Easy Beets for People Who Don’t Like Beets

Just beet it.

Just beet it.

I’m on a perpetual quest to redeem and elevate the reputation of the most despited vegetables. The ickier they are perceived to be, all the better to experiment with. I’ve had my hits and misses. With the hits, there are no leftovers. Or if there are, I end up picking them out of the pan until there aren’t. With the misses, the leftovers sit sadly neglected in tupperware at the back of the fridge until trash day. Trash day is really a funeral procession for culinary failures.

But back to experiments. Veggies deserve a better reputation. They come in every color, they’re packed with vitamins, and they grow out of the ground.  By themselves! That’s awesome. Not everyone gives them such respect though, particularly not my not-huge-vegetable-fan taste testers.  And they are a discerning group.  A critique of “That wasn’t too bad”, I consider a green light to make the dish again in the future.  If they indicate in any way to have actually enjoyed the dish, it’s basically fit for royalty. This recipe went over pretty well. Not bad for a lowly beet.

Easy Beets for People Who Don’t Like Beets

Serves 4

Ingredients

3 tbsp. butter (I love Organic Valley Cultured Butter)

4 golden beets, peeled and chopped

1 apple, chopped

salt to taste

Directions

  1. Melt butter in pan over medium heat.
  2. Add chopped beets.  Cook in butter, stirring occasionally, until just softened and beginning to brown on edges, 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add chopped apple, season with salt, and stir to incorporate.
  4. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until apple softens, another 5 minutes.
  5. Serve to beet skeptics.  Make sure you have seconds ready for them.
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Paleo Kitchen Basics: How to Boil an Egg

Few things bring me as much kitchen frustration as a badly boiled egg.  They can go wrong in more ways than one, but by far the worst is the egg that states that it is perfectly happy living in the shell, and will fight tooth and nail to keep from parting ways with its thin, crackly home.  The end result of that situation is an ugly, pock-marked egg that took two hours to get the shell bits off.  Those eggs are salvageable, except for those two hours you’ll never get back, if the goal was egg salad, since you can relieve your frustrations by chopping the little jerk up. If, however, you were planning on serving deviled eggs, it’s all over.  Despite perhaps being the world’s most perfect food, there’s something depressing about a deviled egg that looks like the surface of the moon.

I’ve tried all the “tricks” for boiling eggs.  Putting them in the water at different times, baking soda, ice baths.  The results have varied wildly.  Thankfully, all the experimentation has led me to my own foolproof method, which I discovered, of course, on accident.

Perfectly Boiled Eggs

  1. Fill a saucepan with 1 1/2” of water.  Cover.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Gently add the eggs one at a time with a slotted or wire spoon. If they bounce off the bottom of the pot they may crack, so try to roll them off the spoon into the water.  If one does crack, just continue to cook it.  It will make a mess in the water, but will still be usable for egg salad or a snack.

    Gently...Gently...Gently!

    Gently…Gently…Gently!

  3. Partially cover the pot with the lid, leaving an opening for the steam.
  4. Set the timer! Ten minutes is perfect for snack eggs, egg salad, and deviled eggs. Much longer will be too much.  The giveaway of an over cooked egg is the gray ring around the yolk.  Five minutes is perfect for a nice runny yolk to feed to babies.

    Baby superfood in just 5 minutes.

    Baby superfood in just 5 minutes.

  5. When the timer goes off, move the pot from the stove to the sink. Tip the boiling water out while rinsing the eggs with cold water.  Rinse just long enough to cool the eggs enough to handle.

    No ice bath necessary.

    No ice bath necessary.

  6. Here’s the magic step: Peel the eggs while they are still warm.  Tap the side of the egg just once or twice.  Pull off a few small pieces of shell with the side of your thumb so you have access to the thin membrane that lies between the egg and the shell.  Pinch the membrane to tear it, then use the side of your thumb again to peel off the remainder of the membrane and shell together. (Caution!  Did one of your eggs crack in Step 2?  This egg will probably have a pocket of boiling hot water inside the shell.  Drain carefully before peeling!)
  7. Voila! You should now have a lovely spread of perfectly peeled eggs ready for snacks, salads, and deviling!

    Big shell pieces = Egg bliss

    Big shell pieces = Egg bliss

Chocolate PB&J Bars

These date bars are easy, versatile, and travel well. I started experimenting with making bars two years ago as fuel for long trail runs and races. It turned out everyone in the family loved them, so we’ve made quite a few since then.  Beyond just squishing a handful of dates together, the possibilities are endless as far as tweaking the additional fruits, flavorings, and seasonings.  This particular recipe came out really well.  It calls for dried blueberries, which always come sweetened, but you can easily dry your own.  Spread a package of fresh blueberries on a cookie sheet, and bake at 200℉ for 4-6 hours until the berries are shriveled.

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Chocolate PB&J Bars

Makes 8 bars or 16 bites

Ingredients:

2 cups medjool dates

1 cup dried blueberries

1/2 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup almond butter

Directions:

1. Cut each date in half and remove the pit.  Place all the dates in a food processor and process until they become a uniform ball.  Remove the clump of dates to a mixing bowl.

2. Pour the blueberries, chocolate chips, and sea salt to the food processor and process until well chopped and mixed. Place these in the mixing bowl with the dates.

3. Add the almond butter to the mixing bowl and combine it all with a wooden spoon.  It will be very thick, so spreading the mixture out then folding it back on itself can be effective.

4. Place a sheet of parchment paper over an 8×8 glass dish, then drop the mixture from the bowl into the middle of the paper.  Use the spoon to spread the mixture into an even layer in the dish.

5. Refrigerate until firm, at least half an hour.  Lift the entire thing out of the dish by the parchment paper, and cut into bars or bites.  Store in the fridge to keep solid.

Smoked Salmon Omelets with Bacon, Artichoke Hearts, and Mushrooms

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A successful fishing trip a week ago led to piles and piles of salmon filets, which led to a week long extravaganza of marinating, smoking, and vacuum sealing. As an end result, we have an obscene amount of smoked salmon, which is nothing to complain about.  My first impulse was to poach a few eggs and whip up some hollandaise sauce to smother the eggs and fish in together, but I was out of lemons, so these omelets were my backup.  There were no complaints when I served them up Saturday morning!

Smoked Salmon Omelets with Bacon, Artichoke Hearts, and Mushrooms

Serves 3

Ingredients:

4 slices bacon
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup smoked salmon
1/2 cup artichoke hearts
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tbsp. butter, ghee or coconut oil
9 eggs
Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Cut bacon into bite sized pieces, and place in pan over medium heat.
2. Allow to almost crisp on one side, then give them a quick stir and add the mushrooms. Stir occasionally until mushrooms are soft.
3. Break the salmon into bite sized pieces, making sure all bones are removed.
4. Add salmon and artichoke hearts. Season with salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic powder and stir.
5. When salmon and artichokes are just warm, turn off heat.
6. In a second pan, heat 1/2 tbsp of the butter or coconut oil over heat just below medium.
7. Beat 3 eggs in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture into pan.
8. Allow to cook undisturbed until about half the thickness of the egg is firm, about 2 minutes.
9. Top half of the egg with 1/3 of the salmon mixture and fold the egg in half over the salmon. Cook a minute more, then flip the omelet over to the other side and cook for an additional minute.
10. When egg is firm throughout, remove to a plate, and repeat steps 6-10 for remaining two omelets.

Paleo Kitchen Basics: Mayonnaise

 

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Among mainstream nutrition circles, mayo is often seen as one of the greatest evils, and store-bought mayo truly is.  While composed of mainly benign-sounding eggs and oil, it’s the type of oil that makes all the difference.  Pre-made grocery store mayo is made of soybean oil, which is highly problematic.  At the top of the list are the inflammation-inducing properties of the high omega-6 content, which is a common characteristic of all vegetable oils.  On the wider scale, soy is a huge agricultural product, and is subject to the group of problems associated with all that is Monsanto: genetic modification, industrial refining processes (including solvent extraction with hexane; more about that here), and pesticide contamination. It can be mentioned that there are also hormone disrupting properties of soy, courtesy of phytoestrogens; however both soybean oil and soy sauce contain nearly unmeasurable quantities of those isoflavones. 

If you’re thinking, “I don’t eat mayonnaise by the spoonful.  How much damage can a little spread of soybean oil do?”, then take a look at this graph. Even if you don’t have a bottle of soybean oil in your pantry, you are likely consuming much more than you think.  Like to eat out?  You’ll be taking a hit of “vegetable oil blend” every time, usually a mix of canola, corn, and soy.  Use bottled salad dressing?  All soy with a dash of canola.  Some packaged foods claim they are “made with olive oil”, but they usually only contain a token amount of olive oil and are still overwhelmingly soy-based.  And if all that isn’t enough, mass-produced mayo includes added sugar and preservatives to increase shelf-life, appearance and texture.

So overall, unless you exclusively eat only homemade foods from scratch with the piety of a Buddhist monk, you’re probably getting veritably doused in this nasty stuff.  Taken with that point of view, every little thing you can do to minimize your exposure is a win. 

On to the good news! Mayo is super easy to make at home with the right tools.  The first time I made mayo years ago, I used olive oil.  It works well, but leaves the mayo sort of greenish, and has a strong flavor.  Now I use avocado oil, which is available at Costco for a steal. Most importantly, I use my awesome Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor.  Many appliances can be used: regular blenders, immersion blenders, different food processors, even a bowl and a whisk (though I wouldn’t even use that task as punishment).  The most important quality is that the mixture doesn’t heat up during the process, or you’ll end up with a slimy, runny mess.

The mayonnaise is not only good for old standbys like using with tuna, egg-salad, or deviled eggs, but is a great base for sauces, dips, spreads, and creamy salad dressings. 

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Homemade Mayo

Yield: About 1 cup

Ingredients

2 egg yolks

1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

1 tsp. dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup avocado oil

Directions

  1. Add the egg yolks, vinegar or lemon juice, mustard, and salt to the food processor or blender and turn on to blend.
  2. With the appliance still running, begin slowly adding the oil in a very thin stream.  If you have the same food processor I have, you can just fill up the small push tube with oil.  It will drain into the work bowl through the small hole.
  3. After 1/4 cup or so, you should notice the emulsification beginning.  Continue to slowly pour in all of the oil.
  4. Once all the oil is in, turn off your appliance right away. Your mayo is done!  Store it in a glass jar in the fridge.  

 

Troubleshooting:

I have a nasty looking yellowish liquid that looks like…oil mixed with egg.

The mixture didn’t emulsify.  Check for heat.  Is your appliance hot, or is your house very warm? Try cooling the mixture in the fridge for a few minutes, then start again from step one with new eggs, vinegar, mustard and salt, but this time use the chilled mixture as the oil.

It mostly looks like mayonnaise, but there’s a layer of oil and egg at the bottom.

Just use a spatula to scrape up the layer and mix in with the mayo, then give it another whirl in the food processor for a few seconds to blend it in.

The mayo is really firm and a little chunky.

It’s overblended, but can still have purpose in life!  Store it in the fridge and use it for dips and sauces that call for mixing with creamier ingredients like coconut milk.

 

Breakfast Chicken-Fried Pork Chops with Eggs

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I make a lot of “surprise meals”: dishes that sound “eh”, but taste “wow!” and leave me feeling fantastic.  The idea of pork chops, particularly leftovers, for breakfast, doesn’t inspire me much.  One morning, I didn’t have bacon or sausage, but was greeted by another cut of pork in the fridge and thought, “Why not?”  The results were amazing!

Breakfast Chicken-Fried Pork Chops with Eggs

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 egg

1/2 cup almond flour

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. sage

1/2 tsp. thyme

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

3 tbsp. coconut oil, divided

4 fresh or leftover bone-in pork chops

8 additional eggs

Additional sea salt and pepper

Directions

1. In a shallow dish, beat the egg.

2. In a second shallow dish, mix the almond flour and garlic powder, sage, salt, and pepper.

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3. Heat 2 tbsp. of the coconut oil in a pan over medium heat.

4. Coat each pork chop in egg, then in the almond flour mixture.

5. Fry the pork chops in the coconut oil until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side for left overs, and 5-6 minutes per side for fresh chops, or to preferred doneness depending on thickness.  (Keep in mind that pork chops cooked medium are both okayed by the USDA and delicious! No more dried out chops from the 80’s!)

6. Melt the last tbsp. of coconut oil in the pan and fry the eggs to desired doneness.

7. Top each chop with two eggs and season with salt and pepper.

8. Dig in and start your morning super satisfied!

Easy Apple Noodles

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My brand new spiralizer showed up on my front porch yesterday, amid a flurry of ringing doorbells, dog barks, and yelling 5-year-olds.  I’d been planning on adding this appliance to my kitchen arsenal for well over a year, and finally pulled the trigger.  It’s arrival neatly corresponded to the day after zucchini was conspicuously absent from the grocery store, so there would be no paleo pasta to christen it. Instead, I looked to dessert, but I think this dish would be equally good as a side for pork.

Easy Apple Noodles 

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 tbsp. butter

2 spiralized apples

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Directions

1. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat.

2. Add apples and stir until softened.

3. Add cinnamon and nutmeg and stir to mix. Serve.