italian marinated eggplant & my whole 30 week 3 recap

melanzane sottolio
Me: I did it!
You: What have you done?
Me: I’ve completed my third week of the Whole 30! I’ve cruised through the half way point, even went out to eat and found something on the menu to suit me without a hitch. I’m feeling absolutely incredible physically, mentally, and emotionally, and now I’m headed to an awesome festival in Costa Rica for the next 8 days and I intend to stick to the plan!

[Screeching halt of breaks. A spotlight centers on the dialogue bubbles.]

You: How do you intend to do that… there?
Me: I don’t really know…
But I’m trying my best to figure out how!
I’ve packed a bunch of nuts and some other Whole 30 approved dry goods, I plan to hit a fruit stand on my way to the event to get some avocados and other tropical deliciousness, and then I hope that they’ll be serving fresh caught fish and other tasty grilled meats once I’m there. I won’t have a way to cook for myself but I have no problem asking for what I need and a majority of the people I will be with eat healthy too.

I just really hope I can resist the nectar of the agave gods while I’m down there. Good tequila is my weakness. Instead, I will drink in the sunrises and sunsets and imbibe the high vibes of all the other party goers. This will be the greatest test of will I’ve ever faced in this lifetime and it will certainly be nothing short of phenomenal. Wish me luck!

Bet you thought I was going to play the tequila song, didn’t you? Psych! I grew up on the Eagles so this is what song comes to mind first when I think about that muy bueno inebriant that makes me feel so muy bueno… lest I digress.

So, on to this week’s recipe!

I’ve been craving a burger and was wondering what I could use in place of a bun, then this recipe came to mind…
When I lived in Italy and worked in the kitchen of Casa Cares, this was a favorite of mine. In Italian, it’s called “melanzane sott’olio” which literally translates to eggplant (or aubergine, depending where you hail from) under oil. It’s simple to prepare yet it takes time, most of which is inactive, but it’s so tasty it’s so very worth it.
marinated eggplant ingredients
Italian Marinated Eggplant (aka Melanzane Sott’olio)

Prep time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Active prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 2 hours 45 minutes
Serves 4-6

1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
¾ cup chopped italian parsley
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 cups extra virgin olive oil

  • Slice the eggplant into half inch thick rounds. It’s important they’re all the same thickness so they roast evenly. In a mixing bowl, place one layer then salt them, add another layer and salt, and another until all the rounds are in the bowl with salt on them. Let them sit for 2 hours or more to allow the salt to leach the water out of them.
  • When 2 hours are up, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  • Oil the bottom of a baking sheet (preferably non stick), drain the water from the bowl and arrange the eggplant in a single layer.
  • Roast for 30 minutes then flip each piece and roast for another 10 minutes. During that 10 minute interval, chop the garlic and parsley.
  • Find a dish with a lid and, one layer at a time, add a piece of eggplant, sprinkle with garlic and parsley, drizzle with oil, until you’ve added all the pieces, then cover with oil.
  • Cover and let marinate for at least an hour, then serve.

*Because there is raw garlic in this dish, I recommend eating it within a few days or else it goes bad. No need for botulism here!

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Since I will be in Costa Rica next week through the weekend, I won’t be able to post my regularly scheduled blog but I am going to try to continue making daily updates to my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so you can peep my adventures there.

Hope you enjoy and have fun cooking!

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cashew cauliflower rice & week 2 of my whole 30

week2-bld-whole30
Some highlights from this past week (left to right):
Breakfast – Two pastured eggs, basted medium, over a bed of kale sauteed in coconut oil and cashew cauliflower rice;
Lunch – A salad of organic spinach greens, steamed yams, shredded beets and purple cabbage, plum tomatoes, pepitas, and baked chicken breast tenders tossed in my savory herb vinaigrette (sans the tamari);
Dinner – Seared ahi tuna steaks smothered in sunshine sauce over a bed of cashew cauliflower rice with a side of steamed broccoli and plum tomatoes.

Second week of my Whole 30 is behind me and I have to admit, it was tougher than my first week.

The most difficult thing about this week was my digestion. I took solace in the fact that this was to be expected – as the Hartwigs mention in their book, It Starts With Food, it can take a couple weeks or more for the body to get “fat adapted” and in the meantime there can be various side effects including digestive issues. However, now as I round the corner into my third week, things are moving along smoothly (pun intended).

Speaking of noticeable benefits this past week, I’ve had super steady energy throughout my long work days, I’ve been sleeping like a rock, and waking up early without my alarm… loving it!

Over the past week, I’ve received several requests for my cashew cauliflower rice recipe so here it is – so incredibly simple, delicious, and a great base for sauces and other gooey things (like runny eggs), you can spice it up any which way you like by adding other spices, herbs, veggies, or even dried fruit to satiate your sweet tooth.

cashew cauliflower rice-ingredients
Cashew Cauliflower Rice
tweaked from a Well Fed recipe

Prep time: 2 minutes
Ready in: 25 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

1 head of cauliflower
1 cup of raw cashews
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
dash of salt
sprinkle of pepper

    • Break up the head of cauliflower into florets and blend in food processor for 15 seconds on low, then another 5-10 seconds on medium or high – just until it reaches a grainy looking consistency. Be careful not to over blend or else it will get mushy.
    • Toast the cashews in a hot cast iron skillet or heavy pan turning every 30 seconds until nice and brown – about 5 minutes.
    • Add the coconut oil, letting it melt, then add the cauliflower and sautée on high heat stirring every minute or so until some of the moisture cooks out and it starts to get toasty – about 15 minutes.
    • Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Seriously, it’s that easy! If you’re prepping for the week, it keeps super well in the fridge and reheats nicely and gets even more toasty after just a couple minutes in a skillet on the stovetop – no additional oil necessary!

Check out my daily Whole 30 updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and have fun cooking!

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cashew cauliflower rice
As always, your thoughts and questions are welcomed in the comments section below.

My Whole 30 – Week 1 Recap

I’m happy to say I made it through my first week of The Whole 30 with shining success! No grain, no pain!

I’ve had sustained energy and an extremely steady mood. I’ve known for some time how gluten and wheat caused me to have mood swings, but in the past week, in addition to being quite chipper for no reason, my chronic back pain has dissipated and my skin is perfectly clear and evenly toned – radiant! It’s crazy to think that the foods we eat release hormones that can cause our bodies to act against us. As described in the book I reviewed last week, everything we eat sends messages through our body and when we eat things like dairy, sugar, grains, and alcohol especially, our bodies struggle to balance it out, releasing insulin and leptin and a whole bunch of other hormones just in order to not get sick.

All our bodies want to do is feel good, naturally. With the way I’ve been eating the past week, I intrinsically feel like my body is not at war with food and it’s thanking me for taking better care of it by being way more alert, steady, and ridiculously happy for no reason! Like earlier today, I had a Michael Jackson dance party in my kitchen for no particular reason! I mean, well it IS Michael – care to join me for another?

Now THAT is good cooking music!
And I have been cooking a LOT – I have turned on the burner for almost every meal over the past 6 days. I’ve been trying out some new recipes (with some epic wins and some semi fails) but mostly have been making “hot bowls” – a mishmash of sauteed veggies with a generous serving of protein mixed in. I also started a new exciting full-time job with a very fun company this past week and have been pretty busy with that, so I’m happy that “hot bowls” are so easy to make.

Day 1 breakfast: 3 pastured eggs cooked with organic red onion, broccoli and spices in coconut oil, topped with guacamole and fresh diced roma tomato. Black coffee on the side.whole30-Day1bf

Day 2 lunch: Organic spinach salad with chicken breast, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, pepitas & my savory herb vinaigrette.Whole30-Day2lunch

Day 3 lunch: Curried onions and red peppers with chicken and cashews on a bed of coconut sauteed kale.Whole30-Day3lunch

Day 4 dinner: Big winner! Onion, garlic, lamb burger topped with grilled red peppers and guacamole on a bed of spinach surrounded by steamed broccoli and carrots. YUM! Then again, in case you didn’t know, I LOVE lamb.Whole30-Day4dinner

Day 5 breakfast – I scrambled 2 pastured eggs with onions, peppers, and spinach, then topped it off with fresh plum tomatoes and guacamole. I also made home brewed coconut cream chai and savored a medley of blueberries and macadamia nuts. Easy and delicious.Whole30-Day5bf

Today, Day 6, I went grocery shopping to stock up for the next week. I bought a wide variety of organic produce and sustainable organic meats and spent around $100 for what I’m hoping will last me the next week and a half. Following the advice in the Well Fed Paleo Cookbook, I prepped a bunch of stuff this evening to help make meal prep easy and seamless throughout my upcoming busy week.Whole30-Day6mealprepThe fun included baking 2 pounds of organic chicken breast tenders that I can use in salads or toss into stir fry or other hot bowls throughout the week. I shredded cabbage and beets and steamed a large yam. I made cauliflower rice (a recipe from Well Fed) and added cashews. I made more of my savory herb vinaigrette (sans the tamari since no soy) and whipped up a jar of spicy salsa fresca. I did all this prep in under an hour! I feel like I’m ready to rock out another week!

I’m not gonna lie – over the past week, though I’ve been fully satisfied and never hungry between meals – I’ve had subtle cravings, specifically for wine and chocolate.
I’m a single woman in my 30’s, go figure.
However, I’ve resisted the temptation and leaned on ginger tea and blueberries in my times of need.

Feel free to follow my daily activity on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. And I’m happy to explain any of my technique or go into more depth for any of the dishes above. Please leave your questions in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading and have fun cooking!

Austin was fun and now begins my Whole 30

eating and drinking in Austin

I just returned from spending a long weekend in Austin, Texas where I ate and drank and ate and drank and danced and sang around campfires and drank some more. It was a glorious, gluttonous time…

But that’s over now.

it-starts-with-food-cover

On the plane, I read a book titled It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. I give it two thumbs way up.

They talk about all the “science-y stuff” around food – the hormones different foods cause, how they affect your brain and your gut, about leptin and insulin and chronic inflammation, and about so many common diseases and how they are so often – if not always – related to the food we eat. The best part is that they say it all in such a simple (and amusing) way, it’s so easy to understand and be inspired by.

And I am inspired.

The Whole 30 is the plan they created, based on their backgrounds in nutrition, anatomy, and physiology, and from their personal experiences. The Whole 30 is a thirty day “nutritional reset designed to restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation and put an end to unhealthy cravings, habits, and relationships with food”… because heaven knows, after this past weekend (and past several months in general), I need it.

It’s based around the Paleo way of eating and starting today, I am eliminating the following things from my diet:

  • All Grains (including corn and quinoa)
  • Dairy (even the goat variety, but clarified butter is okay)
  • Legumes (except green beans and snap peas)
  • Sugar (not even stevia)
  • Alcohol (ouch)

What I will be consuming via 3 meals a day, 5-6 hours apart is:

  • Organic, grass fed, and pastured meat and eggs (about 25% of my diet)
  • Lots and lots of organic vegetables (about 45%)
  • Some fruits (about 10%)
  • Certain oils, nuts, and fats like avocado, olives, and coconut (about 20%)
  • One morning cup of coffee, black (like Jack Kerouac)

Do I sound completely bonkers?  I’m actually really excited to see what results after 30 days of this! I have a feeling it’s going to rock my world. I have a few other friends riding The Whole 30 train with me and personally know others who rave about it, so that support will be helpful… especially on Friday when I get home from work and all I want to unwind is a glass of wine… not so cheers.

Lest I get ahead of myself.

The rest of the book details meal planning and grocery lists.  I went shopping this evening and spent about $50 on what I hope will last me a week. If you’re interested in it, check out the book and their website for more detailed info.

I’m now coming to completion of day one and I feel fantastic. I’ve had sustained energy throughout my work day and no cravings between meals. For breakfast this morning, I sauteed onions and broccoli in coconut oil, scrambled in 3 pastured eggs, salt and pepper, then topped it with a dollop of guacamole and one diced roma tomato. With my coffee on the side, it was super yum!

whole30-1bf

Day one done, only 29 more to go… I’ll keep you updated as to my progress by posting here and on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’d love to hear your recipe ideas and support each other if you decide to embark on The Whole 30 for yourself.

Best of luck!

And as always, your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section below.

roasted pine nut hummus

roasted pine nut hummus
Hummus is a Mediterranean dip made of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini (sesame seed paste), garlic, lemon juice, and spices. I’ve been a hummus connoisseur for quite some time and I wasn’t super fond of many that were out on the market so I started trying to make it myself. For several years I could never get it quite right, following recipes from cookbooks or off other sites, then one day I discovered the secret… it’s all about warm beans! Say goodbye to chunky hummus with a watery consistency! I prefer to start from dried beans but if you decide to use canned beans (which is totally okay) heat them up for about 5 minutes. Definitely don’t cook them as long as I indicate or they will get hard and… not so delicious.

This recipe is smooth, creamy, and very flavorful with the roasted pine nuts… I think I’ve finally perfected it and it may just be the best darn hummus you ever did eat!
pine nuts banner
Roasted Pine Nut Hummus

Prep time: 9 hours
Active prep time: 1 hour
Makes about 4 cups

1 cup dried garbanzo beans
6 cups pure water
3 garlic cloves
½ cup raw pine nuts
2 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoon cumin
pinch of cayenne
dash of paprika

  • Soak the dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas) in 3 cups of pure water overnight or at least 8 hours.

Now there’s a lot of things you could do in 8 hours. You could sleep, have a full work day, go for a long adventure in nature, read an enthralling book, or a whole bunch of other things… but if you have no idea what you’re going to do for the eight hours while you’re beans are soaking, I’d like to recommend you check out this captivating and inspirational full length movie called Thrive on YouTube. Disclaimer: It’s only 2 hours long but it will likely change the way you look at the world forever, in the most wondrous way.

Well, how was it?!

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Using a colander, strain the water from the soaked beans and rinse them thoroughly. Add them to a large measuring cup, if you have one, and you will see they’ve about doubled in size to 2 cups. Fill the measuring cup with pure water up to the 4 cup mark then add the contents to a heavy large pot and bring to a boil.

soaked garbanzo beans in measuring cup

  • Once boiling, reduce to low heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, peel and trim the ends from 3 cloves of garlic and wrap them together in a small piece of aluminum foil. Roast them in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until soft but not mushy.
  • Spread the pine nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast them for 5 minutes. It’s crucial not to over roast them! 1: they taste terrible when over done and 2: they’re kinda pricey but really give this recipe the special flavor it needs.
  • Set aside a tablespoon of the roasted pine nuts and add the rest along with the roasted garlic to a food processor or heavy duty blender. Turn on low for about 1 minute until almost a paste consistency and scrape the sides using a spatula.
  • Strain but reserve the liquid from the cooked beans.
  • Add the garbanzos, tahini, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, cumin, and pinch of cayenne and blend on high, adding ¼ cup of the bean liquid at a time until you reach your desired consistency. I usually add somewhere between 1 cup and 1½ cups. Note: it will thicken as it cools.
  • Add salt to taste, transfer to a dish, sprinkle with paprika and reserved roasted pine nuts, drizzle with olive oil and serve as a snack or appetizer with veggies, pita, or crackers. It will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Enjoy!

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As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

lemony kale and quinoa salad

I love winter in San Francisco and all the food that’s in season!

kale lemons parsley

I heard a knock at my door the other day and when I opened it, no one was there, but sitting on my doorstep was a gift bag of lemons. My neighbors are the best.

Shortly after that, I went to the grocery store to find that organic lacinato (dinosaur) kale was on sale – 2 bunches for $3 – such a great deal! I grabbed two of those, came home, picked some parsley which is growing like a weed (among the weeds) in my backyard and whipped up this savory salad recipe.

And for a little comic relief where lemons are involved:

Ha!

Lemony Kale and Quinoa Salad

Prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 30 minutes
Serves 6 as a side dish

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1½ cup rinsed quinoa
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1½ teaspoon sea salt
3 cups water
1 bunch dinosaur kale, cut into chiffonade (about 4 cups)
zest of 2 lemons
juice of those 2 lemons
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon real maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
more sea salt to taste

  • Mince the garlic and put aside ¼ of it for the dressing.
  • Heat a heavy pot over medium heat for 15 seconds add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil shimmers (in 15-30 seconds), add the remaining ¾ of the minced garlic and let it “sweat” for 1 minute. Add rinsed quinoa, turmeric, and 1 teaspoon of salt, and stir to coat. Toast for 30 seconds
  • Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes — do not stir. When time’s up, remove the pot from the burner and fluff with a fork, then leave uncovered for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, “massage” the kale with ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl for a minute (kale will shrink in volume). Squeeze the kale and discard the juices that come out of it.
  • In a glass measuring cup, add ¼ cup olive oil, the lemon zest and juice, maple syrup, dijon mustard, black pepper and parsley and whisk together.
  • Add quinoa to the bowl with the kale, cover with dressing, and stir it all together. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

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lemony kale and quinoa salad 014

As always, your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section below.

lucky black eyed peas

dry black eyed peas

Happy New Year!

In southern lore, black eyed peas are thought to bring good luck when eaten in copious amounts on New Year’s Day. So, in the midst of your New Year’s eve prep or New Year’s Day recovery, slow cooking them in a crock pot is awesomely lucky because it’s super easy!

Some prefer to soak the beans for 8 hours to break down the carbohydrates before cooking them and while I have done this before and it definitely reduces the slow cooking time drastically, I have found they are more flavorful when slow cooked from dry beans in chicken broth. For the vegetarians, you can substitute the chicken broth with veggie broth and omit the bacon. Also, this is an excellent “day 2” dish, meaning it’s even better the longer it stews in it’s own juices.

I reckon that the luck of this dish comes from the spice. But that could just be me…

I just can’t get enough!

I will be the first to admit I have a spice addiction – hot sauce in particular. I consider myself a connoisseur of spice. (Sounds classy, doesn’t it?) At one point, I realized that my hot sauce habit was costing me $6 a week. I found this phenomenal secret sauce and I was having it shipped to me directly from the manufacturers in Portland because I couldn’t find it anywhere within 300 miles of San Francisco. Ridiculous, I know! I saw things were getting out of hand so I (tried to) cut back. Then I was averaging about $3 on a good week (just half a bottle)… hopefully I have my habit under control.

This dish is spicy all by itself and definitely doesn’t need any extra heat. In fact, if you’re sensitive to spice, feel free to halve the amounts of jalapeño and cayenne.

Though optional, I recommend a dollop of sour cream on top to balance the spiciness. And for the full southern comfort, I always like having cornbread with this dish. For those gluten free like me, I recommend Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread Mix (available at most fine grocery or natural foods stores), and I use coconut milk and coconut oil in place of milk and butter. Super tasty!

Lucky Black Eyed Peas

Prep time: 30 minutes
Ready in: 6-8 hours
Serves 8

6 cups chicken broth
2½ cups black eyed peas (rinsed)
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
6 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1½ teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt, to taste
cornbread (optional)
sour cream (optional)

  • In a heavy pot or in a ceramic crock pot, sauté the onions, garlic, bell pepper jalapeño, bacon, and spices over medium heat until onion is translucent and bacon is cooked, stirring constantly.
  • Transfer to crock pot / slow cooker, add the black eyed peas and broth, stir it up, cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
  • If after 6 hours the peas are still not soft enough, turn the heat up to high and check on their tenderness and stir every 30 minutes until ready.
  • Divide into bowls with a piece of cornbread and a dollop of sour cream and enjoy!

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lucky new year black eyed peas

I wish you health and happiness in 2013 and as always, your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section below~