Thursday, October 10, 2013

Toasted (not) Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich 'Katybars'

Before you think I'm crazy, no - I haven't lost my mind and gone back to eating peanut butter. I'm pretty against peanuts and peanut butter now, but I used to love them. Now I just have too many reasons to avoid peanuts. For one, most peanut butter is loaded with sugar, which I don't eat anymore. Two - peanuts aren't really a nut, they are a legume, and I don't eat those anymore. Neither sugar nor legumes are part of a Paleo or Primal diet because they both cause inflammation, which leads to chronic illnesses. Have you read my post "What the heck is Paleo anyway?" If not, it might clear up some confusion you are having right now. If you aren't sold that peanuts are pretty bad for you, you can read these two articles from Mark's Daily Apple (1 & 2). He does a great job of explaining the science-y stuff!

BUT if you are already on the Paleo train with me, and get why we stay away from sugar and peanuts, you probably still miss a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich like I do. My paternal grandmother, Eloise, who I call "Gaga," used to make me the most special PB&J ever. She would lovingly cut off the crusts, lightly BUTTER the outside of the sandwich and stick the whole thing in the toaster oven until it was warm, crunchy and gooey. I thought she was a genius. I still do actually. She is an amazing woman, and without her I would not be the same person I am today. She has leopard print carpet in her house, and she was into animal prints and lime green way before Snooki was (unfortunately) a household name. She loves a party, she loves sunsets on the beach, and a good glass of red wine at the end of the day. Everyone who meets my grandmother can instantly tell that there is something special about her that radiates from her soul.

Ian and I had the privilege of living with my grandmother for a few years, and in that time, we became even closer, and she also came to genuinely love Ian. She would tell me all the time that he was the one I needed to hold onto for the rest of my life, and she was completely right. We moved in with my grandmother not long after my grandfather passed away from pancreatic cancer. My grandmother was in the early stages of dementia, and she referred to us as her "roommates." I miss that time so much, and I miss her. We live 7 hours away now, and her short term memory has gotten much worse, and she now has 24 hour care in her home. Every time I talk to her on the phone it is pretty hard because she asks over and over if me and Ian will come back to be her roommates again. Even though her memory has gotten pretty bad, she has never forgotten Ian's name, and she always tells me that she misses him too. She remembers that she could always tell when he came home from work because she could hear him singing on his way in the house.

Anyway, I know you guys just want to get to the recipe, but I just wanted to explain a little background of why this particular flavor of a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich is so special to me. Like that scene in Ratatouille where the food critic takes one bite and is immediately brought back to his mother's kitchen, when I first made and tested this new bar, the flavor was spot on like a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich that my grandmother used to make for me when I was a child.

There are tons of recipes out there for homemade larabars, but this is my addition to the growing pile. These are nut and peanut free, as I have used sunflower seeds, and they are also made with raisins, instead of dates, so they are a little more affordable. Since they are nut free, you can probably make them to take to school if your child is in a nut-free classroom.

Toasted (not) Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich 'Katybars'


16 oz of raw sunflower seeds (I used Trader Joe's Brand)
16 oz of Organic Thomson Seedless Raisins (again, I used Trader Joe's Brand)
1 tablespoon of grassfed butter or ghee (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt


1. In a large saute pan or skillet, melt the butter or ghee. Add the sunflower seeds and toast over medium heat for about ten minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. (**If you do not eat butter because you have a milk allergy, you can omit the butter and just toast the sunflower seeds the same way, but dry, without any added oil. It is not necessary, it just adds to the toasted flavor!)
2. Once the sunflower seeds are toasted, add them into a large food processor, and process for about 30 seconds.
3. Add in the raisins and salt, and process another few minutes until the mixture comes together in a sticky ball.
4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread out the mixture onto a third of the pan.
5. Place another peiece of parchment paper on the top, and using a roling pin, smooth out the top so that you have one even layer.
6. Place in the fridge for 10-20 minutes, then use a sharp knife to cut into bars. You can also use cookie cutters to cut out fun shapes if you like.
7. This makes about 20 bars, depending on how large you cut them. Store in the fridge if you used the butter, or store in an airtight container on the counter if not.

I hope you guys love these as much as I do! If you grandmother is somewhere close by, go hug her for me, since I can't hug mine! I implore you guys to always be patient with someone suffering from short term memory problems. They are going to repeat things over and over, and I encourage you to just keep responding as if they haven't already told you that story. Their words are just as important, even if they aren't brand new each time. Even though my grandmother repeats herself all day, she has such a passion for life, and she refuses to give up, no matter how hard life has been for her at times. She has definitely made her life count, and I hope that someday I can be as good a grandmother to my grand kids as she was to me.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fall Party Salad

Most people who "go paleo" are making pretty good choices when they are at home, but they get nervous when venturing out of their cave. What do I do when I go to a party? Am I going to be able to eat anything? If I don't eat something that everyone else is, will I look weird or rude?

Here's the solution: offer to bring something, and make sure it's something you can eat. There are tons of options, but I really like to bring a salad. I know, you must think I'm crazy for bringing a bunch of leaves and vegetables and thinking that it will be a hit -- but guess what? Every time I bring a salad people go nuts! I don't just go to the store and pick up one of those pre-made salads that's boring--I make a hand-crafted, artisan style salad that has enough elegance that people just HAVE to try it.

If you are just now joining me and haven't read all my posts, my caveman just recently got a new job and we moved to Virginia Beach. The people on his team at work, and his boss, and his boss's boss, are all AWESOME fun people. Everyone is a little different, from different age groups, different ethnicity, but all of them have a great sense of humor and love a party. This is the busy season for Ian's particular field, and to kick off the season, a month or so ago his boss had a cookout at her house, and invited everyone and their families. I asked if I could bring something, and she told me what a few other people were bringing. One of the couples was bringing their signature dish of Spanish Rice and Beans, which had their own flare because they are originally from the Dominican Republic. She mentioned a few other dishes, and I decided to make my Cuban Salad with fresh Avocado Vinaigrette. The only difference to the original recipe was that I added some hard chorizo, so that the salad had a little protein in it. That way, if I was unsure about eating anything else, I knew I could eat my dish, and be satisfied. Everyone absolutely LOVED the salad, and especially the dressing. It was different, but also had some familiar aspects that people were comfortable with, and just about everyone asked for the recipe for the dressing. The Dominican couple even took the leftover dressing home! Big success.

Fast forward to this month, and Ian's boss threw another party and this time ASKED me to bring a salad! "The one you made last time was so good!" So this time, I decided to make a fall salad inspired by what was fresh at the market on Saturday morning.

This salad is meant to feed a crowd, so if you are just making it for your family, cut the recipe in half. Or, make the whole amount, and then you can keep it in your fridge for a few days and serve on the side of a couple of meals.

Fall Party Salad

For the Salad
2 bags of Organic, pre-washed Arugula (I used Trader Joe's)
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
2 small, or one large butternut squash, large diced (about 4 cups - you can also buy pre-cut butternut squash in a lot of stores now if you want to take a shortcut)
1 cup of organic raisins
1 teaspoon of melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of sea salt

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400. Combine the diced butternut squash with coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon and sea salt and toss well to coat.
2. Roast the squash on a cookie sheet in a single layer for 30-45 minutes until the squash is starting to brown on the edges and is cooked through. Cool on the counter while assembling the rest of the salad.

For the toppings:

Spiced Pepitas
2 cups of raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 teaspoon of coconut oil
1 teaspoon of maple syrup
2 teaspoons of my House Rub
1 teaspoon of salt

1. Combine all the ingredients and spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 400 until the seeds are toasted and brown, but not burnt. Keep and eye on them and stir a few times during cooking. *I did this step while also cooking the butternut squash.

Prosciutto Wrapped Pears
2 4oz. packages of prosciutto
3 pears, cored and sliced into wedges

1. Cut the prosciutto slices into 3-4 strips per peice, using kitchen shears.
2. Wrap one strip of prosciutto around each pear slice, and layer the pears on a serving platter in a fan.

Manchego Cheese Shavings
3-4 oz block of Manchego Cheese
vegetable peeler

Manchego cheese is like a Spanish version of Parmesan, but made from sheep's milk and aged for a LONG time. It's nutty like Parmesan, but it can be easier on the tummy since it is made from sheep's milk instead of cow's. I found it at Trader Joe's, but I have also seen it in lots of "nice" grocery stores in their specialty cheese section. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the block of cheese into delicate shaves, and serve on the side of the salad in a bowl as an "optional" topping for those who like cheese. You can also substitute Parmesan if you can't find Manchego.

Maple Mustard Balsamic Dressing

3 tablespoons of whole grain mustard
3 tablespoons of maple syrup
2 tablespoons of minced shallots, or red onions
1 tablespoon of minced fresh garlic
3/4 cup of aged balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cups of extra virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of salt, based on your taste
lots of fresh ground pepper

1. Mix together all the ingredients but the oil in a large bowl. Let this sit for five minutes. The vinegar will disolve the salt and start to soften the shallots and garlic.
2. Slowly, whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream. You can also do this step in a blender if you prefer.
3. Store the salad dressing in a glass mason jar for up to a week.

Whenever I bring a salad, I either arrange the toppings in groups like I did with the Cuban Salad, or I put some on the side like with this salad. That way, if someone doesn't do pork, dairy, or seeds, they can leave those things off the salad.

I hope you enjoy this fall party salad as much as we did! Making an artisan salad is so much fun, and your guests don't even have to know that it is technically "paleo" or "primal." They will just enjoy a gourmet dish that looks and tastes like it came from a fancy restaurant. You will be surprised how many people will eat a fun salad, even if they claim they don't like vegetables. And if they don't? MORE FOR YOU! This salad keeps great to have as leftovers! But more often than not, when you bring any kind of homemade dish, paleo or not, people appreciate the effort you went to prepare real food, so don't be shy to bring a paleo dish to a party. Take real food, prepared with love, and take it with confidence! Have a great week everybody!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Recipes from Baconpalooza 2013

 Photo Courtesy of Molly Peterson

So this post is a little late. I'm so very sorry. I have had a LOT going on lately. I started a new job, which has been stressful, time consuming and very draining. It's definitely not my dream job, but as Anne Hathaway said in "The Devil Wears Prada,"-- "Here's to jobs that pay the rent." That's all I'm going to say about that right now. *** UPDATE: I no longer work at that awful job, and now I am the Lead Assistant for The Paleo Parents! Yay! I now work from home for Stacy and Matt and I love my job! See? All things work out for the best!***

So back to things I love spending time and energy on, like cooking and eating bacon. A little less than a month ago I participated in the Paleo Bacon Cook-Off for Baconpalooza. I promised to post the recipe the following week, but I immediately started my new job, and this got postponed. I am doing a guest post later this week on Paleo Parents (eek! first guest post EVER!) to re-cap all the fun details of the event, but here are the recipes I promised from my entry.

Photo Courtesy of Molly Peterson

You guys already have access to that fabulous BBQ sauce, and so I will divulge the simple secrets to the rest of the dish.

For the meat of the dish, I slowly braised a combination of pork butt, jowl, and belly for 8 hours. I used this combination of cuts to achieve a truly luscious blend of meat. The belly and the jowl are both fattier cuts than a butt or a shoulder, and they also tend to have more flavor. I also wanted to make a "whole hog" BBQ, so I mixed and matched cuts. This makes a HUGE batch, but you can certainly pair it down and only use a butt or a shoulder with the same method, and less rub with similar results for a smaller recipe.  

For the Pulled Pork:

2 bone-in Boston Butts
1 Pork Jowl, the top layer of fat trimmed down as much as possible (reserve for another use, like to make lard!)
1 Pork Belly, again, the top layer of fat trimmed down as much as possible
1 cup of purified water

1. Thoroughly coat all of the pieces of pork in the rub. Really massage it into that lucious pork! Refridgerate overnight.

2. The next day, place all of the pork in a LARGE dutch oven (I used my trusty Le Creuset) and cook for 7-8 hours in the oven at 225, until the meat is falling apart and tender. **You could probably also cook this in a crock pot, but alas, I don't have one!
3. Carefully remove the pork to drain off the excess fat and liquid. I placed the pork on top of a cookie rack, which was placed over a cookie sheet.
4. Allow the pork to cool enough to handle it, and then carefully and methodically shred the meat with two forks. This took me quite a while for all this meat.
5. Now you can store the shredded meat in the fridge until you are ready to combine it with the sauce.

Next, I combined the shredded pork with the Pete's Paleo bacon. Let me just say, this bacon is hands down, THE BEST you will find. I might be a little partial, because Pete is one of my friends and fellow classmates from culinary school, but seriously, you guys HAVE to try this stuff. One of the fabulous things about Pete's bacon, is that it's extra smoky with goes really well with my BBQ flavors. In addition, Pete ships his bacon out in SLABS instead of pre-sliced, allowing you to decided how thick you want your bacon! I decided to cut it into lardons, which is a fancy french word for a medium dice. Boy did my hand hurt after cubing up 4 pounds of bacon! I then cooked the bacon lardons in my trusty cast iron skillet, reserving the bacon grease in a jar for my own use later. ;) Perks of the job, you know! In the end, my BBQ mixture was about 60% pulled pork and 40% bacon lardons. If you are trying to pair down the recipe to feed a smaller crowd, just use this ratio. You could also just cut up any bacon of your choosing, fry it up, and add it to your pulled pork mixture.

Next, I whipped up a quadruple batch of my Paleo Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce. YUM! I combined this with the luscious pulled pork/bacon lardon mixture at the contest. That was one HUGE pot of BBQ! Mustard BBQ doesn't always look super appetizing (or photograph well on it's own), but it is insanely good. If you like honey mustard, and you like BBQ, you will love Mustard Based sauce, also known as Carolina Gold.

I also made a simple Peach Jalapeno Salsa:
Makes TWO large Mason Jars

12 ripe peaches, diced
8 jalapenos, de-seeded, and small diced
1 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons of chili powder
a few good pinches of sea salt

1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, then transfer to your mason jars. This is a fresh salsa that should be eaten within a few days of making.

Lastly, the pickled onions! So easy, so delicious

 Photo Courtesy of Molly Peterson

Pickled Onions

4 red onions, thinly sliced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of sea salt

1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, then transfer to mason jars, and store in the fridge. These will keep much longer in the fridge, up to a month. They are good on EVERYTHING from these tacos, to salads, to sardines!

The last element of the appetizer was the raw jicama shell. I got the idea from Zen Belly Blog, so head over to her post to see how its done!

That's all I am going to say for now about Baconpalooza, but be sure to look for my guest post soon!

  Photo Courtesy of Molly Peterson

  Photo Courtesy of Molly Peterson
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