Thursday, 19 December 2013

Paleo Nachos with "Re-Fried Beans"

Is it just me or is the paleo-recipe world expanding at the speed of light?  I can't say enough how many awesome recipes and food ideas are out there nowadays--really smart ideas that make me wonder; why didn't I think of that?!

This is one of those things.

I did not think up this idea.  Any of these ideas.  I first saw it here.  And as soon as I saw it, I knew it would work--multiple ways.  So then I just went about the business of adapting the ideas I saw to work with what I had on-hand.

I used to think that nacho platters and re-friend beans were a thing of my past...

I mean, how can you replace nacho chips, right?

Rainbow peppers--sweet rainbow peppers.  That's right.  Because the chips are just a vessel to hold the chili, cheese, re-fried beans and guac.  Brilliant, right?  Yea, I'm not that brilliant.  But I know delicious when I taste it.

And yea, you did hear that right.  I said re-fried beans.  Only without beans.  Bean-less re-fried beans.  Sometimes you gotta throw all the food rules that you think you know right out the window.  Really, what is the dominant taste in re-fried beans? Certainly not the bean, again, that's just the vessel.  It's the right blend of seasoning and spice, and the stick-to-your-ribs creaminess.  Well, you can get that without the beans. Honest.  So lets start with re-fried beans.  I basically took 2 recipes and adapted it the way I wanted it (see them here and here)...

You will need:
1 small squash--butternut or delicata squash is best
1/2 onion
bacon grease for frying
1/2 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
1-2 tsp juice from pickled jalapenos
a few pickled jalapeno rings, minced
a dash or two of cayenne
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 Tbs tomato paste

Cook your squash however you want--I cook mine in the microwave.  While that's cooking, whip out your magic bullet or food processor and finely mince your sun-dried tomatoes.  Chop your onions.  In the bacon grease, cook your onions and spices in the bacon grease until they begin to turn translucent.  Add dried tomatoes, tomato paste, jalapenos and juice and cook for another minute or two.  Transfer cooked squash and cooked onion and spice mixture to food processor or magic bullet and blend until smooth.  Chill--this will thicken in the fridge.

That's 7 small rainbow-coloured sweet peppers
Alright, now let's talk nachos.  Yes, you totally need a whole lot of rainbow peppers (about 6-7 for a cookie sheet, so do this when they're on sale, ok?).  And some leftover chili.  But in my house there's no such thing as leftover chili.  It just never happens.  Let me tell you a little secret--taco meat.  It makes totally fine nachos (and this recipe has the best blend of spices to taste just like that spice packet we're all used in the past....). To a pound (or 1 1/2 lbs) of ground beef, add spices, cook until no longer pink, then add 1/2 cup water and let simmer for a few minutes.  It will sauce up just like those spice packets do.  What, you want your taco meat a little more...chili-like?  How about adding a couple of tablespoons tomato paste and an equal part water at the tail end?  You're welcome.  It's really that easy.
Took 2 hands to get this beast in the oven...

Ok, so you made your re-fried beans, you made your taco meat.  You chopped peppers until your wrist hurt (I'm kidding--it takes about 5 minutes...).  Layer the nacho peppers on a cookie sheet with the meat mixture, then with grated cheese (if you do dairy) and green onions, and bake at 425 degrees for about 12-15 minutes.  Enjoy with guac, salsa, and plain full-fat yogurt.
And voila.  That's the re-fried beans up front.  I pigged out.  There's was Frank's Hot Sauce involved.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Chicken Divan

Do you remember, pre-paleo, that chicken and rice and broccoli and cheese casserole that called for a can of mushroom soup?

I do.

Don't you miss canned mushroom soup?  I do.

It was the canned mushroom soup that was the most troubling to replace, in my opinion.  I'm dreaming of a paleo-ified version of mushroom soup that can be made ahead of time, and frozen, so my teen can heat-and-serve it when she wants it.  I'm almost there.  Almost.  The "freezer-friendly" is the part that's holding me up.

But meantime, do you know how to make a paleo-ified cream of mushroom soup?  At least a primal one? Boil regular mushrooms-and a few chopped dried mushrooms- in good beef broth for about 15 minutes, then add a bit of whole fat cream mixed with a bit of tapioca starch into it to thicken it at the end.  Seriously. That easy.  Who'da thunk it?

But as for paleo-ifying the casserole dish?  Nailed it.  One big happy comfort-food-fed family the night I made this.  And not too complex, either.

A couple of notes on this recipe--the dried mushrooms really intensify the mushroom-soup flavour.  I think they're critical to the recipe so don't skip this step.  As for the broth--home made beef bone broth makes the most authentic-tasting mushroom soup flavour, but who puts beef broth with chicken?  Apparently I do, but I understand if you want to use chicken broth here in this recipe.  If you do, you may want to add garlic powder and onion powder to the soup while you're simmering it for extra flavouring, and increase the dried mushroom amount a bit.

Feeds 5-6


1 onion, chopped
1 lb chicken breast or thighs, de-boned and de-skinned
2 bunches broccoli--I like to peel and use the stems, too
1/2 pkg mushrooms, chopped fine
2-3 dried mushrooms, any flavour you like
1 c broth, any flavour (but beef is best)
1 c cheddar cheese, divided, optional
1 Tbs tapioca starch or arrowroot flour
1 Tbs butter, for onions
approx 1/4 - 1/3 c whipping cream or coconut milk
1 tsp butter and 1/4 c almond flour/meal for topping (optional)


Ok, prep everything--chop onion, mushrooms, broccoli and chicken.  Grate cheese, if using.  Grind your dried mushrooms with a food processor/coffee grinder/spice grinder, or chop finely if you don't own any of these.  Pull out a frypan and heat it on medium.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a large casserole dish--or make things REALLY simple and use an oven-proof skillet.

Saute your onions in butter until they begin to turn translucent.  Add chicken, mushrooms, dried mushrooms and broth, cover and poach over medium heat until chicken is no longer pink--about 15 minutes to let mushrooms develop flavour.  While chicken is poaching, dissolve tapioca in about 1/4 c cream.  Add slowly to simmering chicken, stirring constantly as it thickens.  Add more cream if more liquid is needed, you want it to be about the thickness of cream soup.  Turn off the burner and add in half of your cheese.

Meanwhile, either microwave or steam your broccoli until just al-dente.  For mine, this meant 6 minutes in a microwave with a splash of water.  In a small bowl, mash together remaining butter, almond meal and cheddar.

Stir the cooked broccoli into the chicken mixture, then move it all into the buttered casserole dish.  Crumble your almond meal mixture over top.  Bake, uncovered, about 20 minutes until bubbling through and golden ontop.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Creamy Dark Chocolate Fudge

As a kid, my grandma made fudge.  Now, maybe she wasn't Molly Homemaker--she made the kind that uses a can of sweetened condensed milk, a package of semi-sweet chocolate chips, a splash of vanilla, and voila, awesomeness happened.

So, forgive me for this, but THAT is what I think homemade fudge should taste like.  I've tried a bunch of the paleo fudge recipes that are out there, and they rely on coconut oil as the base, or thickener, which, excuse me, does not make anything resembling what I remember fudge tasting like.  It makes for healthy snacking food, and is certainly a healthier choice than this recipe, but THAT AIN'T FUDGE!  

Note:  This recipe can be fed to non-paleo peeps who will never know that you made something healthier than traditional fudge.  And once you've made this version of sweetened condensed coconut milk, just imagine the possibilities that will follow......

Of course, the real issue was the sweetened, condensed milk.  Have you read about the Pottenger's Cats Study? Avoid that crap like it's the plague incarnate.  Seriously.  But google/pinterest search condensed coconut milk, and you'll see--the answer is OUT THERE!

So...  Replacing the sweetened condensed milk was the main change here, and just because we paleo-types like us some dark chocolate, I made this fudge into an 85% Dark Fudge.  You are welcome.

So here's what you do:  First make your own

Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk

You will need
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 c honey

Over high heat (I used the highest heat setting below MAX), combine coconut milk and honey, bring to a boil while stirring constantly and continue to cook for about 10-15 minutes.  You will see it begin to turn slightly light yellow and thicken.  The key is to keep stirring the whole time.

Now, while the condensed milk is still warm, even, you can move onto the fudge.

Creamy Dark Chocolate Fudge

You will need
approx 300g chocolate--I used 4 squares of unsweetened chocolate and 5 squares of semi-sweet chocolate
sweetened condensed coconut milk (recipe above)
1 tsp vanilla

Alright, so remove your condensed milk from the element and turn it down to medium-low, allowing the element to cool.  Take out an 8x8 dish and line it with waxed paper, making sure the paper comes up over the edges.  Measure out/weigh out your chocolate.

Put your pot of condensed milk back on the element and add your chocolate.  Stir constantly until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat, add vanilla, then immediately pour into prepared dish.  Smooth out and chill in fridge for 1 hour.  After the hour, remove the fudge from the pan and cut it up and move it into a storage container.  Keep this fudge in the fridge.  It should keep for up to 2 weeks, though we'd eaten all of ours within the first week.  (I'd cut mine into 1/2" cubes and only allowed us all to have 2-3 cubes after dinner each day....)

Try this with:

  • added peppermint extract
  • a but of sunbutter melted, then marbled through after pouring into the dish
  • a bit of coconut butter melted, then marbled through after pouring into the dish
  • toppings!  Go ahead, I challenge you to find organic honey-sweetened candy canes to crumble ontop!  They exist!
And remember, folks, this ain't health food, it's just healthier than the original non-paleo-ified versions.