Browsing Category: real food recipes

Herb-crusted salmon

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Herb-crusted salmon - the original recipe

This recipe evolved from a similar dish in one of my favorite cookbooks, Weber’s Art of the Grill. (Which is now out of print, but you can still find used copies on Amazon.) You can grill it if you like, or broil it in the oven. The herbs get nice and crispy as they cook, and marry together in a wonderful, savory complement to the flavor of the salmon. Over the years, I’ve come to just throw it together by memory, and I tend to put in quite a bit more herbs than the original called for. (The recipe that follows is my version.)

It involves a little bit of herb chopping, but if you want, you can let your food processor do that. Then, it’s just stir, spread, and broil or grill. So easy!

Recipe: Herb-crusted salmon

Serves 2.

1 lb. salmon fillet
1 handful of fresh cilantro, rough chopped
1 handful of fresh parsley, ditto
1 handful of fresh basil, ditto (or about a tablespoon of dried)
2 T. olive oil
1 t. soy sauce
1/2 t. chili powder (or ancho chili powder)
1/4 t. kosher salt
pepper to taste

Preheat your grill or broiler (whichever you’re using). If using the oven, place the top rack about 6″ from the heat.

If using a broiler, coat a 9 x 13″ pan with cooking spray, a generous brushing of canola oil, or line the bottom with foil.

Chop all of the herbs coarsely and put them in a small bowl. They don’t need to be finely minced, because they will shrink some and get crispy as they cook. Here’s the cilantro, before and after.

chopped cilantro

Add in the 2 T. olive oil, the soy sauce, and chili powder, and stir till everything is well combined.

Lay your salmon skin side down in the baking pan (or on whatever surface you’ll use to transfer it to the grill). Scoop the herb mixture on top of the salmon, and spread it around into a thick, fairly consistent layer. There will be bits of salmon showing through here and there; that’s okay.

Herb-crusted salmon, in the making

Once the herb mixture is on, sprinkle it lightly with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to your liking. You don’t need much salt, because the chunks are big and will be the first thing to hit your tongue. (I highly recommend kosher salt, but if you’re using regular salt, use half as much.)

Herb-crusted salmon close-up

For the grill: Place the fish herb side down on the grate. I know, it seems wrong! You think all the herbs will fall off, but trust me. A few may fall off, but most of them don’t! Our propane grill instructions say to turn the three burners to medium/off/medium. Do what works best on your particular grill. Close grill and cook that side for half the total cooking time. When it’s half through, flip it herb side up, and cook until it’s done.

For the broiler: Place the baking pan — with the fish herb side up — in the oven. Bake it there for five minutes, then move the rack down one row to complete cooking.

Herb-crusted salmon

Your total cooking time should be 10 minutes per inch of thickness, measured at the thickest part.

When is it done? I’ll repeat an earlier posting… “A minute or two before the recommended time, check your fish. Just poke a fork gently into the side at a thick place, and pull it up a bit to see if it flakes easily. You can also pull up just enough to see the interior of the fish, and see if it’s done to your liking. Some people like their salmon a bit rare, so that it’s orangey-er on the inside. Not me: I like it just done all the way through, but just so — not overdone and dry.”

Then remove from the heat, slide a spatula between the skin and the fish, and slip it onto your serving plate, herb side up.

Once you’ve tried this, feel free to experiment with your choice of herbs and spices. Let me know how it comes out!

You might also like:
Ancho-crusted salmon with avocado crema
Slightly spicy slaw
Green beans and pine nuts

Chicken club salad with creamy balsamic vinaigrette

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Working from home has its perks and its challenges.

One of the perks is making yourself lunch every day.

One of the challenges is making yourself lunch every day.

For me, answering “What’s for lunch?” usually starts with a peek in the fridge to see what protein options I have on hand. With the weather warming up, I feel like a salad pretty much every day, but it’s got to have some protein.

On this particular day, I had a bit of roasted chicken, but just a small portion; not enough to make even one serving of orange-cranberry chicken salad.

So what else was in there for protein? Some fully-cooked bacon. I’m okay with using bacon as a flavor accent, but it’s not really healthy enough to be the main protein in a meal, IMHO. Hard boiled egg would round things out nicely. Now we’ve got a chicken club salad!

So I grabbed a few eggs and boiled them. It just takes a few minutes, and ever since I got this handy little egg timer, my hard boiled eggs come out perfect every time. The product description says it best:

 Simply add the egg timer in with your eggs and boil… There’s an easy-to-read scale within the timer. During the course of boiling, the timer changes colors, from red to purple, starting from the outside edge and moving to the center. When the color change reaches your desired spot on the scale, the eggs are cooked accordingly.”

So although I just wanted one egg for my salad, I make a couple extra for deviled eggs, tomorrow’s lunch, or who knows what. While the eggs were boiling, I fried up some of the bacon. Since it’s fully cooked, that’s not really necessary, but I like it crispy.

I chopped up some romaine, and sliced a little red onion very thin. Then, to whip up the dressing.

This is based on a super-simple dressing recipe I learned from a friend…

Dressing option 1:

1-2-3 Dressing

1 part sugar (or maple syrup or honey)
2 parts balsamic vinegar
3 parts olive oil

You just combine those in a jar and shake them up. Easy-peasy, right?

But there are two things I don’t like about that. First of all, it’s got sugar. And although you can sub another sweetener, I’ve found that sweetener-based dressings don’t cling to the greens like the sugar-based version does.

Also, it tends to separate easily. So here’s my solution:

Dressing option 2:

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 packets Splenda or 4 t. natural sweetener of your choice; I like maple syrup.
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. mayo
2 T. olive oil

Put the sweetener and the vinegar in a small jar. Swirl it around until the sweetener is mostly dissolved.

Then add in the mayo and shake it up well, until no more white flecks can be seen on the inside of the jar. Then add the olive oil and shake again.

This makes enough for the generous dressing of one good-sized salad, or two smaller ones.

The addition of the mayo helps both with making the dressing cling to the salad, and keeping it from separating.

So, by this time, your eggs should be done. Rinse them with cold water for a minute or so, then shake the pan so the eggs smack against each other, to crack the shells. Then remove the shells, and slice up as many as you want for your salad.

Assembly time: romaine, chicken, egg slices, bacon, sliced onion. I wasn’t in a cheese mood on this particular day, but you could certainly add feta, bleu, Swiss, or shredded cheddar to this. Then drizzle dressing over the top and toss lightly.

Chicken club salad, with bacon and hard-boiled eggs

There you have it: a fresh, healthy, delicious salad, in less time than it would take you to drive to a bistro and read the menu!

I call that a perk.

You might also like:
30-second Caesar salad
Ginger-peanut salad dressing
Make-ahead Tex-Mex salad

Sugar-free poppy seed dressing

Ancho-crusted salmon with avocado crema

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This dish is delish — I mean, truly restaurant-worthy — but it’s also super easy and totally healthy.

I have to give the hubs partial credit for this one.

I had made this spice-rubbed salmon for dinner one night, but hadn’t really figured out a vegetable to go with it, and Eric was doing Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet (which is NO carbs), so I served the salmon with some romaine spears alongside and some ready-made guacamole to dip them in.

But instead of using the guacamole as dip, he put it on top of his salmon — and loved the combination!

Since then, I’ve evolved the recipe a bit. I started out with a recipe called “Broiled BBQ-spiced Rubbed Salmon,” from The Sonoma Diet Cookbook, but I’ve tweaked the spice combo each time I’ve made it, and I was really happy with the way it came out this last time I made it.

For the guacamole, I use Wholly Guacamole brand, and it comes in these boxes that contain individual-use packets. Which is just brilliant! If you just need a bit for a recipe, or you just want a quick easy snack, these are the perfect size, without the risk of the rest of batch turning brown before you can use it. I use the “Classic,” but they also make a “Spicy” version.

Recipe: Ancho-crusted salmon with avocado crema

2 8-oz. salmon fillets, about 1″ thick
1/2 T. ancho chili powder
1/2 T. paprika or smoked paprika
1/2 t. kosher salt (or 1/4 t. table salt)
1/2 t. granulated garlic
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. ground cumin
2 T. olive oil
1 2-oz. packet of guacamole (that’s one two-ounce packet, not a 12-ounce packet)
2 oz. Greek yogurt (or sour cream, or dairy-free yogurt)
optional, for garnish: diced red onion

You will preheat the broiler later in the recipe.

If the salmon still has its skin, remove it. (Here’s a short video that shows how. Here’s a more detailed one. The directions for the filet start at about 3:00 in this video.)

Measure the thickness of the salmon at its thickest point. You want to be accurate to within 1/4″. To do this, I push a toothpick into the thickest point of the salmon, then pinch the toothpick so my thumb and finger just touch the top of the fish. Then, keeping my fingers in the same place on the toothpick, I remove it from the fish and move it to a measuring stick. Make a mental note of the measurement. (Or a written note, if you have a short memory.)

Drizzle the olive oil in the pan, then spread it around. This recipe is for two servings, and for that I use a 6 x 8″ baking pan, but for more servings, you’ll need a larger pan. This photo is post-drizzled, but pre-spread:

Mix together all of the spices in a small dish. Before you begin to season the salmon, fold any super-thin edges under (or over) so that the thin part is doubled, and the fillet is a fairly uniform thickness across, like this.

Just press it down a little with your fingers; the fish is a bit sticky, so it will sort of adhere to itself.

Next, sprinkle half of the seasoning mix over the top side of both fillets. Pat the spices gently onto the fish.

Then turn them over and season the other side, using the rest of the spice mix.

Move your top oven rack to 4 to 6″ below the broiler, and preheat broiler. Let the spiced salmon sit at room temp while the broiler heats up. Then place them in the oiled pan, folded side down, and put the pan in the oven.

Remember your fish thickness in inches? Now’s when it matters! Cook your salmon for 10 minutes for every inch of thickness. So if your salmon is 3/4″ thick, cook it for 7.5 minutes. 1″ thick: 10 minutes. 1.25″ thick, 12.5 minutes. And, turn it over once, half way through baking.

While the salmon is cooking, mix together the guacamole and the yogurt. I don’t bother to measure the yogurt; I put the guac in first, then just “eyeball” the yogurt so that it looks like about the same amount.

Stir till well combined, and set aside.
Have you turned the salmon over halfway through the baking time? Don’t forget!
If you’re using diced onion for garnish, now would be a good time to dice it.
A minute or two before the recommended time, check your fish. Just poke a fork gently into the side at a thick place, and pull it up a bit to see if it flakes easily. You can also pull up just enough to see the interior of the fish, and see if it’s done to your liking. Some people like their salmon a bit rare, so that it’s orangier on the inside. Not me: I like it just done all the way through, but just so — not overdone and dry. (If you or someone in your house doesn’t like salmon, it’s possible they’ve only had it when it was overcooked, dry and mealy. Yuck! Who wouldn’t hate that?!)
So when the salmon is done to your liking, pull it from the oven, put it on serving plates, and top with the guacamole mixture. Sprinkle diced onion on top, add your side dish, and serve.
Ancho-crusted salmon with avocado crema
This time, I did plan for my side dish: French-cut green beans (from frozen), steamed, and topped with sauteed onions and crispy bacon. The smokey note in the spice crust of the salmon played nicely with the slightly-smokey bacon. There’s a dish dressed to impress!

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Ginger-peanut dressing

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Ginger-peanut dressing on Asian chicken salad

Here’s a simple ginger-peanut dressing that rivals any restaurant Asian salad! My favorite salad combo to serve it with — and the one shown above — is, for each serving:

– one heart-of-romaine head, chopped (I save the bottom 4″ to use as dippers with hummus, etc.)
– one regular or two small green onions, sliced thin
– one or two handfuls of slaw mix with carrots
– chopped bell pepper to taste
– chopped nuts of your choice and to taste: peanuts, cashews or almonds
– chopped cilantro to your taste
– optional: 1/2 to 1 whole cooked chicken breast

Just toss all this together and serve immediately, or cover and chill till you’re ready to serve.

Just before serving, drizzle on the dressing. This recipe makes enough for about four servings.

Recipe: Ginger-peanut salad dressing

1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tblsp. minced fresh ginger root
2 Tblsp. sugar-free peanut butter or other nut or seed butter
1 – 2 Tblsp. honey
1 small garlic clove
1/2 teasp. sesame oil
1/2 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients except for canola in a blender and process till smooth. With the blender running, drizzle in the canola oil.

Best if chilled for a couple hours before serving.

Orange-cranberry chicken salad

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I came up with this recipe one day when I was craving curry chicken salad for lunch, but couldn’t find any recipes that didn’t call for chutney. How could I do a quick fake for chutney? I tried onions sauteed till soft, then combined them with orange marmalade. Pretty good!

An alternate and easier approach is to just use green onions, and skip the sauteing step. I’ve tried both, and it’s good both ways.

You can use the nuts of your choice. I prefer the contrast of salty cashews, but since they just disappear in the salad, I decided to use pecans for the photos. Again, both are tasty, and you can use your choice. Sliced or slivered almonds would work nicely, too.

To keep the carbs down, I use a sugar-free marmalade and make sure my mayo has a minimum of sugar and no corn syrup. (Homemade is so easy, and needs no sugar! Here’s my mayo recipe.)

 

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Recipe: Orange-cranberry chicken salad

2 c. cooked, cubed, cold chicken
1/3 c. yellow onion, diced fine (or 5-6 green onions, sliced thin)
1/3 c. mayonnaise (more if your chicken is dry)
2.5 T. sugar-free orange marmalade
1/2 t. hot curry powder
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
dried cranberries & nuts to taste (note: substitute dried currants to avoid added sugar)
hearts of romaine or whole grain crackers, optional

If using yellow onion, saute till translucent. If using green onion, reserve a bit of the green tops for garnish, if you like.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the onion (using the white parts of the green onion), mayo, marmalade and spices; stir till well combined. Add an extra tablespoon or two of mayo if your chicken is on the dry side. Stir in the chicken, and green onions, if using. Add dried cranberries to suit your taste. Don’t add the nuts until just before serving.

You may eat it right away, but the flavor improves if chilled it for an hour at least. It’s also a great dish to make a day ahead.

Just before serving, stir in the nuts. Garnish with green onion and extra cranberries, if desired. Serve with hearts of romaine or whole-grain crackers.

NOTE: To make this Paleo, replace the orange marmalade with 1 clementine or tangerine, cut into bite-size pieces. Use homemade mayo. If you like, replace the dried cranberries (which usually contain sugar) with dried currants or raisins.

Serves 2.

You might also like:
30-second Caesar salad

Lower carb chili

lower carb chili; Paleo notes, too.
 On a cold, grey winter day in Kansas, sitting down to a bowl of chili for dinner just feels right. But now that we’re trying to lower our carb intake, I needed to rework our favorite chili recipe.

My approach to low carb would more accurately be called “balanced carb.” I try (try!) to make sure every meal and every snack has a balance between carbs and proteins. (Did you know that going super-low carb or no carb for too long can mess up your serotonin? Not a good thing, if you have issues with insomnia, depression, etc.)

Most chili recipes have more carbs than protein: some by a small margin, some by a lot. The most popular chili recipe on AllRecipes has almost twice as much carbs as protein — 55g and 31g, respectively. So I set out to see where I could cut out carbs and maybe even sneak in some more protein.

First of all, the beans. Beans are carbs, but most experts consider them healthy carbs. So I kept them in, but cut them back to half a can. A little label-reading taught me that the kind of beans I use can help, too. Look at these labels for red kidney beans — the traditional chili bean — and black beans; check out the ingredient list…

Yep, that’s right: the red beans contain sugar and dextrose (a sneaky way for the manufacturer to avoid listing sugar higher in the list of ingredients), the black beans don’t. Plus, the black beans have about 50% more iron than the red ones. So there’s an easy switch.

Here’s another one: instead of just using tomato sauce and/or diced tomatoes for the liquid, I used a small can of tomato paste (checking to make sure there’s no sugar hiding in there), and used beef stock for the rest of the liquid. The stock brings a bit of protein to the party, plus I like the flavor it adds.

Other healthy-choice change-ups: I added a bit of red bell pepper to bring some fiber and vitamin C, and used turkey sausage instead of hamburger. Mostly for the flavor. And I actually prefer turkey sausage to pork. I just like the leaner flavor. If you don’t, feel free to sub your favorite pork sausage.

I added up all the carbs and protein in my revised dish, using the label info and this handy resource, and guess what! This chili actually has more protein than carbs. 22g of carbs, 25.5 g of protein.

Paleo notes:

You can just leave out the beans to make this Paleo. Diced avocado, added just before serving, makes a nice substitute for beans, texture-wise, and adds some healthy fat. If you love cornbread with your chili like I do, here’s a recipe for gluten-free flourless cornbread and here’s one for Paleo cornbread – with no corn!

Lower Carb Chili (Paleo possible)

3-4 servings (can easily be doubled)

spices:
1 t. chili powder
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. dried oregano
3/4 t. ground ancho chili pepper
1/4 t. salt  or 1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

1 T. olive oil
1/2 large onion
1/2 red bell pepper
2-3 cloves garlic
1 lb. turkey Italian sausage
1.5 c. beef stock
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste, no sugar added
1/2  can beans, no sugar added: kidney, black, pinto, or a mix; rinsed and drained
optional: sour cream, Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, green onion for garnish

Mix the spices together and set aside.

Heat oil over medium heat in 4-quart pot. (Larger, if you’re doubling the recipe.) Chop the onion into about 1/2″ pieces and add it to the pot. Chop the bell pepper into about 1/4″ pieces; I cut it into long pieces one way then turn the cutting board 90 degrees and chop them the other way. Add the peppers to the pot, then mince garlic and add it.

Once the onions are translucent and the peppers are fairly tender, push them aside and put the sausage in the center.

I like to let the first side sit there till it’s nicely browned, then turn the whole thing over. Then as the second side cooks, stir and chop it to break it up. Cook, stirring occasionally, till no more pink shows. Once the sausage is browned, drain most of the fat from the pan.

Return the pan to the heat and add all of the spices. Stir until sausage is well coated with spices; simmer one minute more. Add in the broth and tomato paste and stir till well combined. Turn heat to med-high. Once it comes to a boil, add the beans and turn it down to a simmer.

Cover partially and simmer for 20 minutes to 2 hours. If it gets too thick, add broth. Just before serving, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with sour cream (or Greek yogurt), shredded cheese, and green onions, if desired.

Pioneer Woman’s hot crash potatoes

crash hot potatoes

So, you’ve heard of Pioneer Woman, right? Apart from having an entertaining writing style, fabulous photography, and thorough, encouraging instructions, her food is really, really good. Or, as my husband said after tasting this, “The girl can cook!”

I think this is the recipe that was my portal into PW’s blog. Red potatoes are boiled till tender, then coarsely smashed on a cookie sheet, drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with rosemary, salt and pepper, then baked briefly at high heat so they come out golden brown and crunchy around the edges.

Hungry yet?

Crash Hot Potatoes

The thing that makes or breaks this dish is getting the salt right. I was a little too shy with the salt the first time; a mistake I won’t make again.

By the way… Did you know that new (aka, red) potatoes are lower on the glycemic index than baking potatoes? And that boiling them keeps them lower than baking? Boiled new potatoes rank in the mid-50’s; baked potatoes, 85.

Also, cooking certain starches — potatoes among them — then chilling them lowers their glycemic index even more, and converts the starch to resistant starch, which is digested differently and may have health benefits for insulin sensitivity and other markers. (More info here.) I bet you could boil these ahead of time, chill them, then prep and roast just before serving.

Image by Pioneer Woman

Zoodles with peanut sauce (Paleo-friendly options)

zucchini noodles with peanut sauce
The great thing about this Asian-inspired peanut sauce is that everything you need to make it is stuff you usually have in the pantry. And you can, of course, use it on your favorite pasta — either traditional wheat, or your favorite gluten-free brand.

(Did you know cooking wheat pasta ahead of time, cooling it in the fridge, then reheating it lowers the glycemic effect on your blood sugar?)

But for a more nutrient-dense and grain-free option, consider zucchini noodles.

I use zucchini and summer squash as a low-carb, real-food alternative to pasta any time I’m craving spaghetti, or want something noodle-y in my soup. (And as an alternative to pizza crust.)

Like most Americans, I’m accustomed to and usually prefer pasta that’s been cooked till it’s uniformly soft. But al dente means “to the tooth,” and requires pulling the pasta out when the outside is soft but the inside still has a bit of resistance when you bite into it. And if you throw the zucchini noodles in the pasta sauce to heat through for just the last two or three minutes, you get a texture very much like al dente pasta.

You can also make this sauce Paleo-friendly by using almond butter, sunflower seed butter, or another nut or seed butter in place of the peanut butter.

The original recipe is from Kitchen Confidante. Here’s my variation:

Asian-inspired peanut sauce

1 serving; scale up as necessary

 

a drizzle of coconut oil

1 T. finely diced onion

1/2 cup peanut butter OR other nut or seed butter

1 Tblsp soy sauce OR tamari sauce OR coconut aminos

3 Tblsp rice vinegar OR lime juice

2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp minced garlic (or more)

1/2 tsp honey

pinch of ground ginger

At least 1/4 cup chicken stock, add 1-2 more Tablespoons depending on texture

optional: Sriracha or red pepper flakes to taste

optional: 2 – 4 oz. cooked meat of your choice; chicken, pork, or shrimp

 

Heat the coconut oil in a small saucepan or frying pan. Saute the onions till translucent. Add all the other ingredients except for meat, using just the first 1/4 cup of stock. Stir till well combined and heated through. Add stock a tablespoon at a time till you get the desired consistency. Add the meat and cook till heated through.

Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Stir in the noodles till heated through.

(This dish could easily be made vegetarian by using tofu or some type of pea or bean for the protein, and using vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.)

Try this soon: it’s quick, easy and delish!

Image by Kitchen Confidante