Friday, June 29, 2012

Fresh Basil Tricks

You never know where you will pick up a little prepping trick. I was watching the food network the other day, and the host was talking about knives, and cutting up some basil. I was taking notes on the cutlery AND his basil rolling.  (I know, I'm such a multi-tasker!!) Here is a little trick for your Friday afternoon. Now you will be cutting your basil in a flash, and you will look like a pro!

First, wash your basil and remove from stem. Make a stack of leaves. 
Next, roll the leaves into a little burrito. (Don't worry it's a "Paleo" burrito. ;) )
Finally, cut into the roll to get evenly slivered pieces of basil. 

Add to your favorite recipe and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cooking Oil Usage

You probably know by now the difference between good and bad fats. Your pantry has quality olive, coconut, and avocado oil in it. But you may be wondering when you should use each oil. Some are better to cook with and others are best left unheated. I found a great outline of oils on this site. Check out the list below for your guide to oils.

Cooking Oils

No Heat-Flaxseed oil
-Walnut oil

No-Low Heat:-Extra virgin olive oil

Low-Medium Heat-Coconut oil (Unrefined)
-Grass-fed butter
-Extra virgin olive oil (Do not let it smoke!)

Medium- High Heat-Coconut oil (Refined)
-Chicken / Duck / Goose Fat

High Heat, or Any Heat-Palm oil
-Grassfed beef tallow
-Pasture pork lard
-Avocado oil
-Grassfed clarified butter (Ghee)

As nature would have it, it turns out all of these above options are also the healthiest oils to be consuming anyways! For the best health avoid these following common oils, at any temperature:

-partially hydrogenated oil (Crisco)
-hydrogenated oil
-interesterified oil
-Soybean oil
-Canola oil
-Safflower oil
-Sunflower oil
-Peanut oil
-Grapeseed oil
-Rapeseed oil
-Corn oil
-Extra Light Olive Oil (turns out this is heavily chemically processed and can contain trans-fats)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fresh Pesto Chicken Pizza

Have some left over chicken from your recent BBQ? Use it up by adding it to this fresh simple recipe. You will be sure to enjoy the final result. As always use this recipe as a base and add or take away any ingredients to fit your families' tastes. 

Fresh Pesto Chicken Pizza
3-4 cooked chicken breast copped into cubes
1 pizza crust (see recipe below)
Pesto sauce (see recipe below)
1/2 onion
Cherry Tomatoes
Parmesan Cheese (optional)

* Prepare Crust as below and place in oven for 20 min. 

        2 cups almond meal
        2 eggs
        3 tbsp olive oil
        ¼ tsp baking soda
        1 tsp garlic powder
        1 ½ tbsp fresh rosemary chopped

        Pre heat oven to 350 degrees

         Mix crust ingredients together in a large bowl. Mixture will be thick- form into a ball. Put ball in between two pieces of parchment paper or wax paper and roll flat. It should be about 12 inches wide, rolling it as thin as possible. Place crust onto cooking sheet, remove wax paper. If you are using a silpat, no oil is necessary. If you are using a regular cooking sheet, lightly oil it with olive oil. 

* While crust is baking make pesto sauce:

Pesto Sauce:
2/3 cup olive oil
2 bunches of fresh basil
1/2 cup pine nuts
6 cloves of garlic
Salt to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until mixed and smooth. 

* Using a cooking fat of your choice, carmalize onions. I used this trick to chop my onions into little pieces. 

* Once your crust has been baked, top with pesto sauce, chicken, onions, cherry tomatoes (cut into 1/2), and parmesean cheese (optional). Return pizza to oven and cook for another 20-30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and middle is warmed. 

*Remove from oven, cut, serve and enjoy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Onion Cutting Trick

Ever fought your way through cutting an onion? I am usually trying to go as quickly as possible to avoid the tears, yet I end up with a poorly chopped onion, and a floodgate from my eyes.  I recently came across this genius way to chop an onion. Not only will your onion be easier to cut, you will end up with beautiful, even looking bits. People everywhere will be astounded by your culinary skills!!! OK maybe not, but a good prepping trick is worth a lot in the kitchen. :) Enjoy.

Start by cutting off the roots (but not the root ball) and the top of your onion:
Next, cut into the top layer of the skin of the onion from one end to the other. . . 

Using the edge of your knife, peel back the corner from where you just cut, this will release the peel and you will be able to remove the whole thing in one swoop. . . 

Cut your onion in half (you can see the little bit of the root ball at the bottom of this picture) . . . 

Cut into the onion in a "sundial" pattern, cutting from the outside to the center of the onion. The trick here is to not cut all the way back into the root ball (notice how far back the knife is in the onion). . .

Now you can chop your onion without all the little parts slipping all over. Cut back to the root ball and discard the hard bit that remains. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How Inflammation Affects Our Hunger Responses

I think most of us give our "wants" too much credit. We think, oh my body really wants this or that because we are craving it. We seem to think our bodies know best, but we forget that our bodies are responding to the food we are giving it. Our crummy diets are affecting our bodies messaging systems and sending us the wrong messages. It is time to reboot our systems and clear up the pathways for a healthier life. Check out this blog post from Robb Wolf. In it he writes: "When the down regulation of receptors occurs our hypothalamus goes into a protective, starvation mode and increases our appetite and decreases our willingness to exercise. " So the food we eat is literally sending us a message to move less and eat more!?!? Ahhh- stop the insanity. Let your brain do the choosing not your body. Remember, you can do it, and your health is worth the trouble! :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fresh Pesto Spaghetti Squash Shrimp

OK, I may or may not have been on a shrimp kick lately. For all you shrimp haters out there, I promise I will cook other entrees soon. For all you shrimp lovers out there, here is another amazing, simple, and crowd pleasing recipe for ya! I found it here, and it turned out perfect!

Fresh Pesto Spaghetti Squash Shrimp
1 lb fresh shrimp
1/3 cup olive oil
1 bunch of fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 cloves of garlic
3 T parmesan cheese (optional)
Salt to taste
For cooking shrimp:
Coconut oil
1 clove garlic

Cook spaghetti squash following these directions. (Check out this tip on how to cut the squash without losing a finger) Meanwhile, in a food processor combine the olive oil, basil, pine nuts, cheese (optional), and garlic. Blend until smooth. 

On stove top, warm coconut oil and 1 T garlic. Once melted, add shrimp and cook stirring frequently until shrimp is opaque and pink. Add spaghetti squash and pesto, and toss till sauce is over all the ingredients. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Shop Like a Detective

Did you know the numbers on the produce stickers actually mean something? Well they do! They are called PLU numbers and the tell you whether the produce was grown organically, genetically engineered (modified in a lab to produce larger, or brighter colors resulting in a less than quality food) or grown with chemically fertilizers, herbicides, or fungicides. You can now shop like a detective as you roam your local supermarket. Below is a break down of the PLU numbers and what they stand for.

4 Digit Code Beginning With a "3" or a "4":
- Conventionally grown. This most likely means it was grown using a variety of chemical treatments.

5 Digit Code Beginning With an "8":
-Genetically Engineered. It may have been treated with chemicals.

5 Digit Code Beginning With a "9":
-Raised Organically. This produce was raised without the use of chemicals.

Here is an easy way to remember these numbers:
#9- is divine
#8- we hate
#3-4- total bore

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stress Management

We are in a go, go, go world. If you want more, do more, if you are not happy with your life, do more, if you feel overwhelmed, do something to fix it. The problem is that we don't relax very well. Did you know that your stress may be having a larger affect on you than you thought? You can't just simply hit the gym for a hour and work off all the stress, (although it does help). Chances are we could be more mindful of managing our stress, just like we do our food. Check out this post by Robb Wolf explaining the biochemistry of stress and the affect it has on our bodies.

Ha ha- not an effective stress management tool:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fresh Garlic Shrimp

I just love making shrimp- it is so easy and fast! I made this recipe over the weekend and added some fresh bruchetta to the mix. I ended up just tossing everything together on my plate- so delicious. You can make the bruchetta as a side or add it to the shrimp.
Fresh Garlic Shrimp
1 lb fresh shrimp
4 T butter
2 cloves of fresh minced garlic
1/2 lemon
In your wok or pan, heat butter, garlic and juice from 1/2 lemon. Once warm, add shrimp (when you buy the shrimp they usually come with the tail on. I remove this before I cook them, although you can leave it on and remove as you eat). Saute shrimp for a few minutes tossing frequently until the shrimp turn opaque and light pink.
Remove shrimp and enjoy!
Simple Bruschetta Recipe
You will need, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, fresh basil. I don't measure this, I just cut everything up and toss it together in a bowl. Sometimes I add a splash of balsamic vinegar and in this recipe I used a sprinkle of goat cheese. The flavors will blend together as you let it sit for a bit before serving.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Knife Sharpening Tips

I LOVE using a freshly sharpened knife. Whenever I go to a friends house to cook I usually feel out of my element if the knives are dull. A good quality knife will last you a lifetime, if you treat it well. Frequent "sharpening" or straightening out of the blade is vital to the quality of your knife. Remember to use a chopping block and not a glass, ceramic or tile cutting board that will ding and dent your blade. If you are not familiar with how to properly sharpen your blade check out this video for a demonstration.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Aminal Protien

Do you want the low down on meat? In the past, it has felt confusing for me to decide what to buy when I am standing in front of the meat at the supermarket wanting to make a healthy selection.  I had no idea what was the difference from organic, grass feed, natural and hormone free food. Check out the information below for some tips. The list was taken from this blog. He gives you a guide to each meat category. So the next time you go to the grocery store, you will be prepared!

Animal Protein

Red Meat
In the news recently there has been a lot of controversy over whether or not red meat is a healthful food and whether or not it causes cancer.
We’ve been eating meat since the beginning of time, but the meat we evolved on makes up for a very small fraction of what is available to us today.
The truth is that all the studies that have said it is a cancer and other disease causing food are flawed studies that combine a McDonald’s bacon cheeseburger with the list of high standards meat must have to be a healthful food.
There is absolutely no evidence to support that the following classifications of meat are bad for you however a lot to support how healthful it is:
Note: If you are unable to meet these standards for whatever reason, do your best. Even lower quality meat is going to be better for you than conventional diet. As a rule of thumb, if it isn’t quality, make it lean.
Beef, Lamb, Buffalo and other game meats:

- 100% grass-fed and finished (No grain or corn fed at any point of the animal’s life)

– 100% hormone & antibiotic-free

-Not processed (No breakfast sausage, pepperoni, salami, deli meat, canned/frozen meats, beef jerky, corned beef, bacon, hotdogs, etc)
If you follow these guidelines, red meat is definitely not something to avoid. Any investigation can pretty clearly point to how this is possible, because most places that you’d buy red meat at, either restaurants or stores, don’t offer meat that meets these standards.
Poultry is less often accused of causing major health risks, but there are still qualifications that it should meet if money allows it:
-Pasture Raised
(You likely will have to shop farmers markets for this one. No grocery store sells pasture raised chickens)If not available:
-Free range chickens

- 100% hormone & antibiotic-free

- Not processed (No turkey bacon, packaged turkey / chicken sausage, jerky, deli meat, etc) unless you happen to find a quality one

-Foraging diet (You likely will have to shop farmers markets for this one. No grocery store sells foraged pigs)
- Wild (not farmed)

- Primarily Small (To help avoid mercury exposure, it is better to stay away from large fish)
- If canned, must be packaged in water only (no salt, phosphates, or vegetable oil)
Crab (Domestic)
Croaker (Atlantic)
Haddock (Atlantic)
Mackerel (N. Atlantic, Chub)
Perch (Ocean)
Salmon (Canned)
Salmon (Fresh)
Shad (American)
Sole (Pacific)
Squid (Calamari)
Trout (Freshwater)

Bass (Striped, Black)
Cod (Alaskan)
Croaker (White Pacific)
Halibut (Atlantic)
Halibut (Pacific)
Jacksmelt (Silverside)
Mahi Mahi
Perch (Freshwater)
Tuna (Canned chunk light)
Tuna (Skipjack)
Weakfish (Sea Trout)

Eat three servings or less per month:

Mackerel (Spanish, Gulf)
Sea Bass (Chilean)
Tuna (Canned Albacore)
Tuna (Yellowfin)

Avoid eating:
Mackerel (King)
Orange Roughy
Tuna (Bigeye, Ahi)

Mercury Source:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fresh Taco Soup

I have been on the hunt for a good taco soup. It used to be a staple in our house, and now that I found this recipe, it will be again. The fresh cilantro and avocado make this soup not only delicious, but it looks great too! So plug in that crock pot, your are about to enjoy a flavorful meal!

Fresh Taco Soup
1 lb ground beef
2 chicken breasts
1 tsp salt
2 T dried chopped onion
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
2 C diced tomatoes
4 C chicken stock
1/2 cabbage

Toppings for the end:
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
1-2 avocado

Dice chicken breasts and cook thoroughly, adding a little salt and pepper to taste. Brown ground beef, adding a little salt and pepper to taste.

Cut 1/2 a head of cabbage into strips. These will be your "tortilla strips".

Place all ingredients (except cilantro and avocado) in your crock pot. Place on low heat and cook for 3-4 hours.
Once cooked, add fresh chopped cilantro and avocado to your bowl and enjoy!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fresh Grilled Fish Tricks

I have not ventured into the world of grilled fish very often. Not because I don't like fish, because I really do, but because it always seems so daunting and I never quite knew what to do with it. The reality is it is quite simple. Check out these grilling tips from Mark's Daily Apple. Happy Grilling!