Browsing Category: veggies

Garlic zoodles (gluten-free noodles)

paleo side dish: garlic zoodles

I thought pasta would be hard to give up. I was wrong. Zucchini noodles — or “zoodles” — are a darn tasty stand-in! And with an inexpensive, easy-to-use spiralizer, they make for a super quick, easy side dish. This one is so quick that I often add it to my lunch, when the main dish hasn’t quite filled me up.

Seriously; it will probably take you longer to read this post than it will to whip up the dish, once you’ve got your stuff lined up.

Another thing that makes this quick and easy is that I don’t measure. All my instructions here are for one serving, but this could easily be scaled up to serve more.

Ingredients:

  • zucchini or yellow summer squash
  • butter, olive oil, or the fat of your choice
  • garlic clove(s) – 1 per person
  • salt and pepper
  • optional: Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, fresh basil

First, to make the zucchini noodles. You want these ready before you put anything on the stove.

This is the spiral cutter (or spiralizer) I use:

my favorite spiralizer

I like it because it’s very simple, and doesn’t take up a ton of storage space. You can see it has a smaller chamber for carrots and other thin veggies, and a larger one that works well for zucchini and summer squash.

spiralizer, top view

I got it at BB&B, but you can also order it from the comfort of your own home here!

It’s around $15 at both stores. (Using this link takes you to my store; I get a 4% cut [ha!] without any additional cost to you. But feel free to buy local, too!)

As I said, I won’t be giving measurements, but these before-and-after pics should give you an idea about how much I fix for just myself — probably about a third of a large zucchini:

spiraled zucchini

You can, if you like, gently press them between paper towels to remove some of the moisture, but that’s not essential. Some people recommend salting them to remove more moisture, but I find that just makes them soggier, because it breaks down the cell walls.

You’ll also need to mince one garlic clove.

Then heat a small frying pan over just-under-medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of butter, and an approximate equal amount of olive oil. You could use any alternate fat you like here — I know some people don’t include butter in their Paleo diet — but I really like the flavor combo of these two. I happened to have some basil butter in the freezer today, so that’s what I used, but plain butter is perfectly fine.

zoodles-butter-olive-oil-flopd

Or, as Ina Garten says,

ina-garten-butter-meme

Soon, the butter will begin to bubble. You can throw the zoodles in now, or you can wait a bit till the butter and garlic has browned just a bit. Both are shown here:

butter and garlic in pan

Letting things brown a bit will give a toaster, more complex flavor. You want to be careful, though: once garlic gets too brown, it turns bitter, and there’s nothing to do but throw it out and start over. So if you’re nervous — or just in a big hurry — feel feel to toss the zoodles in as soon as the butter is good and hot.

(Note: I haven’t made this with other fats, so I’m not sure what to expect, browning-wise, from coconut oil or bacon fat.)

Then just toss the noodles with the butter a few times; all you’re really doing is heating them up and softening them a tiny bit. Too long on the heat, and they’ll get mushy. Then taste, and add salt and pepper if necessary.

This shot was from a day when I didn’t let the garlic brown…

easy side dish: zoodles

 

And this is when I did:

paleo side dish: garlic zoodles

The second shot also has a sprinkling of black pepper and a few snips of fresh basil.

And here’s another day’s shot, with a little bit of Parm on top:

zoodles with parmesan

Pine nuts would be another nice addition!

How do you like your zoodles?

Make-ahead roasted sweet potato

Whole30 Paleo breakfast: easy with make-ahead prep!

One of the biggest challenges in eating clean and healthy is putting together meals. And one of the most important tips/tricks for making healthy meals super easy is to have some food “building blocks” ready in your fridge and freezer at all times. I plan to do a complete post on this soon, but for now, here is one of my favorites: sweet potatoes. They’re easy to prep, keep well in the fridge, and very versatile at playing well with other foods.

Plus, when you’re looking for nutrient-dense foods, sweet potato is a super-hero source of Vitamin A! This chart shows amounts for a whole 5″ potato, but even half this is good! (nutrition data source)

sweet potato nutrition chart

I learned this prep method from the ladies at Layers of Happiness, but their recipe was for a complete dish. I’ve just borrowed the method, and adapted it for the ready-t0-go-ingredients tray in my Whole30 compliant fridge. (A post for another day.)

I start with a medium-sized sweet potato. What I’m calling “medium”  is about 5 or 6″ long and roughly 3″ wide at the widest point. Give it a good scrubbing with a vegetable brush under running water, then pat dry. Poke several holes in it with a fork. I usually make three or four pokes on one side, then turn it over and repeat.

Then I put it in the microwave on high for one minute and 45 seconds; turn it over and repeat. (Please note that all microwaves are different and you will probably need to experiment to find the timing that works with yours.)

If you learn better by watching, here’s a short video:

Next, I take it out and cut it in half. It should be somewhat soft all the way through. It doesn’t need to be thoroughly soft, and you really don’t want it to be. But if it’s still hard in the middle, you can put the halves cut-side-down on a microwave safe plate and zap it for another 30 – 45 seconds.

Then, using a sharp paring or steak knife, cut the flesh of the sweet potato into cubes of about 1/2″ — but don’t cut all the way through to the skin. You may go ahead and cut all the way through the middle, if you like. (Note/update: I used to leave them semi-cut, like this, but I found that I usually use them diced, so now I just cut all the way through the skin and store them diced.)

cubed roasted sweet potato - whole30, paleo

Just stash this in an airtight container in the fridge, ready to deploy for all kinds of easy Whole30/Paleo meals. Such as…

A breakfast stir-fry with eggs, sausage, spinach, and sweet potato.

whole30 paleo breakfast eggs sausage sweet potato spinach

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Another breakfast option — and one reason you don’t cut all the way through the skin. Scramble your favorite eggs and meat combo, and serve it on top of a reheated sweet potato half or quarter. Add snipped chives, if you have ’em, for color and flavor:

whole30 paleo easy meal: egg + bacon scramble on sweet potato

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A super-easy side dish: Spread some bacon fat (or other healthy fat of your choice), salt, and pepper on top, and reheat. Sweet potato and pork were made for each other:

whole30 paleo dinner: pork, sweet potato + cauliflower

.

Mashing your prepped sweet potatoes is another option. One of my very favorite easy meals is to top a prepped, reheated sweet potato with some pulled pork or carnitas. Optional: top it all off with some caramelized onions. I haven’t shot a photo of that exact dish, but here’s a similar combo from Free the Animal:

carnitas on sweet potato, by freetheanimal.com
image by freetheanimal.com

 

One of my favorite easy lunches is to throw some leftover pork or sausage in some bone broth — either chicken or ham — and some veggies from my make-ahead tray; here, I used sweet potato, onion, and zucchini:

sausage, sweet potato, zucchini soup - make ahead paleo whole30

 

This soup is thickened with an egg yolk. On this particular day, I was lucky enough to have some local eggs from a friend. The yolks were almost orange, and it gave the broth a lovely golden color!

The healthy breakfast and soup options are really endless — even within Whole30 restrictions! Once you have some mostly-cooked, mostly-diced sweet potato in the fridge, you’ll find all kinds of new ways to use this flavorful, healthful, versatile veggie!

Like this post? Please pin it!

whole30 paleo sweet potato tips

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New to eating gluten-free? Or thinking of going Paleo?

Check out my 20-Day Countdown to a New Way of Eating!

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7 roasted sweet potato recipes

roasted sweet potato dish
I’ve never been a fan of the traditional sweet potato topped with marshmallow dish — even as a child. But sans all that sugar, they are quite healthy, and delicious to boot! I love to make simple, stove-top mashed sweet potatoes, with a little butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon added at the end. Try it along with a salty and/or spicy pork chop – yum!
So I’m looking for some oven-roasted sweet potato recipes that recreate that same flavor profile for Thanksgiving this year, and I thought I’d share my research. Here are a few.
(Note: Not all of these are Paleo, but most can be made so with minor tweaks. Check out the “***Easy 15-minute roasted sweet potatoes” below for an easy Whole30 breakfast idea.)
roasted sweet potato recipes

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon

By Tyler Florence, on Food Network. 5 stars, over 140 reviews.
roasted sweet potato recipes

Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

By Ellie Krieger on Food Network; 5 stars, over 160 reviews. — I like that this one goes light on the honey.
roasted sweet potato recipes

Cider Roasted Root Vegetables

By Elise at Simply Recipes. I always consult this site when looking for a new recipe; I have never had a bad dish here! This version sounds delicious.
Branching out from straight-up roasting…
roasted sweet potato recipes

By Creekside Cook. The author says, “this post on my old blog was responsible for over 1 million hits.” And I can see why! It sounds amazing. “Spicy, sweet, crunchy outside.” But also a little time consuming. I probably won’t try to pull these off for Thanksgiving, but they may get a chance on a less hectic day.

Here’s an easier option…

roasted sweet potato recipes

***Easy 15 Minute Roasted Sweet Potatoes

By Layers of Happiness. This recipe uses the microwave — which I would totally do for an everyday meal! But I might try this same method in the oven for a special day.
Update: Now that we’re full-on Whole30, I use this microwave method for sweet potatoes – All. The. Time. Sans the dairy items, of course. To keep extras on hand, I just cook them most of the way in the microwave, dice them up, then keep them in the fridge for an easy paleo breakfast. Top them with scrambled eggs, bacon, and/or sausage. Yum!
roasted sweet potato recipes

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle Cream

by Chez Us — The description on this one won me over: “After I baked the potatoes, I scooped out their flesh and mixed it with some fried pancetta, sauteed green onions, a little butter and sour cream and a handful of freshly grated Gouda. After re-baking the stuffed potato skins until warm, I topped each one with a slight dollop of chipotle sour cream.”

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And here it is: this year’s winner of the annual “Most Beautiful Sweet Potato Dish Award”! (Okay, that’s not a thing, but when you see this, shouldn’t it be?)

roasted sweet potato recipes

Crispy Sweet Potato Roast by Smitten Kitchen

Here’s the author’s summary:

You thinly slice a whole lot of sweet potatoes [you can use a mandolin or food processor] and arrange them in a butter and olive oil-brushed dish, and brush them with even more. …slide slivers of shallots between… shower the whole thing with salt and black pepper… bake it covered long enough that the insides get tender, and uncovered long enough to get the tops brown and crispy.

This was posted six days ago, and as of today, it has 150 comments. Readers have been quick to share their own improvisations on the basic recipe. Here are some of the best (IMHO)…

Reader tips and variations:

Add fresh rosemary and a splash of pure maple syrup towards the end.

I sprinkled feta and toasted pine nuts on top, instead of the salsa verde. It was amazing!

I crumbled feta cheese in the gaps and added some chili and lemon juice to the salsa verde and the result was great.

Very delicious. Sprinkled za’atar on top and made a sauce of yogurt, tahini, lemon, and a bit of salt.

I’ll be making this – with the addition of crisp pancetta and fresh thyme!

I am going to [replace] the scallions with poblanos and make a little chimichurri sauce to drizzle on top.

I usually do my holiday sweet potatoes with maple, chipotle, ancho, smoked paprika — and fresh italian parsley on top after roasting.

The way I’ve been making them for years is in a gratin with a ton of garlic and salty butter and parmesan and breadcrumbs, the thinner the layer the better, b/c the top gets all crispy, crunchy with the parmesan and buttery breadcrumbs.

Have you ever tried chipotle chili powder with sweet potatoes? Life changing!

I made this tonight and topped with some leftover creme fraiche, it was great! The texture turned out perfectly. I used only 2 lbs of sweet potatoes and scaled everything down accordingly, but used all the same cooking times, 45 mins covered, 10 uncovered.

This was EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD! And reheated the next day in the toaster oven? Nom nom nom!

I made this tonight and it was GREAT. I added a bit of fresh thyme both underneath and on top! I halved the recipe and put it in a 1-quart oval dish. I also found that with really large potatoes I halved the slices and put the curved side up and they fit really well in the dish. At the end my oven didn’t brown it very well so I tossed it under the broiler and watched it like a hawk!

I made this with a mélange of sweet potatoes and russet, and added a teaspoon or so of dried sage, salt and pepper to the remaining butter/olive oil mixture… divine!

I topped it with thinned Mexican crema mixed with minced chipotle in adobo. It was a hit!

I have used a food processor to slice potatoes, and it works very well. You just have to buy potatoes whose diameter will fit in the tube, and then guide them / stabilise them with the pusher.

Also culled from the comments, a few extra tips from the author:

Cast iron does seem to give food a nice crisp… but I used a Pyrex baking dish last time I made this and it crisped up just fine.

In reply to reader’s questions: “Do you do everything and bake it completely and then just reheat day of? Or do you arrange everything and bake the day-of?” — Either way will work.

Re, thin slices — Yes, I use a mandoline…. Re, protecting your fingers, I have one rule: the last inch isn’t worth it! I just don’t use the slicer for the last inch of whatever I’m cutting. I’ll hand-chop it. All of my fingers are intact, so I’d say this system is working out for me. 🙂

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All images by the respective blog owners.

Oven-roasted tomatoes

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On BLT’s, oven-dried, oven-roasted, in a sauce…

I had some less-than-stellar farmstand beefsteak tomatoes last week taking up space in my fridge. Actually, just several slices from one large tomato. The flavor was only so-so in the BLT’s we’d sliced them for, but I was reluctant to throw them out, so there they sat.

Then something (probably something on Pinterest) made me think of oven-dried tomatoes. Which are basically sun-dried tomatoes, with more control and fewer bugs.


Tried it: uh, YUM!

Below are links to several recipes, but since most of them call for Roma or cherry tomatoes, I was kind of improvising. The first one on the list is the process that I more-or-less followed. Here’s mine:

  • oven preheated to 200 F
  • large tomato, sliced into 1/4″ slices
  • seeds and the jelly around them poked out and set aside
  • tomato slices on a cooling rack; rack nestled in my favorite baking sheet
  • checked after a couple hours.

Because mine were thin and mostly jelly-less, they dried out pretty quickly. In two or three hours, some of them were already crispy. So crispy, in fact, that the pieces with a fair amount of peel were like super-tomatoey potato chips. And the tart, intense flavor? Hugely improved over the disappointing fresh version. I chowed down! (Hubs thought they tasted kinda burnt, but I thought they tasted great! Maybe he just got a bad one.) I’ll probably try some more next week, to see if I can recreate that great accident.
Oven-dried tomatoes from About.com
> Oven-dried tomatoes from Food Network
> Oven-dried tomatoes from Tomato Dirt

I mentioned that I had poked out the juices/goop from the slices before baking. One of the recipes I read mentioned “tomato water;” never heard of that, so I googled it. One “recipe” required a food processor, cheesecloth, and eight hours. But I wasn’t up for that, so I just took the goop, seeds and liquid and poured the whole mess through a sieve. It yielded about a couple tablespoons of tomato-pink liquid. There wasn’t enough of it to use in a recipe, but I tasted it — then added a wee bit of salt — and tasted it again, and it was delish! I can see it being a great liquid to poach fish in, or to put up in the freezer to add a little genuine summer taste to a winter marinara or soup.
About tomato water, from Bon Appetit
About tomato water, from New York Times

Also, if you want something a little less dehydrated, here’s a recipe for roasted tomatoes, which just takes them to a concentrated but still fairly moist stage. I haven’t tried this method, but if I did, I would make them without the herbs, to make them more versatile. 
Oven-roasted tomatoes from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Timetable for roasting vegetables

roasted vegetables
I have previously posted this in recipe form, but since I work out a detailed timing schedule for all of my cooking on Thanksgiving and keep it in a file on my computer,* I thought I’d share my schedule for making a large batch of roasted vegetables for a crowd.

This schedule assumes you’ll be serving the meal at about 12:30. Adjust as needed.
.

Roasted vegetables cooking schedule

earlier** – chop carrots, onions, peppers and zucchini
10:30 – preheat oven to 400 F; cut potatoes
10:50 – put carrots and potatoes in oven; snap the asparagus
11:10 – turn carrots and potatoes
11:35 – take carrots and potatoes out; put onions and peppers in
11:45 – turn onions and peppers
11:55 – take onions & peppers out; put zucchini in
12:05 – add asparagus to zucchini; toss; put back in
12:15 – take veg’s out of oven

The full recipe.

Make-ahead tip: The vegetables can be roasted and kept at room temperature up to 2 hours in advance or refrigerated up to 1 day in advance. Reheat from room temperature at 350° F to 400° F. Do they taste as amazing as roasted veggies fresh out of the oven? Not quite, but still delicious!

*This makes me sound super organized in the kitchen. Ha! The REASON I spell all this out carefully and keep record of it is because, while I can (and do) get by with winging-it in the kitchen for daily cooking, holidays and parties require more organizing than I can do in my head. And I find that the less info I try to store in my head, the less wigged-out I get trying to stay on top of it all!

**For all the veggies except the potatoes, you can chop them earlier that morning, or do them the day before and store in the fridge, grouped according to what goes into the oven together.

Quick and easy avocado salad

ina-s-avocado-salad-480


This is a repost, but it’s worth it. This is the recipe I turn to every summer when tomatoes are ripe, and I need a quick, easy side dish. Also, my version has evolved, both in ingredients and method, so I’m including my up-to-date version in this post.

Looking for a quick, easy dish to take to a Fourth of July party today? This is it! You can whip it up in about 10 minutes, and although it might taste better if it sits for a bit, you can serve it right away. And because it has no mayo, you don’t need to worry about it sitting at room temp for a few hours. Perfect for a potluck, barbeque or picnic! Plus, it’s just chock full of healthy stuff, and has no sugar in the dressing! Just a minimal bit of honey — which you could leave out, if you want.
The original recipe is from Ina Garten, although she calls it “Guacamole Salad”.
I do make a few minor tweaks. Being the spice wimp I am, I leave out the jalapeno and cut back on the cayenne. But I also add in some chopped cilantro, and as I said, I’ve altered the method.

Avocado Salad

    2 limes
    1/2 t. honey
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
    1/4 cup good olive oil
    1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (or 1 lb. large tomatoes, chopped*)
    1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and 1/4-inch diced
    1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
    1/2 cup diced red onion  
    2 (or more) ripe Hass avocados,  diced at the last minute
    chopped cilantro, to taste
    additional salt and pepper, to taste, if needed

Grate the zest of the two limes (just the green part!) into the large bowl you’ll be using for your salad; set aside. 

Juice the limes and measure 1/4 cup of the juice. In a small bowl, whisk together the measured lime juice, honey, salt, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper; then add the olive oil and set aside.

Place the tomatoes*, yellow pepper, black beans, and red onion into the large bowl with the lime zest. Re-whisk the dressing and pour it over the vegetables. Toss well, and store till ready to serve. Keep at room temp if you will be serving within an hour or so; refrigerate for longer storage. If refrigerating, remove about 30 minutes before serving time.

Just before you’re ready to serve the salad, dice the avocados and chop the cilantro, and fold them both into the salad. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve at room temperature.

*If using large tomatoes rather than grape tomatoes, don’t include them at the beginning; add them with the avocado. You may chop the tomatoes ahead of time and store at room temperature.

Recipe Roundup: 12 Things to Do With Avocado

salmon-cu-490
Just rounding up a few avocado recipes. Because they’re so good for you!
Here are a few of my own, followed by others by trusted sources.
Ina Garten’s Guacamole Salad, with my variations. 
(Note: it’s not the texture of guacamole; just the ingredients.)
Turkey-Bacon-Avocado Sandwich. The photo is from Pioneer Woman, and her recipe includes some fancyin’-up, like pesto, but really, I think a simple sandwich of turkey, bacon, avocado, Swiss or provolone cheese, tomato if you like, and a bit of mayo on some crusty whole-wheat toast doesn’t need a recipe — and is just the best sandwich ever! 
Hint: When eating at Jason’s Deli, order the California Club on whole wheat toast (instead of the standard croissant). Order it with steamed veggies on the side, and that is one guilt-free lunch!
And here are some others I’ve found around the web…
Chicken, Bacon and Avocado Chopped Salad (Can you tell I love avocado with bacon?) This looks so amazing! And inspired by a dish from a Salina, KS restaurant — Go, Kansas!
Avocado-Tomato-Mango Salsa, from AllRecipes: 5 stars and almost 700 reviews! This sounds like it would be great on fish, pork — or chips!
Kiwi Salsa from Simply Recipes
The top-rated Avocado Smoothie from AllRecipes.
Avocado Ranch Dressing, also via AllRecipes. (I like that site because you’re getting the opinion of not just one person, but hundreds.)
Avocado Egg Salad, from Pioneer Woman. (I’ve been meaning to try this forever. Gotta make it happen soon.)
And to finish off our avocado buffet: Chocolate (Avocado) Pudding, anyone? from HowSweetEats.

What to do with all that zucchini

pizza-bites-360

Whether it was you or your neighbor who planted too much zucchini this year, here are a few recipes for using up that infamous garden bounty. (Summer squash is its yellow cousin; no significant difference in taste.)

Pizza bites. (Shown above.) They are cute; also the perfect size to pop in your mouth whole. Easy, gluten-free appetizer or snack.
 
 
Summer squash (or zucchini) topped with sausage and cheese. A quick easy dish to prep ahead of time, and then assemble and cook in about 15 minutes.
 
 
Zucchini noodles with peanut sauce. Quick-and-easy, low carb, and tasty, too!
paleo zucchini fritters
Paleo zucchini fritters from PaleOMG — I hear rave reviews about her recipes.
 
For those who are looking for something sweet, and aren’t trying to avoid flour, here are a couple recipes for you. 
grandmas-zucchini-cake
 
Elise’s Grandma’s zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting! This sounds like carrot cake — one of the few cakes I will always be willing to blow my diet for! I haven’t tried this recipe, but it’s from SimplyRecipes, and every recipe I’ve ever tried there has been a winner. I’m sure this one is no different.
 
 
Zucchini bread. If you’ve never tried zucchini bread, you really must! It’s a sweet quick bread (read “muffin-like”), akin to banana bread, but without the banana overtones. You really don’t taste the zucchini at all; it just lends moisture to the party. The predominant flavors come from the cinnamon and sugar. And you know that can’t be bad! 
I made this recipe from AllRecipes earlier this week to take to a ladies social, because it was rated five stars after more than 3,800 reviews! And it was a hit with everyone, but it’s a little sweet for me as is. If (like me) you’re living a mostly sugar-free life, you might want to cut back on the sugar by 1/4 to 3/4 cup. (Here’s a healthier version I haven’t tried.)