I spent most of the time making these meatballs brainstorming ideas for what to call them--I tried for an acronym to explain that they have turkey, beef, and sweet potato, but tbst bbq meatballs looks like a typo. "Best meatballs ever" was pretty lame (and also taken, I'm sure) and "OMG BBQ Meatballs" was just a little...much. I need an intern, folks. We're hiring (free labor, that is). These meatballs are the bomb. Are people still saying that? I'm saying that. I made them for some friends last weekend and they were delicious, crowd-pleasing, and easy to throw together, and they're even better leftover. Which is good, because this recipe makes a ton. But they only last about three days in our house, company or not. And they even have a vegetable in them! What more can I say. They win all the things. Except the pretty prize, because meatballs just aren't that good looking. Sorry, meatballs, you can't win 'em all.
Ingredients (makes about 50 ping-pong-ball-sized meatballs)
1.3 lbs of ground beef
1.2 lbs of ground turkey
1 large sweet potato, cooked with skin removed (I cooked mine in the microwave)
heaping 1/2 cup almond meal
3 tbs onion flakes
2 tbs dried parsley
about a bottle of your favorite Whole 30 bbq sauce (see below for mine)
1. Preheat your oven to to 350F. Mix almond meal, parsley, and onion flakes together in a large bowl, breaking up any clumps in the almond meal.
2. Add all of the other ingredients, except for the barbecue sauce, to the bowl. Take off your rings, if you wear them, because picking raw meat out of the crevices of your jewelry is not great.
3. Mash everything up really well with your hands, turning and folding and mixing until it's all evenly mixed together. If you have any big chunks of sweet potato, break those up with your fingers.
Raw meat is just....not photogenic. But it should look like that.
4. Put some tin foil down on a large baking sheet, and start rollin' meatballs. Shoot for meatballs that are about the size of a ping pong ball, and try to keep them all about the same size so they cook evenly.
5. Drizzle your favorite compliant barbecue sauce over the top. You can make your own Whole 30 barbecue sauce, but if you're like me ("thx-but-no-thx to making my own anything sauce") you can buy Tessemae's barbecue sauce on Amazon and call it a day.
6. Bake the meatballs for 25 minutes. Eat one bajillion of them. Lay on couch with meatball belly.
If you don't want to take my word for it, Chewy would also like to vouch for these meatballs--one fell on the floor when I was moving them to a plate and he inhaled it, and then spent the rest of the evening like this begging for more.
I mean, balls of meat--amiright??
I hope you all had the most wonderful holiday weekends. I'm sorry it's over. Allow me to comfort you with about twenty of these meatballs.
Who wants to cook when it's this hot outside?! Seriously, who?? Present yourselves, rascals!
I haven't been cooking as much because I'm very interested in fast, microwaveable options when I don't want to heat up my kitchen with the oven (or I'm just busy enjoying the nice weather and then suddenly it's dinner time and I haven't started cooking). Also, it's Father's Day, which means I was whipping up a pancake feast this morning. And that left very little energy for any more cooking today. But this salad is delicious, and fast, and perfect for a hot summer day. The four Bs are Bacon, Brussels sprouts, Beets, and Balsamic vinaigrette. The smokiness of the bacon is a great balance for the tart balsamic, and the warm, subtle sweetness of the beets and brussels sprouts really just round the whole thing out so nicely. I just polished one off for lunch, and the leftovers will be lunch at work on Monday and Tuesday! Enjoy!
1 small package bacon (I used Applegate turkey bacon but you could also use regular bacon)
About 2 cups brussels sprouts, cooked and chopped
About 2 cups beets, sliced (I use the vaccuum-sealed pre-cooked beets that you can buy at most grocery stores, shown below)
Your favorite balsamic vinaigrette (mine also had rosemary in it and that was delicious, so if yours doesn't I can recommend throwing a little rosemary into this, too).
1. Lay your bacon flat in a skillet and turn on your burner to medium heat.
2. While your bacon is cooking, slice up your brussels sprouts (I used some leftover from lunch yesterday) and your beets (I used these from Trader Joe's, I also like the Love Beets brand that you can buy at Costco).
You're going for a hash consistency with your beets and brussels, so slice them about like so.
3. When your bacon is browned to your liking, remove it from your skillet. If you used regular bacon and have a lot of fat left in there, drain most of it out (leave a little behind, but you don't need a pool). I didn't drain anything because I used turkey bacon.
4. Add your beets and brussels to your skillet with the bacon remnants and turn your burner up to medium-high. Your veggies are already cooked so this is just to let them caramelize, warm up, and get some of that good bacon flavor on them. Let them hang out in the pan for 3-5 minutes, and stir them around a few times during the process.
5. While that's happening, slice or crumble your bacon and fill a big bowl with your favorite salad greens.
6. Once the beets and brussels have some nice caramelized color and you're starting to get worried about burning, take them off the heat. Scoop some beets and brussels over your field greens, sprinkle an ample amount of bacon over the top, and drizzle with balsamic.
Enjoy, and happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about online community and social media. There are two semi-conflicting truths to this topic that both resonate deeply with me: 1) we need to stop staring at our phones all the time and remember to connect in person, in the moment we’re in right now, with each other and our surroundings and ourselves; and 2) the ability to connect with like-minded people all over the world, and to access information at your fingertips that was only available through extensive research and education twenty years ago, is phenomenal. The ability to quickly and easily understand any topic simply by typing a question into my phone is mind-blowing. Is this food paleo? Is this grain gluten free? What is MCT oil? What is intermittent fasting? What does proper burpee form look like? How do I improve my push-ups? What are the best bodyweight strength training moves? What can I make with the four things that are left in my fridge? If Google was a real live person I would give her the best birthday gifts.
Since starting Cocoa & Cotton I’ve made more of a conscious effort to find people online who are interested in nutrition, fitness, and overall wellness, and making those connections has profoundly influenced me. I wouldn’t have known about the Women’s Strength Summit if it weren’t for following Stupid Easy Paleo on Instagram, nor would I have discovered her podcast Harder to Kill Radio. Both of those things have inspired positive change in my life, and helped me to think about what makes me healthiest and happiest (in ways I wouldn't have considered if I hadn't virtually connected with a like-minded person offering their experience to the interwebs). Following cooking enthusiasts gives me recipe ideas, and connecting with real food advocates inspires me to continue my own wellness journey. Following fitness experts gives me ideas for switching up my workouts, and inspiration to reach new goals and explore new fitness arenas. I have friends from different times in my life that I don’t keep up with in person, but I truly love seeing their posts, and I celebrate their milestones and happy moments through Facebook and Instagram. Those connections are real, and they matter to me. But the call to step back from social media and to be mindful and present in the moment also resonates with me. I know that scrolling through feeds is a time-suck, and I don’t want that to take away from other things that I value—like reading, giving my family undivided attention, and being mindful and still every once in a while.
I don’t find this balance easy, but I think for me the best step is to consciously note that I don’t need to open a social media app on my phone every time there’s a spare moment—just breaking the habit of reaching for that screen as a reflex goes a long way in reducing the “extra” use of social media that I want to avoid, but still allows me to make the conscious choice to check in with my digital network and stay connected when I want to. My newest online venture is connecting with a Beach Body community through an old friend from college--she is a BB coach now, and I'm joining her upcoming challenge group to connect with other women that are interested in accountability, increased fitness, and better overall health. And I'm stoked about it! I could talk endlessly with people who are interested in improving wellness, especially about their personal stories and their ideas for how to make strides in living healthfully.
What do you think about social media? Too much of a distraction from normal life, or amazing tool for connecting with your people? You can cop out like I did and say both. This is a safe space.
It's the WEEKEND!!! This week's version of FUF is coming a little later in the day then normal, but it's going to be action-packed. You guys, I am just the happiest camper these days. The last few years I've really realized how much the seasons affect my mood--by the end of winter the lack of sunlight and endless supply of cold, dreary days just wears me down. And then, the spring and summer come and it feels like a damned miracle. Minneapolis is SO beautiful in the summer, and we are falling more in love with our new neighborhood every day. The cotton candy sunsets on the lake, the peonies blooming in all of our neighbors' yards, everyone biking and walking and running and smiling big ear-to-ear smiles. I am fueled up by all of the things. Ready to hear about them? Great. I knew I liked you.
I. Not Being in High School
This week marks ten years since I graduated from high school! I actually ended up back at my old high school this week to talk to a class about healthcare careers. And you know what that reminded me? How GREAT it is to not be in high school! Don't get me wrong--my high school is great, and I had a fun time there, but being an adult wins. In every way. Hearing the students yelling questions about where they're supposed to sit in class, and what projects need to be done when, and why did I get points off on my worksheet, and why can't I wear my headphones during the guest speaker's presentation, and...it's just good to be an adult.
II. Primal Fuel Protein Powder
I'm not a big fan of protein powder--generally I think it doesn't taste great, and it upsets my stomach sometimes. But THIS stuff. This stuff is like a milkshake. Except that it's dairy free and barely has any sugar (I have no idea how they make it taste so good, but there's lots of coconut fat in there). I'm adding a few servings a week to supplement some protein while I work on building more muscle. It's my new favorite dessert, and I LOVE dessert.
III. Cheering at Track Meets
Kell is running track these days and he's great at it. But even better than that, he loves it SO much. The smile on his face after his races is just solid gold. And you know what else? Track is the best sport to watch--you get to sit outside on nice sunny days, the events go pretty quickly, and you don't have to know any rules to follow along. Track gets two solid thumbs up from me. Kelly's mom ran track in high school and college so she's coaching his team and she's obviously passed some talent down through the gene pool.
IV. All. The. Smoothies.
In the summer, I actually want to eat smoothies for every single meal. I still just have them for breakfast (with eggs) but I want to have them for everything always. There's lots more fresh, ripe fruit around to throw in and switch things up, and a big delicious smoothie just pairs perfectly with a sunshine-y morning and birds chirping outside.
V. Minneapolis, My Pretty Pretty City.
Just look at this beauty.
There are so many more ways to enjoy Minneapolis when the weather is nice. We're biking around the lakes, we're kayaking across them, we're climbing hills and sitting on our patio and discovering all of these gorgeous little corners of the city that we didn't even know existed. We walked through the rose gardens at Lake Harriet last night and found a little peace garden that's either new, or improved, or we just somehow hadn't seen it the dozens of time we'd been there before. It has a little waterfall and some pebbled walking paths and it's gorgeous. It's so easy to be active because everything we want to do is outside--I'm sore from working in the garden (embarrassing but true) and we walk three or four miles on a nice night, or bike the chain of lakes. It's the happiest sort of exercise.
Enjoy your weekends, kids! I've also been reading some great books, but I'll save that for a post next week. Maybe I'll even get wild and cook something interesting. You never can tell.
The beautiful thing about living in Minnesota is that every year spring and summer feel like a surprise party--I've forgotten how lovely it is to feel the warm air on my face as I walk out the door each morning, and enjoy daylight hours after dinner, and take advantage of the lakes and the bike trails. And just like the weather, the amazingly delicious produce takes me by surprise (even though I've experienced spring and summer, and the produce that comes with it, for 27 years now). I won't go on too long waxing poetic about nectarines and berries, but the cherry tomatoes that are included in this salad are perfectly in season right now--I keep buying big containers at Costco and everyone in my house is popping handfuls of tomatoes as they walk through the kitchen.
This salad is perfect for lunch or dinner in the summertime. It's substantial but not too heavy or warm, and the flavors are bright and fresh and delicious. If you're not familiar with chimichurri, I'd like to introduce you to your new best friend. This sauce is paleo and Whole 30 friendly, bursting with flavor, and great on any grilled meat (or even eggs). I made a big batch for this salad and I've been enjoying it out of the fridge on all sorts of things.
for the chimichurri
1 bunch flat parsley
4-5 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup olive oil or avocado oil
1/8 cup white vinegar
3 tbs lemon juice
for the salad
mixed field greens
chicken (I like boneless skinless thighs, but you could do breasts if you prefer)
2-3 red bell peppers
2-3 zucchini or yellow summer squash
olive oil for roasting veggies
italian seasoning, or your favorite dried spice (stick around the oregano/basil/rosemary neighborhood, don't get too exotic)
about 1/3 cup coconut sugar (omit if Whole 30)
about 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or whatever you like)
balsamic reduction for drizzling (I buy this one at my local grocery store, but it does have some added sugar--you can make your own or omit if a compliant version isn't available)
1. Preheat the oven to 375F and place your chicken thighs on a baking sheet. Please don't wash your chicken, it's pointless and spreads germs. I also made a ton of chicken when I was prepping this salad, so we would have leftovers all week. Why bake four pieces of chicken when you can bake twelve? Place your chicken in the oven.
2. Cut your bell peppers into thick slices (4 per pepper, not thin strips) and lay your slices on a second baking sheet. If you haven't seen this method for cutting your bell peppers, check out the link. It's one of my favorite kitchen tricks. Coat the pepper slices in a thin layer of olive oil.
3. Cut your zucchini or summer squash in quarters, length-wise, and lay them next to your peppers on the baking sheet (or on their own, if you're making extra like I did). Coat them in a think layer of olive oil, and sprinkle with italian seasoning.
4. Put your veggies in the oven. I actually roast my veggies at about 400 and cook the chicken at 350 because our new kitchen has a double oven (huzzah!) but cooking both at 375 will work just fine.
5. After your chicken and veggies are in the oven, turn to your chimichurri. Grab that beautiful parsley.
I made a double batch, because I wanted lots of leftovers, but one batch makes more than enough for this salad. I also left the stems on my parsley, which made for a more fibrous sauce--that doesn't bother me, but if I wanted it to be smoother I would chop off the stems where the leaves start.
6. Shove your parsley into your blender or food processor. This is really a job for a food processor, but I truly hate using food processors and love my blender to bits. I think it's because the food processor has so many pieces, but mostly it's just an irrational preference. I smooshed the parsley all the way down in my vitamix and with plenty of scraping down in between pulses it worked just fine.
7. Add all the other ingredients to your blender/FP and pulse until well combined, stopping to scrape down the sides with a spatula as necessary until everything is blended into a bright green, fragrant mess. Like dis.
8. Set your chimichurri aside and take a look at your chicken/veggies. The chicken should take about 30 minutes (give or take 5) and the veggies will take more like 40. You want your red peppers to be charred on the skin side and the zucchini/summer squash to be very soft and charred on the edges.
9. Take out a frying pan to candy your chopped nuts. If you're looking for a Whole 30 version of this recipe, you can skip this step. If not, did you know that you can melt sugar in a normal frying pan and create candied/glazed nuts at home? It's really easy. Add your coconut sugar to your frying pan (the pan should be dry, with no oil or anything other than the sugar).
CAdd your nuts to the pan, and turn on the burner to medium/high heat. Stir the mixture constantly until you notice that the sugar is melting (you'll see it streaking and turning liquid on the bottom of the pan). Keep stirring about 30 seconds past that point to be sure all the sugar is liquified, and then remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir to ensure the sugar/nuts don't burn or clump up too much. Set aside.
10. Slice your cherry tomatoes in half length-wise and set aside. Slice your prosciutto into strips/chunks (mine always rolls up into ball-like pieces, so I just go with that). I like about 2 pieces of prosciutto per salad, but all of these ingredients are to taste--add more of what you like, less/none of what you don't.
11. Remove your chicken and roasted veggies from the oven when they're finished and let them cool slightly before you assemble your salads--they should both be warm, but it's going to be tough to chop them when they're right-out-of-the-oven hot.
12. Chop your chicken into chunks, and slice your red peppers and zucchini/squash into small strips or pieces. I used about 1.5 pieces of chicken for each salad, and 1/4-1/2 a bell pepper, 1/4 of a zucchini and 1/4 of a yellow squash for each one. Again, whatever sounds good to you will work, the ratio is flexible.
13. Start with a bed of mixed greens in each bowl and layer each ingredient evenly over the top, saving the chimichurri and balsamic reduction for last. Drizzle your chimichurri over the top (or, if it's thick like mine was, drop a few chunks around the bowl and spread them with your spoon). I used about 2 tbs of chimichurri per bowl--this stuff is heavy on the garlic and very flavorful, so start with less and add more to taste. Finish with a drizzle of your reduced balsamic if you like, and dig in!
Enjoy on your porch or patio, with your feet up.
So, here's a dumb thing I did because I am bullheaded: I read about kimchi once in 2009 and thought it sounded disgusting, and decided that I didn't like kimchi and didn't eat it for seven years. Well, 27 years. But 7 years of consciously deciding not to eat it. I don't think I ever tried it at all--just decided that it wasn't for me. As you may know from this blog, I'm not exactly closed-minded when it comes to food, so I don't even have a good explanation for my kimchi avoidance. Sometimes I do dumb things. But, you guys, I'm reformed. I am reborn into the world of delicious Korean cuisine (which is great, because one of my best friends lives in South Korea right now and she makes up about half the readership of my blog, so this recipe is verrrry appropriate). I had bibimbap for the first time when I was in Madison a few weeks ago and have basically been thinking about it ever since. I'm pretty sure bibimbap loosely translated is "bowl of rice and other awesome stuff" and that's the gist of it--rice on the bottom, delicious meat and vegetables and sauce and kimchi, topped with a fried egg. This one is made with sweet potato rice and ground turkey, but you could do cauliflower rice if you prefer that, or regular rice if you're not paleo/whole 30-ing. Ground pork would be the traditional choice, but I choose poultry over pork most of the time (key exceptions being bacon and prosciutto) and Costco has a great organic ground turkey that's antibiotic free with no hormones or steroids and a certification for humane treatment, so I've been using a lot of that. Give this recipe a try, even if you don't think you're a fan of Korean food. You really won't be disappointed.
For the meat:
1 pound of ground turkey (or chicken, or pork)
1/3 cup coconut aminos
1 tsp fish sauce (red boat is a good compliant brand)
1 tbs sesame oil
1/2 tbs sriracha (or, if you can't find a compliant one, sub a pinch of red pepper flakes for heat) **note: this recipe is flavorful and has a mild heat but isn't spicy as written--add more sriracha or red pepper if you want it hot
For the bowl:
1 large sweet potato
kimchi (you can find lots of options in the refrigerator section of your local co-op or Whole Foods, just check the labels)
Mushrooms (I found some cute enoki mushrooms, but any kind will work)
avocado oil (or coconut oil, or olive oil)
1. Turn your sweet potato into a rice shape. I did this by peeling and spiralizing my sweet potato into thin noodles, and then chopping these noodles with a big knife into smaller rice shapes. I used this approach because I hate my food processor with an unreasonable passion, but you could also use your food processor to pulse your sweet potato a few times into rice grains (just peel and chop it into smaller cubes to start, and then pulse in the food processor until you get rice-like grains). The spiralizer method works great if you have a good spiralizer--if you don't, I highly recommend making the $40 investment, it makes it much easier to turn lots of different veggies into pasta/rice replacements.
2. Throw your sweet potato rice in a pan with a good glug of oil and toss to coat. Place your burner on medium-low heat under the rice.
3. Mix together the sauce for your meat (coconut aminos, sesame oil, fish sauce, and sriracha or red pepper flakes). Add the sauce and meat to a second pan and turn on medium heat. You're going to want to stir both your sweet potato rice and your meat every few minutes so both cook evenly--at first your meat is going to look like it's swimming in sauce, but as it cooks it will all get absorbed deliciously. Trust me.
4. Grab one more little frying pan (sorry for all the dishes--worth it, pinky promise) and add your mushrooms to it with some oil or ghee and a good dash of salt. Turn the mushrooms on over medium heat and sautee until brown, stirring every few minutes.
5. While all your things are sauteeing, chop up your cucumber and green onion. When your sweet potato rice starts to brown, turn the heat off. When your turkey is all browned and the liquid is absorbed, turn that burner off, too (if you're a Jedi master these things will happen at the same time, but if not don't worry--it will all stay warm enough).
6. When your mushrooms are done, remove those from your little frying pan and add a little more oil or ghee. Crack your egg into this pan and fry sunny side up until the white is set.
7. While your egg is frying, layer some sweet potato rice in the bottom of your bowl. Add your bean sprouts, cucumber, mushrooms, turkey, and kimchi on top of the sweet potato rice and sprinkle green onion over the top.
When your egg is done, plop it on top and marvel at the beauty of your creation for a few seconds. Then mix it all together into a giant messy pile and devour. Garnish with coconut aminos and/or sriracha to taste.
Enjoy!! Later this week I have another great recipe to share, thanks to Dan being away fishing last weekend and my taking advantage of the alone time to make a mess in the kitchen and catch up on The Mindy Show.
Friends! I was driving to work today and it was suddenly summer. It wasn't summer earlier this week, but somehow the leaves on all the trees came out without my noticing it, and the sun is shining bright and early in the day, and it's green and gorgeous and summer. And it's Friday! All of the best things are here today. On this week's installment of Fueled Up Friday, we're talking about Thred Up and Lara Bars (specifically the coconut cream pie version that I can't stop shoving into my face).
I. Thred Up
My No New Clothes Challenge is still going strong, and I'm starting to think that I'm going to try to buy mostly secondhand clothing permanently. I'm sure there are times when I'll buy new clothes in the future, but the more I look into it the more I realize there's such a wealth of gently used clothing available that can save me money and save the planet some unnecessary waste. I decided to give Thred Up a try (if you haven't heard of it, Thred Up is an online thrift store where you can browse gently used clothing and they'll ship your purchases to you). I ordered a chunky short sleeved sweater, a silky striped skirt, and some snake-skin patterned flats that arrived this week.
The skirt is Ralph Lauren, and it's silk but it's a thicker, more substantial fabric than other silk skirts I've owned. I was also super pleasantly surprised to learn it had pockets (I'll admit that I shrieked a little bit with joy at this discovery. Dan did not understand.) It's comfy and versatile, and helps me to fulfill my dream of wearing stripes every day.
This chunky sweater is basically all I'm going to be wearing this summer. It's soft and chunky and drapey in my favorite sort of way, but sleeveless and perfect for layering over summer clothes when the evenings get a little crisp (or wearing to the office to deal with the constantly overdone air conditioning). Lucky Brand made this beautiful thing. Well done, Lucky. I hate your jeans but I love your sweaters.
These flats are also definitely going to be a summer staple. They have separate toe and heel pieces so they're open on the arch part of your foot and don't get too hot, and they're comfy and easy to throw on with anything. Plus, the pattern is a little more interesting than my standard black/gray/tan flats. They are made by Breckelle's.
I bought all three items for $60, and all three are in excellent like-new condition. I didn't order a bag for selling items to Thred Up, but I think I'm going to try that next with some clothes I've been meaning to drive over to the consignment store (but likely never will, at this rate).
II. Lara Bars
I know that Lara Bars are not a well-kept secret, but they deserve a shout-out anyway. And, if you haven't tried their Coconut Cream Pie flavor...you should do that. Probably now.
For those of you who aren't already addicted, Lara Bars are snack bars that are made out of real, simple ingredients. They all use dates as a base so they're sweet, and they also usually include a nut, maybe some spices, maybe another dried fruit, and that's about it. You could make these at home, and I have before (my mom does all the time now) but at this point in my life I prefer to just buy them. Convenience, you know? These are one of the few easy, pre-packaged treats that are Whole 30 compliant and paleo, and while you do have to be careful not to go crazy and eat then of them (you could, and they're still definitely a treat) they're a healthy treat that I feel good about throwing in my bag for those low blood sugar moments. And they're SO. GOOD. You can order this flavor on Thrive Market, but Lara Bars are available at lots of grocery stores (usually by the Power Bars/Clif Bars, etc.) Go grab yourself some, and eat them, and fall in love, and then we can talk about how great they are together. I'm always up for joint adoration of delicious foods.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Nom nom nom I love shrimp. This meal is spicy and warm and filling and satisfying and shrimpy. And, served over zucchini noodles (zoodles, if you're hip like that) it's got tons of vegetables and it's low carb and paleo. And it's fast! We ate this for dinner tonight and then did a hill workout (yesterday I had to settle for the treadmill because it was so rainy, but there was a long enough break in the rain today that we could run to a park nearby and do some hills). Dan was a champ and ran with me, even though he hates evening workouts. The knee held up for three miles (one of which was hill loops) so I'm very happy about that! Things are lookin' up.
Paleo Shrimp Fra Diavolo
1 pound of shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined (I started with frozen raw shrimp, but you could also use pre-cooked)
1 small white or yellow onion
1 red bell pepper
About 1.5 tbs minced garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1-2 tsp dried crushed red pepper (to taste--see instructions below)
About 1 tbs lemon juice
2 medium zucchini (for zoodles)
1. Finely dice your onion and red bell pepper. Disclaimer: traditional shrimp fra diavolo does not use bell pepper, but my family loves them and I think the sweetness is great in this recipe. But, if you're a purist, you can leave it out (and you should also probably find a different food blogger to follow. I can make some good recommendations.) I also don't have the best knife skills, but I find it makes my food more rustic and homey to have differently-sized pieces. So there.
2. Pour about 1/3 of a cup of olive oil into a deep skillet and throw in your diced onion, red pepper, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes. I use 1 tsp of red pepper flakes in this recipe and it definitely has some kick to it, but it's not like "did I do something to piss off the chef?" spicy. If you're a native Minnesotan and think ketchup is spicy, try half a teaspoon. If you really like spicy stuff, go for two. Give everything a good stir and sautee over medium heat until your onions are translucent.
3. Add your thawed shrimp to the pan. If you're starting with raw shrimp, sautee over medium heat until the shrimp are pink and no longer translucent. If your shrimp are already cooked, just give them a good stir to coat with olive oil and your delicious onion/garlic/pepper mixture and move on to step 4.
4. Add your can of diced tomatoes to the pan and let the whole pan come to a simmer. I like to add about a tablespoon of lemon juice at the beginning of the simmer process because I think it brightens up the flavor a little bit. Leave it simmering while you spiralize your zucchini to make your zoodles (or, if you're a regular noodle eater, prepare your favorite noodles).
5. Add some olive oil or avocado oil to another frying pan and add your zoodles. Toss the raw zoodles in the oil to coat, and turn the heat up to medium-high for three or four minutes, stirring once or twice. These don't take long to cook (you don't want them to get mushy, so don't let them go for more than a few minutes, but I'm not a fan of the raw texture. If you are, feel free to use them raw.)
6. Once your zoodles are done cooking and your shrimp mixture has been simmering for about ten minutes, plate your zoodles and spoon a generous amount of shrimp mixture over the top. If you eat cheese, this is delicious garnished with a little parmesan (not paleo, but yummy).
I feel like it’s been weeks since I posted a recipe, but I’m breaking that streak with a really good one! This recipe is savory, and tangy, and just a little bit sweet. I love it very much. Plus, it’s Whole 30 compliant and paleo-approved. All it does is win. I served the chicken over some Yukon Gold potatoes that I pan-fried and mixed in hunks of steamed sweet potato, which was delicious, but you could also serve over spaghetti squash, or even on a salad with the sauce as a dressing, or just by itself.
Sweet and Savory Balsamic Tomato Chicken
Your chicken of choice, raw (I used 5 skin-on chicken drumsticks, this would also be great with bone-in or boneless thighs, which is what we thought we were buying when we bought the drumsticks instead, or even chicken breast)
½ cup white or yellow onion, diced
3 tbs dried onion flakes (optional, but they really bring out that sweet onion-y flavor)
3 tbs minced garlic
One can diced tomatoes
Rosemary (fresh if you have it, dried if you don’t)
Olive oil (or avocado oil)
Potatoes (white or sweet or both) or Spaghetti Squash, or noodles or rice if you’re a grain-eater
4. Turn your chicken and brown for three or four minutes on the other side.
5. Once your chicken is nicely browned (it won’t be cooked through—don’t worry, that’s coming) pour your balsamic vinegar over the chicken and let it reduce for about four minutes. It will bubble a lot and it might smell not awesome, but do not lose faith.
6. Once your vinegar has reduced by about half, pour your can of tomatoes over the chicken and give everything a good stir. Sprinkle your rosemary over the top and give it a good sprinkle of sea salt.
7. Put the whole pan into the oven and set a timer for 25 minutes.
8. While the chicken is finishing in the oven, put together whatever you’re going to serve with your chicken. Spaghetti squash would be delicious and easy underneath this chicken (microwave your spaghetti squash for ten minutes and it’s done—see this post for detailed instructions). I went with some fried Yukon Gold potatoes mixed with steamed sweet potatoes (steamed in the microwave—again see previous post link for detailed instructions). The crispy fried potatoes were a really nice compliment to the chicken, and it added some hearty carbs to the meal. I didn’t want to boil my potatoes ahead of time, so I just sliced them thinly and threw them in a frying pan with some avocado oil over medium heat, and then covered the frying pan and added some chicken stock to help them steam and cook through. Then I removed the cover and let the edges get crispy, and it was pretty delicious.
9. If you think of it, turn your chicken once while it’s cooking so both sides get to soak in the saucy goodness. If you don’t think of it, it will be alright.
10. At 25 minutes, pull the pan from the oven and check the chicken for doneness. I really like to use a meat thermometer for this task, because it takes any of the guesswork away. For chicken, you’re looking for 165F in the center of the piece of meat. If it’s not quite there, throw it back in the oven for a few more minutes.
11. When your chicken is done, plate your potatoes and then place a piece of chicken on top of the potatoes and spoon your tomato-balsamic sauce over everything. I served this with a green salad but it would pair well with any green vegetable, or it could be served by itself.
Remember how I said I forgot my wallet when I left for the airport on Monday? Want to hear what I didn’t forget? Here goes: two apples, a banana, four packets of almond butter, a snack baggie of raisins, a bag of Paleonola, a pack of Epic Hunt and Harvest trail mix/jerky, a bag of Seven Sundays gluten free muesli, a bag of pecans, and a handful of Lara Bars. I basically brought the snack aisle of the best grocery store ever in my carry-on. Why did I do that? Well, I had some extra time left over from not packing my wallet, for starters. But also I know that finding decent snacks (that won’t make me nauseous) can be tough at the airport, and I’m going to a conference where I won’t have a say in what’s served for lunch, and having a stash of food that I like and that makes me feel good is going to make this trip much more enjoyable. On that note, here are my top three tips for traveling (or eating out at home) if you’re following a Paleo or Whole 30 diet.
1. Always have an emergency snack nearby. You don’t need to pack every snack ever if you’re not interested in bringing 5 pounds of food with you, but keep a Lara Bar or a package of jerky or a piece of fruit in your purse (or car, or office) so you know you have something handy if you find yourself starving and without decent food options. I always leave a snack in the center console of my car, and most of my bags have a Lara Bar stashed in them. When you’re on the road, most gas stations or convenience stores will at least have a basket of bananas at the checkout—I always buy those when I see them, and stash it away for later if I’m not hungry right away.
2. Look for fish, chicken, or steak options on a restaurant menu, and if those don’t work then look to the salad section. The thing about most restaurant salads is they’re going to have either cheese or croutons, and you can order without those things but then you’re losing some of the calories that would otherwise keep you full. Some restaurants have great salads that will hold you over for more than an hour, but especially if you’re traveling it’s hard to know what you’re getting. If you can find a protein that looks good, you can usually get some sort of vegetable next to it (or a side salad, or at least some kind of potato if nothing else will work). In a pinch, you can get a burger without a bun at nearly every restaurant in America.
3. Eat a big breakfast. Breakfast is the easiest meal to eat out, in my opinion, because you’re basically set so long as you skip the cheese and toast. Omelets are great, big, and filling, breakfast potatoes give me heart eyes, and don’t even get me started on bacon. If I know I’m going to be eating out the rest of the day, or I’m not sure that I’m going to have food options, I’ll try to eat a really big and hearty breakfast so that it doesn’t matter as much if I need to eat lighter for lunch or dinner. One note, though—you can usually get good vegetables in your breakfast, but you usually need to try. Be mindful of looking for an omelet or a scramble with some veggies in it.
I don’t eat strictly paleo when I travel (or ever, really, but especially on the road I eat gluten-free grains like rice or oats). I do still avoid dairy, because that upsets my stomach, and even when I’m eating carefully while traveling my stomach gets upset by all the oils and hidden ingredients in restaurant food. Just like at home, you have to do the best you can and let the rest go, but feeling bloated and nauseous and yucky is even worse when you’re away, so I do focus on eating as well as I can. That said, if there's something awesome and regional that's worth trying when I travel, I absolutely eat it. For me, the calculus is mainly based on how sick it's going to make me--if it's not going to upset my stomach, I'll try it without question. If it's dairy, I'll probably eat it. If it's gluten...I'll probably eat a bite or two and hope that it's fine. Most things aren't worth the pain and nausea that gluten inflicts on me, but I'm never going to go to France and not eat pain au chocolat. I'm just not. Eat the things that you really want to eat, and try to make good choices in other parts of the day that will balance it out and not leave you feeling like a busted can of biscuits when you're supposed to be enjoying your trip.
Anyone have great travel or restaurant tips that I missed?