For the love of ghee and screaming for ice cream 

What happens when you blend ghee, honey, turmeric and coconut milk together? Magic.

Ever heard of PaleoFx? IN a nutshell, it is a conference that has everything to do with food, health and wellness. The world comes together for three days to listen to renowned speakers and experts on nutrition and body optimization. Some of the best speakers were found in the exhibit hall too. Friday and saturday, I hit all the booths and spoke with all the vendors. I learned their stories and what makes each of these participating companies special.

I met the most knowledgable man when it comes to ghee and spices while attending PFX17 in Austin Texas. Sandeep Agarwal and his family have been making ghee for 5 generations. They know their stuff. Everything is made by hand in small batches to ensure the utmost in quality. They make their ghee as they would make it for their own family. The heart in their logo is all about the love they put in their products. What does this have to do with ice cream you may be wondering. I will get there eventually. I promise.

In case you don’t know what ghee is, it is grass fed butter that has been clarified to remove all but trace amounts of casein and lactose. Ghee is a nutrient dense food that can be enjoyed in everything from daily cooking to coffee to ice cream. Yes, ice cream. That’s where I come in.

Sleep was elusive to say the least while attending this event. My head was buzzing from all the information I was taking in and the ways to implement everything I was learning in my own world. Saturday night, as my eyes were finally closing, the thought of ice cream and ghee popped into my head. It wasn’t unlike the old chocolate and peanut butter commercial from way back. I couldn’t wait to get to the Palmer Conference Centre.

I left the Pure Indian Foods booth on Sunday with a jar of the Coconut Ghee and visions of ice cream dancing in my head.

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Honey turmeric ice cream:

  • 20 ounces of room temperature full fat coconut milk (cold will cause the ghee to solidify in chunks)
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 2 tablespoons melted Coconut Ghee (I used Pure Indian Foods)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of Vital Proteins Gelatin (provides amazing texture and gut-healing properties)
  • 1/4 cup boiling water (to dissolve the gelatin)

Pour the coconut milk, honey and ghee into a blender and process until smooth. Dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water and whisk in the turmeric. Add the dissolved gelatin and turmeric to the coconut milk and blend again unit completely incorporated. Place in the fridge to cool for approximately an hour.

Quickly blend again prior to adding the mixture to the ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturers instructions. My Cuisinart machine took about 25 minutes.  If you prefer your ice cream more of a soft-serve consistency, dig in. Otherwise, transfer to a glass loaf pan and freeze for a couple of hours for firmer ice cream. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to make scooping easier.

I sprinkled mine with some Wild Hibiscus Flower Pyramid Salt Flakes just before eating. Truth time? I had this for breakfast right after my faTT coffee.

 

Beach days and honey roasted carrot soup 

You never know when inspiration will strike.

I am fortunate enough to live approximately a 12-14 minute walk from a beach. Yes, I have timed it. Have I mentioned this before? I never tire of the view and I never take it for granted. People travel great distances to see the ocean and I have it practically in my backyard. Even in the rain, it is a beautiful ting to behold.

Let me take you there.

There is no one else at the beach. It isn’t tropical white sand. The beach here is predominantly rocks. That is ok because they are easy to walk along to get to your final sitting area. The rocks also act as a deterrent to a lot of folks, so that helps keep it more private. The best things always require a bit of work, wouldn’t you agree? A few minutes along and you find the perfect little alcove below the overhanging trees. You are sheltered from winds and are less visible if anyone else happens along the beach. You set up your chair beside a large flat rock to act as your table.

You are sitting at the beach (in the shade) sipping some cold brew coffee and snacking on all the good snacky snacks you packed. An eagle is circling overhead, then dives down and plucks a fish from the water right in front of your eyes. He returns to the nest, which is situated somewhere overhead, with his treasure. In the distance, a seal is bobbing up and down in the tide. You play a minor game of guessing where he will pop up next. In your head you are thinking Marco Polo and wondering if he is doing the same. Secretly, you long to see the dorsal fin of an Orca break the water.

The only sounds to be heard are those provided by Mother Nature. She really knows how to work her symphony. The tide is relentless. The continual sound of the waves releasing their energy to the shore is hypnotic. That is punctuated by the calls of the seagulls and geese. You close your eyes and breathe in the fresh salty air. You could almost fall asleep because you are so relaxed and at one with the universe.

Carrots. Roasted carrots. Honey roasted carrots. Turmeric, honey roasted carrots. Soup.

Your eyes fly open and you nearly dump your coffee in an attempt to put notes to paper as it were (ok, in reality you are pecking away on your phone) before the ethereal vision of this soup leaves your relaxed brain forever.

You feel content having written down your idea but can no longer remain in a tranquil state because you want to try the recipe your brain has gifted you. You quickly pack up your gear, look around, ensure nothing is left behind and head home.

The roasted carrots on their own were pretty darn delightful and by all means stop there and enjoy them as a side dish. However, sometimes you just want the comfort of soup.

Honey roasted carrot soup:

  • 6 large carrots, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (I love Pure Indian Foods ghee. I had the honour of meeting Sandeep at PaleoFx 2017)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock (home-made is best)
  • 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350.

Peel the carrots and trim the ends. I left mine whole. Cutting them up would shorten the oven roasting time. Mix the ghee, honey, turmeric, garlic and salt and pepper and baste over the carrots. Roast in the oven for an hour until fork tender. Put them aside to cool slightly.

Once the carrots have cooled enough to handle, puree them using a high powered blender or food processor. Slowly add the stock to the carrot puree. Make sure you are allowing any built up steam to vent as you are doing this. We don’t want any burns or soup explosions. Return carrot puree and stock to a large pot. Stir the coconut milk and heat to desired temperature.

Taste for additional salt and pepper.

Vegan: swap the chicken stock for veg stock, coconut sugar for honey and coconut oil for the ghee

 

Frosting fails and the birth of a new ball

I’m not entirely sure why my go-to cookie shape seems to be balls these days.

Could be because they are two-bite size. Could be because I get to use my handy little small scoop that I love so much. Could be because I simply like saying balls. Balls. In my head, I hear the Saturday Night live skit with Alec Baldwin and his “Schweaty Balls” over and over. Gets me giggling every time. Schweaty Balls.

I did not set out to make balls this weekend. I made strawberry coconut muffins and planned on topping them with a lovely vanilla whipped frosting to make ’em all fancy-like. That went sideways real quick. The original recipe for the frosting called for palm shortening. I do not have that on hand, so I improvised with some melted coconut oil. Yeah, yeah, I can hear your giggles. “You’re so silly, that substitution won’t work.” “Ghee or butter would have been a better swap.” Yeah, I kinda figured that out a little too late. Well, you’re right. Melted coconut oil did not make for a good substitution. No matter what I did to the mixture in the bowl, it just was not about to magically come together and transform into the creamy whipped frosting in the book. Sigh.

I hate wasting ingredients so I had to find a way to salvage what was in my bowl. Like the Grinch, I puzzled and puzzled til my puzzler was sore. Then I got an idea. A wonderful, not awful, idea. I grabbed a few more things from the shelf and put the oven on. My face may have resembled that of the Grinch’s maniacal grin at that moment.

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I do this type of rogue baking when the house is empty and no one is around to watch me sweat and swear, uh, I mean, make magic.

These are light little bites of heaven. Not overly sweet and they are full of great fat thanks to the coconut oil swap debacle.

Goji berry and cacao nib balls:

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons almond flour
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut shreds
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup goji berries (I soaked mine in warm water for a few minutes as they were rock hard)

Preheat the oven to 350. line a cookie sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.

Using a hand mixer, beat the honey, coconut oil, egg, vanilla, salt, coconut flour and almond flour together.

Mix in the coconut shreds. Drain the goji berries (if you soaked them) and blot dry with some paper towel. Stir in the cacao nibs and add the goji berries last to minimize the colour bleed into the cookies.

Pack your dough into that handy little cookie scoop and drop your cookies onto the sheet. Still no cookie scoop? (Seriously, go get one. Next time someone asks what you want for your birthday/Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Festivus/whatever you do or don’t celebrate, tell them you want a cookie scoop.) You will have to go old school then. Wet your hands and roll your balls.

These will not spread out during baking. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool on the sheet for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

 

 

 

Oh for the love of balls

Not those balls. Different balls.

I’m talking chocolate, coconut, nutty, fat balls. Paleo and Vegan balls. Balls you will love. Balls for days. Balls you can whip up really fast.

Some days I am focussed in the kitchen and other days I bounce off the walls and cabinets like Ricochet Rabbit. Remember him? Bing bing bing Ricochet Rabbit. There’s an age drop. I may have really only watched it a couple of times. I can’t recall the specifics of any episodes like I can with Bugs Bunny, other than him literally bouncing off everything in the room. Upon reflection, maybe he was a character with either a sugar addiction, food sensitivities/allergies or possibly ADHD. Maybe too much caffeine? Who knows.

Today was one of those excited electron days. Inside I was buzzing with the energy to “DO STUFF” but I also wanted something treat-like without the associated guilt of inhaling half a bag of chocolate chips (I may have done that once or twice before). I have an upcoming trip to San Diego and I wanted something I can take on the flight that won’t get confiscated as contraband goods. So these easy balls were born.

(Yikes! It looks like I could do with a manicure and some cuticle work.)

I chucked some stuff into the food processor and crossed my fingers. This turned out way better than I could have ever hoped. I’m glad I was paying attention to what and how much went in. Sometimes the creative process really is a blur.

Really.

I may need to make more as I don’t think the inaugural batch will last until I fly. That’s ok because that means they were that good. I eat all the stuff I make, even if it isn’t stupendous because I hate wasting food. When the people I love and live with enjoy my creations, I do the Snoopy happy dance inside.

I give you: ccnf (chocolate coconut nutty fat) balls:

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 10 Medjool dates cut into quarters
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
  • 1 tablespoon coconut butter
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Pinch of sea salt

Pulse the nuts for a few seconds in the bowl of the food processor using the S-blade. Add the quartered dates and coconut shreds and pulse until the mix almost holds together when you squeeze a small amount in your fingers. Obviously don’t put your fingers in the processor while it is running. They aren’t kidding when they say that blade is sharp.

Add the coconut butter, coconut oil, salt and cocoa powder and process until everything is well mixed.

Pack the firmly mix into a small cookie scoop. smallcookiescoopMy favourite one is a 1 tablespoon measure scoop. Pop them into the fridge to set. Makes about 15-18 small balls (depending on how much you “quality check” the mixture as you roll your balls).

Don’t have a small scoop? Don’t fret marmoset. Just get your hands dirty and roll your balls the old-fashioned way.

Winner winner chicken dinner 

Don’t you just love a big fancy dinner?

Picture the room. Tasteful decor, perhaps candles and ambient music in the background. There doesn’t appear to be any other patrons in the restaurant. No menus.  The server begins your meal. A salad and maybe a soup course or some other appetizer with an aperitif. Fish, then game followed by beef all with perfect wine pairings. Oooh, dessert and perhaps a cheese plate with a glass of port. Coffee and cognac anyone?

Wait a second. What’s that noise? It isn’t stopping. It’s getting louder and louder. Oh right. You’re sleeping. Or you were sleeping. Your brain alerts you to the sound of your alarm going off and you haul your carcass from under the covers. Feet hit the cold floor and reality lands on your shoulders with a thud. It was just a dream.

You get through your work day relatively unscathed. All day in the back of your mind, however, lurks the age old question of what to make for dinner. When you get home, you open the fridge hoping for inspiration. Meh. The pantry holds no magic either.

You know you don’t want to cave in and order pizza or some other takeaway food that will leave your wallet empty and your gut and heart full of pain and regret. You remember the portioned flattened chicken thighs in the freezer.  Into the sink with water they go. They will thaw out fairly quickly because you froze them flat. (Aren’t you glad you did that?)

While the chicken is thawing, you get busy hauling the veg from the crisper. This becomes a total Hail Mary play. Carrots, parsnips, brussel spouts and maybe the last of the broccoli. Oh hey, grab the half onion too while you’re in the fridge.

You grab a shallow roasting pan and place it on the counter beside the cutting board. Turn the oven on to get it to temperature while you prep everything. Carrots peeled and chopped into chunks. Parsnips get the same treatment. Brussel sprouts get halved (keep the outer leaves to make chips or sauté them for breakfast tomorrow) and the broccoli is split into small florets. Quarter the onion and dump all the veg into a big bowl. Meanwhile you have melted some ghee in the microwave and have added a shake or two of your favourite spice blend. You pour the seasoned ghee all over the veg.

You check the thawing chicken and see it’s almost ready. You put more ghee in the microwave to melt. Grab the kitchen shears and cut the bones from the thighs. Trim the excess skin while you are at it. You put the bones aside to make stock later. You’re so smart it makes you smile. Your grandma would be proud.

You dump all the coated veg into the roasting pan. You stir a healthy splash of bourbon hot sauce (oh yeah, this is the stuff dreams are made of) into the ghee and slather the chicken all over with this deliciousness and plop it on top of the vegetables.

By this point, the oven is ready and in goes dinner. A quick clean up of a cutting board, a knife, one bowl and a glass measuring cup and you can sit down until food is ready. Or shower or feed the cats (or dogs), open mail or any other home type tasks.

In about 40 minutes, you are tucking into a super all in one meal. Plus, lookit all the veg you are stuffing into yourself and your people. You should be proud of yourself. Dinner crisis averted.

Winning weeknight chicken dinner:

  • 8 skin-on, boneless (or debone them yourself and make some stock) chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup melted ghee, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon Virginia Gentleman’s Bourbon Chipotle Hot Sauce (this stuff is golden! but by all means use another favourite brand)
  • veg of choice to fill your roasting pan  NOTE: I used 3 large carrots, 2 medium parsnips several handfuls of brussel sprouts, half a medium onion and about 2 cups broccoli florets, but use what you have handy
  • 2 teaspoons of your favourite spice blend
  • salt and pepper to taste

Set oven to 375.

Scrub, peel and chop your veg so they are all around the same size. Things will cook at the same time. Mix the spice blend with 1/4 cup of the meted ghee and toss the chopped veg to coat. Put the veggies in the bottom of your roasting pan, spreading everything out evenly.

Mix the hot sauce with the other 1/4 cup of meted ghee and coat the chicken thighs, placing them right on top of the veggies, skin side up.

Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes or until internal temperature of the chicken reads 165.

Soup is good food

Now, if you were into punk music back in the early 80’s you may have heard that line in a Dead Kennedys song by the same name, from their album Frankenchrist. The album cover depicted Shriners driving around in tiny cars in what looks like a parade. Totally aging myself there. Those lyrics and that band aren’t for everyone, so we won’t continue the recitation any further.

The other night I was throwing food together for dinner. I had all kinds of veg that were going to sit ‘neath some lovely chicken thighs. That is another post altogether as that dinner turned out really well. However, I have a non-meat eater in my flock, so, chicken thighs were a no-go. (flock, chicken, see what I did there?)  Nor were the veg under the chicken going to be consumed.

As I was rooting around in the crisper, my eye came to rest on some asparagus that were nearly forgotten at the bottom of the drawer. I really hate wasting food. That upsets me on many levels so I grabbed the bag and thought what the heck can I do with these heavenly spears before they get all slimy and icky? We had had steamed asparagus several times during the week and we were getting kinda tired of them. My brain began to percolate and smoke, then, in a “EUREKA I found it” kinda moment, I had the answer.

The best parts were:

  1. I had everything on hand
  2. It took about 30 minutes from start to finish
  3. All real ingredients, nothing sketchy or unpronounceable
  4. Food waste averted

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Curried asparagus soup:

  • 1 pound asparagus, woody ends snapped and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 an onion, minced
  • 4 cups stock (chicken, or vegetable if you want to make this vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil (coconut oil if you are vegan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon curry powder (or more if you are game)
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy bottomed pot, melt the ghee or coconut oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and asparagus and cook until fragrant. Add the stock, rosemary, sage and paprika and just bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until asparagus is very tender.

Using a hand-held immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. You could use a regular blender, but you have to do that in small batches with a vented lid otherwise you are going to get burned and be cleaning soup from the ceiling. Just saying.

Once the soup is smooth, stir in the coconut milk and the curry powder. Salt and pepper to taste and bask in the compliments.

 

Did someone say hamburger helper?

You are just about to fall asleep when, wham! Your brain finds the most random memory from waaaay back and clocks you upside your consciousness.

Hamburger Helper. image28

Cheeseburger Helper to be more precise.

Approximately one minute away from sweet slumber and that giggling, prancing white catoony glove pops into my mind’s eye. Really? Ugh! Now I can’t un-hear the jingle.

Brain is now in full action mode and I know that sleep has been pushed back on the horizon. My thoughts ranged from fudgesicles to coffee and finally settled back on that boxed Hamburger Helper. How could one make something comparable? Something I will eat?

I tweaked my mac n cheese recipe ever so slightly.img_2649

  • 2 smalls yams (the orange fleshed ones)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef stock (homemade is best)
  • 1 cup Bragg’s nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/3 cup red palm oil
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk (more depending on sauce thickness preferences)
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot sauce (or other clean hot sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp chill powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

Peel and chop the yams into approximately 1″ cubes. Add minced garlic and boil until fork tender. Using either a hand-stick blender (immersion), regular blender or food processor, blend the drained potatoes, stock, nutritional yeast, onion powder, Frank’s Red Hot sauce and palm oil. Slowly add the coconut milk and continue blending.  You want the sauce to be smooth, no tell-tale yam lumps in case you are trying to sneak the sauce past someone who may not be on board with eating a potato-based “cheese” sauce. Add chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.

My plan was to brown some ground beef and cook some gluten free pasta and stir this all together to recreate the one-pan meal from the ’80’s. I got as far as the ground beef and had to stop and “sample” the flavour. Needless to say I didn’t get around to making any noodles. Adding some gluten-free pasta would definitely make this go further. Chuck some roasted carrots or parsnips in too for bonus veg factor.  Elbow, penne or shells would lend themselves the best to cradle the sauce.

This is now in heavy rotation in my breakfastimg_2657 world. I’ll add a big dollop on top of my sautéed veg alongside my eggs (yolk running into this is heavenly). I’ve topped roasted brussel sprouts with it. Heating it magnifies the hot sauce (don’t kid yourself – this provides some good sinus clearing action). I’ve eaten it cold as a nacho/notyourcheese dip for chips (both organic tortilla and potato) and raw veg as a snack.

Who am I trying to kid? I’m dubbing this a condiment and it will find itself a staple in the fridge. I have mentioned I like things to be easy in my life. By finding something that will act as a base for many dishes, my life is less complicated and thus allows me more time to binge-watch Netflix.

If you or your loved ones are vegan, skip the beef or chicken broth and add veg stock. Nice easy swap without really changing the overall taste. I just like chicken and beef broth for the nutrient factor from slowly simmering quality bones.

I suspect this would make a comforting soup with a little more stock and perhaps a 1/4 cup of white wine in it to thin it slightly. Top it with some crumbled bacon? Um, yes please. (distracted brain going in yet another direction)

Sing the jingle with me,

“Hamburger Helper (Tuna Helper too) when you need a helping hand”

Growing up on KD

Who ate this stuff? Who still eats this stuff?

C’mon, hands up. We’re all friends here. No one will judge you.

Confession time. I used to eat 2 boxes of the stuff, BY MYSELF, because I could. I’d eat right out of the pot I cooked it in, no less. I’d make the stuff, grab the salt shaker and plop myself on the couch in front of the tv and mindlessly shovel it in, stopping only to resalt the next layer. I’d eat until it was all gone, even if I felt full at about the halfway point, because, well, noodles and cheese. Oh and salt. Lots of that. As if the 80’s pantry ubiquitous blue box didn’t already have a stupid amount of sodium in it already.

The first time I made it, I recall, I read the instructions on the side of the box to the letter. I dutifully measured the amount of water I set to boil. I measured out the salt, milk, butter (it most likely was margarine that went into it way back then!) and timed how long the pasta cooked. Sometimes, the noodles were a little firmer than I preferred, but I was going by the directions and I wasn’t about to stray. I recall my brother snickering that if I had to read how to make KD, then there was NO hope of me getting married and being able to cook for my family. I always rationalized that the man I was going to marry would have to be able to cook then, wouldn’t he?

I have vague, fond memories of certain foods that, with my rose-coloured memory glasses, were divine. KD, being one of those things I thought I missed. Quitting gluten to heal my gut and save my skin forced me to say good-bye to KD among other things. When I had to eat all things gluten-y to rule out Celiac disease, I bought a box of the stuff. This time though, I winged the water to cook the pasta, used barely a drizzle of milk (because I wanted thick, cheesy sauce) and used butter, baby. One forkful later. . .  yuck. What was the big deal over this stuff? Even though they claim the ingredients on the box have changed from when I was downing it as a teen, (they have removed the Yellow #5 now) there are still a few sketchy items in my book.

The heart pines for what it is denied however.

I have learned to improvise.

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This is my version of KD now. The only thing non-conventional is the Bragg’s nutritional yeast. That stuff packs the cheesy flavour and the yams and red palm oil round out that beautiful colour. Yeah, my photography still requires some work and staging, but, the roughness shows that this is real, easy and tasty stuff I’m sending your way. Feel free to serve it fancily, with all the garnish, but I would rather be eating than fussing with props.

Mac n not-cheese:

  • 2 smalls yams (the orange fleshed ones)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock (homemade is best)
  • 3/4 cup Bragg’s nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/3 cup red palm oil
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk (more depending on sauce thickness preferences)
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound dry gluten free elbow macaroni (I used Tinkyada)

Peel and chop the yams into approximately 1″ cubes. Add minced garlic and boil until fork tender. Using either a hand-stick blender (immersion), regular blender or food processor, blend the drained potatoes, stock, nutritional yeast and palm oil. Slowly add the coconut milk until you get the consistency you want for your pasta. You want the sauce to be smooth, no tell-tale yam lumps in case you are trying to sneak the sauce past someone who may not be on board with eating a potato-based “cheese” sauce. Add chili powder, salt and peeper to taste.

Cook the pasta to your desired level of al dente. Some folks I know like their noodles overcooked to the point they break apart and other folks like a chewier noodle. To each their own.

You can either toss the pasta and the sauce together and dig in right away or. . . throw it into a buttered casserole dish and bake it in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350. If you are going to bake it in the oven, I’d make the sauce a little runnier and to allow for absorption while baking.

MMM, potatoes

Who doesn’t love a spud?

We attended a wedding a few years ago, and late into the evening, as the dancing and obligatory drinking were well underway, a midnight Poutine Buffet was rolled out. Yeah, you read that correctly, a Poutine Bar. There were the basics of hand-cut fries, gravy and cheese curds, but it DID NOT end there. The choices included several types of potatoes, at least 3 types of gravy, mushrooms, pulled pork, bacon crumbles, jalapeño peppers, onions, brie, mozzarella, roasted broccoli and many other items that escape my memory. I think I inhaled 3 large bowls in under 15 minutes. I was scarfing my bowlful of decadence so fast, my esophagus couldn’t keep up to the speed I was shovelling the food in. Utter gluttony. That was a brilliant feature for a wedding reception. The food helped those who were perhaps in danger of over-consuming the open bar, by acting as a distraction. I shall always fondly remember that evening.

But I digress from the humble potato.

There are sweet, white, yellow, red, purple, creamer, new, fingerling, yam and the list goes on. You can prep these magic flavour sponges in so many ways. Boiled, mashed, roasted, fried and baked are the most common methods to prepare the humble tuber.

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These Greekified (is that a word?) spuds were a perfect side to some grass-fed, grass-finished lamb shoulder chops I found at a local grocery store. They are so good, you may want to make extra so you have some leftovers for another meal (or bedtime snack). This is super easy and so tasty, you may find yourself keeping them in your regular meal rotation.

Greekified spuds:

Preheat oven to 375

  • 2 pounds potatoes (I used red, peeled and quartered. Yukon Gold or any other yellow potato will be great too)
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock (homemade is best)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or ghee
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Scrub, peel, quarter the potatoes and place in a 9×13 roasting pan.

Whisk all remaining ingredients together and pour over the potatoes.

Roast in 375 degree oven for approximately 75 minutes, or until fork tender. The trick to these spuds being amazing is to baste them in the stock mixture several times during the roasting time.

Breaking dishes is optional.

 

 

 

Days of indecision and shepard’s chili-stew

You ever at a loss for focus?

There are those days of complete and utter indecisiveness. You have a day off and you don’t know what you feel like doing or eating or reading or watching? Yeah, me too. You pace about in your housecoat with coffee in hand and look at all the things you should/could be doing (laundry, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, dusting) instead? Yup, me too. Now throw the looming dilemma of what’s for  dinner into the fray. At this point, I’d rather just go get another coffee. Ostrich with the head in the sand choice. If I ignore all the drudge work, maybe it’ll go away.

Winter has been colder here on the west coast than I like. We’ve even had snow. Several times that nasty stuff has hit us. Yeah, I know the midwest and east coast gets it more often and waaay more of it, but I’m a west coast gal who truly believes the word snow is akin to profanity. If we could get Mother Nature to keep it on the mountains and off the roads, that’d maybe change my outlook on it. Until then, I shall grit my teeth and curse under my breath about it.

Back to food.

Part of me felt like shepard’s pie, part of me wanted stew and part of me felt like chili. So I opted to mix all 3 ideas into one. The heat element of chili with the chunky, stick to your ribs factor of stew and top the whole thing off with mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes with bacon, that is. The lightning bolt that prompted me to do that made me clap my hands together like an evil genius. One of my better ideas for sure.

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What shall recall this? Chili-stew pie? Shepard’s chili-stew? Sure. Let’s go with that for now. If you can think of another name, I’m open to suggestions.

Shepard’s chili-stew:

  • 2 pounds stewing beef, cut into approx 1″ cubes or slightly smaller
  • 5-8 pieces of thick bacon cut into 1/2″ slices
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 cup green beans cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 4 medium white potatoes (you could swap sweet potatoes or yams for another flavour)
  • 2-3 tablespoons full fat coconut milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons ghee or butter
  • 1/2 cup broth (home-made beef broth is best, but chicken or veg will do well too)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (yes, you read that, sneaking extra veg in under the wire, you won’t taste it)
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon pepper

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a large casserole dish

Peel and chop your potatoes and get them boiling. When they are fork-tender, drain and mash them with the ghee and coconut milk. I use my hand mixer as it whips them up in a flash. Less arm wear and tear. Just leave these in the pot until you are ready to top the chili-stew. You are going to add some bacon in this later.

Crisp the bacon pieces in a large pot. When they are done, remove them and put half into the mashed potatoes and stir it in.

Keep the other half aside to top the chili-stew.

Add the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pot and get all those lovely brown bacon bits from the pan. Add the onion and sauté until just translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add the stewing beef and cook until nicely browned. Add the stock and pumpkin puree along with the carrots and cook until slightly tender. Stir in the chili powder, cinnamon, salt, pepper and paprika. Stir the green breams in last.

Place the meat mixture into the greased casserole dish, spreading it out evenly. Layer the reserved half of the bacon over the top of the meat mixture. (bacon layer for the win!) Top with the bacon infused mashed potatoes. You could add a wee spot of butter on top if you wanted, but that’s up to you. Cover and bake for 45 minutes at 375.

Now, don’t kid yourself, this has some heat to it. feel free to dial back the spices if you aren’t a spicy food lover.