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Tag Archive: easy

Finger-Lickin’ Sesame Spareribs (gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, nut-free)

June 30, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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They’re sticky. They’re tender. They’re pleasantly salty with gentle notes of unami. And, best of all, you don’t have to go to an Asian restaurant to get ‘em.

Living in rather bland suburbia, the primary takeout options are pizza and “Chinese” food. I use Chinese in air quotes becomes really, what we’re eating is NOT Chinese food…it’s some misconstrued fantasy of typical American food mixed with some Asian ingredients. Although these greased, sugared, and sodium-heavy dishes are initially very satisfying, they feel awful going down. Can you say food hangover?

Using the basic technique of a Mark Bittman recipe, I recreated this takeout favorite in a much more healthful manner. I’ll bet even picky eaters will be happily gnawing away on the bones.

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The first thing you’ll need is a BIG, DEEP skillet to cook the ribs in. My cast iron was the largest thing I could find…and it was a little on the small side. 

Place 3-4 pounds of spare ribs, cut into individual sections (you can ask your butcher to do this for you, or do it yourself), into the skillet. It should be snug but not suffocating.

Add 2 cups of water to the skillet and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat slightly so everything just bubbles, and cook until the water is completely evaporated, about 20 minutes. Flip the ribs over every 5 minutes or so to make sure there’s even coverage.

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Once the water’s gone, let the ribs sear in the pan until brown on both sides, about 5 to 7 minutes. Flip them over once or twice before proceeding.

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To the pan, add 5 minced cloves of garlic, a 1-inch thumb of ginger, sliced into 6 thin rounds, 1/2 cup of coconut aminos or organic tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons of coconut sugar OR your sweetener of choice, and 1/2 cup of water. 

Bring to a bubble, then reduce the heat so the liquid is at a gentle boil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, turning the ribs once or twice. Add 1/2 cup of orange juice, re-cover, reduce the heat slightly, and cook until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes longer. Flip the ribs over every 5 to 10 minutes.

Toss the ribs with the sauce, garnish with some additional sesame seeds, and dig in! I made these with roasted brussel sprouts, but they’d also be excellent with sauteed cabbage, cauliflower rice, or zucchini noodles.

One thing I can promise? You’re going to need some wipes for this one.

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Watch out, dumplings and chicken lo-mein: YOU’RE NEXT.

What’s your favorite “Chinese” food dish? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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Crab Cakes and Citrus-Infused Mayo (gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, paleo)

June 23, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Friday was officially my last day of school, and I couldn’t be gladder. No more geometry. No more boring-as-heck marketing class. No more finals or projects or tests. I’m relieved…for now. I still have two books to read and annotate, two French workbooks to complete, and three chapters of an AP Euro textbook to complete before school starts again.

Oh well. For now, I’m just enjoying the fact that I don’t have to return to my “favorite” institution for two months. 

I spent my first few hours of freedom at a pool party with all of my friends. We’re teenage girls, so of course there were a few rounds of truth or dare and some Disney sing-alongs. I also had quite a good time eating fruit and flaunting my new swimsuit that I’m a teensy bit obsessed with.

Enough about me. Onto the food!

In the summertime, both my family and I prefer to have lighter, less meat-dense meals. Don’t get me wrong—we love our pork, lamb, and beef—but when the weather gets warmer, you don’t necessarily want to be digging into a rich, saucy stew every night.

If you’re looking to mix up your weekly dinner rotation, these crab cakes are a great addition. They took me maybe forty or so minutes to prepare and tasted DELICIOUS. There were also plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day, an added bonus.

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

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You’re going to need some mayonnaise for this recipe to help hold the crab cakes together. I really dislike the way the store-bought stuff tastes, so I always make my own. This mayonnaise is EXTREMELY easy to prepare and takes less than ten minutes to whip up…and the difference in taste is unbelievable. 

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, process 2 large egg yolks, the juice of two limes, 1 1/2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dijon mustard, a good pinch of salt, and a large crack of black pepper until smooth, about 1 minute. 

With the machine running, SLOWLY drizzle in 3/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil OR liquefied coconut oil. It should take 3-4 minutes to get all of the oil from the measuring cup to the machine, so make sure you keep your pouring at just a trickle. This will really help to emulsify all of the ingredients and make it super creamy.

I like my mayonnaise on the lighter, creamier side, so I only add 3/4 cup of oil. If you like a denser, thicker mayo, add more oil as necessary.

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To make the crab cakes, preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with tinfoil. You’ll be cooking the cakes in batches, so you’ll need to keep the first batch warm while the second batch is going. 

In a medium-sized bowl, break up 1 lb of lump crab meat into small chunks and remove any shells if you find ‘em. 

Pour the crab into a large bowl and add 1 chopped yellow bell pepper, 1 chopped scallion, 1 whisked egg, 6 tablespoons of the citrus-infused mayonnaise OR 6 tablespoons of store-bought mayo and the juice of a lime, 2 tablespoons of creole seasoning (for the recipe I used, click here), a generous pinch of salt, and 3 tablespoons of coconut flour. With your hands, squish and squeeze all of the ingredients together, really making sure to get everything well-incorporated.

Form the crab mixture into 6-8 cakes, depending on how large you want them.

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In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1/3 cup of organic palm shortening. If you don’t have or don’t like palm shortening, you can use regular coconut oil, ghee, or even avocado oil in its place. Whatever you do, DO NOT use olive oil. Its low smoke point will lead to oxidization and lots of splatters.

When the fat is completely melted and shimmering, add half of the crab cakes to the pan. Cook undisturbed until dark brown on that side, about 6 to 8 minutes, then flip to cook for 5 to 7 minutes longer. 

Once crisp and darkened on both sides, transfer the finished crab cakes to the prepared baking sheet and pop in the oven. Add more fat to the pan if necessary, and repeat the same steps with the remaining crab cakes.

Serve with some of the citrus-infused mayo or a generous slice of ripe avocado. 

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What are you most looking forward to this summer? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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The Legs Make the Bird (Easy Weeknight Dinners)

May 4, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

I’ll admit it—I was once a chicken breast fanatic. I ate several ounces of that dry, tasteless white meat daily…and even with the amount of seasonings I’d put on it, boy, was it bland.

Since going Paleo, I almost always opt for the dark meat, which has more fat as well as vitamins and minerals. I love the juicy meat and crispy skin, then gnawing on the bones when I’m done.

Legs—both those of chickens and ducks—are also pretty easy to cook. All you need are some basic ingredients and a cast iron skillet! Although these dishes are a little time-consuming, most of the process is hands-off, so you can feel free to do other things while dinner cooks.

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For this first dish, Cinnamon Chicken with Cauliflower Couscous, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking sheet and set aside.

Put your chicken legs in a large plastic bag and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Seal the bag and shake to distribute the spices. 

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of duck fat or refined coconut oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the chicken skin-side down and cook until brown and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. If your pan is smaller, brown the chicken in two batches to prevent over-crowding. Place the chicken on the prepared baking sheet, skin-side up, and bake until just cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes longer.

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While the chicken cooks, add 1 large onion, chopped, to the remaining chicken fat in the cast iron skillet. Cook over medium heat until softening and light brown, about 6 to 7 minutes, then add 2/3 cup of chopped dried fruit. I used a combination of apricots, prunes, and dates, but you can also try figs, raisins, or even cranberries.

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Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, then add about 4 cups of riced cauliflower. (To make cauliflower with a couscous-like texture, process on high with about 1 teaspoon of water for approximately 15 to 20 seconds.)

Sprinkle the mixture with another 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ginger, 1 teaspoon of paprika, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then cook over medium-low heat for another 5 to 7 minutes.

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This next recipe, Crispy Duck Legs, is a great dish for those just beginning to cook with my favorite water fowl. Just be prepared for the amount of fat you’ll render: I got almost 2 cups out of 4 legs!

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and stick a cast iron skillet in there to get nice and hot. With a small, sharp knife, score the duck legs and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

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Remove the hot skillet from the oven and place on the stove top over medium-high heat. Add 2 of the duck breasts, skin side down, and cook until brown and crispy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Every 2 minutes or so, rotate the legs about 90 degrees so you’ll get even coverage.

Flip the duck legs over, cook for an additional 2 minutes, then remove to a cutting board. Follow the same procedure with the other 2 duck legs. Your goal is not to cook the duck legs through, but to crispify the outside.

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Pour off almost all of the accumulated duck fat, reserving 1 to 2 tablespoons in the skillet to saute the veggies. Add 1/2 of a chopped red onion, 1 chopped carrot, 3 stalks of chopped celery, and 1/2 of a chopped apple. Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt and cook until soft and golden, about 12 minutes.

Return all 4 duck legs to the pan and pour in between 1 1/2 and 2 cups of stock (I used my homemade duck stock). The liquid should cover the veggies but not submerge the legs.

Slide the skillet into the oven, and cook at 400 for 30 minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue cooking until the duck legs reach at least 175 degrees, about 30 minutes longer.

Broil on low for an additional 3 minutes to get extra crispy skin.

I served up the duck legs alongside some roasted golden beets and a wild mushroom medley. To add simple bursts of flavor, try a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. If you have the time, a fruit-based sauce (like my cherry sauce) is excellent on top.

Have any suggestions for what I should cook next? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know! 


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Savory Steamers with Sweet Potato Chips (gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo)

May 1, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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I am very fortunate to have many food lovers in my life. One of those people is my awesome band director, whose specialty is…you guessed it, seafood.

Using his tips, I created a lick-your-bowl-clean dinner that was both satisfying and really easy to make. You don’t have to be a five-star chef to turn out this delicious meal!

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Before you start cooking, chop up 1 large onion, 2 stalks of celery, plus a handful of their leaves, 1 large carrot, and 4 cloves of garlic. Don’t leave out the celery leaves—they really help the dish shine.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of ghee or butter in a big pot over medium heat. Meanwhile, scrub off some Littleneck clams in the sink. I made 24 for 3 people, so figure about 8 per person. 

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Once the ghee or butter is hot and melted, add the onion and saute until soft, about 4 minutes. Then, add in the celery, celery leaves, carrot, and garlic and continue cooking until beginning to brown, about 6 to 7 minutes longer. Do not season with salt, or if you do, only add a little bit.

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Turn the heat down to medium-low and pour in 1 cup of stock (I used my homemade duck stock) and about 3/4 cup of white wine. Bring to a boil before adding the clams, covering the pot with a lid, and steaming until the clams have just opened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Don’t overcook them!

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Scoop up the clams and a bunch of the broth into a bowl, and dig in. It’s as easy as that!

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In French-style bistros, French fries are usually served with steamed shellfish. My sweet potato fries haven’t been turning out too well lately, so I decided to make sweet potato chips instead. They were fabulous, if I do say so myself.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease two large baking sheets with olive or coconut oil. Allow yourself plenty of time for baking to ensure maximum crispiness. 

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Peel and thinly slice two large sweet potatoes into 1/8-inch rounds. You can use a mandolin, but I personally prefer my trusty kitchen knife. 

Toss the rounds in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, place on the baking sheets, and sprinkle the tops with salt and pepper. If you want to add some extra flavorings, like chipotle chili pepper, garlic/onion powder, or dried herbs, feel free to do so!

Bake until beginning to discolor on one side, about 10 to 12 minutes, then flip over and bake until crispy, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes longer depending on oven rack position and evenness of temperature.

Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving so the chips have time to harden a bit.

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What’s your favorite bistro or pub dish? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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Pork in a Pot – Two Ways

April 19, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

When most people do an easy pork dish, they grab some chops or a  tenderloin, season it with a few spices, grill or roast it, and call it a day. Done—dinner on the table.

While there’s nothing wrong with either of those dishes, they’re pretty boring, right? What if I told you there was a way to turn out a delicious, juicy product just as simply? To make both of these recipes, all you need is some pork, a big pot, and a couple of other easy-to-find ingredients. Put away your grill pan and get started.

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For this first dish, a sweet braised pork, you’re going to need some pork hocks. (I got mine at my local butcher.) You could also try lamb shanks or chuck roast instead.

Heat the oven to 500 degrees and grease a large pot (I used my Le Creuset French Oven) with about 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil. Pick something that has a high smoke point, or else you’ll have fat splattered all over the place. Yuck.

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Season the pork hocks with a generous amount of salt and pepper. When the oven is up to temperature, place them in the pot and slide it into the oven without the lid on. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until lightly browned, then flip to the other side. Repeat the process and take the pot out of the oven.

Turn the temperature down to 325 degrees. While the oven cools down a bit, remove the pork hocks from the pot and set aside.

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Put your pot on the stove top, heat over medium, and add 1 tablespoon of ghee. (If your cut of meat was particularly fatty, skip this step.) When hot, add 1 large chopped onion and 3 small cloves of minced garlic. Sprinkle with salt and allow to cook until soft and beginning to brown, about 7 to 9 minutes.

Next, add 1/2 cup of white white and 1 teaspoon of dried thyme and allow to bubble away for about 2 minutes. If you don’t want to use wine, feel free to substitute 1/2 cup of broth or water.

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Now add 1/4 cup of chopped apricots and 1/4 cup chopped prunes. You can always use less fruit for a more neutral-tasting dish, but I don’t recommend omitting it altogether. Stir to incorporate it into the wine and veggie mixture, then proceed to return the pork hocks to the pot. 

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Cover with enough chicken stock and/or water to nearly submerge the meat, about 3 cups in total. Season well with salt and pepper and put the lid on the pot. Transfer the whole thing to the oven, and cook until the pork is tender and falling off the bone, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Every half an hour, give the pork a flip and gently stir the sauce.

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If you need to use your oven for something else during this time, simply simmer the pork on the stovetop over low heat. Easy as that!

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This next one-pot dish, Pork Carnitas, is a recipe from Melissa Joulwan’s Well Fed, one of my favorite Paleo cookbooks of all time. (It’s definitely worth the money, so go ahead and buy it!) Crispy, savory…and absolutely delicious.

First, mix your spices. Combine 1 tablespoon of cumin, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, 1/2 tablespoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of ground corriander, and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Whisk together with a fork. Pour the spices into the bag, and add 4 pounds of cut up pork shoulder. Remove most, but not all of the excess fat from the top of each piece.

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Seal the bag shut and, as vigorously as you can, shake to distribute the spices to all of the pieces of pork. This will take a couple of minutes, so keep shaking!

Now it’s time to cook your carnitas. In a large, wide pot, add a little bit of melted coconut oil on the bottom to insure the pork won’t stick. (I skipped this step and nearly ruined our really expensive Le Creuset—OUCH!) With the heat off, snuggly arrange the pork pieces on the bottom and add the juice of 2 oranges, 4 lemons, and 4 limes. You should have a little more than 1 1/4 cups of liquid in total.

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Add just enough water to cover the pork (for me, about 1 1/2 additional cups) and bring to a steady boil.

Decrease the heat to low and simmer away until the liquid evaporates, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours total. Once the water and citrus is mostly gone, add a little more coconut oil and brown your carnitas on all sides, about 5 minutes more.

Leave whole, or shred into large chunks and smother with sauce.

What is your favorite thing to do with pork? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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