and stir until the celery and chicken are evenly coated. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

3. Once the squash is cooked through, remove the pan from the heat. Using an immersion blender (immersion blender will work best, but you could transfer this mixture to a standard blender as well), puree the squash into the coconut milk until completely smooth and thick. This is the base for your cheese sauce, and it should be thick and creamy. (If you think yours is too thin, mix about 1 tbsp arrowroot starch or corn starch with 1 tbsp water and add to the pan, stirring to combine, to help thicken it.)

4. Add the garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, and the remaining 1/2 cup buffalo sauce to the squash mixture and stir to fully combine (if you’re using an immersion blender, use this to mix it). Feel free to add more buffalo sauce if you want your sauce to be spicier! That’s up to you!

5. In a large bowl, mix together the prepared spaghetti squash and the chicken and celery mixture. Next, add the “cheese” sauce to the bowl and stir to combine fully. (Note: you may not want to use all of the sauce this makes. Just add as much as you want in the dish, I had about 1/3rd of the sauce left over.) Transfer the mixture to a 9×9 baking dish, top with the crumbled bacon (gluten-free breadcrumbs would also taste great!) and place in the oven. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until bubbly.

6. EAT AND ENJOY!

DSC_6493

I hope you love this recipe as much as we did! Please let me know any feedback you have if you do try this out, so I can continue to improve my recipes!

Recipe: Savory Breakfast Crepes with Mustard-Dill Hollandaise

I am not a fan of sweet breakfasts. As you can probably tell by the recipes I share and the meals I post to Instagram, I could eat eggs almost every day of the week. Still, even eggs can get boring sometimes (shocking, I know). And since the hubby has been bugging me for weeks now to make some paleo crepes, I decided to switch things up last weekend and bring some crepes to the table.

I couldn’t completely move away from my eggs, however, so I decided to make savory breakfast crepes, filling these thin, pancake-like wraps with scrambled eggs, ham and roasted asparagus, and topping them with a mustard-dill hollandaise sauce. It. Was. Awesome. (if I do say so myself!)

The crepes, from Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain blog, were delicious, and would be great the way we used them or topped with some fresh fruit, nuts and maple syrup. They’d also be a great way to make enchiladas, as they have a very neutral flavor.

I think my favorite part of this recipe, however, was the hollandaise sauce. I’ve made dill hollandaise before, but the addition of the mustard in this version really added another layer of flavor that I LOVED.

IMG_0295

Try this recipe out in your house this weekend, and let me know how it turns out!

Here’s how to make this in your kitchen:

Make the crepes by following the recipe, found here. Once they are made, set aside until the fillings are ready (I would cover them or wrap them in tinfoil to stay warm).

***For the filling, get creative! We simply roasted some asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes, and then  scrambled some eggs with chopped Canadian bacon, salt and pepper. We wrapped up the eggs and asparagus in the crepes and topped with the hollandaise sauce.

For the hollandaise sauce (makes enough for 3 servings of 2 crepes each):

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp grass-fed butter (Kerrygold is my favorite!), melted
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1-2 tsp water (or more*)
  • 1 tsp mustard (or more to taste) (any variety you like!)
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Place 1-2 inches of water in a small saucepan and bring to a bowl. Place the three egg yolks into a glass, heat-safe bowl and place the bowl on top of the boiling water in the saucepan (you do not want the bowl to touch the water). Whisk the yolks continuously over the heat until they begin to thicken, about 3 minutes.

2. Once the yolks have begun to thicken, remove the bowl from the saucepan and slowly add the butter to the yolks, stirring continuously. Once the butter is incorporated, add the lemon juice and the water. (Start by adding just 1 tsp water and add more depending on how thin you want the sauce to be.)

3. Stir in the mustard, dill, salt and pepper and taste, adding more of any ingredient based on your flavor preferences. Use the sauce to top these crepes, or any egg dish! This especially goes well with ham or bacon, too.

**Note: if you need to keep this warm, place the bowl back on top of the hot water in the saucepan, over very low heat, and stir frequently to ensure it does not get too thick. If necessary, you can add a little more water to thin out the sauce before serving.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and breakfast inspiration! If you try it, let me know what you think.

Transformation Tuesday: Thai-Style Beet Coleslaw

NutritionClearly I am dreaming of summer. This is my second paleo coleslaw recipe in a week! I am using today’s coleslaw recipe as today’s “Transformation Tuesday”post, because I really feel like this version is a complete transformation of the typical mayo-laden version you’re used to eating at every barbecue (not that there is anything wrong with mayo!).

The hubby and I made pulled pork in the crock pot for dinner last night, and I LOVE to eat coleslaw with pulled pork. Still, I wanted to try something very different (even more different than last week’s Ginger-Lime Coleslaw), and I had some beets I needed to use up.

So I made this creation: Thai-Style Beet Coleslaw! It was SO good! The dressing is light but full of flavor and still slightly creamy thanks to a bit of mayo. And it was great on pulled pork tacos with plantain tortillas.

Here’s how you can make this in your kitchen:

For the slaw:

  • 2 medium beets, peeled and shredded (with a food processor or large grater)
  • 8 oz. traditional coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage (about half a typical bag of mix)
  • 3/4 cup fresh pineapple, chopped (this can be left out, but adds a nice sweetness)

For the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp mayo
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger puree (I buy mine in a tube, but you could also use freshly grated ginger)
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp coconut aminos
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Juice of two limes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1. Mix the ingredients for the slaw in a bowl, stirring until well mixed.

2. In a bowl or large glass measuring cup, whisk together all of the ingredients for the sauce until well-combined and smooth.

3. Pour the sauce gradually over the slaw and mix thoroughly, until the vegetables are evenly coated.

4. EAT. Now wasn’t that easy?!

This was great on our tacos, but would also be great as a base for a salad topped with almost any kind of protein. I am not a huge fish fan, but I think this would be great with some tuna or salmon on top!

Beet Slaw

Let me know if you try this recipe! The hubby and I both loved it!

Are Whole Grains Bad for You?

NutritionWhen people find out I follow a paleo lifestyle, they typically ask the same questions:

  • Isn’t it expensive?
  • So what DO you eat?
  • But aren’t whole grains good for you?

I’ve already addressed what I eat, and I’ll cover the costs of following a paleo lifestyle in another post, but today I want to focus on the third question. This is a question I hear all the time, and one that I completely understand.

After all, it was barely more than a year ago since I stopped filling every meal with every whole grain I could find, firmly believing it was the right thing to do for my health and well-being (meanwhile, wondering why my butt wasn’t getting any smaller and I wasn’t feeling any better).

The fact is, conventional health wisdom (and dietary guidelines from the USDA) heavily promote eating whole grains.

Whole grains lower cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease; the fiber in whole grains improves digestion and keeps you full; whole grains provide vital nutrients and are an essential part of a healthy diet. This is what I was always taught. It was what I always believed.

In fact, I believed it so unfailingly that I never questioned the fact that my devoted consumption of grains didn’t actually seem to be making me healthier.

I was still struggling to maintain my weight without extreme calorie restriction. I was still having blood sugar issues, out-of-control hunger, near-daily headaches, body pains and random spells of tunnel vision. I was still anxious most of the time and worried constantly about why I just didn’t feel right. At one point during my senior year of college, I was so concerned I scheduled an MRI, convinced there was something horribly wrong with me.

But throughout all of this,  I never questioned my food choices. I figured I might be eating too much, or not working out enough, or not getting enough fiber, but I never- not once- questioned whether the food itself might be the problem. It was clearly something wrong with ME. I mean this was, after all, what I was “supposed” to be eating to be healthy.

Not so.

In fact, there are many reasons that whole grains aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Among them:  the fact that they don’t provide vitamins or minerals that you can’t also get from meats, fruits, vegetables and seeds; they cause digestive issues for many people; they are often highly processed; the list goes on.

And over the last year I’ve discovered that I feel so much better without grains in my diet. I feel so much better without processed foods and “diet” foods. I feel so much better when I focus on getting the most nutrient-dense foods with every meal, when I cook my own food from scratch and when I focus on getting foods that have been raised and grown responsibly.

In fact, over the last year I can count the number of bad headaches I’ve had on one hand (and can pinpoint their cause- WORK- quite easily), I’ve completely gotten rid of the strange symptoms I experienced that led to the MRI, I’ve cleared my skin dramatically, learned to be a great cook and dropped 30 pounds.

So how does this answer the question of whether grains are bad for you? I guess it doesn’t. What it does tell you, however, is that grains are bad FOR ME. And they could be bad for you, too.

I’m obviously not suggesting that whole grains alone are what is causing America’s obesity epidemic, or that people who eat whole grains can’t be healthy. That’s just not true.

But it’s also not true that we NEED grains to survive. You will not become “gluten deficient,” if you switch out grains for whole, unprocessed carbs like vegetables and fruits. In fact, you’ll be getting far MORE nutrients and might find yourself feeling better and getting healthier.

Still, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last year, it’s that each individual person should explore their food choices on their own. No one should take one person’s dietary advice without doing some research and some experimenting of their own, and no one should feel pressured to eat a certain way.

What is right for me may not be right for you. But it may be! And if you’re not feeling completely 100 percent, if you you’re heavier than you want to be or feel like you’ve not reached your optimal health, then try something else! That something else just may be a paleo lifestyle.

It’s not easy, at least not at first. But if you’re like me, it will be completely worth it.

What questions do YOU have about following a paleo lifestyle? Do you want tips for making the change? Let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Creamy Ginger-Lime Coleslaw Recipe

IMG_0758I spent most of last week traveling for work and as a result, I didn’t get to cook at all! So, when I finally returned home Friday afternoon I knew what I needed to do. No, it was not make a stiff drink (that came later). I headed to the grocery store to stock up for a weekend packed full with cooking.

On Friday evening, I was looking to make something new, but fairly simple. I had been away for the week, after all, and I was exhausted. So I turned to an old favorite: asian style lettuce wraps. (You can find a recipe for a common filling I use for these wraps here.) To make them a little different, however, I prepared a new take on one of my favorite lettuce wrap toppings and BBQ side dish: COLESLAW!

What resulted was a tangy, slightly sweet, completely delicious and totally unique version of the old classic: Ginger-Lime Coleslaw. The best part? It’s SO easy to make! Bring it to your next backyard BBQ and watch people fall in love.

My only regret: I didn’t take a picture, so you will just have to make this yourself and take one to share with me!

Here’s how you can make this in your kitchen:

  • 1 bag coleslaw mix (whichever variety you like)*
  • 3 tbsp organic mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp ginger puree (you could use about the same much freshly grated ginger, but I buy the puree in tubes because I use it so much!)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

*Feel free to chop your own cabbage, carrots and any other veggies you want in the coleslaw. A typical bag of coleslaw mix is about 4.5 cups worth, so just keep that number in mind!

1. In a small bowl or large liquid measuring cup, combine all of the ingredients except for the coleslaw mix. Whisk to combine fully. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Pour the coleslaw mix into a large bowl and then add in the sauce, stirring to coat fully and evenly.

3. EAT.

Yes, that is it. It’s so simple. And if you’re anything like me and the hubby, you will love it! This tastes great as a topping in a lettuce wrap with some ground pork, beef or chicken, but would also be great on a burger, in a salad, with pulled pork or as a side dish to almost any meal.

If you try this recipe out, let me know what you think! I’m always looking to improve my recipes!

Recipe: Sweet Potato Tortilla Española

Ok, it’s been WAY too long since I posted a new recipe. I swear, I have a good excuse! I was away all of last week for work and while I ate some amazing food (check out my Instagram page for the details), I didn’t get to cook ALL WEEK. It was weird. And I didn’t like it.

So of course, I spent the weekend cooking everything I could think of! And with Easter on Sunday I was very busy putting together some delicious gluten-free treats and grain-free side dishes to bring to the hubby’s family celebration (those recipes will come in the next few days!).

But one of the best things I made this weekend was a play on an old favorite of mine: tortilla española, which I fell in love with while studying abroad in Spain in college. It’s essentially a Spanish frittata, with onion, potatoes and garlic baked into a yummy crust-less egg pie. It’s great the way it is, and certainly doesn’t NEED to change to be paleo-friendly.

Still, I can’t help but change up old favorites! And I really love sweet potatoes- so much more than boring old white ones! So for breakfast on Saturday I whipped up this Sweet Potato Tortilla Española and it was SO GOOD. I honestly liked it better than the original.

Spiced with saffron, paprika and red pepper flake and made a bit creamier with the addition of some coconut milk, it was the perfect breakfast on Saturday paired with Brussels sprouts hash (recipe to come!). And the slices are even sturdy enough to eat leftovers this week during my commute to work.

IMG_0188

 

 

 

 

Here’s how you can make this in your kitchen:

  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into thin round slices (about 1/4 inch thick)
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 2 tbsp butter, ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 9 eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • pinch saffron threads*
  • dash of paprika
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Before beginning cooking, pour the 1/4 cup coconut milk into a small bowl or glass and add the saffron, stirring to combine. Let sit to allow the flavors to combine.

2. Over medium-high heat, melt the cooking fat in a 9-inch saute pan. When the pan is hot, add the thinly-sliced sweet potatoes and some salt and pepper. Cook, stirring and flipping the potatoes occasionally,  until the sweet potatoes have softened and are browned on both sides. This took me about 10 minutes. (The potatoes should be cooked nearly through. They will continue to cook slightly while the tortilla is baking.) Remove the potatoes from the pan and set aside.

3.. Turn the heat down to medium. In the same pan, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have browned and begun to caramelize, or about 5 minutes. Once the onions are cooked through, add in the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. (If needed, you can add more oil to the pan while cooking the onion and garlic.)

4. Turn the heat back to medium-high and add the sweet potatoes back to the pan, stirring to combine. Spread the potatoes, onion and garlic around in the pan until all of the pan surfaces are covered with an even layer of the potato mixture.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and the saffron coconut milk. Add salt and pepper, a dash of red pepper flake and a dash of paprika and whisk to combine. Pour the egg mixture into the pan slowly, ensuring that the egg evenly covers and surrounds the potatoes. Cook, gently scrambling the eggs from the center out to the edges of the pan, until the edges are browned, about 3-5 minutes.

6. Place the pan into the oven and bake until the top of the frittata is set and a toothpick inserted into the center of the dish comes out clean, about 10-15 minutes.

NOW SLICE AND EAT!

*I always say saffron is optional because it is pricey and sometimes hard to find. It really does add something to this dish, though, so if you’re interested in trying it, check out the international food section of your local grocery store. I found saffron in the spice section there for a third of the price of the saffron being sold in the regular spice aisle. SCORE! 

Let me know if you try this recipe and what you think of it! I’m always looking for feedback!