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Yes, I am less than a week away from completing my whole30. I haven’t blogged since Day 2 because, at times, I’ve actually forgotten about this challenge all together. I’ve been so consumed with bringing all the creations in my head to life! When making the decision to participate in this challenge, I was somewhat afraid that I would run out of ideas and run out of energy to make the journey seem new and exciting every single day.

It’s funny how eating cleaner has not only cleansed my body but has also rejuvenated my perspective on life. I have always loved cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. But comfort food to me used to equate to lots of rich, buttery, and likely cheesy fattyness I don’t even really regret eating because I can’t deny it was good. Within the past 22 days, I have redefined what comfort food means to me. And, dare I say, I have surprised myself along the way.

People have a lot to say about paleo/whole30. I agree that there are negative aspects, like cutting out milk– as it is a good source of calcium. However, for the most part.. the grain, the starches, and anything with added sugar.. I realize I can really do without. I’ve learned that fresh produce can be equally as satiating when cooked well. If I’m craving something sweet, I immediate think fruit.. dessert.. yes! I’ve grilled, sauteed, baked, boiled, steamed, and Magic Bulleted my way through every meal and I’m absolutely loving how something as simple as careful and conscious preparation can make food taste better!

Let me update you on some of my creations:

Day 3: open faced omelet with sauteed peppers and onions, cherry tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, fresh lime juice, s+p

 

 

 

 

 

chicken salad (roasted chicken breast, avocado, lime , cilantro, onion) on a bed of romaine with apple slices drizzled with cashew butter

 

 

paleo blueberry muffins- made with almond flour, almond butter, and coconut oil

 

 

 

 

zucchini ribbons with mushrooms, coated with a light garlic sauce and topped with chopped almonds

 

 

 

 

smashed strawberry, peach, mango, pineapple, lime filled with pellegrino and finished off with some blueberries

 

Day 4: mixed greens salad with apple, avocado, tomato, green onion, and almond flour and coconut encrusted chicken

Day 5: homemade real fruit popsicle

 

Day 6: paleo pancakes with warm blueberry syrup and bacon on the side

Baked salmon with lemon pepper, steamed veggies, and zucchini bacon scallion fritters

Day 7: grilled burger with lettuce, tomato, homemade guac, and crispy bacon

 

Day 8: salmon with basil and walnut pesto.. And maple glazed sweet potato fries.

Sliced banana, almond butter, blueberries, and toasted coconut

 

Day 9: Zucchini boats with sausage and vegetable marinara filling

Day 10: Egg scramble with bell pepper, salmon, and green onion. And banana and almond butter drizzled with honey

Personal paleo pizza.. leftover sausage marinara, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, olives, arugula, tomato, and basil

Apple sauteed with orange juice and topped with warmed slivered almonds, cinnamon and a drizzle of honey

Day 11: Fried “rice” made with cauliflower.

Day 12: Frozen fruit blended with banana.. nice and thick and refreshing. Better than ice cream!

Day 13: Paleo waffles with warm strawberry syrup

Day 14: BBQed chicken over slaw.

Day 15: Asparagus and sausage frittata

Day 16: Paleo banana pancakes topped with almond butter, warm strawberry syrup, and cinnamon

Day 17: Fish and chips– white fish battered with almond flour and coconut flour, baked sweet potato chips, and roasted red pepper and garlic dip

 

Day 19: Homemade trail mix– almonds, walnuts, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, and toasted coconut. Great snack! I make a big batch so I always have some on hand!

Grilled zucchini, bell pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes, and chicken

Day 20: BBQed pork chop with grilled vegetable, avocado, cilantro, and lime slaw

Frozen mashed banana with toasted coconut mixed in.. topped with warm strawberry sauce, slivered almonds, and extra toasted coconut

Day 21: Fried egg with mixed greens salad drizzled with balsamic

Personal portobello pizza with homemade sauce, hot Italian sausage, caramelized onions, and olives. Also, simple arugula and seasoned sweet potato salad

Day 22: Turkey and spicy sausage meatballs baked and then simmered in homemade marinara sauce.. on top of a sweet potato and roasted red pepper mash.. and arugula salad with avocado, tomatoes, olives, and red onion

Clearly, I had to make up for all the posts I never wrote. As you can tell, most times I’ll use the same ingredients over and over.. but I do try to prepare them differently each time. For some things, like the paleo waffles, pancakes, muffins and almond flour pizza crust, I did search the web for a good recipes to follow. But that’s about it.. for the most part, I’ve been cooking based on my instincts and it’s worked out well so far.

Each day, I’m learning more and more about food and expanding my palate to tastes and food pairings I’ve never really tried before. Since I started my whole30, I have not used any processed foods. Everything, including all the sauces and dips, have been made fresh.

I’m finding that now when I go grocery shopping, I’m usually walking in without a real plan– which is so unlike me. Usually, I make a list and check it twice. But I truly believe that clean eating is really about how food inspires you. I spend the most time in the produce section, circling around a few times to scan all the fresh goodies. Not relying on a list is actually a very freeing experience. I also scope out multiple grocery stores to grab ingredients.. Whole Foods for the freshly ground almond butter, almond and coconut flours, and coconut oil.. Trader Joe’s for just about everything else.. And a few trips to Safeway just because it’s closer.

I hope some of my whole30 creations have made the 30-day challenge a little less intimidating for those of you who are interested. Paleo/whole30 is not difficult at all. But, like all good things, it does take time. I do have lazy days where I contemplate just eating the same meal for a few days in a row. The key to staying motivated and sticking to eating clean is avoiding those lazy moments. I literally open all my cabinets and stand in front of my refrigerator for a few minutes at least once a day– sometimes more when I feel like my creativity is fading– and asking myself “What will I make today?”

 

I’m shocked that I’ve completed Day 22 already. I’ve really never felt better! I’m definitely appreciating and enjoying food so much more and I have also established way more confidence in the kitchen. I know I have a lot more paleo/whole30 left in me! Stay tuned.. it’s not over yet!

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I hate to see my blog steering solely towards baked goods and sweets. The truth is, savory food really hits the spot for me. However, unlike the meals I used to prepare with my friends in college, I am hoping to do more than just cook a 30-minute meal. I know how to grill. I know how to throw together a hearty meat lasagna. I know all the shortcuts. But now, I’m trying to avoid them all. I want to explore my abilities in the kitchen and bring something new to the table.. literally.

Luckily I have an open palette to match my open mind, so there is nothing holding me back. A serious foodie never discriminates against food! And with that said, part of my mission is to also honor dishes of various styles, backgrounds, and cultures on this journey.

This morning, I came across a half moon press in our baking drawer– 3 half moon presses, actually (small, medium, and large). My mom bought them many many years ago, probably thinking we could use them to make pastries.. even though she doesn’t bake. She really loves kitchen knickknacks. (Guilty. I get that from my mama.) But what’s the point in owning appliances and gadgets that aren’t being used? Big pet peeve. Hence my sudden urge to break in the ice cream maker and popcorn maker within the past couple of months.

It took me about 20 seconds to think to myself: Empanadas! The half moon press is perfect for empanadas! And I saved myself a trip to the grocery store, because I had all the ingredients for the dough. As for the filling, I quickly played around with a few ideas in my head as I scanned the kitchen. I wasn’t worried.

Empanada Dough

INGREDIENTS

2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 1/2-in cubes
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

DIRECTIONS:

1. Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.

2. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with a fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.)

3. Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring the dough together. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.

*Recipe courtesy of Epicurious.

The empanada dough is comparable to a flaky Pâte Brisée (tart or pie dough). Same basic ingredients, same procedure. The addition of the egg, which differs from a Pâte Brisée, acts as a binding force for empanadas. When rolling out the dough, you will see that it has a semi-elastic quality that a Pâte Brisée does not. Thus, when baked, the empanada will be able to hold its shape (and the filling) and won’t immediately crumble apart when broken into to eat! The final empanada will have a bite to it.. a slightly tender chew.. with a flaky exterior.

Once you place the dough into the refrigerator, keep time in mind; you have an hour to spare. It’s better to let the dough chill in the refrigerator for a little bit longer (if the filling isn’t quite done) than have the filling be ready before the 1-hour chill time is up. It only took me about 30 minutes to make my filling, including prep time.

This is my original recipe for the filling I created:

Sausage, Spinach, and Mushroom Empanada Filling

INGREDIENTS

1 package of frozen sausage links (I used Hot Italian because I like the spicy flavor), defrosted
1 medium onion, sliced (cut in half vertically, then cut in slices end to end)
2 cups white mushrooms, sliced
1 cup uncooked spinach, washed and dried
3 tablespoons sour cream

DIRECTIONS

1. Cut a slit in each sausage link with a knife and remove meat from the casing.

2. Place sausage meat, onions, and mushrooms into a heated and lightly oiled pan. Cook on medium to medium high heat. Stir occasionally and break up large chunks of sausage to ensure thorough cooking.

3. When the meat has just about reached its doneness, stir in spinach. Let the spinach wilt down. Then add sour cream, stirring until incorporated. Turn the heat down to medium low and keep it on the stove for about 3 more minutes.

4. Take the pan off the stove. Let the filling cool down before placing it onto the empanada dough.


After you add the sour cream and let it all heat up a little longer, the filling really came together. The sour cream thickened the juices from the ingredients. By allowing the filling to cool down, the juices dissipate and get soaked up by the whole mixture.

So, let’s see how it’s all put together..

I removed my chilled dough from the refrigerator. Lightly flour the board and rolling pin.. keep some  flour around for additional use but avoid over-flouring. Roll out the dough to an approximate 1/8″ thickness. It should be rolled out fairly thin, but NOT paper thin. I just know I don’t want them to end up too doughy. I hate that.

For the next part, my medium half moon press comes into play. But, remember, if you don’t have a half moon press, don’t be intimidated. You can use the same procedure. Instead, cut your dough into circles (for a half moon shape) or rectangles (for a square shape) and pinch to close with your fingers or the back of a fork.

I was able to use the back of my press to cut out the circle shape into my dough. I rolled and cut, re-rolled and cut.. until all the dough was used up, placing all my circles onto a plate. I prepared an egg wash (one beaten egg) in a small bowl.

I placed the dough on the inside of my press, added the filling into the center with a little bit of shredded cheese (although the empanada surely doesn’t need it).

With a small dabble of egg wash, I brushed along the edge of the dough. This acts as the glue.. keeping it sealed up.

Then, all I had to do was press the two handles together. Tip: If the dough circles feel sticky, lightly flour one side (the side laying directly on the press) with your fingertips. Do so as needed.

Once all the empanadas were pressed. I place them onto a cookie sheet. Brushed each with the egg wash. Fit as many empanadas onto the sheet as you can without crowding.

I put the sheet into a preheated 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, checking them out periodically and rotating the sheet halfway through. I knew they were done when they turned a golden brown color.

And there you have it.. Empanadas! Or shall I say MmmPanadas.

nom nom nom.

B

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