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This is one of those dishes which I can easily scrambled together at the last minute. Ground beef is relatively inexpensive and easily available. I usually have some in the freezer. It’s a good alternative when we need a break from spaghetti (another easy dish with ground beef).

When E was younger and started eating table foods, I would make a batch of these and freeze. I made them small enough so that they’re toddler-friendly. It’s a good source of protein, and more importantly, she liked it. When I needed a last-minute protein, all I had to do was to reheat one in the microwave. I’d serve this with a side of rice or pasta and veggies. It’s a nice substitute from those frozen, processed chicken nuggets. I still keep some in my freezer for my kids as a lunchtime back-up meat in case I don’t have anything else in the fridge for them.

A word on ground beef. I try to buy grass-fed when possible. Yes, it’s more expensive, but grass-fed ground beef is still cheaper than buying grass-fed steaks. In my experience, it’s leaner and tastier than grain-fed ground beef. I am not sure about the claims, but it does make me feel better about feeding my family beef that’s been raised more mindful ecologically and health-wise. Generally, I try to buy them locally. I’ve found the prices to be less than big box supermarkets including that big “green one” that takes up a “whole paycheck.” For those who live in the ATL area, the Farm Mobile is a good place to buy grass-fed beef.

 

Easy Mini-Hamburgers

Makes approximately 15 mini-hamburgers

 

Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground beef or grass-fed ground beef

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

pepper

 

Directions:

1. Gather the ground beef, chopped onions, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Gently mix together with a spatula until everything is well-incorporated while making sure not to over-mix.

2. With clean hands, form 2 inch patties. Dent the center of the patties approximately 1/4 inch with finger. Place on a clean plate.

3. Heat pan with medium high heat. Oil pan if necessary. Gently place the individual patties down onto hot pan. Turn heat down to medium or medium low. Brown both sides approximately two minutes per side or until cooked through. (Note: Because I use a seasoned carbon steel pan and the beef releases some fat, I find that I don’t have to use extra oil for the pan.)

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We brought the kids to Disney World last week and ate at a lot of places catered to tourists. We were limited with time and two younger kids, so we had to eat at convenient places like eateries inside the theme parks or tourists-oriented chain restaurants. I was so ready to eat a light, home-cooked meal by the end of our trip. I was sick of fried, greasy, bland-tasting meals. It reminded me of my parents that no matter where they are in the world, they somehow always find their ways to a Chinese restaurant after a few days of trying out local cuisine. I suppose it’s comfort food for them. I still remember eating Chinese food in Paris instead of eating more of those crusty French baguettes. Those Asian parents! I suppose I’m becoming one like them. I was craving a light, home-cooked Asian meal. Ha!

I like to keep a bag of frozen salmon fillets from Costco in my freezer for quick (emergency) meals. They thaw fairly quickly and I love how they are individually-packaged. I can just take out how much I need. Yes, I know. Bad for the environment, but saves me lots of trouble.

Chinese people say ginger and scallions together will eradicate the “fishiness” of fish. This dish makes my house smells so good. I can’t stand lingering sautéed onion smell, but I love the combination of ginger and scallions together with rice wine.

This is a super-easy dish to make. Just put it together and pop in the oven. You’ll have a healthy meal in 15 minutes.

 

Ingredients:

serves 4

 

4 (7 ounce) boneless salmon fillets

4 inch ginger piece, peeled and julienned

4 scallions, julienned

1 teaspoon rice wine

1 teaspoon salt

4 large pieces of parchment paper

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place the parchment paper pieces onto a large baking sheet, then place individual salmon fillets onto parchment paper. One fillet on each piece of parchment paper.

3. Salt the individual salmon fillets front and back. Divide the julienned ginger and scallion equally to four portions and place on top of the salmon fillets. Sprinkle rice wine onto the top of each salmon fillets.

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4. Seal the parchment packages tightly. Place in oven and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until cooked through.

5. Carefully open the package or rip through center of parchment package before serving.

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H and I don’t really like to dine out on Valentine’s Day. In our past experiences, dining out on that evening have always felt rushed as they try to move diners through in order to accommodate all of the reservations for that evening. Food in a typically awesome restaurant can be mediocre. So we started to just dine in a few years back.

For this past Valentine’s Day, H surprised me with a little treat from Urban Pl8. You see, it was special because we had just dined there a few nights prior with our children. Because dinner was a little rushed as S got more and more restless after he quickly devoured his grilled cheese on pita bread (which was really awesome), we didn’t have much time for dessert. I eyed their dessert menu and marveled at the idea of a paleo chocolate pudding. We then rushed home without ordering any desserts.

So on Valentine’s Day this past year, I was touched that H took time during his lunch hour in traffic to pick the dessert up all the way on the other side of town so that he can surprise me later. I was nearly in tears. Sounds dramatic, but I really was. At that point, I had been really good about trying to curb my sweet tooth. So this was truly a treat!

I have been thinking about making a similar pudding at home since. Since S has his egg allergy, a pudding like this will be great for him to enjoy as a treat, too. Since I love the combination of coffee and chocolate, I decided to make my own version of this pudding. Don’t be turned off by the idea of avocado in a dessert. It has a nice texture and you really can’t taste its flavor after you mix it with honey, cocoa powder, and coffee.

By the way, be careful with the caffeine and children. S was up until 1am after he had just a few spoonfuls (4 to be exact) of this pudding. I didn’t think he would be that affected by just a few spoonfuls. After that incident, I always omit the coffee in his chocolate pudding. Lesson learned.

Chocolate Coffee Avocado Pudding

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 avocados

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 teaspoons instant coffee granules

2 tablespoons coconut milk (or milk of your choice)

4 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

blueberries for garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. Measure all ingredients into a large bowl. Carefully mix with a hand blender or hand mixer until smooth in consistency (You can also use a blender or food processor).

2. Chill for at least one hour.

3. Garnish with a few blueberries before serving.

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Unfortunately, everyone here in this house besides me are not huge fans of vegetables. I find it frustrating when I labor over dinner preparation, only to pack up a huge dish of leftover cooked vegetables which I will be the only one having to finish it sometime later. And then there’s the guilt of the family not eating enough vegetables as we all know the health benefits of vegetables.

And then I discovered this: roasted cauliflower.

Finally, a veggie dish that everyone like around here! Even H (the husband, as I will refer to in this blog from here on out) snacks on the leftover after dinner! It’s a miracle. His mama would be so proud of him, as she still constantly “remind” him to eat more vegetables along with a list of other “reminders” like drink more water.

When cauliflower is roasted, it caramelizes a little on the outside making it taste really good- slightly crisp on the outside, while soft on the inside. Believe me, you will never go back to sauté them. It’s another one of those easy stick-in-the-oven dish. I set the timer, break up a sibling quarrel or two between E and S, then come back to it.

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Roasted Cauliflower

Serves 4

 

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower

3 cloves of garlic, minced

cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

salt

pepper

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil.

2. Wash and dry the cauliflower head with paper towel. (Tip: The dryer you dry the cauliflower, the more “crisp” your dish will be. Sometimes I will wash and dry earlier in the day, let it sit on the counter, then get to it a few hours later. By then, it will be completely dry.)

3. Cut up the cauliflower into 1.5 to 2 inch pieces. (Tip: After slicing off the big florets from the main stem, it’s easier to use the tip of the knife and cut into the bottom part of the stem while carefully splitting the floret into two smaller pieces with the other hand. There will be less “crumbs” or broken pieces of the florets this way.)

4. In a large mixing bowl, toss the cut-up cauliflower florets with a drizzle of olive oil so that every piece will be coated with some oil. Then add the minced garlic, salt, pepper and toss to coat evenly.

5. Spread the cauliflower evenly in one layer onto the lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. At about halfway through baking time (15 minutes), carefully remove from oven and flip the cauliflower florets using a spatula onto the other side so that both sides will caramelize evenly.

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As a mother of two little ones, I am always looking for an easy way to prepare dinner. Somehow around the time when I have to prep for dinner, they become super-clingy. One becomes whiny while conjoined to my leg and the other is throwing all of the toilet paper into the toilet. Easy dinners that come out of the oven have become a go-to around here. Prep the dish, stick it in the oven, then it’s done right around dinnertime. I don’t have to stand over the stove and worry about kids getting burns.

This recipe is one of those. No grill required therefore no risking getting locked out on the deck by two little ones who wouldn’t be able to unlock and let you back in.

I prefer dry rub over sauce for my ribs. The spices are easily found in my spice cabinet. Feel free to substitute garlic powder for onion powder. I have tried both and prefer the garlic version. If you want to make two rack of ribs, just place one rack of ribs on the top rack of oven and the other on the lower rack. Switch the top with bottom at halfway (45 minutes) of baking time so that both racks of ribs will cook evenly.

 

1 rack of baby back ribs

garlic powder

paprika

salt

freshly ground pepper

 

1. Preheat oven to 325 degree.

2. Dry the top and bottom of the ribs with a paper towel.

3. Sprinkle generously on the bottom of the ribs with garlic powder and paprika, followed by pepper. Salt as desired. Gently “massage” the dry rub into the bottom-side of the ribs. Flip the rack of ribs over, and repeat on the other side.

4. Place ribs on a rack (optional) on top of a foiled rimmed baking sheet.

5. Bake for 90 minutes.

6. Remove from oven and tent the ribs with a piece of foil (To tent means to loosely cover the meat while it rests so that the juices of the meat can redistribute). Let it rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting into individual ribs. (This is important because if you cut into the meat right away, you will lose some of the juice and risk your meat from becoming dry).

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