Nom Nom Paleo

Easiest Roast Chicken Ever

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…especially if you live near a Trader Joe’s

TJ’s has been in California for almost half a century, but in recent decades, stores have been sprouting up all over the U.S. Each store opening has been met with rabid excitement, and it’s not hard to see why. As Fortune Magazine once put it, ”Trader Joe’s is no ordinary grocery chain. It’s an offbeat, fun discovery zone that elevates food shopping from a chore to a cultural experience.”

The success of the chain is due in large part to its offerings: A tightly-curated selection of budget-friendly upscale goods, gourmet staples, and time-savers like pre-washed bagged kale, trimmed leeks, hardboiled eggs, you name it.

Of course, like just about every other big grocery chain, there’s plenty of super-processed Frankenfoods in the shopping aisles, too. Not everything that TJ’s carries is awesome (or awesome for you), but after two decades of shopping at Trader Joe’s, I still supplement my farmer’s market and CSA hauls with a weekly visit to the friendly workers at TJ’s. After all, there’s always something new to discover.

In fact, just last week, my super chef sister alerted me to one of TJ’s newest items: Organic brined whole chickens!

With this bird, it takes just ten minutes of hands-on prep time to make a complete supper that’s satisfying and flavorful. (A caveat: the chicken ain’t Whole30-approved ‘cause the brine contains some sugar.) While you’re waiting for the chicken to cook in the oven, you’ll have time to cuddle on the couch with your kids — or spend quality time surfing the interwebs. No judgment, I promise.

Here’s what to gather to feed 4-6 people:

  • 1 whole organic brined chicken (5 pounds)
  • 4 trimmed leeks, sliced
  • 4 organic carrots, cut medium
  • 8 ounces of cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of softened butter or ghee, divided
  • Aged balsamic vinegar
Here’s how to get dinner on the table in an hour:
You can get all your ingredients at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s. If you don’t live in one of the 35 states where TJ’s operates, I’m sorry. Your dinner won’t be as quick and easy as this one, but you can always plan ahead by brining your own chicken and still follow along with the rest of this recipe.

The brined chickens at Trader Joe’s are about 5 pounds each, and will easily feed 4 to 6 people. 

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Although the instructions on the packaging tell you to rinse the bird, just blot it dry with a paper towel. (It won’t end up too salty, I promise.)

With a sharp pair of kitchen shears, cut out the back bone…

…and trim away excess fat and skin. (Don’t forget to save the carcass and back bone for bone broth.)

Then, spatchcock the bird: Flip the chicken over and open it up like a book. Using a kitchen knife, cut a ½-inch through the cartilage on the breast bone and firmly press down with your hands to flatten it.

Next, prepare the veggies that will line the roasting pan.

Even though the trimmed leeks from TJ’s look clean, there’s still lots of dirt hidden in the folds. Keeping the root end intact, cut the rest of the leek in half lengthwise.

Give the leek a quarter-turn, and then slice it lengthwise again (at a right angle from the initial cut). Keep the root end intact!

Fan the leaves under running water to release the sand and mud.

Once the leeks are cleaned, flick off the excess water and slice ‘em crosswise.

Chop the carrots in uniform medium chunks…

…and toss them on a tray with the leeks.

Add the quartered mushrooms and toss on some salt and pepper. 

Dot the vegetables with half of the softened butter or ghee (2 tablespoons).

Lay the chicken on top of the seasoned vegetables, breast-side up.

Smush on the remaining two tablespoons of butter or ghee.

Roast the chicken in the oven for 45 minutes or until the breast registers 150° F on a meat thermometer and the thigh meat hits 170° F.

(As you can see, I cooked my chicken in my amazing toaster oven. Yes, my regular oven remains broken. Boo!)

Brined chicken skin doesn’t get as toasty and crispy as a dry-rubbed chicken — but I’ll trade perfectly bronzed skin for juicy meat any day. 

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving it. In the meantime, toss the vegetables in the pan with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

While you’re waiting to cut the chicken, sauté some greens to go with your chicken and roasted veggies.

Voilà! 

Brussels Sprouts Chips

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If you’re a closet snacker like me, you’ll want to make these chips anytime you buy Brussels sprouts. Whenever I prepare my sprouts for roasting, I cut the stems off right at the base of the baby cabbages and pull off the outer leaves. Nowadays, instead of chucking the leaves into the trash, I toss them in fat and bake them into crunchy chips. (Please discard the really wilty ones.) My thrifty Chinese mama should be very proud of her number two daughter.

Here’s what to gather to feed 2-4 people:

  • 2 cups of Brussels sprout leaves (outer leaves from 2 pounds of sprouts)
  • 2 tablespoons of melted ghee
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Lemon zest (optional)

Here’s how you make ‘em:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix the leaves, ghee, and salt together in a large bowl.

Line two large baking trays with parchment. Divide the leaves evenly in a single layer on each tray.

Bake each tray for 8-10 minutes or until crispy and brown around the edges.

Microplane some lemon zest over the chips (optional), and…

…chow immediately.

Slow Cooker Curried Goat Shanks

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It’s no secret I love goat. Please try it! It’s not a four-letter word! (Well, it is, but you know what I mean.)

This recipe is soooo simple and idiot-proof. You’ll come home after a long day at work/school and a delicious pot of comforting curry stew will be waiting for you! Plus, you’ll have tons of leftovers! Win! Win!

For this crock-pot meal, I adapted my recipe for slow cooker Thai yellow curry with grass fed beef brisket by subbing in goat foreshanks. After 10 hours of gentle simmering, the meat was meltingly tender and falling off the bone by dinnertime.

Do it! Do it! Do it!

Follow the jump for the recipe!

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Braised Chicken With Artichokes and Pearl Onions, v.2

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There are two ways I roll when making dinner: I lazily choose an entrée that is in my regular rotation (e.g. Damn Fine Chicken) or I pick a new dish to try. That means there are lots of dishes I only make once, even though many of them would make my greatest hits list if I’d just repeat and tweak.

So in an effort to expand my list of go-to entrees, I remade and modified my braised chicken thighs/drumsticks with artichokes and pearl onions recipe.

The main alteration I made in the recipe was pre-seasoning the chicken with Sunny Paris, salt, and pepper and letting it chill in the fridge for several hours before baking it off. This simple, extra step makes this dish another winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Please note you can adapt this recipe to fit whatever is in your crisper: change the veggies (e.g. mushrooms & onions, carrots & leeks etc.) and/or toss on some fresh herbs at the end.

Follow the jump for the new and improved version!

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Slow Cooker Thai Yellow Curry With Grass Fed Beef Brisket

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Today’s recipe was the result of a happy accident.

I came home tired and exhausted from a 10-hour night shift and had a WTF am I making for dinner?!?! moment. Luckily, I had some grass fed brisket, veggies, and Aroy-D yellow curry paste on hand to toss into a slow cooker. 

I really like all the Aroy-D curry pastes I’ve tried. Here’s a shot of the Paleo-friendly ingredient list:

I really hoped that something delicious would be awaiting me when I woke up in the evening ‘cause sometimes my desperation dinners don’t pan out…

In this case, the stew turned out really tasty and my hands-on time was only 10 minutes. Woo hoo!

Follow the jump to see how I made it!

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Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder Roast

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So. Damn. Easy.

The hardest part of this recipe is to remember to defrost and season your roast a couple days in advance. When you’re ready to eat it, just pop the pork and some chopped aromatics in your slow cooker and your dinner cooks while you’re at work (or while you’re sleeping).

Here’s what I assembled to feed 4 hungry adults:

  • 2.5 pound tied boneless pork shoulder roast (I wish I had a bigger one but I got this size in my CSA box)
  • 2-4 tablespoons Chili Con Carne Seasoning (or your favorite dry rub)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 large carrots, cut into 1/2” slices

Here’s what I did:

I dried off the pork roast with some paper towels and seasoned it liberally with salt, pepper, and the spice blend. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive with the seasoning.

I placed the roast in a gallon sized Ziploc bag, squeezed out all air, and stuck it in the fridge. The roast should marinate for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.

A couple days later, I threw some chopped carrots and onions into my slow cooker and tossed them with salt and pepper.

I placed the roast (and collected juices) on top of the vegetables, covered it with a lid, and cooked the pork on low for 8-10 hours.

When the roast was finished cooking, I preheated my broiler. I placed the roast on a greased wire rack on a lined baking sheet and put it under the broiler (~ 6 inches from the heating element) and browned it for about 2 minutes on each side.

I cut the binding on the roast plated the carrots, onions, and gravy. I put the roast on top of the veggies and used two forks to shred the meat.

Yummy. My only regret is I didn’t have a larger roast because I barely had any leftovers!

Simple Crab Salad

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The hardest part of this recipe is making the homemade mayonnaise. If you already have some on hand, you can have this dish on your table in 5 minutes. 

Here’s what I assembled to serve 3-4 people:

  • 1 pound can of lump crab meat (I get mine at Trader Joe’s or Costco)
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Paleo mayonnaise
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Here’s how I made it:

I assembled my ingredients and chopped my herbs.

Then, I cracked open the can ‘o crab and squeezed out the extra liquid.

I dumped the crab in a medium sized bowl…

…and mixed in the scallions, parsley, salt, and pepper.  

Next, I added the mayonnaise and the lemon juice.

Taste it to see if you need more mayo, lemon juice, salt, or pepper. 

Serve it over greens and top with avocado or guacamole. Or, if you want to throw together a quick appetizer, mix the crab salad with some finely-diced red bell pepper and spoon it in some endive spears.

Pretty!

Super Easy Tandoori Chicken

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Man, oh man, this chicken dish is easy and delicious! Provided you have some Penzeys Tandoori seasoning on hand…

You do need to plan ahead a little bit because the chicken has to marinate for at least 4 hours, but the actual hands-on time is pretty minimal. In fact, this dish can be thrown together in about 10 minutes before you head off to work and it will be ready to bake when you get home. (Or, if you’re a night shift worker like me, you can throw it together in the morning before going to bed and it will be ready to go when you wake up.) I followed the tandoori chicken recipe on Penzeys Spices website with a few modifications and my results were quite remarkable.

Here’s what to assemble:

  • 4 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup full fat Greek yogurt (or substitute full fat coconut milk)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Penzeys tandoori seasoning
  • Juice from ½ a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or fat of choice

Here’s what to do:

Grab your thighs and trim off any excess blobs of fat. Season the chicken parts evenly with kosher salt and stick ‘em in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt and the tandoori seasoning.

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Pour in the lemon juice and mix well to combine.

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Sometimes little hands are better at this step.

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Once the marinade is ready…

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…spoon it over the salted chicken…

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…and work it into the poultry with your hands. 

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for 4 to 8 hours to marinate.

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When you’re ready to bake the chicken, preheat the oven to 375°F on convection roast setting (or 400°F in a non-convection oven).

Place a wire rack on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Grease the rack with a paper towel dipped in melted coconut oil.

Arrange the chicken on the rack skin-side down…

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….and pop the tray in the oven for about 40 minutes…

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…flipping the pieces skin-side up at the halfway mark.

The chicken’s done when there’s yummy charred bits all over and the juices run clear when stabbed with a skewer.

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This dish was super-duper easy, moist, and delicious to boot. Get your keisters to a Penzeys ASAP!

Quick & Simple Roasted Rack of Lamb

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I’ve never made rack of lamb at home before because it always seemed overly intimidating. And ‘cause I’m lazy.

But when I was at Trader Joe’s this afternoon, the little itty packs of frenched lamb racks looked pretty harmless…and tasty. So on a whim, I bought some. Turns out rack of lamb is easy to make and take no time at all. Plus, if you have a kick-ass meat thermometer, there’s no way you can mess this up.

Here’s what I assembled to feed two people:

  • 1 rack of lamb (~1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon of Dukka seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

Here’s what I did:

Basically, I followed the directions in my Cook’s Illustrated The Best Meat Recipes book for roasting a rack of lamb. Those kitchen nerds haven’t let me down yet!

I preheated my oven to 425 F and placed a foil-lined baking sheet on a rack in the lower middle of my oven.

After seasoning the lamb very generously with salt and pepper, I sprinkled on the Dukka seasoning.

Per my chef sister, you should always try to salt your meats ahead of time (up to 24 hours), but I salted them only 10 minutes prior to searing. Still, the chops tasted great.

I heated 2 tablespoons of coconut oil over high heat in my large cast iron skillet, and when it began smoking, I added the rack of lamb, meat side down. I let the meat sizzle for 4 minutes until a nice crust formed. Then, I flipped the rack over and cooked it for 2 more minutes on the other side.

Next, the rack went into the oven on the preheated baking sheet.

In case you’re wondering, inside those two other foil packets were Portobello mushrooms that I planned to serve as a side dish.

I roasted the lamb for roughly 12-15 minutes, If you want it cooked medium rare, wait ‘til the temperature of the meat reaches 125 degrees; for medium, wait for it to hit 130 degrees. Mine ended up closer to 133 degrees because I kind of forgot to check on my lamb.

After I removed the rack from the oven…

I loosely tented it with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Then, I sliced the rack into four pieces (2 ribs per slice) and served it up.

Who knew roasted rack of lamb could go from fridge to table in just 30 minutes?

Slow Cooker Grass Fed Beef Shanks & Cabbage Stew

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Makes 6 servings / Hands-On Time: 15 minutes / Total Time: 11 hours

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I’m always looking for shortcuts to deliciousness, so even though my last slow cooker experiment was an abject failure, I was determined to undertake a new experiment this morning. I’d defrosted a couple of 2-inch center cut grass fed beef shanks, and was looking forward to chucking everything into the slow cooker so I’d have a tasty cabbage and beef shank stew ready to devour when I woke up in the evening. (Well, I was hoping it’d be tasty…)

Here’s what I assembled:

  • ½ pound organic baby carrots
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 small cabbage (about 2 pounds), cored, and cut into 8 wedges
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 Turkish bay leaves
  • 2 center-cut grass fed beef shanks (about 2” thick)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 15 ounce can of organic diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup organic chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos

And here’s what I did with the stuff:

I dumped the baby carrots and chopped onions into the bottom of my slow cooker

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…and layered the cabbage wedges on top.

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I threw in the smashed garlic cloves and bay leaves, and seasoned the beef shanks with salt and pepper to taste (by the way, feel free to be pretty heavy-handed with the S&P).

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Then, I plopped ‘em on top of the cabbage.

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The last step was to pour in the diced tomatoes and broth…

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…before putting on the lid. I set the slow cooker on low and let it do its thing for 9 hours while I hit the sack. (Ah, the nocturnal life of a night shift worker…)

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When I woke up, the house was suffused with a rich, beefy aroma. I couldn’t wait to peek at the stew. Lifting the lid off the slow cooker, I saw that the meat had pulled away from the bone and the marrow was perfectly cooked. Score!

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I removed and plated the bones (and delicious marrow), shredded the meat, and tasted the stew for seasoning. The pot liquor was exploding with flavor, but it was a bit on the sweet side for my taste from all the onions and carrots, so I added a couple of tablespoons of coconut aminos and some more salt and pepper.

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In the meantime, I oven-roasted some cremini mushrooms tossed with Tabil seasoning and macadamia nut oil (400 F on convection roast for 25 minutes) and quickly whipped up some garlic cauliflower mashed “potatoes” (this time, substituting extra virgin olive oil for the grass-fed butter).

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Here’s my dinner plate:

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All in all, not too shabby for a simple dump-and-cover slow cooker meal. Because the meat was grass fed, it wasn’t quite as meltingly tender as your typical crappy (but admittedly yummy) grain ‘n corn-fed stuff. Nonetheless, it was TONS better than the grass fed “beef stew” that crawled out of my slow cooker a few days ago. Plus, bone marrow is just so damn tasty –- mouth-filling, fatty, and full of umami goodness. I’m really happy I joined our meat CSA; left to my own devices, I never would’ve thought to buy beef shanks. Now, I’m gonna order them as extra items when I get next month’s box o’ animal parts!