Asparagus, Bacon and Broccoli Soup

Hearty and savory, we think you are going to love this stuff!

Brent aptly pointed out that it is very reminiscent of split-pea soup. But we agree, it’s so much better than that! It’s thick and rich… First, you taste that bold broccoli. Then, a hint of asparagus, quickly followed by a smokey, salty, bacon-y goodness. Last, but not least, a warmth from the red pepper flakes rounds out the flavors on your palate.

Warning: this recipe makes A LOT of soup. How much is A LOT? Four quarts. Or 16 cups. Or 3.78541 liters. Yea… it’s A LOT. We froze one quart immediately. I’m excited to have it on hand once the weather chills out a bit.
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Grill-Roasted Liver-Stuffed Peppers and Mushrooms

Last week, we made Paleo Comfort Food‘s Dirty Cauliflower “Rice”. (It was delicious! You should buy the book and make it.) Now, in making the recipe, we used all chicken livers instead of chicken giblets because we couldn’t find giblets at any store that weekend. The recipe only calls for 1/2 a pound, though, and we could only buy the livers in a 1 pound container. What were we going to do with the leftover livers? At first, we had no idea.

Then yesterday, with Brent’s parents visiting, we had some fun with our food (and finally found a use for those leftover livers). We grilled a whole chicken and veggies and peaches, too. But this particular recipe, which we whipped up as an appetizer, has me feeling very gourmet!

We started by making a chicken liver pâté. Then, we stuffed it into mini peppers and baby portobello mushrooms. Finally, we grill roasted them on a veggie grill plate. They were AMAZING! Check it out…


Grill-Roasted, Liver-Stuffed Peppers and Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of bacon (we use the sugar- and nitrate-free kind from USWellness Meats)
  • 1/2 chicken livers
  • 1/2 medium white onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • small peppers and baby Portobello mushrooms (Brent’s parents brought 7 little peppers and lots of baby portobello mushrooms, of which we used all the peppers and 3 of the mushrooms)
  • 1/4 tsp of thyme
  • 1/4 tsp of dill
  • 1/2 tsp of lemon zest
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • parsley for garnish
Method
1. Dice the bacon slices. 
2. Coarsely chop the chicken liver.
3. Finely chop the onion. (I actually used our little Ninja!)
4. Pan fry the bacon pieces in a deep skillet until soft (about 1 to 2 minutes).
5. Add the onion to the skillet.
6. Immediately press three of the four garlic cloves into the bacon and onion sauté. 
7. Sauté until the onion is soft (about 2 minutes).
8. Add the chicken liver pieces and sprinkle the sea salt and black pepper over everything in the skillet. 

9. Sauté the mixture for 4 to 5 minutes, until the livers are nearly cooked through.

10. Remove from heat and scoop into your food processor or blender. (Here, again, I used my nifty Ninja. I love this thing. But there’s an important note to make: my Ninja still had some pieces of onion from it’s fine work dicing. This, I anticipated, would allow a very small amount of slight sharpness to carry through into the pâté.)
11. Add the fourth clove of garlic to the mixture in the food processor or blender. (Again, looking for a little extra zing in the flavor here–the combination of sautéed garlic and raw garlic should create a good depth of flavor.)
12. Blend until thick and smooth.

13. Cool the mixture. (I scooped it into a bowl, placed it in the fridge for about 15 minutes.)

14. Meanwhile, chop the dill and thyme.

15. Also, clean and prepare the mushrooms and peppers for stuffing.

16. Fold in the thyme, dill and lemon zest.
17. Stuff the mushrooms and peppers with the pâté and place on a plate. (At this point, I actually put a couple pieces of parsley as garnish on top of the mushrooms, but you don’t have to do that.)
18. Drizzle the stuffed mushrooms and peppers with olive oil.
19. Grill on a veggie grill pan: the peppers needed about 2 to 2 and 1/2 minutes per side (5 minutes total) and the mushrooms took about 10 minutes.
20. Plate, garnish with a few sprigs of parsley, and serve!
Personally, I never enjoyed a single recipe with chicken livers as a kid. No offense to my parents, but the livers with onions they made were gross–leathery, muddy, chewy, chalky, that bloody iron taste. Oh, and did I mention that I didn’t care for onions much as a kid either? Yea.
However, as we all know, tastes change and time can play some pretty crazy tricks on you. I was hesitant to put only chicken livers (instead of chicken giblets, which do include livers, I know) in the Paleo Comfort Food’s Dirty Cauliflower “Rice”. What other option did I have? None. So, I toughed it out and to my surprise it was delicious. Sure, I could taste that iron flavor, but it was subtle and certainly the liver was not like leather in our dirty “rice”. I’ll say it again–it was delicious!
So, although I can’t remember a single time when I’ve been willing to try pâté, here I was making a pâté in my own kitchen today. I was nervous but eager. The anticipation was thrilling; the bacon, onion, garlic and liver sauté had me drooling from the start. But would I really enjoy the taste? Or was I just excited about the bacon? Only a taste test would tell… 
AND I LOVED IT! 
The pâté itself was so savory and rich, but then coupled with the sweet little peppers and earthy mushrooms… O.M.G. Sure, the taste of iron was kind of there; it was subtle, not off-putting. Meanwhile the smooth texture, the salty bacon, savory onion and garlic, and the little hint of smokey sweet from the peppers… it just popped! 
I must say, though, I especially loved the combination of the pâté with the baby portobello mushrooms. Sure there was more juxtaposition of flavor in the pepper-pâté combo; but there was something homey and warm and comforting about the savory pâté with the earthy mushrooms. It just makes me want to settle down into a big leather arm chair in front of a glowing fire and read a Jane Austen novel. 🙂
OK. Are you seriously still reading my ramblings? That’s awesome, but I’m sure you’re getting tired of them :p so I will stop here, haha. I hope you enjoy these tasty appetizers as much as we did. They take a little time and effort, but they are so worth it.

Enjoy!!!

Baby Bok Choy and Bamboo Shoots Sauté

The other night, as Brent prepared the grill and a storm was rolling in, I scoured the fridge looking for a good side dish. (We have a bad habit of leaving sides to the last minute. We always have veggies and fruits, it’s just that we don’t always make a plan on how well use them, haha.) anyways, I see our big container of baby bok choy and realize “oh no, those needs to be used.”

We also had about half a can of bamboo shoots (not in the can anymore of course, that’s gross–I had put them in plastic storage container and kept it in the fridge). I didn’t want overwhelm our buffalo steak, which Brent had simply seasoned with a light sprinkle of sea salt, with heavy Asian favors, so I didn’t pull out the coconut ions or ginger like I normally would for sautéing bok choy. Instead I grabbed a partial white onion, a couple of garlic cloves, and some coconut oil.

Here’s what I came up with, and at the end, I’ll note a couple of adjustments I wish I had done.

Baby Bok Choy-Bamboo Shoot Sauté

Ingredients

  • 4-5 cups baby bok choy, stem trimmed
  • 2 cups bamboo shoots
  • 1/3 white onion (approx. 1/4 cup), sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Method

1. Heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat.
2. Sauté the garlic and onion for about 1 minute.
3. Toss in the baby bok choy and sauté for about 3 minutes.
4. Add the bamboo shoots and continue sautéing for another 3 minutes or so. If you like your bok choy and bamboo shoots a more crunchy, sauté a little less. If you like them more soft, sauté a little longer.
5. Serve and enjoy!

As I finished the sautéing process, I realized I could have tossed in some red bell pepper for a little extra flavor and color. Also, after tasting it, I wish I had used bacon fat for a more savory element. Next time I make this, I will definitely make those adjustments.

Now, that’s not to say this wasn’t good. It was tasty! The baby bok choy and bamboo were light and a little crispy. Meanwhile, the garlic balanced well with the oh-so-slight sweetness from the coconut oil. It served as a pretty good compliment to our delicious buffalo steaks. But next time, I’m going to try making this side dish a little more savory.

What would you do differently? We would love to hear from you! 🙂

Cool Spinach-Mango Salad

Flash back to 4 p.m. yesterday. I run into the grocery store. Ok, Ok, I didn’t literally run. I walked, briskly, in my super cute, electric blue heels. ~click click click click click click~ People probably thought I was a little nutty. Why was I in such a rush? Well, Mom’s on the east coast for a few weeks (long story, and not worth telling) and I needed to get her to the church near my sister’s house by 4:30 for 5 o’clock mass so I could then pick up Brent from work by 5.

I was late… as usual…

So, my head is racing. What on earth can I serve tonight with those scrumptious smelling Indian Spiced Ribs we slow cooked? I wanted something seasonal and light, like a salad. Spinach? Kale? Romain? What would make any of those work with Indian-spiced anything?!?

And then I saw the mangos. OMG I love mangos. If they weren’t so expensive 90% of the time, I’d buy them ALL THE TIME. (Have I mentioned that I make a wicked pineapple-mango salsa? I should really make that and post it sometime soon. Sorry, I’m such a tease!) Mangos would be a great foil for the ribs. Those bad little babies were so aromatically rich, earthy and spicy–mangos would really lighten things up!

OK, MANGOS. 🙂

I grab two moderately soft ones. I’m scanning the walls for leafy greens. Why must this particular store have such a poor selection?! Spinach? That would work with mangos… Oh! and, and, red onion. I have that! Perfect. Ok… Spinach… where is it?!

Finally, I find a spinach-spring mix blend. That’ll do. I use the self check-out and scurry back to the car, in which my mom is patiently waiting. As I drive her to the church–which, by the way, is 30+ miles away, on the other side of the District and traffic is not easy… it’s never easy in the District, except at, like, 3 a.m. (please don’t ask why I know that)–I realize I can dress the salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. That’ll be simple and delicious.

Fast forward to 6 p.m. yesterday. Finally, Brent and I are home, and I set to work on the salad for dinner. In the end, I was really happy with it. Try to imagine it: first, there’s the subtle earthy-grassiness of the spinach and spring mix; then, the sweet, juicy mango; and finally, a refreshing crunch of oh-so-slightly-bitter red onion. And that’s just if you go without the dressing! Toss in the tangy balsamic-olive oil vinaigrette and BAM! Salad perfection.

Alright, alright, stop drooling. Here’s the recipe 😉

Cool Spinach-Mango Salad

Salad Ingredients

  • approx. 1/3 of one container of Nature’s Promise Organic Baby Spinach and Spring Mix
  • 1 large mango, sliced or chopped (mangos can be difficult to cut in a pretty way, so do it however works for you)
  • approx. 1/3 of a large red onion, sliced (and the slices halved)

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • a sprinkle of salt and pepper (to taste)
Method
  1. Toss all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl. 
  2. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Serve separately, or toss the dressing with the salad and serve.
It’s so easy, right?! 🙂 I love salads for that reason.

I’m pretty sure this one would be great with a piece of grilled chicken (next to or sliced on top) or served as a side a summer BBQ. As I already mentioned, we had it along with a meat-falling-off-the-bone, mouth-watering rack of Indian Spiced Ribs.

Enjoy!

Indian Spiced Ribs



Disclaimer: This is not going to be a complete recipe.

Why? Well, simply put, this delicious dish relies on one very important ingredient: the indian spice blend from Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo (Balanced Bites). I will say that this spice blend does include the usual suspects of indian cooking. However, I won’t provide any details beyond that. Sorry, everyone, but if you want this or any of Diane’s other amazing spice blends, you have to just go buy her book.
If that doesn’t convince you, maybe Brent’s eloquent review will. Or, just google it–there are a lot of really well-written reviews. HER BOOK IS WORTH EVERY PENNY. You should buy it, use it, share it, use it some more, and share it again.
Alright, so here’s the recipe (with the appropriate material omitted):

Indian Spiced Ribs

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons of Diane’s indian spice blend from Practical Paleo
  • 1 large rack of pork ribs, about 15 or 16 ribs (We got our ribs from Costco this time, so we had three huge racks in one package. One went towards making this, the other two went towards making the BBQ ribs that we’ll post about soon.)
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
Method
  1. Coat the bottom of your crock pot with the coconut oil.
  2. Rub down the ribs with the spice blend. Go on, get your hands dirty. 😉
  3. Place the ribs in crock pot.
  4. If your crock pot cover doesn’t make a perfect seal (most don’t, from what we’ve seen), seal the crock pot with tin foil and then place the lid on it. This will trap nearly all of the moisture from the ribs inside the crock pot while they cook, which will prevent them from drying out and also makes them fall-off-the-bone tender and moist. YUM!
  5. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
We let this cook overnight and woke the next morning to some pretty amazing smells in our kitchen. For dinner last night, we served this with our Cool Spinach-Mango Salad. It was a great pairing.
Enjoy!
P.S. I apologize for the lack of photos. We were so busy preparing the ribs two ways (this way and with homemade BBQ sauce) that we kind of missed the boat on taking pictures of this as we prepared it. 
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