Curried Cream of Broccoli Soup

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[UPDATED November 2, 2012: This ain’t a new recipe (it’s from almost TWO years ago!), but it continues to be popular and the old photos were all kinds of horrible, so I updated this post with new pics. Enjoy (again!)]

This recipe is a perfect example of what I call garbage soup: I pull out whatever vegetables are left in my crisper and throw them in a pot with some pre-made broth. This formula works with just about anything, but if you happen to have some broccoli florets and leeks in the fridge, make this blitzed cream of broccoli soup. My chef sis told me a long time ago that her secret ingredient in pureed soups is a bit of diced apple so I always toss some in.

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

  • 1½ pounds broccoli
  • 4 leeks, cleaned and trimmed 
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 medium shallots
  • ¼ medium apple, diced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or fat of choice
  • 1 quart organic chicken broth or bone broth
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup coconut milk

Here’s how to make it:

Trim and chop up the broccoli into roughly uniform-sized pieces.

Don’t waste the broccoli stems. Just trim off the hard, woody exterior and cut up the soft flesh underneath. 

Roughly chop the alliums. Remember any combination works — if you’ve only got onions, dice up two large ones.

Dice up the apple.

Once your veggies are prepped, melt the coconut oil over medium heat in a large stock pot. 

Add the leeks, onions, and shallots and sauté until softened (5-10 minutes). 

Throw in the chopped broccoli and apple, and…

…add the chicken broth. Top off with some water if the vegetables aren’t fully submerged.

Crank the heat up to high to bring the soup to a boil.

Lower to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Next, add the curry powder and season with salt and pepper to taste.

 Turn off the stove and let the soup cool slightly. Then, use an immersion blender to blitz the ingredients.

The result should be a smooth, aromatic green broth. 

Add the coconut milk and stir to incorporate it into the soup.

Turn the heat to high, and bring the soup back up to a boil. 

Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

To make this a one pot meal, mix in some leftover meat and dig in.

Pressure Cooker Crispy Potatoes

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"But…but…but…potatoes aren’t Paleo!"

Once again, with feeling: It all depends on what you mean when you say “Paleo.” There is, after all, no such thing as one definitive Paleo diet. Potatoes may not have been available to cavemen, but I really don’t care. Historical re-enactment ain’t my cup of tea. (Besides, it’s not like our prehistoric ancestors snacked on dark chocolate bars, either.)

My personal template for Paleo eating focuses on nutrient-packed whole foods that don’t hurt me. For me, potatoes fall into that category. After checking out Bill and Hayley’s post on the Paleosity of potatoes, listening to the safe starch debate, and soaking in Mat Lalonde’s talk about nutrient density at the 2012 Ancestral Health Symposium (during which Mat pointed out that peeled potatoes are actually more nutrient dense than sweet potatoes, save for the beta-carotene in the latter), I’ve decided that an occasional portion of peeled potatoes are a-OK on my plate. Your circumstances may be different; for instance, if you’re on a super-low-carb protocol at the moment, you’re probably not looking to down a bowl of spuds.

Blah, blah, blah, science, science, science, blah, blah, blah.

With that pesky business out of the way, let me show you how to use a pressure cooker to make spuds with crispy exteriors and fluffy interiors in no time flat.

Ready?

Here’s what to gather to make a side dish fit for four folks:

  • 1 pound of potatoes, peeled and cut into uniform 1 - 1½ inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons of ghee or butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup minced Italian parsley
  • ½ lemon

Add ½ cup of water to the bottom of a 6-quart pressure cooker fitted with a steamer insert. Dump in the potatoes.

Cover the pot and cook over high heat until high pressure is reached. Lower the heat to a simmer and maintain high pressure for 5 minutes.

Let the pressure release naturally (~10 minutes).

Melt the ghee or butter over medium high heat in a large skillet. Once it starts sputtering, carefully add the potatoes to the pan.

Season generously with salt and pepper. Leave the potatoes undisturbed for 1 minute before flipping to brown the other side for an additional minute. 

Squeeze the juice from half a lemon and toss with fresh Italian parsley.

P.S. Just ‘cause I’m posting a recipe for a side dish of potatoes doesn’t mean you have license to gorge on potato chips and French fries, which are just vehicles for delivering vegetable oil badness into your system. Yes, I know you already know that, but I’m a mother, and my job is to nag.

Broiled Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Spears

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[UPDATED May 18, 2012: This ain’t a new recipe (it’s from over a year ago), but it continues to be popular and the old photos were all kinds of horrible, so I updated this post with new pics. Enjoy (again!)]

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Broiled prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spears are a quick and delicious app that’s perfect for any Paleo party. The prosciutto crisps up like bacon while the sweet asparagus in the middle gets soft and tender. When you drizzle aged balsamic vinegar on the roasted spears, you end up with a dish that satisfies your sweet, salty, and sour cravings. Plus you get veggies and meat all in one morsel that you can just pop in your mouth with your hands.

Here’s what to assemble to make enough spears to feed 10 hungry adults:

  • 3 bunches of asparagus, stems trimmed 2 inches from the bottom
  • 2 four-ounce packages of prosciutto di parma
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Avocado oil or fat of choice (update 4/22/13: I use 2 tablespoons melted ghee)
  • Aged balsamic vinegar

Here’s what you do:

Preheat the broiler to high (with the rack 6 inches from the heating element) and assemble the ingredients.

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Divide the asparagus evenly onto two large baking trays…

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…drizzle some avocado oil over the spears, and season with salt and pepper.

Don’t go crazy with the salt because the prosciutto is plenty salty.

Cut each slice of prosciutto into 3 thin strips and wrap one strip around each asparagus spear. 

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Pop a tray under the broiler for ~5-8 minutes (tossing the spears at the halfway point) or until the prosciutto crisps up and the asparagus is tender. Repeat the process with the second tray.

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Plate the spears when they’re finished and drizzle on some aged balsamic vinegar.

Yes, my friends — it’s that easy.

Video: Veggies 4 Ways

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Wanna see how quick and easy it is to throw together four of my favorite vegetable sides? Watch the video below to see how I made roasted kabocha squash, garlic cauliflower mashed “potatoes,” pressure cooker braised greens, and stir-fried kale and bacon — all in just one hour. I did this after working a 10-hour graveyard shift, so I don’t want to hear any complaints about not having the time or energy to make veggies!

And if you can’t get the catchy music out of your head, blame Ryan of The Cave Kids, who created the soundtrack to this video with lightning speed!

Roasted Portobello Mushrooms (Easiest Version)

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I love the meatiness of roasted Portobello mushrooms but sometimes I just don’t have the time or inclination to marinate them before roasting them in the oven. Luckily, there’s a quick and dirty method that does the trick. 

Once these ‘shrooms are roasted, I slice them up and drizzle on my favorite vinegar or spritz on some lemon or lime juice. Voila!  Easy and tasty side dish! Alternatively, you can use the caps as “bread” for Paleo sandwiches since they come out nice and flat.

Follow the jump for the pics and steps!

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Stir Fried Napa Cabbage with Mushrooms and Bacon

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To celebrate Chinese New Year, I finished off my hunk of Fatted Calf slab bacon by making a Napa cabbage stir fry with diced bacon, thinly sliced onions and cremini mushrooms. Doesn’t sound like a Chinese dish to you? Tough. Gung Hay Fat Choy, buddy.

Here’s what I assembled:

  • Small head of napa cabbage, sliced crosswise into ½ inch pieces
  • ½ cup diced bacon
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces of cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chicken broth

Here’s what I did:

I assembled the ingredients…

…heated a large cast iron skillet to medium and threw in the bacon.

The piece of bacon I had was pretty meaty and I sliced it pretty thick, so it was more like sautéing ham matchsticks as opposed to crisping thin slices of bacon.

Then, I added the onions (with some salt and pepper) and cooked them until they were translucent.

Once the onions were softened, I added the sliced mushrooms (with some salt and pepper) and sautéed them until the moisture had cooked off.

I put in the Napa cabbage…

…and splashed in some chicken broth.

I placed a lid on the skillet and lowered the heat to medium low. I simmered the dish for about 5-10 minutes until the cabbage softened to my preferred tenderness. I did a final taste for seasoning and adjusted with salt and pepper.

Easy and tasty. In the future, I’ll scoop out the bacon before adding the onions and mushrooms because the fatty part gets kind of rubbery. Because the bacon I used was more like ham, it wasn’t a problem. If I were using thin bacon, I’d definitely fish out the bacon and sprinkle the crispy pork bits on top after I finished the dish.

Quick and Simple Stir-Fried Kale and Bacon

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I posted Serious Eats’s recipe for Collard Greens Mineira less than a week ago and I finally had a chance to make them tonight. In the past, I blanched my hearty greens before I sauteed them — a time-consuming, multiple-pan process — so this super-quick, one-pan recipe piqued my interest.

Here’s what I gathered for the recipe:

  • 1 bunch of lancinato kale, leaves removed and thinly chopped
  • 3 slices of bacon, cut in 1/4” strips
  • splash of Banyuls vinegar (the original recipe uses a squeeze of lemon)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Here’s what I did:

I washed and chopped the kale leaves…

…and assembled the rest of my ingredients.

I sauteed the bacon bits in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once they were crisp…

…I added in the kale leaves with a dash of salt and pepper.

I stirred the kale and bacon for a couple minutes and then splashed on some vinegar.

Super quick and yummy! The slightly wilted bitter greens are well-balanced with the bacon and vinegar. From now on, this speedy and simple cooking method will be the only way I make my hearty greens! Another shortcut to deliciousness…

Roasted Butternut Squash in Lard

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Butternut squash can be a pain in the posterior to cut up.  The secret to chopping it up with ease is to cut off both ends and peel the skin with a sharp vegetable peeler before hacking away at it.

Here’s how I roast my butternut squash:

Preheat your oven to 400°F.  I like to use the convection roast function on my oven because the squash comes out crisper on the outside.

Peel, seed, and chop your squash into uniform pieces and place on a aluminum foil lined baking sheet.

Melt 2-3 tablespoons of lard in the microwave (nuke in 30 second intervals until it liquefies).

Toss the squash with the melted lard, salt, and pepper.

Roast for ~45 minutes, tossing the squash every 15 minutes or so.

Yum!

Fun With Bacon Grease

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After baking two pounds of bacon in the oven yesterday, I now have a tidy container of congealed bacon grease chillin’ in the fridge. And I’ve been on the lookout for alternatives to roasting veggies and meats with extra virgin olive oil, so the bacon grease certainly came in handy today.

I had some Brussels sprouts languishing in my vegetable crisper, so I roasted them off this morning. I kept it simple, and just tossed ‘em with a few tablespoons of bacon grease, salt, and pepper. My bacon grease turned milky white in the fridge –- I’ve grabbed it a few times today thinking it was my coconut milk. Not a terrible mistake, but I’m not sure I wanna eat my Paleo trail mix with bacon fat.

To liquefy the fat, I zapped it in the microwave for 30 seconds and stirred it. I store my fat in a microwave-safe glass Snapware container, so there’s no need to use (and later, wash) an extra bowl. Then, I spooned some of this liquid gold over my trimmed sprouts…

…seasoned with salt and pepper…

…and popped the tray in a 400 F oven for around 25-30 minutes.

The bacon fat lends the Brussels sprouts a rich, smoky, mouth-filling flavor.

For lunch, I ate some of the sprouts along with a salad I threw together using leftover sous vide flank steak, salad greens, sliced cucumbers, and grape tomatoes.

The bacon grease left in my glass container went right back into the fridge — for another few hours, anyway.

This evening, I once again nuked the container of bacon grease and then tossed a few tablespoons of the fat with some broccoli before roasting it in the oven (400 F for 25-35 minutes). 


But wait — I found more uses for my bacon fat!

While the broccoli cooked, I reheated two sous vide chicken breasts in my SousVide Supreme (140F for 30 minutes).  After removing the chicken from the water bath, I patted them dry, and brushed on some melted bacon grease…

…before searing them in my grill pan.

I’m sorry, but boneless and skinless breasts aren’t the tastiest parts of the chicken, so basting ‘em with bacon grease is a good thing.

I sliced the chicken breast and topped it with Primavera salsa and diced avocados. I served it along with my bacon-grease roasted broccoli.

Dammit, I’m running out of bacon grease. Time to make more bacon!