Friday, July 25, 2014

Spicy Chicken Vegetable Chili

I think my taste buds are changing again. Lately all I want is to make my food spicy. Not like "burn your tongue and now you can't even taste the food because it's so hot" spicy, but just a good flavorful spicy. I've been sneaking in some cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, or hot sauce wherever I can. Tonight I'm making stuffed jalapeños wrapped in bacon for a potluck we're going to. I've never been a big jalapeño fan, and don't usually go out of my way to buy them unless a recipe calls for them, but we had a bag full of them in our CSA share and I've been craving them all week. I've never actually made them before, so I brainstormed what I thought would taste good stuffed in them. I guess we'll see what happens!

Speaking of spicy, this chili definitely satisfied that craving. I've been covering some evening classes at the gym while one of our trainers studies for the bar exam at the end of the July. That means I'm not getting home from the gym on those nights until after 8:30. Not really a lot of time for getting crafty in the kitchen, so I thought chili one night would be pretty easy. I wanted to switch it up from my usual three meat (beef/pork/bacon) chili, and decided chicken would be a fantastic option. I was right! I love it when new ideas pay off! 

Spicy Chicken Vegetable Chili

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 6-8 hours
Serves: 4-6

Special Tools:

3 pounds of chicken breasts, cubed (about 4 pieces if using organic, free-range)
1 large zucchini, halved and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 medium (or 2 large) carrots, chopped
1 jalapeño, deseeded and chopped
1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lime, juiced 
1 (14oz) can of fire-roasted tomatoes
1 (12oz) jar of salsa authentica (red), no sugar added
1 (12oz) jar of salsa verde (green), no sugar added
1 tbsp of chili powder
1 tbsp of cumin
1/2 tbsp of course sea salt
1/2 tbsp of coriander
1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes (optional, for more heat)
3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
guacamole, for garnish
extra lime, for garnish

1. Start with cubing your chicken. I like mine to be somewhat still frozen because it makes it super easy to chop up into cubes and since it's slow cooking all day anyway, time isn't of the essence! Add it to the crockpot when done. *Kitchen safety tip: If you want to defrost your chicken a little, don't do it in hot water (which causes bacteria to grow), do it in cold.
2. Chop your veggies and add it to the crockpot with the chicken. 
3. Top everything with the broth, lime juice, tomatoes, salsas, and seasoning. Give it a good stir.
4. Set the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours. The chicken should be fall apart tender!
5. Serve on top of cauliflower rice and garnish with guacamole and more lime juice, which helps to cut the heat a little but definitely enhances the flavor. 

Sloppy Joes

Working in the school system affords me the opportunity to travel a little bit more easily because my summer schedule is more lax. I still work, but I don't have a set schedule and can take my vacation at any point. Every summer since my parents and sister moved to the suburbs of Chicago seven years ago, I've tried to take a trip to visit them. Especially in the last few years, because my sister has started having children, and being a part of my nephews' lives is really important to me. Sadly, my husband doesn't have the same vacation time that I do, so most of my trips up north are solo. Since he and I both work two jobs, and he doesn't get home until after 8:30 every night during the week, I like to make things as easy as possible for him by leaving some already cooked and/or prepped meals.

Below is what I either cooked ahead of time or prepped and froze for him. Note: for side items, I left directions for steaming different veggies in the microwave. Easy peasy :o) 

  • Pineapple salsa chicken bake: cook a whole chicken, then shred it and combine with 1 jar of pineapple salsa, 1/2 can of diced tomatoes, 2 ounces of green chilies, and 1 cup of pineapple. Top with your favorite cheese --if you can handle dairy-- and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 until the cheese is golden and bubbly.)
  • Chili pork pot roast w/ onions: place a 1.5-2 lb pork roast or loin and 1 small-medium sliced yellow onion in a freezer bag with 1 cup of beef broth, 1/2 can of diced tomatoes, 2 ounces of green chilies, 1 tsp of chili powder, 1 tsp of garlic powder, 1/2 tsp of cumin, and 1/2 tsp of onion powder. I left directions on the bag to place all ingredients in a crockpot on low for 6-8 hours. 
  • Stir fry w/ fajita strips: place 1 lb of beef fajita strips in a freezer bag with 1 tbsp of coconut aminos, 1 tsp of garlic powder, 1 tsp of ginger. Then I bought a pre-chopped bowl of stir-fry veggies (broccoli, peppers, onion, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, baby corn) from Trader Joe's and left directions to heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil in a wok (or large sauté pan) on medium-high heat. When it's HOT, cook the strips for 2-3 minutes and then remove. Add the veggies w/ 2 tbsp of coconut aminos, 1 tsp of garlic powder, 1 tsp of ginger and cook until desired tenderness is reached. Add the meat back in and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
  • Organic ribeye: place steak in a freezer bag with 3 tbsp of mojo marinade, 1 tsp of worcestershire, and 1/2 tsp of 21 Seasoning Salute (Trader Joe's). You can pan sear (high w/ 1 tsp of coconut oil for 3-5 minutes on each side) or grill (on medium-high for 5-7 minutes on each side)
  • Honey mustard chicken thighs - recipe in the The Paleo Kitchen Cookbook
  • Simple Sloppy Joes (recipe below)
Simple Sloppy Joes

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 2-3

Special Tools:
Large saute pan with deep sides

1 lb ground beef
1 tbsp Sugar free steak seasoning
1 tbsp Coconut palm sugar
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium pepper, chopped
1 tbsp of red wine vinegar
1 tbsp of Worcestershire (sugar free if you can)
1 can of organic tomato sauce
2 tbsp of tomato paste
pre-made Paleo burger buns (Against All Grain has a recipe) or you can buy gluten-free buns.

Place the pan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and let it start to brown. As you begin to break it apart, add the steak seasoning and coconut palm sugar and continue cooking.
Once the beef is almost all browned, add the onion, pepper, vinegar, and worcestershire and cook for 3-5 minutes until the veggies begin to soften. 
Add the tomato sauce and paste and simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. 
Place in an airtight container and store for up to a week. 
Note: waiting until the next day to eat it is always better! All the favors really have time to meld. Check out what Danny texted me...he added cheese, lettuce, coleslaw, and cilantro to his Joes. I think he liked them!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Shrimp Scampi

I have a small victory to celebrate. Yesterday's metcon portion of the workout consisted of push-ups, ring rows, and ring dips. Ring dips have been something on my bucket list to accomplish unassisted since I started CrossFit. I've been using the same purple band to help me through the range of motion for at least two years. I arrived at the gym yesterday just before the class before mine started their workout and decided to go chat with the other athletes over by the rings while they set up for their WOD. I make attempts all the time to complete a strict ring dip, but to no avail. Well, yesterday, for the first time, it just happened! I couldn't believe it! I thought No way this will happen again! But sure enough, I tried again and I totally locked out and completed a second ring dip without any assistance! Three years of CrossFit and I can FINALLY do a ring dip. I did a couple more, just to be sure I wasn't dreaming, lol. Sadly though, when we got to the WOD, the push-ups put my ego in check and reminded me that being able to do them in isolation is one thing, but add in other movements and they become extra hard. Haha. So that purple band came out again to assist. But I still walked away yesterday with a great feeling. Hopefully when I walk back into the box today, I'll still be able to do them ;o)

Switching gears on you, let's talk food! Pasta is one of those things that I really want to miss because I ate it so often growing up. But in truth, I really don't. It sits so heavy and makes me feel like garbage just thinking about eating it. I can't even tell you the last time I had a big bowl of pasta! But there are some beautiful dishes that just wouldn't be the same without noodles. I really like using zucchini noodles because it keeps the dish very light and adds a bright color to it. Toss them in a lemon-butter sauce with some shrimp scampi and voila! you've recreated a popular Italian dish. 

Shrimp Scampi with Zucchini Noodles

Prep Time: 1 hour (inactive) 45 minutes 
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Serves: 2

Special Tools:
Spiralizer, or julienne slicer (which will take a little longer)
Large bowl the colliander will sit in
Large saute pan

2 large zucchini
1 lb large wild caught shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed.
2 1/2 tbsp of ghee, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small lemon, juiced
1 tbsp of white cooking wine
1 tbsp of fresh parsley, chopped or 1 1/2 tsp of dried parsley

1. Use the spiralizer to turn your zucchinis into noodles. If you don't have a spiral machine, you can use a julienne slicer to make your noodles. 
2. Place the noodles into a colliander and sprinkle with salt to draw out the moisture. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. Then rinse and pat dry the noodles as best you can with paper towels. 
3. Leaving the noodles in the colliander, place the colliander inside a large bowl (to collect the draining liquid) and place the bowl into the fridge for an hour. This allows you to have really dry noodles. Take them out and let them sit on the counter while you prep your garlic and lemon. 
4. Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat and allow the pan to get hot. Add 2 tbsp of ghee.
5. Toss in the garlic and move it around to let it become fragrant, about 30-45 seconds. 
6. Add the shrimp and half the lemon juice. Saute until the shrimp are cooked through and the liquid has nearly entirely evaporated, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove the shrimp from the pan.
7. Deglaze the pan with the white cooking wine and the rest of the lemon juice. 
8. Add the zucchini noodles and the remaining ghee. Toss well to coat and continue cooking until the noodles are heated through, about 3-5 minutes. 
9. Return the shrimp to the pan and season with parsley and salt, to taste. Toss well to combine. Serve immediately. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Asian Ground Beef Stir-fry

How was everyone's Fourth of July holiday weekend? Mine was super relaxing and a total blast! The hubs and I took off on a 7 hour drive for my in-laws on Thursday. They live down in Pembroke Pines...that's between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami if you don't know South Florida too well. AKA the land of crazy drivers, beautiful beaches, and O.M.G...Cuban food!! Let me count the ways I did NOT eat paleo this weekend. Thursday night was a plate of citrus chicken, rice, beans, a fried egg, a piece of REAL Cuban bread, and plantains maduros (ripe plantains...the sweet, sticky ones). Sweet Jesus, it was incredible. Friday morning, Papi brought home Cuban pastelitos (little pastries) with guava and cheese from the cutest authentic Cuban bakery in Pines, Vicky Bakery. Better than any sort of American pastry...EVER. I think I ate three. #sorrynotsorry. Then we ate vaca frita and grilled chicken wings for lunch...with more rice and beans. Though I will say, I was pretty reserved on my rice and beans portions since I didn't want to go off the deep end. Bahaha, too late! My in-laws make enough food to feed an army, so we got to eat leftovers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner...which again, I'm really not sorry about. Add an egg and anytime can be breakfast time! I made sure to get my fill of maduros before I left. Man, those little babies are dangerously delicious. All in all, I'd call it another successful trip down south. I'm sure you're thinking, But wait Nicole, all you talked about was eating? And to that I say, Yeah, exactly. It's what I live for! I guess I could tell you that the sunshine was also amazing, both in the pool and our three trips to the beach. Ahh, I miss the days when you didn't have to drive hours to get to a beach. My husband does too, which is why we went to the beach twice in one day. ...don't ask. #worthit  

Well because we didn't get back into town until late Sunday night, dinner had to be quick and easy on Monday after I went grocery shopping. Behold, ground beef stir-fry. Easy prep work, nothing overly complicated in the cooking process, but the flavors are awesome! 

Asian Ground Beef Stir-fry

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Special Tools:
Large saute pan

1 lb of grass-fed beef
1/2 large onion, sliced
1/4 red bell pepper, sliced
1/4 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1/4 green bell pepper, sliced
3 heads of baby bok choy, sliced, about 1 cup
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
2 carrots, sliced
1 tbsp of ghee or fat of your choice
2 tbsp of minced garlic
2 tbsp of minced ginger
1/4 cup of coconut aminos, divided
1 tbsp of rice vinegar
1 tsp of fish sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Place the sauté pan over medium-high heat and melt the ghee. Add the garlic and ginger and stir around until fragrant, about 30-45 seconds. 
2. Add the beef and begin browning the meat, breaking it up into small bites with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper.
3. When it's nearly cooked through, add in 2 tbsp of coconut aminos, the rice vinegar, and the fish sauce. Continue sautéing until the meat is no longer pink. Strain off the beef onto a plate and set aside, leaving the fat and juices behind.
4. Add the onion, peppers, carrots, and mushrooms to the pan and move around to coat in the juices. Season with salt and pepper. 
5. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of coconut aminos and continue sautéing for 7-10 minutes. Add the bok choy and continuing cooking until the leaves begin to wilt.
6. Return the beef and any juices that settled on the plate back into the pan and stir well to combine. 
7. Enjoy with some chop sticks. You'll just feel more cultured ;o)

Balsamic Maple Glazed Wild Alaskan Salmon

I had an interesting conversation this evening. Typically when newcomers come in to inquire about CrossFit and the facility, there's one, maybe two people...friends or a couple. Well today a family of four shuffled in; mom, dad, a teenage older daughter and teenage son. As they came in, both trainers were busy with other athletes, I decided to introduce myself and see what they wanted. Mom spoke up first and said they were in vacationing in Georgia and decided to drive down and check out college campuses, however, the daughter's main concern was actually what the [CrossFit] boxes were like in town. That should have been my first clue that they were already super into CrossFit, but clearly I'm oblivious to things like that, so I started on my story about the history of our box, our other locations, the set up of our classes and how they run, etc. Come to find out, both kids have been doing CrossFit for like two years and the daughter is looking into getting her L1 certification! How cool is that?! Not even out of high school and kicking ass already! She goes on to talk about how she competes and just finished a competition last weekend down in West Palm Beach. She's already a little badass in my book. They haven't made any decisions yet on where she wants to go to school, but somewhere away from home (Port St. Lucie). I hope she heads our way. I'd love to be able to see her in action. 

In other news, this salmon is also badass. Make it soon. It's delicious! That is all. :o)

Balsamic Maple Glazed Wild Alaskan Salmon

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 2-3

Special Tools:
Small bowl
Basting brush
Foil lined baking sheet

3 wild salmon steaks, about 6-8 ounces each, skin left on
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp of dark grade maple syrup
1 tsp of garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp of dijon mustard
salt and pepper

1.Preheat the oven to broil on low. Make sure the rack is positioned in the middle of the oven, at least three rungs down.
2. Rinse the salmon under cold water and pat dry. Then put them skin side down onto a foil lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper to taste.*
3. In a bowl, add the oil, vinegar, syrup, garlic cloves, and mustard. Mix well to combine. 
4. Use a basting brush to coat the tops and sides of the salmon, reserving more than half of the glaze.
5. Put the baking sheet into the oven and broil for 5 minutes. Then brush the glaze onto the salmon again. Repeat after 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and let it rest for 2-3 minutes. 
Serve it up with your favorite veggies. I sautéed up some butternut squash and zucchini and also steamed a head of broccoli. 

*If you or your significant other freaks out about fish skin like mine does, I will say it's much easier to remove once the salmon is cooked. Just hold down one of the corners with a fork or knife and slowly start lifting it up. It should come off fairly easy.