Nom Nom Paleo

Paleo Eats: 4/9/11

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It was a busy, jam-packed Saturday filled with good, clean grub.

For breakfast, I ate some leftover garlic cauliflower mashed potatoes topped with beef shank and cabbage stew.

I went to a cardio kickboxing class at Big-O’s kung fu studio and ate a post-workout meal (baked yam and Applegate Farms organic roast beef slices) in the car.

On my way home, I picked up my Full Belly Farm CSA box:

Yes, that’s a bag of legumes you spy in the box. That’s one of many reasons why I love my Mariquita Farms CSA box more.

After spending the rest of the morning at the neighborhood park, we came home to eat lunch. I fried up some Bratwurst (made from the trim of my ½ hog) and served it with leftover sautéed Italian heirloom broccoli, sauerkraut, my sis’s homemade mustard, and marinated roasted beets.

We were having company over for dinner, so I spent all afternoon cooking. Luckily, I had live, in-house entertainment in the form of  Big-O recreating scenes from his favorite Annoying Orange episodes. 

"Hey banana…"

While I waited for the sous vide carnitas to finish cooking, I broiled zucchini slices (seasoned with ghee, salt, pepper, and Fines Herbes seasoning)…

…a bunch of asparagus (tossed with ghee, salt, and pepper), and roasted some poblano peppers…

…and bell peppers over the gas range. After I peeled and sliced the peppers, I mixed them with sherry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.

I piled all the roasted vegetables on a large platter and squeezed some lemon juice on the broiled asparagus and zucchini.

Roasted vegetable platters are great for entertaining because you can make them ahead of time and serve them at room temperature.

For another veggie side dish, I thinly sliced some watermelon radishes…

…and marinated them with a vinaigrette made with orange juice, coconut vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.

When I finished cooking all the veggies, I took the carnitas out of the water oven and pan-fried them in lard.

To accompany the carnitas lettuce tacos, we served homemade guacamole…

…diced white onions and cilantro…

…and Primavera salsa.

Here’s my dinner plate:

I had lots of subsequent helpings. I’m stuffed to the gills.

Sous Vide Carnitas

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I’ve made carnitas the traditional way, but the process can be a big a pain in the ass. Delicious, yes, but it requires more effort than this lazy-butt is willing to expend. I’d rather head to my favorite taqueria and buy a pound.

This is why I was so excited to read R’s super-simple yet scrumptious recipe for sous vide carnitas a few days ago. As soon as I read her post, I immediately ran to the garage and pulled a big pork butt out of the chest freezer to recreate the recipe at home. (Remember? I have 100 pounds of pork in there.)

I followed her recipe pretty explicitly, but I lazified it even more by using 4 tablespoons of Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming seasoning instead of making my own dry rub.

Here’s the play-by-play:

I brined the cubed pork butt for the suggested 24 hours in the fridge…

…rinsed off the excess brine…

…dried off the pork…

…tossed it with the Arizona Dreaming seasoning

…vacuum-sealed the seasoned pork in two packets…

…dunked the packets in the SousVide Supreme for 28 hours…

…removed the cooked pork from the water oven…

…blotted the pork cubes dry…

…pan-fried the cubes in a couple tablespoons of lard, and drained them on a wire rack.

For dinner, I served carnitas lettuce tacos topped with diced white onions, cilantro, Primavera salsa, and homemade guacamole.

Very tasty and easy-peasy! The meal prep takes some advance planning, but it’s definitely worth it. I can’t wait to make this again and again and again and again…

Thanks for the great recipe, R.! I’ll repay you with a big slab of pork belly!

Dining Out Paleo: Chipotle Mexican Grill

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I’ll admit it. I’m a huge food snob. I’ll only eat out at a place once I’ve thoroughly done my research and know the food is supposed to be delicious. I’ve been a food tourist and made pilgrimages across the country and abroad for the sole purpose of visiting restaurants (e.g. Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Alinea in Chicago, Per Se in NYC, Cibreo in Florence, and back when I was flirting with vegetarianism, Kodaiji Ikkyu-an in Kyoto). Eff the landmarks and historical sites — I just want good grub.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t need trendy or fancy. The restaurants can be hole-in-the-wall places where I can only communicate with the server by pointing at other diner’s dishes. Frankly, I don’t even care if the place is unsanitary. If it tastes good going down, I don’t care if it comes out painfully a few hours later. Really. Just ask Fitbomb. I’ve hauled his butt all over the globe for good eats.

I like restaurants that are run by passionate food lovers because you know that they put their heart and soul into whatever they’re serving you. You know, like Chef Primo from the movie Big Night or Chef Remy from Ratatouille. (Yes, I haven’t watched too many movies since I hatched my kids.) I just don’t believe you get that kind of passion at a chain restaurant, so I avoid them like the plague. Sure, chains provide a consistent minimum standard of mediocrity; the food won’t totally suck, but you won’t be wowed by anything at Macaroni Grill or Applebee’s.

Well, stop the presses because this afternoon, I ate lunch at a chain. A FAST food chain, no less.

A little backstory…

Lunch today was going to be a bit more problematic. We were headed to Fitbomb’s cousin’s birthday luncheon and we knew we’d be served a dizzying array of dim sum dishes. Fitbomb’s family LOVES eating dim sum.

I HATE dim sum. Besides, the stuff certainly ain’t Whole30 compliant. To make sure I didn’t starve, I ate a can of sardines at home and I packed emergency packs of coconut flakes and macadamia nuts. At the party, everyone kept nagging me to go get food, but I just pretended to be busy feeding my kids. I finally had to flat-out lie and say that I ate when they weren’t looking. Fitbomb was even sneakier and spread a few stray pieces of food on his plate and pretended he ate a full plate. I’m just glad that we were able to escape early because we had a mandatory preschool open house to attend.

After we left the party, we were still hungry after eating our pre-packed nuts and flakes. We were in a bind ‘cause we didn’t have time to go home to eat. To top it off, the food scene in in this particular corner of the East Bar is abysmal. Then, I remembered that Paleo guru Robb Wolf recommends eating at Chipotle Mexican Grill so I told Fitbomb to aim our Paleomobile in the direction of one. I think he thought I was punking him but I was HONGRY.

As we stood in line, we took out our iPhones and studied John Durant’s post on what good and proper cavemen order at Chipotle. We both ordered salads topped with carnitas, extra guacamole, and two kinds of salsa. No beans, por favor.

Can you see the skepticism in my face? I was just reciting the mantra, “Food is fuel. Food is fuel. Food is fuel…”

The verdict? Drum roll, please…

Not bad. It’s pretty good for fast food. I’ve definitely had much better (and cheaper) Mexican at authentic taquerias near our house, but in a pinch, I’d eat here. Since I’m on the Whole30, I like the transparency of the ingredients on the Chipotle website. That being said, almost everything (except for carnitas!) is cooked in soybean oil, so if you want to go 100% Paleo, stick with the carnitas. The guacamole’s pretty awesome, though. Next time I find myself in a Chipotle, I’m doubling up on the guac.

A Day of Paleo Eats With Minimal Cooking

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Today I was too lazy to cook, so my day of eats consisted of thrown-together leftover proteins ‘n veggies from my fridge and a semi-Paleo lunch out.

For breakfast, I nuked myself another beef donburi with leftover carne asada, cauliflower “rice,” and winter squash puree.

After a full morning at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, our family noshed at International Kabob House. The menu explicitly states “PLEASE NO SUBSTITUTIONS,” so we didn’t even bother asking to swap out the rice, pita, or tabbouleh salad. We knew we’d just have to pick around the carbs.

Fitbomb and I shared a lamb souvlaki…

…and kabob house combo.

The food was tasty but there were tons of carby land mines to eat around. If you’re in the neighborhood, and want to give International Kabob House a try, get a gift certificate for 80% off. You have until the end of the year to get the disccount - just enter promo code: CLEARANCE.

For dinner, I made some salads with leftover carnitas, salad greens, shredded carrots, shredded red cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocados.

Fitbomb dressed his salad with some salsa verde and I drizzled some extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar on mine.

I gotta make sure I have more leftovers in my fridge — but that would mean more cooking. Bloody hell.

Paleo Options At Our Toddler’s Birthday Party

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Although I had prepared a Cobb Salad bar at my older son’s birthday party, I was too pooped to cook for my younger son’s party. For nibbles, I put out some fruit platters, a cheese and charcuterie platter, and a bunch of carbs. I’m sorry, but we didn’t want to alienate our guests. 

For the main event, I ordered a bunch of Mexican food from Mi Pueblo Food Center: carne asada, carnitas, and rotisserie chicken, Mexican rice, refried beans, salsa verde, guacamole, regular salsa, and tortillas. For those of us who wanted to go Paleo, I also put out a large bowl of salad greens with shredded purple cabbage and carrots.

Here’s my salad platter with all three meats, salsa, and guacamole:

Everyone had a great time and was well-fed. Mission accomplished.