Rest Day Recipe: Jalapeno-Avocado Sauce

Dish of yellow-green sauce
Jalapeno-Avocado Hot Sauce

I absolutely love spicy food. The hotter, the better. But — alas! — I have children! When I cook, I cook for all of us, and they simply don’t have the tolerance for hot food like I do.

So instead of integrating spicy into my dishes, I add it after it’s been served.

I tried buying hot sauce. I like Cholula, but I wanted hotter (and I wanted to avoid the Xantham gum they add). So we found something called “Widowmaker” at Whole Foods. Turns out Widowmaker isn’t quite as badass as the name would have you believe. I really have to question Whole Foods buyers because it was weak sauce.

Over Christmas we picked up an excellent hot sauce at the Farmer’s Market: Hotvocado from Kala’s Kuisine. I highly recommend it. I tasted the Gingery Habanera, and I liked it too.

But that got me and Andy to thinking — we have a few jars of hot peppers we canned over the summer — why not make our own sauce? And then we could be sure it would be paleo and free of weird thickeners. So we did, and it turned out AMAZING.

We canned pint jars of peppers, so if you need to buy peppers to do this, look for a 14.5oz can, packed in vinegar.

Jalapeno-Avocado Hot Sauce

Ingredients

1 jar pickled jalapenos, liquid reserved
1 small Haas avocado
1/4 cup reserved pickled pepper juice (vinegar) to blend

Instructions

Combine the peppers and avocado in a blender. Add pickle juice to just lubricate enough to mix — maybe a little more. Blend and serve.

This should keep for about a week in a sealed container in your fridge. It’s good on EVERYTHING. Seriously. I put this stuff on my eggs, steak, salad, you name it. Delish.

Rest Day Recipe: Skillet ‘Spaghetti’

Cindy smiles in the kitchenFull confession: I was going to share Andy’s secret paleo pancake recipe today. However, he fell asleep before I could get him to tell me how he makes them.

You’ll have to wait until next week.

In the meantime, I made up a recipe this week that was a hit with Andy. He described is as an “interesting combination, but really tasty.”

Full dish of meat, squash and greensSkillet ‘Spaghetti’ with Hearty Winter Greens

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 spaghetti squash, halved & seeded
1lb sausage, sliced
6-8 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
8oz mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch collard greens or kale, stems removed and chopped roughly
4-5 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried sage
Olive oil & coconut oil
salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

Brush the inside of the squash halves with olive oil, then place cut side down on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for 16 minutes, rotating the squash halfway through for even cooking. When done, set aside to cool enough to handle.

While the squash are cooking, heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil in a deep bottom pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces, and brown. Remove and set aside. Add the sausage to the pan to brown, about 4 minutes. Then add the mushrooms and chicken. After a couple more minutes, add the garlic and herbs.

When you can handle the squash, scrape out the pieces with a fork to make the “spaghetti,” and add to the pot, stirring thoroughly. Heat the greens in a microwave-safe bowl for 2-3 minutes in the microwave, then add to the pot. Reduce the heat slightly, and cover. Cook for several minutes, until greens are tender, but not mushy. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately.

Rest Day Recipe: Two Kinds of Greens

Wanna see something cool? Check out these photos from my garden:

I have to be honest — ever since I went back to work full-time, I have stepped away from gardening. Andy took up the task and he not only kept our garden alive, he’s also helped it to thrive and expand. His goal is to grow way more vegetables than we can eat.

The bulk of our crop this fall is greens. Kale, collards, mustard greens, and bok choy are just a few of our favorites. We’ve also gotten into eating lesser greens that are usually tossed because people grow the plant for something else — vegetables like beets, kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli.

We make something green with every dinner. Sometimes it’s salad. Many times it’s cooked greens. Greens are a fast weeknight meal addition, and today I’m going to share a couple of our go-to variations:

Basic Braised Chard

Ingredients

1 bunch chard, washed
Fat (like coconut or olive oil)
Chicken stock
salt

Instructions

Remove stems from chard, but don’t throw out the stems. Chop the leaves roughly into large pieces. Remove ends from stems, then chop finely. Set aside.

In a deep pot or Dutch oven, melt a couple of tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Add stems to the pot and saute for several minutes. When the chopped stems have softened, add several spoonfuls of chicken stock to the pot — enough to coat well. Stir the stems a few times, then add the leaves. Wilt the leaves, stirring frequently to cook evenly. After a few minutes, when all of the leaves have cooked down and turned bright green, remove from heat.

Salt to taste and serve.

Luke’s Favorite: Collard Greens with Coconut Milk & Lime

My 5-year-old loves the flavor combination! Kale can be used instead of collard greens. But don’t eat the stems of collard greens or kale — too woody!  You can add lime zest with the coconut milk for more lime flavor.

Ingredients

1 bunch collard greens, washed and stems removed
Fat (like coconut or olive oil)
1/4 – 1/2 cup coconut milk
Juice from 1 lime

Instructions

Chop the leaves of of the collard greens roughly into large pieces. Place the chopped leaves in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. (Less if you use kale). The key is to make sure none of the leaves dry out.

In a deep pot or Dutch oven, melt a couple of tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the leaves to the pot and cook for 10 minutes. When greens have softened, add the coconut milk to coat. Cook for several more minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the lime juice, salt to taste and serve.

Rest Day Recipe: Caribbean Chicken Pot

Time to rest your body and feed your recovering muscles!

Caribbean Chicken Pepper pot stew in a white bowl.
This stew, with chicken, sweet potatoes, collard greens, okra, and peppers is chocked full of yumminess.

I’m going to share a stew today that I thought was fabulous, and it wasn’t hard to whip up on a weeknight. The stew made a TON of leftovers, which we ate for days.

The original recipe called for a minced Scotch bonnet pepper. I left it out because I cook for 2 little ones, but if you want the heat, add it at the same time as the chicken stock.

Enjoy!

Caribbean Chicken Pot with Okra
Serves 4

Ingredients

8 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground allspice
4 cups chicken stock
3 medium sweet potatoes (2 1/2 lbs), peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
1 bunch collard greens, stemmed and chopped
1 (16-oz) bag frozen or fresh okra, thawed and sliced

Instructions

  1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook chicken, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl
  2. Add onion to the empty Dutch oven and cook until softened, about 4 minutes, Add garlic, tomato paste, thyme and allspice and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add chicken broth, sweet potatoes, collard greens, and chicken with any accumulated juices and cook until chicken and potatoes are almost tender, about 10 minutes. Add okra and cook until chicken and potatoes are completely tender, about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Serve and eat!

My thanks to Cooks Illustrated for this recipe. It’s the bomb!

Rest Day Recipe: Basic Chicken Stock

It’s Friday, and that means is a rest day.  Whoo hoo!

So instead of a workout, I’m going to post a recipe for something I mentioned earlier this week: chicken stock!

Yes, I know chicken stock does not sound quite as exciting as, say, the steaks with tarragon mashed potatoes and mushroom sherry sauce that Luke and I prepared, cooked and dined upon this evening. However, chicken stock is an essential ingredient. In fact, I used in in my dinner tonight.  AND, Andy drank a mug full after being sick all day.

He started feeling much better after drinking it.

Chicken stock is really easy with the pressure cooker. I made more than 2 quarts during breakfast one morning.

Stock is also amazing. It’s delicious, nutritious and CHEAP. It’s possible to make it with or without bones. You know me – I eat meat – so I recommend WITH bones. However, for my vegetarian friends, I highly recommend the recipes of Deborah Madison from her amazing cookbook: Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone. Andy and I found great success with her vegetable stocks and that cookbook is a must in all kitchens, not just vegetarian ones. I like her philosophy of vegetarian cooking, and the dishes can easily be paired with meat.

Moving on. Stock made from bones. We’ve made beef and fish, but mostly we make chicken.

We get a broiler every week from Richardson Farms. We freeze the leftover bones, by throwing them in a bag throughout the week. When the bag is full, we make stock.

We use the stock in a ton of different recipes, so usually it just stays in the fridge for a week until it’s used up. But sometimes we freeze it in a muffin tin, then pop them out and store them in a bag in the freezer. That way we can easily measure out 1/2 cup amounts to recipes that need it.

You can use all sorts of leftover vegetables to flavor your stock. Cooks Illustrated says the most important is onion, so don’t go without it. But there are also some things you shouldn’t use in stock, including onion skins and vegetables from the cabbage family.

Here’s our go-to recipe:

Brummer’s Basic Stock

Ingredients

Chicken bones
We keep everything leftover from the roast chickens and throw them in a bag in the freezer

Onion
One onion cut into chunks is perfect. It doesn’t have to be cut up all fancy-like. Don’t use the skins.

Celery and carrots
I use whatever I find in the fridge, which is usually carrots and celery. the amounts are up to you, but generally I don’t use more celery than carrot. You don’t even have to peel them. Just wash them off, break them up and toss them in the pan.

Water
I use our filtered water just to make sure it’s free of off-putting tastes.

Steps

Heat 1-2 tbsp oil in your pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for several minutes.

Add carrots and celery and saute several more.

Add leftover chicken bones. Amount will vary, but generally, put enough to fill the pressure cooker to its “bell.” Saute several minutes.

Add water to cover the veggies and bones, just above the bell. Add a good pinch of salt and any herb you may want to use, stems and all. (I recommend parsley.)

Clamp on the lid and lock into place. Heat at medium high until button indicator pops out and shows pressure has been reached. Turn down heat to maintain low hiss and process for 45 minutes.

Remove pot from heat. Open ONLY when the button indicator shows pressure has dropped. Drain stock away from used veggies and bones. Pour into containers and store for up to a week in the fridge, longer in the freezer.

Recipe Alert: Pork chops and sauerkraut

At my house, we love quality food. That means we do everything we can to source locally and we even make some foods from scratch that a lot of people don’t.

On any given day, there may be a jar or two of sauerkraut fermenting on the counter. Andy found the recipe for homemade sauerkraut on Mark’s Daily Apple, and we’ve found it to be incredibly easy, cheap and delicious.

The money we save on sauerkraut goes toward the pork chops we buy from Richardson Farms, which pastures its pork, making quite the difference in taste, and for me, conscience.

Pork chops and sauerkraut is a perennial favorite in the Brummer casa, so I thought I’d share.

Pork Chops and Sauerkraut
(Serves 4)

2 pounds sauerkraut, rinsed
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup chicken stock (preferably homemade)
10 juniper berries
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds pork chops
1 onion, halved and sliced thin
Salt and pepper
1 Apple (Granny Smith works best), peeled and grated (This is optional — but it’s really yummy)
4 tsp brown sugar (this is from the recipe I base mine on, and I usually leave this out)

1. Combine sauerkraut, bacon, stock, juniper berries and bay leaves in a microwave-safe bowl . Cover and microwave until sauerkraut is softened, about 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook until foaming subsides. Add pork shops and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes each side. Transfer to a plate.

3. Add onion and 1/2 tsp salt to skillet and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in sauerkraut mixture, apple (and sugar if using) and bring to a simmer. Nestle the pork chops into sauerkraut, cover, and reduce heat to medium low. Cook until chops are no longer pink in the center, 10-12 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and juniper berries. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Eat your heart (out)

I’m sure I shocked many of my Facebook friends yesterday when I posted this:

Cindy Brummer You would never believe what I just ate for dinner. I can’t believe it myself. In fact, just a year ago the idea would have given me a heart attack. Pun completely intended.

And then, after a couple of friends guessed, I wrote this:

Cindy Brummer That’s right, Fred. Heart. It was in our freezer — one of the few remaining cuts from the half calf we bought over a year ago. So I found a recipe on MDA and cooked it up. And you know what? It was pretty damn good.

I grossed out a few people.  Heart is not what most people would consider a good meal.  But I ran across this recipe on Mark’s Daily Apple, and since we just happened to have a beef heart in the freezer, I decided to give it a try.

The heart was already halved and most of the valves and connective tissue cut out, so I didn’t have to do much.  Slow-cooking it definitely made it tender.  I really enjoyed it, although, when I stopped to think about what I was eating, I had a little trouble getting it down.  So I just put it out of my mind.  Andy, on the other hand, just couldn’t put it aside, and he ate little of his portion.

I’m no dummy, and I didn’t tell Luke it was anything other than “beef.”  Which isn’t a lie.  And I don’t think I was withholding the truth either, because I rarely tell him where the cuts of meat that we’re eating were taken from the cow.  But that’s because I usually don’t know.  But Luke liked it and ate a bit of what he was served.

Anyway, the beef heart was good.  I loved grossing out my friends.  And I love trying new stuff.  I mean — it’s not like I was eating intestines or something.  We’re talking about a muscle!

Recipe Alert: Nutty dressing

I am a classicist.

I prefer a simple dressing of olive oil and vinegar, with salt and pepper, on my salads.  I even toss the lettuce in the dressing before I add the rest of my salad ingredients — like the chefs do — just to make sure it gets full coverage.

But sometimes I bore of my go-to salad topping and long for something a bit more exciting.

Recently I had a craving for something creamy on my greens, and I remembered a Rick Bayless salad dressing I made once.  Ah-ha!  That was the ticket!

So with my Mexican Everyday recipe nearby for inspiration, here’s what I made:

Nutty Salad Dressing

1/3 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled
handful pecans
handful pumpkin seeds
1 lemon
1/2tsp salt

Toast the nuts and seeds together in a pan over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning.  Toast until the nuts are fragrant and the pumpkin seeds have “popped” from flat into a rounded shape.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in the pan and lightly brown the garlic cloves on each side — about 5 minutes.

Scrape the oil and garlic into a blender jar.  Add about 1/2 of the nuts, salt, and juice from the lemon.  Puree mixture to a smooth consistency.  Add more nuts, oil, and salt as necessary for desired taste.

Serve over salad with remaining nuts.

Enjoy!

Nutty cookies

OK — so I’ve shared this recipe with my friends twice this week because I absolutely love it, and I figured I ought to share it here, too.

I hate describing recipes as “paleo,” especially sweets, because for me it’s all about eating real food that won’t make my family sick, but if you have to call this recipe “paleo,” it’s pretty close.

Treats are tough to substitute because most of the recipes I’ve tried are horrid — (Except for Andy’s custard.  That stuff is good.)  But FINALLY, I came across a cookie recipe that meets our dietary requirements — i.e. no gluten, no fake substitutes or food-like substances — doesn’t use added refined sugar and has the stamp of approval from a 4-year-old who LOVES traditional cake and ice cream.

With that said, here is my latest cookie love, from Everyday Paleo:

Nutty Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 bananas smashed
  • 1/3 cup almond flour (or coconut flour)
  • 3/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup raw walnuts (or pecans or both)
  • 1 apple finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, use a fork to smash the bananas to baby food consistency.  Add the almond flour, almond butter, and baking soda and mix well.

Using a hand held chopper or food processor, chop the nuts to a very fine dice.  Add the walnuts, apples, coconut milk, vanilla, and cinnamon to the bowl and mix in remaining ingredients.

Cover to cookie sheets with parchment paper and spoon heaping tablespoons of the cookie mix onto the parchment paper, placing an inch or two apart.

Bake for 25  minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through baking.

Makes approximately 20-22 cookies.

Recipe alert: Chili

I grew up in a state where the seasons change more dramatically — more, well… stereotypically — than here in Texas.  Going back to school in September meant sweaters, apple cider and falling leaves.

Well, the leaves are finally starting to fall here in Austin, and I have a craving for all things autumn.  I’ve been cooking a lot of fall/winter comfort foods lately, and pairing them with fresh salads — a reminder that warm season veggies have not yet finished their run this year.

One of the easiest meals I make can be done in a Dutch oven or a slow cooker… it really works well both ways.  Chili is one of those hodge-podge stews that needs only a little imagination, because it can easily integrate anything you have in your refrigerator.

I used The Primal Blueprint Cookbook for inspiration, but this recipe is all mine and Andy’s, and it’s never the same twice.  Here’s how we made it last night:

Chili

Ingredients
2 pounds grass-fed ground beef  or bison (from Austin Farmer’s Market — Andy likes it really meaty)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed through garlic press
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 28oz can tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups water (you could use broth or stock of your choice)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 cups kale, washed, de-stemmed and chopped

Directions
1) Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onions and cook until translucent — about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, carrots and parsnips.  Cook until carrots just begin to lose their hardness.

2) Add meat to pot and brown, stirring well to keep vegetables and meat from sticking.  When red disappears, add tomato paste, herbs and seasonings and stir well.

3) Add tomatoes and water or stock.  Bring pot to a boil, then cover and turn down heat.  Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4) Add kale to pot and cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Honestly, I don’t do much measuring — I just throw oil and herbs into the pot by feel.  You could change this up in so many ways to suit your own tastes.

We don’t make spicy chili in my house because my kids won’t eat it, but if you like it hot, you could add chili powder and paprika.  Also, consider chopping up some jalapenos to serve on top.

You could substitute ground lamb or turkey for the beef.  What about winter squash or turnips instead of parsnips?  Need to use up some celery?  Add it with the carrots!  Like chard instead of kale?  Go for it!  You don’t even have to add the greens to the pot.  They would go well as a side dish.

The point is, there are so many wonderful variations to chili, there’s no need to add beans at all.

Enjoy!