Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Paleo Shepherd's Pie - Yes, I'm doing Whole 30 again

Happy June. It's hard to believe that it's already June. We've had so much rain and so many stormy days this spring, I thought we'd never have sunshine and heat. Not that I'm looking forward to 100+ degree weather, but cold and rainy is strange for May in Texas.

So, I have gotten a bit off track with my eating recently. Yeah, right. I totally have derailed. My hip is better, thank goodness, so I'm not in pain all of the time anymore. The Airrosti doctor did a fantastic job on my hip and hamstrings. Not a painless treatment method, by any stretch of the imagination, and I was left with some interesting bruises after my sessions, but I'm not in chronic pain anymore. Yay!  The pain did a number on me mentally. I couldn't work out, I couldn't run, even sitting became painful after a while. Did I watch what I ate? No. Unless you counted watching it disappear in to my mouth. I have no excuses for what was available to eat. I do the grocery shopping and the cooking, after all. If there are Doritos in the house, I let them in. When The Sisterhood mentioned that they were starting a Whole 30 on June 1st, I took it as a sign to get back on track. This thought was reinforced by seeing how round I look in pictures. (We got our picture taken with two of the guys from Firefly at a recent fan con.) That's life. Time to move on.

Back to the Whole 30. When I tried this a couple of years ago, I went a bit crazy on the coconut oil wagon. Bad mistake. It does not agree with me in the slightest. I had so many strange reactions that I quit halfway through the 30. I am committed to following this at least through Fitbloggin. Hopefully I'll be back on track enough by then that I don't get too crazy.

Part of following this plan is thinking about what I'm eating. I can't rely on having some cheese when I get hungry or having a sandwich for lunch. I can't even rely on sauces or salad dressings to spruce things up because so many commercial foods have sugars and starches in them. That leaves me with a bunch of whole food ingredients, standing in my kitchen, trying to figure out what to make to eat that will make me happy. Today, it's shepherd's pie.  I was going to call this post "everything but the kitchen sink..." shepherd's pie, but then I thought, no, if the kitchen sink is paleo, it's going in there, too. It was more of a clean out the fridge shepherd's pie. I had half of a large box of mushrooms that needed to be used, a head of cauliflower, a partial bag of green beans, part of an onion... you get the picture. I think the only vegetables I didn't use were the beets, zucchini and the clam shell box of "power greens."

Paleo Shepherd's Pie (serves 6 generously)

1 T olive oil
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 celery ribs, sliced
¼ cup diced onion
1 cup fresh green beans, chopped
1 20 oz package lean ground turkey
1 T garlic powder
1 t ground thyme
3 T tomato paste
1/2 c chicken stock
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 T no-salt seasoning mix
1 T parsley
1 t marjoram
salt/pepper to taste

1 T kudzu (you can use cornstarch if you aren't making this paleo)
1/4 c chicken stock

1 head of cauliflower, chopped and steamed
1 sweet potato, chopped and steamed
1 T ghee
salt/pepper to taste
drizzle of olive oil
parsley flakes

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a medium sized skillet over medium high heat. When pan is hot, drizzle in the olive oil. Saute the mushrooms until soft. Add in the ground turkey, using a spoon to break it in to small pieces. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until meat is no longer translucent. Add in the carrots, celery, onion, green beans, tomato paste, spices and chicken stock, stirring well to combine. 

In a small bowl, combine the kudzu and chicken stock, stirring until there are no lumps. Add this to the mixture in the skillet and stir. 

Let mixture simmer for 15 minutes to let the vegetables soften. While this is happening, chop your cauliflower in to florets and peel and dice the sweet potato. I use Ziploc steamer bags to cook my veggies in the microwave. Follow cooking times on the bags. When these are cooked, place the cauliflower and sweet potato in bowl, add the ghee and salt and pepper. Mash with fork or use a stick blender until fairly smooth.

Spoon turkey mixture in to an 8x8 baking dish, making sure the vegetables are evenly distributed and that the ground turkey doesn't have any large chunks.

Spread the mashed cauliflower/sweet potato mixture on top, smoothing the surface with the back of a spoon. Top with parsley, black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. 

When it's piping hot and lightly browned on top, it's done! This really hit the spot today. I wanted something creamy, but I couldn't rely on dairy. It's meaty, but not too meaty, and it's full of really tasty vegetables.  This is so good, I'm kind of glad The Aussie isn't a turkey or veggie eater! More for me!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Butter Chicken - The Easy Way

It would probably come as no surprise to you, if you've scrolled through my recipes over the last few years, that I like spicy food. The Aussie's mum was born and raised in India, so he was raised eating curry dishes. Usually, I make my version of his mum's recipe when I make chicken curry, but last night I wanted to try something different. I wanted to make Butter Chicken. I didn't want to run out and get ingredients I didn't have in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry, I heavily adapted the recipe from Pressure Cooking Today. Maybe I'm a bad Texan, but I rarely have jalapeno peppers on hand. Oh well. This was a winner in our book.

Pressure Cooker Indian Butter Chicken  (serves 4)

5 boneless skinless chicken thighs (one Costco pack)
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 t ground chipotle pepper
2 cloves garlic
1/2 inch knob of ginger
2 T mild curry powder
1 T hot curry powder
1 t salt
1 t garam masala
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 sour cream (I use this in place of Greek yogurt when cooking because The Aussie hates yogurt)

1 - trim the excess fat off of the chicken thighs, and cut them in to large bite pieces
2 - Put the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, chipotle, curry powders, salt and garam masala in a blender, and blend until fairly smooth. You don't want chunks of tomato in the sauce.
3 - Set your pressure cooker on brown. Add half of the butter. When it's melted, add the chicken pieces and brown them. This will take about 5 minutes per batch, and you may need to do a couple of batches of chicken. Note: The original recipe calls for all of the butter to be added, but the chicken wasn't browning, so I took everything out and added the chicken back in to brown. The remaining butter was added back in with the tomato sauce.
4 - When the chicken has browned, add the rest of the butter, and cook until it's melted.
5 - Add in the tomato puree and stir, making sure all of the chicken is coated.
6 - Cover the cooker and lock the lid. Select high pressure for 5 minutes. When the timer beeps that the 5 minutes is done, let the pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes, then do a quick release to drop it the rest of the way.
7 - Stir in the cream and sour cream (or yogurt if you're using it).  Taste the sauce, and add more salt if necessary.

Serve with hot rice and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Perfect Recipe For April

Since eating paleo is really big these days, I have been working on more meat recipes this spring. We usually do lamb on Easter, but I've decided to branch out this year. I'm not sure that this will fit in my pressure cooker. I may have to get out my Dutch oven. Or a really, really big rotisserie.  In the meantime, I am putting together a marinade with red wine, garlic, rosemary, thyme, pepper, and perhaps a bit of sage.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Spin On Persian Noodle Soup

A while back, my friend Tracey posted a picture on FB of a soup that her mother-in-law made. Ever the curious one, I asked what it was. Ash Reshteh. Off to the interwebs I went, looking for recipes for this intriguing soup. Based on what I found, every Persian family must have its own version of the soup, because there were as many differences as there were similarities. I will admit, up front, that this recipe is a very loose adaptation of the classic Persian soup, Ash Reshteh. I don't have kashk, I don't have Persian noodles, and I don't like chickpeas. There. I admitted it. I don't like chickpeas. I like hummus, but not big, chunky, grainy peas. The first time I made this, I used chickpeas and red kidney beans. This time I used red kidney beans and lentils. Yup, I left out the chickpeas. This can be made on the stove top, just increase your cooking time so that the beans are tender. My experiment this time was to see if it could be made in the pressure cooker, which it could. I am sure that the noodles don't get as soft when you cook on the stove top, but they get softer when you store the leftovers in the fridge anyway.  So, here goes!

Persian Noodle Soup

2 T vegetable oil
2 onions, thinly sliced vertically (retain a few for garnish, or cook up more separately)
2 t turmeric
1 small pinch of saffron
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups water (can  use a combination of water and stock)
1/4 to 1/2 lb red kidney beans (I soaked overnight, and used 1/2 and it was really, really thick)
1 cup lentils
1 small bag of Fideo noodles (Totally non-traditional, I know. A common substitution for authentic Persian noodles I found was linguine, broken in three. Feel free to use this instead.)
1 bag or clam shell box of baby spinach
chopped leaves from 1 bunch of cilantro
chopped leaves from 1 large or 2 small bunches of flat parsley
1 bunch of scallions, green part only, cut in to 2 inch pieces
1 cup of sour cream (a substitute for kashk, a fermented yogurt ingredient)
salt/pepper to taste

Set your pressure cooker on brown. Add the oil and let it heat up for a minute. Add the thinly sliced onions and stir to coat with oil. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they start to turn golden brown. Next, add the garlic, and cook for another minute or two. Add the turmeric and the pinch of saffron. Add the kidney beans, the water/stock, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover, lock lid in place, and set for 15 minutes, high pressure. (This step would take about 30-45 minutes on the stove, until beans were tender).  When timer goes off, quick release the pressure. Add in the lentils and noodles. Re-cover and set for 7 minutes high pressure. (This step would take about 15 minutes on the stove) When done, quick release pressure. Before adding the vegetables, give it a good stir to make sure nothing is sticking. Now is a good time to check your seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the baby spinach and the herbs. Close the lid, set for low pressure for 5 minutes.

To serve, I spooned in to bowls and added dollops of sour cream on top, and garnished with crispy onion.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pressure Cooker Beef with Red Wine

I love finding a bargain when I go grocery shopping. Usually, it means I will have to either use something right away or freeze it. The other day I found a reduced for quick sale package of cubed grass fed beef at Kroger. Hmm. Sell by date of this week means it's time to get cooking! The Aussie is not a "stew" type of person, so I had free reign as to what to make for my lunch. This really isn't a daube of beef because I didn't include the usual vegetables, so I will call this beef with red wine. (I completely forgot about the carrots and onion...) It's loosely based on the recipe by Lorna Sass from her book Cooking Under Pressure.

Beef with Red Wine

2 lbs beef chuck, cut in to bite sized pieces
1 cup red wine
2 cloves of garlic, minced, or a good tablespoon sized squeeze of garlic paste
2 T tomato paste
2 anchovy filets, mashed (optional)
1 t dried thyme
2 bay leaves


1/4 cup pitted black olives, sliced. (I found kalamata olives in little single serving cups. Pricier than jarred, but no waste, no taking up fridge space.)
Cornstarch for thickening the sauce
Noodles to serve (I cooked these in the cooker, too!)

Marinate these ingredients for at least a couple of hours. Mine sat in the fridge for a day, so leaving it for longer won't hurt it. When you're ready to cook, add the marinated beef to the cooker. Add the olives. Cook at high pressure for 15 minutes.  When done, do natural release for 5 minutes, then quick release.  Transfer meat to a dish and cover to keep warm. Put sauce in a cup and keep aside. You'll thicken it separately.

Next, take your dried noodles and put them in to the pressure cooker. Add enough water to just cover the noodles. Put the lid back on and lock in place. Set the cooker to low pressure for 7 minutes. When cooker beeps that it's done, do a quick release. Drain your noodles.

Lastly, add the sauce back to the pot and set on brown. While the sauce is heating, mix the cornstarch with a few tablespoons of water to make a slurry. When the sauce is bubbling, stir in the slurry. Cook for a couple of minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Add the meat back in and stir to coat with the sauce.

Serve the beef with red wine over your noodles and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

One Pot Peanut Butter Noodles

I am fascinated by the concept of one pot cooking, whether it's stove top, slow cooker, pressure cooker. Doesn't matter. Being able to throw a bunch of ingredients together and have it come out tasting great is a magical thing. A friend posted a link on FB the other evening for Thai style one-pot noodles. One pot = win, Thai style noodles = huge win. As it turns out, there are a lot of variations out there, so what I'm posting is nothing new and earth shaking. It is, however, very tasty. Because I wanted to experiment, I did use the pressure cooker. If I'd made this on the stove, I would have added the vegetables later so they still had crunch to them.

(I can't wait for the food photography session at Fitbloggin)
One Pot Asian Peanut Butter Noodles 

1 package of spaghetti or linguine (break in half if needed to fit them in the pot)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic or one big squeeze of garlic paste (I love garlic in a tube)
1 large knob of ginger, peeled (don't cut up because you'll fish it out before serving)
2 large carrots, peeled and cut in to 2 inch sections and cut in to thick strips
1 large red bell pepper cut in to strips
2 scallions cut in to 2 inch pieces
1/2 cup of dry roasted peanuts
2 T peanut butter (I used chunky because that's what we have on hand)
1 T brown sugar
1 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce (can be omitted for vegan version)
1 T tamarind paste
1 t red pepper flakes


chopped peanuts
squeeze of lime juice (I used a few dashes of my trusty TrueLime shaker)

Conventional: In a large pot over medium high heat, lay your dry noodles on the bottom, covering them with the vegetables and other ingredients. Add the vegetable broth, making sure that the noodles are covered. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for 8-9 minutes, until the noodles are tender. Stir frequently to made sure the noodles are not sticking together. The sauce will thicken upon standing.  Spoon in to bowls, garnish with chopped peanuts, cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

Pressure cooker: Layer all of the ingredients as above, making sure the noodles are covered by the vegetable broth. Lock lid in place and set for low pressure for 7 minutes.  When timer goes off, quick release the pressure.

Note: The vegetables are not crispy when cooked in the pressure cooker. The whole dish is very soft, so that wasn't a bad thing. If you want crisp vegetables, make your strips very thin and put them in to briefly cook after the pressure is released. They will warm up while the sauce thickes.

Update: I added a splash of rice vinegar to the cold noodles this morning. Awesome! This would be a great addition for the hot noodles, too, but add before serving, not before cooking.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rich and Hearty French Onion Soup

I recently visited my "happy place" aka Costco and a HUGE bag of onions followed me home. It must have weighed as much as the bags of dog food. Not only was the bag huge, but the onions themselves were gigantic. What better thing to make with monster onions than a monster batch of French onion soup. While the pressure cooker (yeah, there I go again, going on about how wonderful my pressure cooker is) makes it quicker than cooking on the stove, it's just as flavorful as slow cooked French onion soup that you have to keep an eye on. 

French Onion Soup

1 T Butter
1 T olive Oil
2-3 large Yellow Onions, thinly sliced (4-5 cups) a mandolin makes this easier
1 big pinch sugar (helps the onions caramelize)
1/2 t salt
¼  cup of dry red wine
6 cups Stock (beef and/or chicken)
Salt/pepper to taste

2 T butter
1 T Flour

To Garnish: 
French bread slices – about 1” thick, toasted for each bowl
thinly sliced swiss, gruyere or provolone cheese for each bowl. I used Sargento thin sliced provolone.


In the pre-heated pressure cooker, on medium-low heat, add the butter and oil. Soften the onions, stirring occasionally in the pressure until the onions become translucent (about 15 minutes). Then, turn down the heat to low, without a lid, add the salt and sugar and stir frequently until the onions have turned a uniform brown (about 10 to 15 minutes).

When the onions are a deep brown and are soft, deglaze the pan with the red wine and let it cook down until the wine evaporates. This burns off the alcohol so that you taste the wine, not the alcohol. 

Next, add the stock. Isn't this a thing of beauty. If you aren't a chicken, that is. I have gotten in to the habit of making stock every week and store it in jars in my refrigerator.

Close and lock the pressure cooker, set to high pressure for 10 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, in a small sauce pan, melt 2T of butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, stir in the flour so that there are no lumps. Stir frequently until it turns a light golden brown color. Be careful it does not burn. Take the roux off of the heat and set aside until the pressure cooker has finished.

When time is up, turn off the heat and use the quick release method to release the pressure in the cooker. When the pressure valve has dropped, open the cooker and remove the lid. To thicken the soup, take a cup of the stock from the pot and stir it into the roux until it is smooth, then pour this mixture back in to the cooker and stir. Ladle the soup in to individual serving bowls, top with your thick toasted bread slices. Cover each bowl with a slice of cheese and broil in the oven for 2 minutes or until the cheese has golden brown.

Words can't describe how delicious this was.