Chicken Breast and Squash in Butter Sauce

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Full disclosure, this is not health food.

Ok. Maybe it is. After all, it is fresh vegetables and lean protein. But it’s also cooked in a lot of butter. Like, more than a little. A lot. And even if I’m now eating a diet high in fats, and even if I’m losing weight doing so, I just can’t think of a dish with that much butter in it as somehow “good for me.” And maybe that’s just a matter of perception. But it was also maybe one of the best meals I’ve ever made. So take that for what it’s worth.

I started with two boneless skinless chicken breasts, two zucchini, and a yellow squash. I used roll butter and minced garlic, and salt, pepper, cayenne, and cinnamon. That’s right. Cinnamon. #getonmylevel

I started by slicing the squash and zucchini. Think like maybe half dollar thickness, maybe a little thicker. I tossed that in a bowl for a second while I melted two tablespoons of butter in a pot with some minced garlic on medium heat. You want the garlic to sweat and release a lot of flavor, not burn. When that was all melted I tossed in the sliced zucchini and squash with some salt and another tablespoon of butter and threw on a lid.

I pounded the chicken breasts a little with a meat tenderizer just to flatten them out some, then I seasoned them with salt, pepper, cayenne, and cinnamon, and added them to another pan on medium heat. I let that cook for about four minutes, then I flipped it and gave it four more. All the while occasionally stirring the veg and then covering it back up.

After the chicken had done four on each side I flipped it again and started flipping it at one minute intervals. Twice on each side, while stirring the veg, then I plated the veg and the chicken and added one more tablespoon of butter to the pan I cooked the chicken in, stirred it up as it melted, and poured that over the whole dish.

In the end I had an amazing plate of the most delicious sautéed squash and zucchini with two fantastically tender chicken breasts covered in melted butter. It was pretty awesome. And we ate it all.

I don’t think I’m gonna lose any weight eating this meal, but man it tasted good. And seriously, if four tablespoons of butter are the worst thing I eat all week, I think I’ll be ok. And it was just so crazy good. For reals. The flavors were perfect together, I couldn’t get enough of the squash and zucchini, and there were no leftovers for tomorrow.

I don’t put this much butter in every meal. In fact I try to avoid butter, despite it’s possible nutritional value, just because I try to avoid dairy altogether. I would have felt better doing it with olive oil than butter, but man, butter tastes damn good.

And you just can’t argue with that.

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Chicken Dijonnaise

Today was a beautiful fall day and it put me in the mood for fall food. Here is what I had on hand.

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2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 lb of chicken thighs
Broccoli and cauliflower (a couple cups)
2 tsp minced garlic
Juice from one lemon
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup white wine
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

I made Chicken Dijonnaise with broccoli and cauliflower. I cooked the chicken thighs like usual in a bit of coconut oil. 5 min per side then in the oven (350) for another 10 (or more realistic until I’m done cooking everything else)

20130926-201012.jpgOnce I got the chicken in the pan, I started on the Dijonnaise. (Sounds fancy right?) I melted butter into a sauce pan, added the coconut milk, wine, Dijon, a little garlic and let it simmer and thicken.

20130926-201248.jpgAfter the chicken cooked a few minutes on each side I moved it to the oven and added the veg to the same pan. I put a lid on them and let them cook for about 5 minutes. Then I moved the veg to a platter, added the Dijon sauce to the chicken pan to incorporate the last of the drippings . Pull the chicken out of the oven, place on top of the veg, then top with the sauce and enjoy! All in about 30 minutes, perfect week night comfort food.

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Honey Glazed Pan Fried Pork Chops with Sweet Potato Hash

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Tonight I made Pork Chops and Sweet Potatoes.

The prep work was pretty easy. I cubed up two peeled sweet potatoes and a small red onion, and I made a glaze from gluten free soy sauce, a small amount of spiced rum, raw honey, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.

I started the potatoes first because they’d take longer to cook to where I wanted them. I put some olive oil in a skillet with some minced garlic and let that sweat for a minute. Then I added the potatoes and onion with a little more oil and salt, pepper, and cayenne. I let that cook on medium heat and flipped it every couple of minutes.

While that was cooking I had another pan getting hot on a medium high burner. I sliced the fat off the edges of the chops and threw that in the hot skillet to render down and grease the pan, then I pulled that out and fed it to the dog. Then I put the two chops in the pan for a little over three minutes. Flipped them and gave them three minutes more. At this point the potatoes were pretty much done so I pulled and plated them. Then I turned the heat on the chops down a little to medium, added the glaze to the top of the chops, and flipped them again. I glazed the other side, gave them a minute, and flipped them again. I repeated this until I’d done two minutes glazed on both sides. I pulled them off the pan and let them sit for five minutes on a cutting board before slicing them. I served them on top of the potatoes and spooned out the last of the glaze from the bottom of the pan over the top.

This meal was fantastic. Crazy amounts of flavor. So good. The meat was cooked just a little more than I would have preferred, but it was still great. Next time I’d probably give the chops a little less time before I started glazing them. It made a huge amount of food, which we devoured, and was very very filling. This is also an easy meal to serve family style if you slice the meat like I did. Total cooking time, with prep, was less than forty five minutes. And the list of ingredients was pretty slim. Generally, I try to avoid soy products, but I figured a few tablespoons of gluten free soy sauce every once in a while probably won’t kill me. There are lots of other things you could make a glaze from, that’s just what I happened to have on hand.

Hope you give it a try!

Grilled Chicken Breast with Butter Steamed Vegetables

20130921-183746.jpgI have just really been wanting to eat a lot of fresh garden vegetables lately. In fact, just recently I was at a wedding and they had a veggie tray on the buffet and I actually said, out loud, “Sweet! They have broccoli!”

Who’s that guy?

Anyway, when I was grocery shopping this week I made a list of dishes I wanted to cook and I just really wanted some fresh steamed vegetables, so I decided to have them with some chicken breast.

I wanted to make this on the stovetop, so I started with a large skillet on medium heat and melted about two tablespoons of butter in it with a pinch of minced garlic and some salt and pepper. I put the two chicken breasts in and let them brown lightly for a few minutes, then I flipped them over and let them brown a little on the other side.

At that point I turned the heat down to medium low and added another tablespoon of butter and about a cup and a half each of cauliflower, broccoli, and baby carrots and then put a lid on the pan. I let the chicken slowly cook through for about four minutes, then flipped the breasts one more time and stirred around the veg a little and let it cook through the other side for a few more minutes.

I took the chicken and veg out of the skillet and put it on the plate, then I poured about a quarter cup of sweet red wine in the pan to deglaze the bottom and let it cook down to a syrup to make a sauce which I spooned over the chicken.

And it was amazing. The veg was perfectly cooked, the chicken was juicy and tender, and the sauce was delicious. It all tasted great and we devoured it instantly. There was a lot of butter in this dish, but we used the fresh roll butter we get from our butcher so I didn’t feel too bad about it. I was gonna make this dish with olive oil, but I thought the butter would add a better flavor to the vegetables. Do what you like.

This dish was super easy, only took about twenty minutes from fridge to dinner table, and I was able to make a great, healthy meal to sustain my family and help them thrive. There’s a lot of empowerment in that. In knowing you’re feeding your family good food that makes them strong, and not garbage “food” that’s slowly poisoning them to death. It makes me feel like a good provider.

And that’s just another of the unexpected benefits of Paleo.

Beef and Vegetable Soup

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So we used to make a meal that we called “Olive Garden Soup.” This was a recipe my wife brought to our marriage and it was always one of my favorites. It was basically a couple of cans of minestrone, a couple of cans of beans, a couple of cans of tomatoes, and a pound of seasoned ground beef. Since we started Paleo we haven’t made it because we don’t eat beans and pasta anymore, but I wanted to do something different than the meals we’ve been having lately so I decided to try giving it a Paleo twist.

Remember the soup formula, broth, veg, protein. I started with beef and chicken broth. Then I added my veg.

red onion
green bell pepper
red bell pepper
zucchini
squash
mushrooms
carrots
celery
one can of tomatoes with garlic and onions

Everything gets a rustic chop. Then I browned the beef in a skillet and just before it was done I added salt, pepper, cayenne, oregano, rosemary, basil, and thyme. When that was fully cooked I added it to the pot with the broth and veg.

I let this cook all day in the crockpot and came home to a house full of delicious aromas and a crockpot full of fantastic food. It tasted and smelled exactly like I remembered and I’ve been eating bowl after bowl ever since.

I like playing this game of “how can I make that dish Paleo.” It makes you think creatively and really examine mouth feel and flavor profile and try to come up with exciting new ways to enjoy your old favorites. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. I’m not gonna come up with too many Paleo alternatives to a DQ Reece’s Pieces Blizzard Treat. But sometimes you get to reacquaint yourself with an old standby and have the satisfaction of knowing you’re now eating in a healthy responsible way.

Give this dish a try and tell us what you think!

The Fire Broth

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Tonight for dinner I decided to make one of my all time favorites. Fire Broth. This is a dish my wife has been making me for years, since long before we became Paleo. She picked up the original recipe from The Art of Doing Stuff. It’s a really great article you should check it out.

You can make this in a crockpot if you have a really big crockpot. But this is a pretty massive recipe so I usually make it in a pot on the stove. Of course, you could also just make less soup.

The recipe I made tonight isn’t exactly like the one in that article. I used,

1 pound grass fed organic ground beef
1 pound italian pork sausage
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
2 anaheim peppers
1 jalapeno pepper
1 red onion
1 sweet potato
1 cup baby portobello mushrooms
3 tablespoons of pickled banana pepper rings
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 can of rotel
1 can of diced tomatoes and sweet onions
1 can of beef broth
1/2 of a box of chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt
pepper
crushed red pepper
cayenne
chili powder
oregano

Like so many of these recipes, you can pretty much use whatever’s in your fridge. I put a rustic chop on all the veg and dumped it in the pot with the broth. Then I sliced up the sausage and browned it with the beef. I tossed that in the seasoning for a few minutes and then added it all to the rest of the soup. Boom. Fire Broth.

This recipe is fantastic. It’s spicier, so be forewarned. I mean, it is called Fire Broth after all. But it tastes fantastic. And it makes tons and tons of food, so unless you’re feeding an army you’ll have several meals from this one dish. Several delicious meals.

Give it a try. This is another dish that’s super decadent and fatty and oily but is filled with nutrient dense foods and is actually fantastic for you. I’ve lost weight over-eating this dish. Which is easy to do. The over-eating I mean. It really does taste great.

Yes. There’s some prep involved. You could use frozen veg to cut down on some of it, but it’s gonna require a little grocery shopping and cooking time from you. It’s worth it. Do it. The results will blow your mind.

Honey Orange Chicken

Tonight Rob had to work late and I made honey orange glazed chicken thighs over roasted potatoes and onions.. Slightly charred. (Charred is a fancy word for burnt)

This is what I had on hand:

1 lb of chicken thighs
1 med size sweet potato
5-6 new potatoes
1 small red onion
1 cutie (small orange)
Honey
S&P
Cayenne
Olive oil

First I preheated the oven to 475, then I peeled and chopped a sweet potato, and I rustically chopped the new potatoes and part of a small red onion, I tossed a little olive oil over top and popped them in the oven. 20130905-211126.jpg

For the chicken I heated some olive oil over med heat until it got glossy and then I placed my chicken thighs in skin side down and cooked them for about 2 minutes on each side just to brown them. Then I placed them skin side down again and let them cook about 12-15 minutes on a low heat they buzzed and crackled in their juices and I started writing this blog post. Occasionally I poked them with tongs. 20130905-211230.jpg

When they came off the heat I placed them skin side up and seasoned them with S&P, cayenne a squeeze of honey and a squeeze of orange. 20130905-211357.jpg

I wanted to finish them in the oven so I pulled the taters out and tossed them (making sure they weren’t burning to the pan, a few of the onions were charred, turns out they are not the best food for roasting) and then I placed the chicken down on top. Back in the oven with the whole lot of them an let them cook for 10 minutes then flip the chicken and go 5 more.

I think the honey orange is going to taste great but the high sugar content caused it to blacken, next time around I’ll roast at a lower temp. Or for a shorter amount of time. Slightly charred but still pretty tasty. Don’t get discouraged when things don’t go according to the plan, that’s life. Eat dinner anyway.

I would recommend to let the chicken rest at least 5 minutes so you don’t loose the yummy juices inside. Enjoy!

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Chicken Tortilla Soup, AKA Best Soup Ever

20130830-182326.jpgWe’ve been eating Chicken Tortilla Soup for years. It’s a Sandwell Family classic. My wife started making it for me years ago when we got married, and we’ve made it probably two or three times a month ever since.

The basics of this dish are pretty simple, but you can go in a lot of different directions. This is actually the recipe that we began with that became a lot of other soups and chilis and stews we now make. I’ve given you the equation before. Broth, Veg, Protein. For Chicken Tortilla Soup that means chicken broth, onions and peppers, and chicken.

Tonight, I used,

two cans of rotel
one heirloom tomato
one red bell pepper
one red onion
two jalapeno peppers
three pepperoncini peppers
three tablespoons of salsa
three tablespoons of chopped cilantro
one teaspoon of minced garlic
two tablespoons lemon juice
one tablespoon tarragon vinegar
one tablespoon pomegranate vinegar
one breast of a rotisserie chicken
one box of chicken broth
salt/pepper/cayenne

There are a lot of different tweaks you can put on this dish. Normally I’d like to put green bell pepper in it as well to add a little variation and color. I’d rather use lime juice than lemon juice, and I don’t always use the same vinegars, but I like to have a little acid in the soup to balance the other flavors. But it’s all just shades of difference on the original dish. Broth. Veg. Protein.

Back when we used to eat the Standard American Diet we would have dressed this dish with cheese and sour cream and croutons. And wasn’t that delicious. But now we dress it with a little chopped green onion or a sprig of fresh cilantro and it’s still delicious, only it won’t make our legs rot off. Which is kind of awesome if you think about it.

I made this in the crockpot. With a slow cooker bag, of course. You can make it on the stove top if you’re in a hurry. Prepping all that veg may seem like a bit of a hassle, but you get the hang of it pretty quick. I buy vinyl food service gloves at the grocery store in boxes of a hundred for like a nickle a glove. It makes all the prep super easy because my hands stay clean. Everything gets as fine a dice as you feel like putting on it and goes in the pot. Heat ’til hot than eat like crazy.

This whole pot of soup is only like 700 calories, so you can go as crazy as you want and still feel fine about your dinner. If you want to stretch it a little you can add some water to the broth, or just more broth. If you are feeling lazy or just don’t have the time you can use frozen veg instead of fresh. It won’t be quite as good, but it’s still pretty darn good. And it cooks up just fine in the pot. If you use raw chicken, brown it in a pan first. But if you use rotisserie chicken everything is ready to eat and all you have to do is heat it up.

These recipes aren’t hard to cook. They aren’t expensive. They don’t take a lot of time. They’re easy, and they taste great, and you feel like a superhero after eating them. This is food that fuels your body. It makes you strong. You can make this at night and throw it in the pot the next morning before work and come home to a house that smells fantastic. You can make it after work and heat it up on the stove in twenty minutes. You can make it tonight and have it for lunch tomorrow. You can do this. We do it all the time. Husbands, imagine how your wives will react to coming home to find that YOU have made dinner tonight. Wives, imagine how your husbands will feel when they can relax after a long day at work with a hot bowl of chicken soup. This is comfort food. This is medicine.

This is the best soup ever.

Fish and Chips

20130828-215850.jpgA lot of people have been asking me about my fish recipe lately. Pescetarians have said to me, “I’m interested in Paleo, but I still don’t want to eat red meat. What can I do?” Well if you’ve been reading our blog, you know that we use a wide range of proteins, including beef, pork, and a variety of poultry. And fish!

Tonight we were both just tired. We’ve been working long hot days, and we’re broke, and we wanted something easy to cook. So we thought we’d throw some foil packets on the grill. We had a couple of lemon-pepper cod fillets we bought from the grocers, so we decided to cook those with some potatoes and onions.

I got out some heavy aluminum foil and brushed it with roll butter and sprinkled salt, pepper, and cayenne on it. Then I sliced a lemon and made two little stacks on the foil of lemon slice/fish fillets/lemon slice.

While I was preparing that, she put a rustic chop on a bag of variety garden potatoes and a red onion. I prepared another piece of foil the same way, butter/salt/pepper/cayenne, and we put the potatoes and onion on the foil with some minced garlic and a few small pieces of butter.

We wrapped up the foil and I started the grill. I let it heat up, then I put it on the lowest setting with the two foil packets on the top shelf and set a timer for ten minutes. When it went off, I flipped the two packets and let them cook for another seven minutes before pulling them off.

I let the foil packets sit for a few minutes to finish cooking and cool, and then we opened them up to reveal the goodies inside. Always be careful with this. There’s a lot of steam in those packets and you can burn yourself. We both like vinegar on our fish, although this fish is delicious and you can eat it just like it comes off the grill. I went with a pomegranate infused red wine vinegar, she went with mild salad vinegar. Next to that we both had big piles of potatoes and onions.

These meals were fantastic. Crazy delicious, really easy, and super filling. It probably took about forty five minutes between prep and cook time, but the prep was mostly just slice and chop, and the cooking was mostly just waiting for a timer to go off. We use a propane grill, but you could use a charcoal grill if you want, or even just cook this in your oven. It’s really just steaming, we just do it on the grill because it’s convenient for us.

We didn’t use to eat a lot of fish, but since we’ve started eating Paleo we’ve started diversifying our foods more and more and fish has become a regular part of our diet. So have a lot of new vegetables. And we’ve found we’re starting to really look forward to a lot of these foods. A lot of people think fish smell bad, but when we opened up the butcher paper tonight our first thought was “Yum!”

Give this recipe a try. There are lots of different fish you can cook like this, we just buy cod because we’re broke and it’s cheap. But it tastes great! And the potatoes are awesome! And it made plenty for us to save some for breakfast tomorrow.

We might not eat fried fish and french fries anymore, but we can still have fish and chips for dinner any time we want. You might not eat red meat, but you can still eat Paleo. Get creative. You’ll like the results. Leave a comment and let us know how this recipe works for you!

Chili Night!

20130825-195528.jpgTonight we decided to make chili in the crockpot. We both like almost exactly the opposite kinds of chili. I like traditional flavored chilis with thin broths, she likes BBQ flavored chilis with thick broths. We both like them to have beef as the main protein and a tomato base. Tonight we decided to make a thick, traditional flavored chili.

Normally I would want to make this in the crockpot in the morning and then let it cook all day so the flavors could all blend in the pot. But we didn’t go grocery shopping until late this afternoon and we wanted chili for dinner so I did things a little differently this time.

I started by making the sauce in the crockpot. In a crockpot liner bag I mixed,

1 small can tomato paste
1 can rotel chili starter
1 can diced tomatoes with sweet onions
1 jar tabasco brand chili starter
1 tbsp butter
1 can pumpkin puree

My wife has written before about how we use pumpkin puree to thicken some of our curries and stews. It’s a great, nutrient dense way to thicken a dish without adding cream or fat. It absorbs the flavors of the dish and adds a bland orange color.

Then I mixed some of my own chili seasoning. I don’t like to use the stuff at the grocery store because they use a lot of grain products in the mix. Instead I just make my own out of spices I have in the pantry. Tonight I used

chili powder
crushed red pepper
cayenne powder
garlic powder
mustard powder
ginger powder
paprika
rosemary
salt
pepper
cumin

For me, traditional chili seasoning is all about the cumin and the chili powder. Everything else gives dimension to the flavors, but those are the two that form the base of what I like in a chili. I put this aside for a while and began working on the meat and veg.

For the meat we used one pound of 93/7 ground beef and three slices of precooked bacon which I put a fine dice on and set aside for later. Normally we get 90/10 grass fed beef but tonight we just didn’t want to hit one more store so we went ahead and just grabbed what they had on the shelf at the grocers. I put that in a skillet and put the heat on medium and while that was browning I got to work on the veg.

green bell pepper
red bell pepper
red onion
jalapeno
baby portobello mushrooms
minced garlic

I put a fine dice on all of that and put it in a bowl on the side. I like to use fresh veg when I make chilis and soups, but in a pinch I’m willing to settle for frozen. Tonight I had the luxury of taking my time and prepping my food so I went with fresh everything. In the past I used to put beans and corn in chili, but I don’t eat those foods anymore which is I why I went with the mushrooms. They give a similar mouth feel and a similar umami flavor profile to the dish. And they’re great for you.

About the time I finished prepping all that food the meat was done browning so I tossed the bowl of veg in with it and tossed it for a minute with the beef and the fat that had cooked out of it. After a few tosses I added the bacon and the chili seasoning I’d prepared earlier to the skillet and continued tossing it for another five minutes or so to cook down the veg. Then I added it all to the crockpot and stirred it in with the sauce.

I cooked it on high for about an hour before I couldn’t wait anymore and started dishing out bowls. It was fantastic, packed with flavor, and very filling. It had a nice thick consistency, with a little bit of fat from the butter and the beef and the bacon to give it just a little creaminess, and every bite was packed with fresh cooked veg.

I love making chili. We usually make it through the fall and winter and not so much during the spring and summer, so it’s been a few months since we’ve made one here at the house. But now that the seasons are changing we’ll be making several more in the near future. I’m sure we’ll make little tweaks and changes, but this is the general format we follow. Sauce. Veg. Meat. I mentioned that before when we made the Southern Style Chicken Soup. It may have seemed like a lot of work went into this dish, but it probably didn’t take more than twenty minutes to make the whole thing. If you’ve never worked in a kitchen before, there’s probably going to be a little bit of a trial and error period as you learn to break down vegetables. But it’s really not hard. And the results are definitely worth it. And like I said, if you’re in a pinch, just use a bag of frozen veg. It’ll cook up quick enough in the crockpot.

Figure we can get at least three or four meals out of this pot of chili. For 15-20 bucks give or take. Way less than we’d spend eating out, and way better food than we’d get at any restaurant. If you like your chili with BBQ flavor, add a little sauce. If you like it with hot sauce, go crazy. I think this is great with tabasco or sriracha or red hot. You really can’t go wrong.

Give it a try!