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As a pregnant lady, getting a good balance of omega 3 fatty acids is extra important for me. One awesome way to get those omega 3’s is to eat fish, especially salmon! You may have heard the idea that fish consumption should be limited during pregnancy because of the danger mercury poses to the growing fetus, which is a valid concern. Unfortunately, people have been throwing the baby out with the bath water, so to speak, by throwing out fish because of mercury fears. Small fish and fish that are harvested at younger ages do not collect the mercury levels that larger and older fish do, including swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and shark. Eating plenty of wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, arctic char, trout, and albacore tuna will supply you with a lot of omega 3’s and help your baby build it’s brain!

With that in mind, I made a salmon ceasar salad the other day with made-from-scratch ceasar dressing that was excellent. I took the main ingredients for the ceasar dressing from this recipe, but made the following changes:

1. I halved the recipe, but didn’t halve the garlic or parmesan (I think I added extra parmesan actually).
2. I put all of the ingredients into my food processor, turned it on, and drizzled the olive oil into that instead of whisking.

It turned out just like restaurant ceasar dressing! I added it to chopped romaine hearts and diced roma tomatoes, tossed a bit, then topped with poached salmon and more parmesan.

Cook your salmon however you’d like. I simply put it in a pan on the stove, drizzled it with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and topped with salt and cracked pepper, put about 1/3 cup water in the pan, turned the stove on high and covered with a lid until the water boiled. Then, I turned the heat down to medium, turned the salmon over once, and it was done in a matter of about 8 minutes! Easy. The end of summer is very near, so try to enjoy a few more salads before it turns into soup weather!

Yet another pregnancy craving I was having last week involved putting chili on, well, anything. And everything. I settled for putting it on top of roasted cauliflower because, let’s face it, roasted vegetables are amazing! I felt like making a simpler chili than usual, so I opted for grass-fed ground beef instead of chuck roast. I called it “rainbow chili” because I used three colors of bell peppers, and it turned out really pretty! See:

Before you start the chili, preheat your oven to 350 degrees farenheit and cut a full head of cauliflower into small-ish pieces.

Rainbow Chili:

2 pounds grass-fed ground beef
2 tablespoons cooking fat – I used bacon grease, but butter or tallow would work too
2 cups beef stock
3 bell peppers – I used green, red, and yellow
1 medium yellow onion
1 jalapeno – with seeds and ribs if you want spicy, ribs and seeds removed if you want to tone it down
4-5 large roma tomatoes
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon smokey paprika
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Dice all of the vegetables and mince the garlic.
2. Heat the cooking fat in a large stock pot and brown the meat. Season it with a bit of salt & pepper.
3. Take the meat out (leave the fat in the stock pot) and set it aside.
4. Sautee all of the vegetables except for the tomatoes until the onions are translucent (about 10 minutes). Add in the tomatoes at the end, then add the beef back in.
5. Add in the beef stock and the spices, bring it to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for as long as you have. 20 minutes is fine, but you could leave it for an hour if you’ve got time to let the spices meld.

For the cauliflower you’ll need:

1 large head cauliflower
olive oil
Salt & Pepper
shredded cheese of your choice (pepperjack is nice, monterey jack or cheddar would also work)

While the chili is simmering, spread the cauliflower onto a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, and roast for 20 minutes. Stir/turn the cauliflower after 20 minutes, and cook for 20 minutes more.

Once your chili is ready, put the cauliflower in your bowl, and sprinkle some cheese on the cauliflower like this:

Put the chili on top of the cauliflower, then top with sour cream if you’d like. If you want to keep this recipe dairy free, it’s just as easy to leave off the cheese and sour cream though! I enjoyed this for dinner, but I actually liked it even better the next day for lunch. The spices really come together overnight! I can’t wait for the weather to turn a little chillier (get it, like chili…) so I can eat more yummy fall foods!

I am happy to say that our garden supplied half of the main ingredients for this wonderful side dish, and in a few weeks, will provide 75% of them! We’ve had a much greater tomato yield so far this summer, and have harvested bowls full of cherry tomatoes, at least 20 roma tomatoes, and about 5 heirloom tomatoes already, and it’s not even peak tomato time yet! The herbs have been doing so-so in the back of the garden, but there was more than enough basil for this dish. Our 5 or 6 remaining eggplant plants are finally doing well, and have 3 good eggplants coming along. Next time I make this, it will be with our very own eggplant rather than with one I bought at the farmer’s market (which I still love, but eating my own vegetables is more exciting).

Not being vegetarians, we also had good, local sausage with honey mustard sauce with our grilled eggplant, but they could stand on their own as a light meal. Start by getting a medium eggplant, and slicing it into rounds about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. You don’t want them to be so thick that they take a long time on the grill. Then, lay a layer of slices down in a colander, sprinkle with salt, lay another layer down, sprinkle with salt, and keep going until you’ve salted all of the eggplant. Let it sit in the sink for 15 to 20 minutes, and at the end you’ll see that quite a bit of moisture has been drawn out of the eggplant. Rinse off the liquid and salt, and pat dry with a towel. That little trick is also very important if you plan to make eggplant parmesan, or if you want to use eggplant in any other baked dish. Eggplant holds quite a lot of moisture, and drawing it out beforehand will almost always make for a better, less watery dish in the end.

Now that your eggplant is ready to go, here are the rest of the ingredients:

–Extra Virgin Olive Oil
–1 pound fresh mozzarella, either in ball form or log form, cut into medium-thin slices
–Enough tomato slices to top your eggplant slices (at least 2 large tomatoes, or 4 smaller tomatoes), any variety will work (I used roma because we had many that needed to be used)
–Enough fresh basil leaves to top your eggplant slices with one leaf each
–Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Preheat and clean your grill as usual. I’m not the grilling expert, so you won’t get any particularly helpful tips from me in that department!
2. Lay your eggplant slices out flat, and drizzle EVOO over one side. Flip, and drizzle on the other side. Season both sides with salt and pepper (remember, you already rinsed off all the salt you used before).
3. Have your mozzarella slices, basil leaves, and tomato slices ready to go on a separate plate. Place your eggplant slices on the grill, and leave them to cook for 4-5 minutes.
4. Turn the eggplant slices over, then top with basil, then mozzarella, then tomato. The eggplant will cook through on the bottom side, while the cheese melts and acts as glue on the top side. Grill for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until the eggplant is cooked (but not burned!) and the mozzarella is melted.

Isn’t it beautiful? I did not put the basil on bottom like I should have, and waited to put the tomatoes on until last. I made those little adjustments in the recipe because it will taste better the way I wrote it out. So basically, do as I say and not as I already did! This recipe will work for pan frying as well if you don’t have a grill, but I always enjoy the smokey/crispy quality that the grill imbues to vegetables. Happy summer cooking!

At the height of strawberry season this year, Adam and I were both happily indulging in the overabundance of strawberries on sale. Organic strawberries for $2 a pound? Yes please! We also have access to amazingly delicious heavy cream from grass-fed cows, from only an hour and a half away or so in Ohio, and it’s lightly pasteurized rather than ultra-pasteurized (keeping at least some of the beneficial bacteria that get boiled into oblivion during the high-heat pastuerization). Add to that local, raw honey, that tastes like sunshine. What does this leave you with?

Isn’t it beautiful? It’s not a recipe per se, it’s more of a combination of simple ingredients. Which I suppose is technically a recipe, but you know what I mean.

1. Whip the cream
2. Slice the strawberries into halves or quarters or slices (whatever you fancy)
3. Place strawberries in a bowl, add a dollop of whipped cream
4. Drizzle liquid sunshine (aka raw honey) on top
5. Eat!!

It’s so simple, but such a delicious combination. Try making the whipped cream with less sugar than usual, as the honey will add a completely different dimension of sweetness. A dash of cinnamon on top would not be unwelcome either, and if you have other berries in season right now, by all means substitute away!

Last week I was incredibly happy to find Grass-Fed beef short ribs at Whole Foods. I had been craving braised short ribs for quite some time, but was concerned about eating such a fatty cut of conventionally raised beef. Since toxins are stored in the fat of an animal (including humans!), I generally try to eat lean cuts of conventional meat if that’s what I’m forced to buy. Our side of beef is all but gone (we have about 10 pounds of random cuts left out of our 250 pounds from last November), so we have not been eating nearly as much beef as we were during the winter, and much of it has been conventionally raised since it can be quite difficult to find grass-fed beef for a reasonable price (I’m talking less than $10 per pound for most cuts).

At $6 per pound, the short ribs I found at Whole Foods were practically a steal, and there were 3 pounds sitting right there in the meat case! I snapped those suckers up immediately, and then searched the internet for a suitable recipe to try with my red marbled treasure. The problem I ran into was this: almost all of the recipes that sounded the best called for overnight marinating! I wanted short ribs THAT NIGHT, not later! I figured 3-4 hours would be plenty of time, but I couldn’t find a single recipe that didn’t call for the overnight marinating or all day cooking in the crock pot.

After some deliberation, I ended up choosing Tom Colicchio’s recipe over at Food & Wine, and promptly went to the store to buy a bottle of dry red wine. As you’ll see, it calls for an entire bottle. The alcohol cooks off, so I wasn’t worried about it in my pregnant state. I won’t rehash the recipe here, since it’s fairly involved and because I think it’s against internet etiquette (yes, there is such a thing!) to do so, but I will tell you these short ribs were AMAZING. They were exactly what I wanted: falling off the bone tender, with an incredibly flavorful sauce. I saved the sauce that we didn’t use on the ribs because it was so good I couldn’t bear to waste it! I did not use flanken style short ribs, instead I used the “square” looking ones cut with the grain rather than against it, but otherwise I actually followed the recipe very closely.

If you decide to make short ribs, do it on a day where you have plenty of time and won’t feel rushed. It’s a very slow cooking meal, but it fills the house with wonderful aromas, and fills your family’s bellies with hearty food made with love. If you give the recipe a try, let me know how it turns out!

Although it’s not soup weather at all here, meaning we’ve had 90+ degree days with 80% humidity or more, I have been absolutely craving chicken soup. Crazy pregnancy hormones! Actually, I’ve been craving a lot of soups, including broccoli and cheese soup and New England clam chowder. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find a cream based soup at a restaurant that isn’t made with wheat as part of the base roux. So, sorry Panera, but I can’t buy your delicious smelling broccoli and cheese soup. Maybe I’ll try making that next, sans wheat (since it really is completely unneccessary).

But back to the chicken soup. Since eschewing all grains from my diet, I haven’t had chicken noodle soup in more than a year. And you know what? Leaving out the noodles leaves so much more room for chicken and vegetables! Those are the best parts! I stuck with a fairly simple soup this time, because I wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous, so feel free to add whatever other vegetables or spices you’d like. After you’ve roasted a chicken, save the carcass and any extra bits to start your broth. Put the carcass in a crock pot, fill it up with water, and set the crock pot on low for as long as possible, preferably 24 hours. Add a splash (tablespoon or less) of vinegar to help leach the calcium out of the bones and get it into your soup! You can also add large pieces of onion/carrot/celery and a bay leaf to the mixture if you’d like. Then, when the broth is ready the next day, get your soup on!

Ingredients:

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
1 large bunch of celery, sliced into chunks roughly the same size as your carrots (include the leaves, they have a lot of flavor!)
6 cloves of garlic finely diced or pressed
4 cups of chopped chicken, preferably from the chicken you already roasted!
1 medium yellow onion, diced -or- 1/4 cup dried onion flakes (it’s what I had, and it worked just fine!)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Ground Salt & Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
4 quarts of Chicken Broth or more – depending on how you like your broth to soup chunks ratio (we like more stuff/less broth, but you might not agree)

1. In a large stock pot, heat the butter, then sautee the diced garlic and onion (if using fresh onion).
2. Once the onions are translucent and starting to brown (or once the garlic is toasted but not burned if you’re using dried onions), add the chopped carrot and celery. Sautee until they begin to soften.
3. Add your golden, beautiful smelling chicken broth, strained to remove the bones/vegetables. Salt the mixture a bit, and bring to a boil.
4. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to medium, add the rest of your spices, and cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the carrots and celery are as soft as you’d like them to be. They should be easily pierced with a fork, but not mushy like baby food.
5. Add the cooked chicken, and simmer for about 10 minutes more until it is heated through.

Again this is a very simple recipe, and could be expanded with whatever other vegetables you enjoy. I considered adding spinach, which is delicious in soups, and have enjoyed zucchini and yellow squash in chicken soup as well. Use your imagination! Remember, the longer your cook your broth, the more nutritious it becomes as the bones and cartilage and marrow break down from the chicken carcass, and the better it tastes. And if you’re not in the mood for soup just yet, I hope you keep this little gem in mind for the fall and winter!

I cannot believe Spring has nearly come and gone!  I miss the mosquito free 75 degree days and the bevy of flowering trees all around…Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy summer too, I just can’t be outside in the garden for more than two minutes without acquiring an itchy collection of mosquito bites. With that said, my first-week-of-summer meal plan is not nearly as grill heavy as I’d like it to be, because Adam has had to work closing shifts quite regularly (keeping him locked up at Lowe’s until 11pm) and I’m just not the grill maven I ought to be. Add the mosquitos to the fact that I tend to take everything off the grill 5 minutes too early (Medium-rare chicken anyone? What, no takers??) and I’m better off just staying in the kitchen!

If anyone else is grill-impared like I am, or if you don’t have a grill, then boy have I got a delicious week planned:

Pulled Pork Salad
Meatballs with Marinara Sauce over Spaghetti Squash
Pulled Pork Frittata with bell peppers/onion/garlic/mushrooms/jalapeno/salt/pepper…mmm
Dijon Crusted Salmon with Asparagus
Cornish hens with roasted broccoli (I know, I keep doing roasted chicken with roasted broccoli, but it’s so dang good I can’t help it!)

I’ve been on a salmon kick lately with my salmon chowder (an adaptation of this recipe), and nothing sounds quite as good as a big piece of fish with tangy dijon mustard and fresh asparagus right now. I can still get good local asparagus at the farmer’s market, but this may be the last week for it (it is a spring vegetable afterall) so I’d better take advantage! Lastly, this picture has nothing to do with anything, but it’s seriously the cutest puppy picture ever taken. Wes used to be so precious:

Happy Summer everyone!

Every once in a while I’ll make something that Adam deems “a good meal for kids.” I suppose this is because I also make meals that he thinks kids wouldn’t touch (like my beef, carrot, and cabbage stir fry….don’t make gagging noises, it’s really good!). I really appreciate his input, because he’s an objective observer of my cooking, and will tell me the truth about whether or not he’d like to eat something again.

Coconut Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard Sauce got the official “Husband Approved” seal, and the honorary distinction of being something that kids would like to eat! You see, they don’t always go together. Since I don’t have my own kids to test this on (only dogs, who would just as soon eat chicken poop as they would eat chicken tenders), I’ll just hope to hear from someone else who does.

To get started, you’ll need 2 bowls, a baking sheet, and an oven safe baking rack (they are often also called cooling racks). The baking (or cooling) rack serves to elevate the chicken tenders, so that they will have air circulating around them and therefore be crisped evenly. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, then get started.

Ingredients for the Chicken Tenders:

4 skinless chicken breasts (this is one of the only recipes I ever use them in), cut into “tender” sized pieces
2 large eggs
3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

1. Whisk the eggs in one of your 2 bowls.
2. Mix the shredded coconut, paprika, salt, and black pepper in your second bowl.
3. Make an assembly line starting with your chicken tenders, then the egg bowl, then the coconut bowl, then the baking (or cooling) rack which has been set over your baking sheet.
4. Dip the chicken tenders into the egg, then coat them thoroughly with the coconut, then arrange them on the baking rack.
5. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, turn the tenders over, and bake 20 minutes more.

While your tenders are baking, whip up the Honey Mustard Sauce:

1/2 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup mayonaise (I usually make my own, good instructions are here)
1 tablespoon honey

Whisk together all three ingredients in a bowl and serve with the chicken tenders.

Adam requested sweet potato fries with this meal, which turned out to be a perfect complement to the chicken tenders! ¬†We really enjoyed it, and the leftovers heated up very nicely for the second and third go-round. I sincerely hope someone reports back on the kid-friendliness of this meal, because I’d love to keep it in my arsenal for future use!