Nom Nom Paleo

Fridge Staple: Trader Joe’s Southern Greens Blend

Trader Joe’s ready-to-cook bags of Southern Greens Blend are a handy staple to stock in your fridge. I love me some hearty dark green leafy vegetables, but it can be a pain to remove all the stems and wash and chop the leaves prior to cooking them. And I’m all about shortcuts in the kitchen!

Tonight, I dumped two bags of the ready-to-cook greens into a pot of salted boiling water and let them simmer, covered, for ~5 minutes. Then, I drained and rinsed the greens and squeezed out as much liquid as possible. (Yes, it’s crossed my mind that I’m boiling out all the nutrients, but the fine folks at Cook’s Illustrated insist this is the best way to cook tough greens).

Normally, I’d throw in some bacon or ham, but since they’re off limits while on the Whole30 program (which ends TOMORROW!), I slowly caramelized a thinly sliced onion in melted lard before adding the blanched greens. 

The result? A super-easy and delicious accompaniment to a big plate of pig!

Braised Chicken Legs with Artichokes and Pearl Onions

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I was in the mood to experiment tonight. By early evening, I was exhausted, so rather than planning an elaborate meal, I raided the kitchen and threw together a bunch of stuff I had in my freezer, fridge, and pantry to see if, perchance, an easy and yummy one-pot dish might materialize.

I’m happy to report that an investment of just 15 minutes of hands-on time yielded a savory dish that an entire family can happily scarf down. Well, 3 out of 4 members of the Nom Nom Paleo household enjoyed it. Our three-year-old, Lil-O, is always the sole holdout. “I want eggs,” he says. Every. Single. Night.

Where was I? Right: Ingredients.

I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s and I always read the chain’s wackily illustrated Fearless Flyer so I can strategically plan my next shopping excursion. Some of TJ’s new items are misses, but most are hits. I recently found two things in the freezer section that piqued my interest: frozen artichoke hearts…

…and peeled and prepared pearl onions.

Despite being an anti-processing Paleo freak, I love prepped frozen veggies ‘cause they help accelerate the time my dinner gets to the table. On the one hand, they’re a little pricier, but on the other hand, I can get away with doing less work. And Nom Nom Paleo is all about the lazy.

Here’s what I scrounged up:

  • 2 whole Kosher chicken legs, split into drumsticks and thighs (you can definitely double the amount of chicken)
  • 2 Tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 Tbsp Sigona’s Green Poultry Seasoning (contains thyme, sage, pepper, coriander, marjoram, & parsley)
  • 12 oz bag of Trader Joe’s frozen artichoke hearts
  • 16 oz bag of Trader Joe’s frozen peeled & ready to use pearl onions
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and trimmed
  • 3/4 cup organic chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp Banyuls vinegar

Here’s what I did:

I preheated the oven to 325 F and I assembled all my ingredients.

I didn’t bother defrosting the artichoke hearts or pearl onions because I knew they’d quickly cook in my skillet. (Skeptical? Fine: The real reason I didn’t defrost them is that I was too lazy to add another cooking step. Happy now?)

My favorite chicken cuts for braising are bone-in, skin-on thighs. At my local TJ’s, they carry whole Kosher chicken legs so I just cut them into thighs and drumsticks (cut through the cartilage and not the bone or you’ll eff-up your knife). I seasoned my chicken with green poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Next, I heated 2 tablespoons of avocado oil over medium high heat in a 12-inch, oven-safe, lidded skillet and I seared my chicken parts until they were browned on each side.

After removing the browned chicken to a plate, I threw the frozen pearl onions into the empty skillet and seasoned it with some salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

Once the onions were caramelized, I tossed in the frozen artichoke hearts and the garlic cloves (along with more salt and pepper). I sauteed all the vegetables until they were nice and toasty. Then, I nestled in the chicken parts and poured in the chicken broth and vinegar. After bringing it up to a simmer…

…I put on the lid and popped it in the oven for 45 minutes. The results were pretty tasty for the minimum amount of effort I put in.

The artichoke hearts are a wee bit acidic so you can back off on the vinegar or use a sweeter vinegar like balsamic. Also, the amount of chicken legs can definitely be doubled because I had a bunch of leftover chokes and onions that I’ll be pairing up with other proteins in the next few days. 

Welcome Another Fat Into My Pantry: Avocado Oil!

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Even though my lovely hubby bought me a new container of lard,

I’ve been experimenting with other high heat cooking oils.

Don’t get me wrong. I love lard but, due to my laziness, I don’t want to use a cooking fat that requires me to liquefy it before I use it. I really love the bottle of macadamia nut oil I purchased over X-mas but I’ve been using it so much that I’m almost finished with it.

After trolling the Internet, I decided that I should purchase some avocado oil.

It’s purported to have the same health benefits as olive oil BUT it has a much higher smoke point of 491° F. Plus, it’s listed in my Whole30 Success Guide as one of the BEST sources of monounsaturated fats. Nice.

Thanks to Amazon Prime, a two-pack arrived on my doorstep in two days. The avocado oil is very mild tasting oil and I’ve been subbing it in for olive oil in everything I’ve cooked today. Me likey.

New Substitutions for the Whole30 Pantry

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Since I’m on Day 2 of the Whole30 program, I decided to take a more critical look at my pantry to make sure I had the right tools to be compliant for the rest of the month.

One big Paleo faileo is my fish sauce.

I really like fish sauce ‘cause it adds a unique salty umami flavor to whatever I cook. When I closely inspected the label this evening, I noticed two ingredients that weren’t Paleo: fructose and hydrolyzed wheat protein. Damn it! I gotta start looking for a brand that’s just anchovies and salt. I wonder if it’s even possible.

Here are some other substitutions I’ve made in my pantry:

Since I’m out of lard, I’m using coconut oil and macadamia nut oil as my go-to high heat cooking fats.

Macadamia nut oil is nice and buttery and has a smoke point of around 400 F. Yes, it’s expensive (~$1/ounce) but it’s a small investment I’m willing to make.

I’ve gotten rid of my pastas but I miss noodles. I bought some kelp noodles from Whole Foods (in the fridge by the soy products) and they’re pretty tasty.

Not like wheat noodles, but more like springy bean thread noodles when cooked. Don’t eat them raw. They’re squeaky and crunchy – not how I like my noodles.

Instead of tamari and soy sauce, I’m gonna use coconut aminos.

This was a hard item to find. I finally located it in the Asian section at Whole Foods. Surprisingly, it does taste remarkably like soy sauce.

I’ve also been using coconut vinegar (along with my other vinegars) and it’s pretty tasty.

It’s been heralded as a more nutritious apple cider vinegar but I like it because I like all things coconut.

Stock Your Pantry with Spice Hound Spice Blends

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I love to eat but am incredibly lazy. Good thing I’m willing to pay through the nose for items that make me seem like a good cook without any actual technical skill (e.g. SousVide Supreme).

In all seriousness, I think if you use high quality ingredients, your food will taste awesome without too much work.  And you don’t have to spend a ton of money.  For example, I love the spice blends from local spice purveyor Spice Hound.  They’re all really fresh, unique, and tasty and they cost ~$6-7 per half-cup container. I’m always on the look out for new spice blends because they’ll help you save so much time in the kitchen.

I bought these three sugar-free blends at the farmers’ market last Saturday:

Tabil is a Tunisian spice blend with a spicy kick made with coriander, minced garlic, crushed red pepper, and caraway seeds.  I cooked up some ground beef and diced onions tonight and seasoned it with some Tabil, salt, and pepper.  The dish took minimal work but tasted amazing.

Fajita & Taco Seasoning is a fantastic blend with ancho, Mexican oregano, garlic, thyme, tomato, sea salt, Worcestershire.  The crap you get at the store always has tons of sugar. I know you can make your own (and I have) but I’m lazy, remember?

 

I am really excited to experiment with Dukka.  It’s a traditional Egyptian spice blend with hazelnuts, sesame seeds, coriander, and cumin. 

The owner, Tammy Tan, is super nice, informative, and helpful. They have a new storefront in San Francisco and stands at a ton of farmers’ markets in the Bay Area.  I can’t wait to try more of their spices, salts, and blends!

Coconut Butter = Bliss

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It’s no secret I like all things coconut, so today I decided to treat myself to some Artisana Raw Organic Coconut Butter at Whole Paycheck.  I wanted to spoon some up right away but when I brought it home it was as hard as a rock.  The label says to heat it up to 85 F to spread but since I already had the SousVide Supreme heated up to 135 F, I popped it in for about 5 minutes.  When I took it out, it was mostly liquified, but I still had to stir, stir, stir, and stir.  Here’s how it looks when it’s nice and spreadable:

I just spooned myself another taste just to make sure that it was still spreadable (in the name of science and all) and I’m happy to report that it’s still liquid-y five hours after I initially melted it.  Coconut butter tastes yummy — like creamy, coconut flavored peanut butter.  I’m not sure I’ll be putting it on anything because I’ll just eat it straight out of the jar but the label (which melted off in my SousVide Supreme) says that you can add it to smoothies, savory dishes, or desserts.  I’m gonna have to check again in a few minutes to make sure it didn’t solidify…

Look what hubby brought home from the Big City!  More specifically, from Prather Ranch at the Ferry Building.  I can’t wait to use this when I fry stuff!  Although people may find the Paleo diet really limiting since there are no grains or sugar but the reality is — IT’S SO LIBERATING EATING SATURATED FATS AGAIN!

Look what hubby brought home from the Big City!  More specifically, from Prather Ranch at the Ferry Building.  I can’t wait to use this when I fry stuff!  Although people may find the Paleo diet really limiting since there are no grains or sugar but the reality is — IT’S SO LIBERATING EATING SATURATED FATS AGAIN!

What’s In My Pantry

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Here are some staples we keep on hand at Chez Nom Nom Paleo:

Coconut Oil: We normally stock up at Whole Paycheck when coconut oil goes on sale.  I used to avoid it like the plague since I was taught that saturated fats = heart attack (yes, I have a nutrition and food science degree from the mid 90’s).  Now, I use this stuff all the time time for stir-frying or high temperature cooking.

Here’s our coconut spray oil, also purchased at Whole Paycheck.  Fitbomb uses it for everything.  I prefer to scoop some coconut oil from the jar.

Our go-to brand of extra virgin olive oil for everyday cooking is the one in the biggest bottle from Trader Joe’s. It’s economical, tasty, and I love the pour spout that comes with it. Call me crazy, but I don’t like sticking my thumb on the bottle opening (á la Jamie Oliver) when I’m drizzling olive oil on stuff.

I use Conzorzio Roasted Garlic Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil to drizzle on foods post cooking, or on foods I’m not cooking at a super high temp.  The flavor is pretty strong so I don’t put it on things that it’s likely to overpower. Get it at Costco before they decide to take it off the shelves. I just wish these bottles came with spigots!

Since the Paleo gods frown on dairy, we don’t use butter as much as we used to. When we do, we use Kerrygold unsalted butter because it comes from grassfed cows. Plus, you can find it reasonably priced at Trader Joe’s.

When I need a high-smoke-point fat and coconut oil has too distinctive a flavor for my dish, I’ll use ghee.  I’m too lazy to make my own from Kerrygold, so I just buy Purity Farms Organic Ghee. Per their website, it’s made from grassfed, pasture raised cow milk.  This product is carried at Whole Paycheck and other fancy grocery stores.

Okay, vinegar isn’t technically Paleo because it may have some gluten in it but I really like balsamic vinegar and keep a few bottles in my pantry at all times. My favorite cheap balsamic vinegar is Trader Joe’s Gold Quality Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. I use this stuff all the time to marinate my roasted veggies. See how the label has rubbed off?

Having a fancy, aged, thick balsamic vinegar in the pantry is a must. I just buy whichever one is on sale at Whole Paycheck or at a nicer grocery store. I drizzle the nice stuff to finish my dishes.  A little bit goes a long way. This is the higher-end bottle that’s currently sitting in our pantry:

Since I’ve cut out soy and oyster sauce, we have some San-J Organic Tamari in the pantry when I make Asian food (which is rare).  I don’t use this too often, though, because it’s still made with soy.

The Worchestershire sauce we have in the fridge is The Wizard’s™ Organic Worcestershire Sauce.   This is the stuff Fitbomb uses in his jerky recipe.

Last but not least, is one of my favorite pantry items: Rao’s Marinara Sauce! Honestly, this canned sauce is better than most Italian grandmothers’. Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s worth every penny. Anytime I see it on sale, I stock up. Buy it and put it on everything.