Adventures In The Kitchen

Happy Halloween everyone! What’s everyone dressing up as this year? Unfortunately, I’m working late tonight so will not be dressing up or handing out candies to the kiddos. Ah, well. I guess that’s less candy for me to eat! Also, I just want to thank everyone for the well wishes during the storm a couple of days ago! Thankfully, Boston didn’t get hit nearly as badly as they were predicting, so the worst we got here was no power for several hours. My thoughts go out to those who got it much worse than us though; New Jersey and New York both had a very rough Monday, and I hope everyone’s on a path to recovery after Sandy!

Anyhoo.. On to today’s post, which has nothing to do with Halloween. Or storms.

I’m not much of a cook.

I can bake one hell of a pie, and endless batches of cookies and brownies that always leave people asking for more.

But put me in the kitchen and ask me to make dinner? Not so much.

Every once in a while though, I create something that comes together wonderfully (although it’s usually by accident). It just so happens that this happened twice a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I must share!

The first was an accidental dinner that really only came about because I came home from work late, with few groceries to choose from and little patience for cooking anything fancy. I was tired and starving, and I wanted food, fast.  This is what lead to the preliminary portion of the accidental dinner: seasoned ground beef, roasted sweet potato pieces, and roasted broccoli. The first night, I threw these three components in a bowl together, and it was a surprisingly good flavor combination.

The next night, however, is when it got even better. Again, I got home tired, lazy, and starving, but wanted to do something a little bit different instead of eating exactly the same thing again. So I took out my beef/sweet potato/broccoli combo leftover from the previous night,  threw it between two small whole wheat tortillas, sprinkled some asiago/romano cheese in the mix, and baked it into an absolutely delicious (yet kind of strange) quesadilla.

Mexican food it was not, but the flavor was excellent! If you ever have these three main ingredients on hand, I highly recommend whipping this up. Especially when topped with a dollop of plain greek yogurt, the “quesadilla” was a delicious and filling dinner, that took me about 10 minutes to make! (about 40 minutes, if you count the initial veggie roasting, beef browning time).

My next accidental kitchen adventure came from wanting to use up some cashew butter that I had bought at the Boston Local Food Festival. I loved the cashew butter, but realized that I didn’t really enjoy it as a spread, so I couldn’t figure out how I wanted to eat it.  This is how Cashew Coconut Date bars were born.

Ingredients:

3/4 C Cashew Butter

1/2 C Chopped Dates

2 Tbs shredded unsweetened coconut (+ 1 Tbs reserved)

2 tsp honey

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Few drops of water

Pinch of salt (1/8-1/4 tsp, to taste)

2 Tbs Raw Almond Slivers

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients except 1 Tbs of coconut and almond slivers in medium sized bowl. Mix well, including a few drops of water to aid in mixing. You  might need to mix by hand in order to make sure that all ingredients are incorporated evenly; I didn’t use a food processor because I wanted to keep the consistency of the chopped dates. Form into a square, about 1/2 in thick; sprinkle remaining coconut and almond slivers on top. Refrigerate to set, and cut into 4-5 “Lara Bar” sized bars.

I’m telling you, these are so good. They tasted suspiciously like Butternut Donuts from Dunkin Donuts, although not as sweet. I’m not sure how that’s possible from something with a cashew-butter base, but hey, I’m not complaining!

Do you ever make things accidentally in the kitchen? Are you more of a cook or a baker (or both)? What’s the best thing you’ve ever made my accident?

Guest Post: A Day In The Life of a Paleo-er

Hello everyone and Happy Friday! I’m enjoying the 107 degree St. Louis heat and learning a ton here at the NATA conference. I’m also having a great time catching up with old friends and colleagues some of whom I only get to see every year at this conference! So while I’m away filling my brain with knowledge bombs I have another guest post lined up for today! 

I’m very excited to introduce Christina, a very good friend of mine who is a fellow athletic trainer and nutrition junkie. Christina and I actually went to undergrad together and then we completed the exact same grad program, so we basically share a brain at this point! There is one big difference though, and one major reason why I’m so excited to have her post on my blog: Christina follows a paleo lifestyle. Since I don’t, and I have my own reservations about it, I can’t really give you a good paleo post, can I? So who better to write one than someone who lives it herself.  Christina also just started her own blog, (which she describes as a work in progress), over at Wicked Paleo. I encourage you to check it out  because this girl has some great ideas and I know her blog is going to grow into something amazing. 

Cooking for paleo can be so easy.  (So easy a caveman could do it? – ugh bad joke but I know you were all thinking the same thing.) No six small “meals” a day.  Just three squares and you’re set. Hell, some people even manage two.  For those of you that question the ability in you to at least TRY a paleo diet, I ask you to consider these meals.  Ask yourself if you’ve ever had one or more of these at all in your lifetime and if, perhaps, you could string them together into one day, and another, and another, until voila! You are eating a paleo diet.

Breakfast:  2 or 3 eggs scrambled with ham or bacon, and some chopped bell peppers, broccoli and onion.  Coffee or tea.  A piece of fruit.

Lunch: Salad. Greens with any type of vegetable you have in your fridge.  Throw on some grilled chicken, tuna fish, or steak to add some fill factor.  Toss in a homemade vinaigrette or some olive oil and lemon juice.

Dinner: Marinated pork tenderloin (this is my favorite).  Roasted sweet potato fries, asparagus.  Glass of wine.

If you must snack prep some cut up veggies like carrot sticks at some point during the week.  Grab a handful of nuts or fruit. Make some Lara bars.  Here is a good recipe. They taste just like PB&J (PB is NOT paleo btw).

Ingredients:

½ C Walnuts

1/2 C Cashews

1C Mariani’s Berries N’ Cherries

About 7-10 pitted dates

Instructions

In a food processor or blender, blend the nuts so they are fine, but still a little chunky.  Put these in a bowl.  Then blend the fruit and dates until they form paste.  They will actually eventually form a ball of dried fruit.  Place the giant ball into the bowl with the nuts.  Using your hands or a rubber spoon fold the nuts and berries in together.  If you use your hand wet them with water or a little oil to keep the bars from sticking to you.

Once combined to your satisfaction you have a couple options.  A. Form them into golf ball sized balls.  B.  Form them into bars.  Or C.  Roll them out on a cookie sheet and cut into squares.  If you do this final option, grease the cookie sheet and cover the berries with parchment paper prior to rolling.  Roll to desired thickness.

Note from Steph: Christina sent me this link as the recipe she usually follows for her “Lara” bars, but she also adds that she usually just throws in whatever she has in her pantry.  Now that’s my kind of cooking! 

There are so many reasons to try a grain-, dairy-, and legume-free diet.  If you don’t understand this diet, a simple google search will get you started in the right direction.  Additionally, some good names to look up include Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf.  This diet is gaining in popularity not merely because it helps people lose weight and feel great.  It helps everyone who tries it achieve a level of health they didn’t think was possible.  If you are struggling with anything right now (and I mean ANYTHING – from arthritis to depression to weight issues, etc) do yourself a favor and give this stuff a shot!  I did and I don’t think I’ll ever look back.

I don’t know about you all, but I’m definitely going to try out these homemade Lara bars! Don’t forget to check out Christina’s blog over at Wicked Paleo, and leave some comments here for her!  Do any of you follow the paleo diet? What do you think the hardest part would be about switching to paleo? (For me it would be the PB. Obvs.)