Sundried Tomato Hummus

I know I have mentioned this before, but I am getting married soon! In 36 days to be exact. This weekend, my girls are kidnapping me to bring me away for my bachelorette weekend. I have no clue what to expect, but I have been told to pack myself a lunch. Usually I would be thrilled by the notion of a bag lunch. As a teacher, I always look forward to field trips for the chance to pack myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich with a granola bar and juice box. Now, with my modified paleo diet, it isn’t quite a no brainier anymore. As I get whisked away tomorrow, I plan on packing a big container of this hummus, carrot sticks for dipping, mixed nuts for some extra protein, and plenty of water….after all, who knows what lays ahead of me!

Hummus for this weekend is a win/win/win situation. I get to use my Ninja Blender (by far my favorite kitchen gadget…ever.), I get a yummy lunch, and I get to send my fiancé off on his bachelor party fishing trip with a tub of hummus for the guys.

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Ingredients:
1 can chick peas drained and rinsed
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of one lemon
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp. chopped sundried tomatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2-3 Tbsp. water
Salt to taste
“Dippers” – sliced veggies for the paleo crew (pita chips to make the others happy)

1. Combine chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, sundried tomatoes, and olive oil in food processor. Blend for at least two minutes until smooth.
2. Add water little by little mixing in between until hummus reaches your desired thickness.
3. Add salt to taste and blend one last time.
4. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika (optional). make sure to have lots of carrot sticks, celery, and sliced red peppers for dipping!

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Simple Grilled Beet Salad

My beet-freak-ness has struck again! I had a meeting with an Arbonne consultant yesterday. She had a fresh produce box on her counter, and I brought up that I missed getting my fresh boxes. Before I knew it, I was walking out the door with makeup primer and a fresh bunch of beets!

Tonight, I am on my own for dinner, so I don’t feel bad making just a big salad (not that my fiancé would ever complain about it, he loves them too). Even better is that it gave me a chance to thin out some more of our garden’s lettuce, which is growing like a weed!

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Ingredients:
3 medium beets
1 head of lettuce of your choice- washed and chopped
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup goat cheese (optional)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

Dressing Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1Tbsp. Orange juice
1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
1/4 small onion cut into slivers

1. In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients except onions. When thoroughly mixed, add onions and set to the side.
2. Peel the beets and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Beets will stain your hands and countertops. Gloves and bleach clean up spray are good ideas.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together the beets, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
4. Preheat the girl to medium high heat. Grill beets for 10 minutes per side or until they reach desired doneness.
5. While the beets are cooking, plate the lettuce and drizzle with dressing. Once beets are done, top your mound of lettuce with them and add walnuts and optional goat cheese.

Thai Basil Chicken Stir Fry

Having a garden outside my door has been an exciting new adventure for me! My morning started off by walking outside to assess what needs to be eaten. I picked our first round of broccoli already, and it is time to pick the secondary shoots. The herbs are finally ready to use as well. I couldn’t think of any way to possibly combine broccoli and basil and then it hit me over the head. Thai basil stir fry, duh!

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Ingredients:
1 pound chicken breast cut into strips
1 head broccoli – washed and cut into bite size pieces
6 oz. baby corn
2-3 chiles (I am using Red Fresno Chiles) – sliced into slivers
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. white wine
1 cup chopped fresh basil
Chopped cashews (optional)
Cooked rice of your choice (optional)

1. In a wok or large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and chicken, and cook while stirring frequently until the chicken is opaque.
2. Add chiles, fish sauce, wine, and cook until the peppers soften (about 2 minutes).
3. Add the broccoli and corn and cook until the broccoli is cooked to your liking (5 minutes for as light crunch).
4. Stir in basil and allow to wilt.
5. Serve as you please. If paleo isn’t your thing, serve over a bed of jasmine rice and sprinkle with cashews. I will be enjoying mine in a big bowl as is!

Reflection on a “Year”

For the past 8 years, June has always been a time of reflection for me. Being a teacher, “years” don’t start in January and end in December – rather, they are a journey that you embark on with a new set of young minds in September. This year has been the most memorable one yet. I wish I could say this was because of joyous events, but that is not the case. This year has been tragic. Heaven took on far too many new angels at such a young age and a storm tore apart our beloved state.

As a teacher, I never expected to lose a student. The unthinkable happened twice this year.

Allie was a beloved member of my volleyball team. Her smile lit up the entire gym. She fought a courageous battle against cancer, serving as an inspiration to us all.

Mark was a sweet and quiet soul in my seventh period class. It was great to watch as he found his place at our high school. Just as he began to open up as a kind young man, he gained his angel wings too.

Hurricane Sandy brought a different type of destruction to this year. To watch as entire communities were swept away was shocking. Things like this never happen to us right? We just watch the stories unfold in faraway places on the news. Not this time.

I feel guilty saying that the loss of our family’s summer home has flipped my world upside down. People lost their ONLY homes. I realize this, and can’t imagine how hard that must be. I am having a really hard time coming to grips with the fact that my life as I have known it for 30 years has completely changed.

This year has been hard, but what is the point of toughing it out if you don’t learn lessons and grow as a person because of it?

Don’t take life for granted.
Seize the day.
Reach out to someone who could use it.
Donate.
Look to be better tomorrow than you are today.
Smile when it is hard, you never know who needs to see your smile.
Love.
Do good.

Ethiopian Seasoned Pork Chop and Collards

We have a fabulous little spice shop in our town that not only sells the freshest and most fragrant spices, but they also carry spice blends that make cooking so much easier. They carry a product called “Berbere Ethiopian Style Seasoning” which is a blend of sweet paprika, cayenne, roasted garlic, salt, allspice, ginger, and cardamom. Since you most likely don’t have this product in your cabinet, it would be best to mix equal parts of all ingredients and then modify it as per your taste.

Disclaimer: This is not a true Ethiopian meal nor is it true paleo. If you have suggestions as to modify it to before ethnic, please leave them in the comments. To make it paleo, cut out the beans. To make it Ethiopian, do not use pork! Substitute beef or chicken instead.

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Ingredients:
4 thin sliced center cut pork loin chops
2 Tbsp. Berbere Ethiopian Seasoning
1 large bunch collard greens – rinsed and sliced into very thin strips
4 slices turkey bacon – chopped and cooked to crispy
1 can rinsed beans (I found Aduki Beans,and this is my first time ever cooking with them!)
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cloves garlic – minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil

1. Coat pork chops by using the Berbere seasoning as a dry rub.
2. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add beans, turkey bacon, chicken broth, and collards. Stir and allow to cook until wilted.
3. While the collards are cooking, heat a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat. Cook pork chops for 3 minutes per side.
4. Serve pork chops over a heaping serving of collard greens.

Beets & Balls

Sometimes you wind up with an unexpected menu item that you have to create a meal using. I was sitting in my classroom when a student that isn’t even my student showed up. I had a conversation in passing with him yesterday about the incredible store in town that he works at. It is a little shop that sells all locally grown produce and products. As a part of this conversation, my love of beets came up. Today, he arrived to my classroom with a giant smile and presented me with some beautiful golden beets. Yes, I jumped up and gave him a bear hug!

I made this recipe with my grandmother in mind. Occasionally she would put raisins and pine nuts in her meatballs. It adds just the right amount of sweet to the meal. With Nanny as my inspiration, I decided to make my turkey meatballs over a bed of roasted beet slivers with goat cheese and toasted walnuts. It is not paleo, but it is a Friday night, so it is time to cheat a bit! Yummy!

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Ingredients:
1 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 medium bunch of golden beets
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt, pepper, and basil to taste

1. Make the meatball mixture by mixing the turkey, bread crumbs, egg, and basil in a large bowl. Make golf ball sized meatballs.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
3. Preheat a large skillet over high heat. Drizzle a bit of olive oil to coat the pan. Add the meatballs an brown them by frequently turning. Cook until brown on all sides.
4. Transfer the meatballs to a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.
5. While the meatballs are baking, wash, peel, and very thinly slice the beets.
6. In a large bowl, mix the beets with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the slices on a baking sheet and put in the oven when there are 15 minutes remaining for the meatballs.
7. Serve by placing the beets on the plate and sprinkling with as much goat cheese and toasted walnuts as you wish. Top with a mound of meatballs and enjoy!

Asian Chicken “Lettuce Wrap” Salad

Our garden is growing so fast! I have a feeling that it is going to get to the point where we can’t eat the veggies fast enough! Our lettuce has been thriving, so I developed this recipe for lettuce wraps… Except that our lettuce is still young and not big enough to make a wrap, so I modified it. I present to you, Aisan Chicken Lettuce Wrap Salad – the less messy to eat version of lettuce wraps!
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Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts chopped in 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
2 cloves garlic – minced
2 tsp. grated ginger
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. orange juice
1 green pepper sliced into 1 inch strips
1 red pepper sliced into 1 inch strips
3 carrots sliced into 1 inch strips
1 large head of lettuce
Optional – A handful of chow mein noodles (not if you are looking for the paleo version obviously!)
Olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste

1. At least 3 hours prior to cooking, prepare the marinade by whisking together the teriyaki sauce, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and orange juice. Place the diced chicken in a ziplock bag and pour the marinade over it. Seal an refrigerate until ready to cook.
2. Prepare two plates with a large bed of washed and chopped lettuce. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate to keep crisp until ready to serve.
3. Preheat a wok or large frying pan over high heat.
4. Pour contents of ziplock bag into the hot pan. Toss for two minutes, and then add the peppers and carrots.
5. Allow to cook while stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked through and the veggies are tender – about 10 minutes.
6. Scoop the chicken mixture over the beds of lettuce and sprinkle with chow mein noodles if you wish.

A view of our lettuce rows in the garden:

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Zuppa de Clams

Growing up, on of my favorite meals was Zuppa de Clams, but I have put my own twist on this classic Italian first course by spicing things up. This recipe has many variations and ways to serve it. You could substitute mussels, cockles, or even shrimp for the clams. You can serve it as a first course or a main meal. To make it more filling, just bulk up the amount of peppers and onions. The best way to serve it is by putting the pot right in the center of the dinner table and allowing everyone to dig in and eat right out of the pot. If you aren’t here for the Paleo recipe, serve it with crusty Italian bred for dipping or over a steaming bed of linguine. The best part of this meal is that it is so very versatile!

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Ingredients:
2 dozen little neck clams – scrubbed clean
2 bell peppers of any color sliced into 1 in strips
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves garlic – minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup white wine

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
2. Add peppers, onions, and garlic. Sauté while stirring occasionally until onions are transparent.
3. Add crushed red pepper flakes and wine. Stir and allow to simmer for 5 minutes to allow the alcohol to cook off.
4. Add clams, stir well, and cover pot. Allow to cook while shaking up the pot occasionally until all clams have opened (about 7ish minutes).
5. Serve piping hot!