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Spotlight On: MCT Oil

No, it doesn’t stand for Magical Coconut Tree Oil, but it should. Instead, MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides which are naturally found in coconut and palm kernel oils.

Because of its light flavor and nutritional benefits, I use it for salad dressings, put it in my coffee or superfood tea, and make an excellent mayonnaise with it. I just get it on Amazon but they also sell it at my local health food store for a few dollars more.

Smarter sciency people [wiki here] will tell you all about MCT Oil’s benefits, such as:

  • It is more easily and rapidly digested than other fats, making it good for malabsorption issues (no bile or energy needed to digest.)
  • It can help support a fat burning, instead of a sugar burning metabolism (more and sustained energy.)
  • It is purported to stave off neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, by bypassing the liver and directly fueling the brain with ketones/triglycerides that the brain is lacking and needs to function.
  • It can help you lose or manage your weight and increase your metabolism.
  • Um, did I mention it makes an excellent mayo?

So slip some in Grandma’s (and your own) coffee every day, be smarter, faster and leaner, and enjoy 😉

Carrot Habanero Soup

This is the best soup I’ve ever made, hands down. I ordered carrot habanero soup at one of my favorite little hangouts, the Circle J Cafe, and it was amazing! Sweet, savory, spicy, smooth. I could taste the ginger and citrus and heat, and it was in a creamy coconut milk base. I HAD to try to recreate it. I think I did a great job, if I do say so myself! 🙂 This is delicious served hot or chilled. I adapted (“paleofied”) the recipe found in Cooking Light.

A note about habanero peppers: I was considering cutting them, de-seeding and de-veining etc. to take out the excessive heat (they are hundreds of times hotter than jalapeno peppers!) and then sauteing them with the other vegetables but decided against it after researching it and saw the recommendations about wearing gloves and goggles and handling them outside for safety reasons. I was too chicken for all that so tried another recommended method, which is piercing them several times with a knife to infuse the heat into the soup without overpowering it. The first time I made this soup, I just used one pepper, and it had a nice warmth to it. The last time I made it with three peppers and it had a bit more kick so that was perfect for me!

You can also prepare this in a slow cooker instead of a Dutch oven or soup pot (just scrape/ladle the veggies after deglazing into a slow cooker, then add the remaining ingredients, cover and cook on low 6-8 hours.) If you use that method, add 2 more cups of water as it gets pretty thick. This yields 6 servings.

That lemon should be an orange
That lemon should be an orange

Ingredients

1.5 tablespoon coconut oil, ghee, or pasture butter (or combination. I used 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1/2 tablespoon butter)
1 cup thinly sliced leek (about 1 large, washed)
1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1 pound carrots, (about 7-8 medium chopped)
2 cups sweet potato, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 large sweet potato)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-3 whole habanero peppers depending on desired heat
1/4 cup dry white wine*
4 cups water
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon of orange zest (optional)
1 can coconut milk (14 ounces) reserving a few tablespoons for garnish if desired
1 tablespoon coconut aminos (optional)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
Fresh dill, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Preparation

  1. Heat the fat in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add leek, onion, sweet potatoes, carrots, ginger and garlic, and sauté 7-10 minutes or until tender and browning.
  3. Stir in the wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. (This is called deglazing the pan. See below for alcohol-free options.)

    Deglazing the pan
    Deglazing the pan
  4. Pierce the habaneros several times with a knife and add to the pot.
  5. Add the water, orange juice, (and if juicing the orange, zest some of the peel) coconut milk and coconut aminos, and bring to a boil.
  6. Partially cover, reduce heat and simmer 30-40 minutes.
  7. Add ground coriander, sea salt and turmeric, and stir to combine the ingredients.

    Simmering
    Simmering
  8. Remove and discard habaneros.
  9. Blend the ingredients using an immersion blender until smooth.

  10. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with reserved coconut milk and fresh dill, if desired.

* If you are avoiding all alcohol for any reason, (Whole30, anyone?) you can use almost any liquid to deglaze the pan, such as stock and lemon juice or vinegar diluted in water. There are a lot of good alternatives discussed here.

Spicy Kale Chips

I love kale chips. I am embarrassed to admit how much I will pay for a tiny bag of these things! Why do I do this when they are so easy to make? Excellent question. I like this version because it’s a little spicy and “cheesy” (from the nutritional yeast) but you can make this recipe seasoned just with salt and pepper or any other of your favorite savory seasonings.

Ingredients

1 large bunch of kale, pretty much any kind. I have used curly in the past but chose Lacinato this time because it looked good.
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon coconut aminos
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more or less to taste, also optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Rinse kale leaves and pat dry with a towel.
  3. Cut out or pull off stems (a handy trick is to start at the base where the stem is thickest, start tearing each side up the stem a little bit, then pull the leaf part away from the stem.) The stems (especially at the base) are too tough to really want to eat.

    Pulling the leaves away from the stem
    Pulling the leaves away from the stem
  4. Chop or tear the leaves into large pieces.
  5. Mix the ingredients together until blended, then pour over kale pieces. Gently massage the oil mixture to evenly coat the leaves.

    Dressing the kale
    Dressing the kale
  6. Spread the coated leaves in a single layer on 2 baking sheets.

    Laying out the chips before baking
    Laying out the chips before baking
  7. Bake 15-20 minutes or until crispy. Check after about 10 minutes and use a spatula or tongs to scrape free any pieces that are sticking to the pans.
  8. Let cool a little and then eat. They will not last long. I’m talking more stuffing them in your face wise more than storage-wise.

Chicken Satay

I brought these meat treats on a stick to a GMO Free Josephine County potluck and they disappeared in seconds. So much flavor! I have included more commonly found ingredients, along with more traditional Thai ingredients in parentheses below. I wish I could find local fresh galangal, the flavor really isn’t identical to ginger, but we work with what we can find.

Ingredients:

6-8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into thin strips
1 package wooden skewers

Marinade:
Juice of 1/2 large lime, about 2 tablespoons (or 3 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass)
1 shallot OR 1/2 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste (or 1 fresh red chilies, sliced)
1 tablespoon ground ginger (or 1 thumb-size piece galangal root OR ginger root, thinly sliced)
1/2 teaspoon dried turmeric (or 1 teaspoon minced fresh turmeric)
1 tablespoon  ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons coconut aminos
4 tablespoons fish sauce (all the Paleo hipsters use Red Boat brand. I used Tiparos because that is what I could find)
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

Dipping Sauce:
I used the Sunshine Sauce recipe from the amazing cookbook Well Fed. You can also find the recipe on Melissa’s blog The Clothes Make the Girl. Didn’t change a single ingredient. Whipped it up in a mason jar with an immersion blender (adding coconut milk last–don’t want coconut whipped cream this time) and it is creamy, spicy, tangy perfection.

Ingredients listed here for your convenience, (but please check out Melissa’s blog): you will need 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon), 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon coconut aminos, 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger, 1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar, 1/4 cup sunflower seed butter, dash ground cayenne pepper (optional),  and 1/4 cup coconut milk.

Preparation:

  1. Cut chicken into thin strips and place in a large ziplock plastic bag.
  2. Place all marinade ingredients in a mason jar to use an immersion blender, or place in a food processor or regular blender. Blend well.
  3. Taste the marinade. Traditionally some sugar is used, but I believe the coconut aminos provide plenty of sweetness. Add more of whatever flavor or spice you want to highlight.
  4. Pour the marinade over the meat in the ziplock back and knead it around to combine. Allow the chicken to marinade in the fridge 1-24 hours.
  5. Soak your bamboo skewers in water (to prevent scorching) for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

  6. When ready to cook, thread meat onto the skewers, leaving the lower half empty to easily pick up for cooking and eating. (I inserted then deleted a picture of the skewered raw chicken. You’re welcome. It looks so gross raw!)
  7. Broil the satay in the oven, turning every 5 minutes, or grill them on the BBQ until cooked, about 20 minutes.
  8. Prepare your dipping sauce while the satay is cooking.

Greens Eggs and Coffee

I thought I was getting pretty far out there with my morning Superfood Bulletproof Mate, adding grass fed butter, coconut oil and superfoods then blending it up. After reading Mark Sisson’s genius idea to add EGGS to his coffee (see his Primal Egg Coffee post for recipes and subscribe to his blog!) I thought I could take this concept even further. I added egg yolks, spices and power greens (kale etc.) and now have my favorite complete breakfast! I don’t drink much coffee in the summer but will be switching out to that instead of tea when the days get darker and shorter.
Ingredients:

1 green or black teabag (or 1-2.5 cups of premium organic coffee depending on desired yield)
1 tablespoon unsalted organic pasture (from grass fed cows) butter or ghee.
1 tablespoon MCT oil or organic unrefined coconut oil
2 tablespoons superfood spice blend (I make a jar of the following ingredients, with quantities larger to smaller as listed–much more cacao than cayenne pepper!–but feel free to experiment with your own blends and ratios: organic raw cacao powder, maca powder, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground turmeric, ground cardamom and ground cayenne pepper)
1 teaspoon organic raw honey (or more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
Dash sea salt
Handful of greens (kale, spinach, etc.)
2-3 egg yolks, depending on how many eggs you usually eat for breakfast

Preparation:

  1. Boil water (or brew coffee if using).
  2. In a quart mason jar (or regular blender if not using an immersion blender) add the teabag and pour boiling water (or just your coffee) to fill about 1/2 full, about 2 cups (so it doesn’t splatter when you blend it later) and steep 5-10 minutes.
  3. After steeping (or right away if just using coffee) remove the teabag and add the remaining ingredients and blend for about a minute with an immersion blender until the top gets a little foamy.

This will yield 2 coffee mugs full. Adjust amounts accordingly.

This drink is SO delicious, satisfying, creamy and amazing! And of course full of antioxidants, minerals, enzymes and vitamins from your raw superfoods and greens. I imagine it would be smoother if made in a Vitamix (I don’t mind chewing on a little bit of greens – and they don’t taste like anything). Also – I would recommend not chugging it down, despite its custardy spicy deliciousness. I think all those nutrients hitting your bloodstream too quickly might make you feel INSANELY WIRED. Hypothetically speaking, of course. I would love to hear your thoughts! Are you brave enough to add eggs and greens to your morning Joe?

Leftover Salad Dressing Chicken

Now first off, you must pinkie swear with me RIGHT NOW that you will never refer to this dish as “Leftover Salad Dressing Chicken” when serving it to company. That would just be so uncouth. You may call it “Poulet Frit” [“Fried Chicken” in French, you’re welcome] or “Ginger Mustard Chicken” or anything else that sounds more appetizing. Whatever you call it, this is a ridiculously quick, easy and tasty meal.  This was inspired by the Hot and Sweet Ginger Garlic Chicken recipe from Balanced Bites, which I have been making all the time lately, and it was also inspired by me wanting to use up the rest of my salad dressing and not wanting to cut up an onion.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
4-6 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
Sea salt, ground black pepper and crushed red chili pepper flakes to taste
1-1.5 cups leftover salad dressing*
1 large bunch kale, chard, spinach or other greens to wilt and use as a bed on which to serve the chicken.

*I always make my own salad dressing – with a ratio of 3 to 1 olive oil to apple cider vinegar, then add juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon coconut aminios, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, then salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon ground or fresh ginger, cayenne pepper to taste (not more than 1/4 teaspoon unless you like it really spicy) with fresh minced garlic, onion and other herbs as available/desired. 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast to make it “cheesier.” Blended or just stirred vigorously. Or you can use my shallot dressing, which is amazing.

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In an oven safe cast iron skillet or other frying pan, melt the coconut oil or ghee on medium high heat, then season both sides of the chicken with sea salt, red pepper and black pepper, and place skin side down into the pan for about 5 minutes or until the skin browns and releases easily from the pan. Be careful, it will splatter!

  3. Using tongs, flip the chicken thighs over so that they are now skin side up in the pan. Then you can either then evenly pour the salad dressing over the chicken directly in the skillet or remove the chicken to a different oven safe dish (I do this when doubling the recipe) then pour the dressing over the chicken evenly and place the skillet or other dish into the oven for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.
  4. Using the oil from the skillet (you may need to drain some off if it is more than 1-2 tablespoons) wilt the greens, and then serve the chicken on top.

Summer Veggie Not Pasta Salad

This is a perfect side dish for a summer BBQ. Refreshing, nutritious, delicious and of course minus the starchy carbs/gluten of a more traditional pasta salad. The cauliflower plays the pasta (orzo-ish) or rice role nicely.

Ingredients
1 head cauliflower, steamed, food processed and cooked into “rice”
1 bunch asparagus, steamed and cut into small pieces
1 head broccoli, steamed and cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
1 carton grape tomatoes, halved
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow or orange pepper, diced
3-4 green onions, thinly cut
1 bunch fresh basil, cut into thin strips
Juice of 1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil, enough to coat vegetables evenly (about 2-3 tablespoons)
Balsamic or apple cider vinegar, to taste
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
(optional additions: feta cheese, chicken, artichoke hearts, a few cloves of garlic, minced)

Preparation

  1. Beginning with the cauliflower, steam the cauliflower, asparagus and broccoli separately, 5-10 minutes for each vegetable until tender (and until the asparagus and broccoli are bright green)
  2. While the other veggies are steaming, prep the cauliflower rice by breaking it down it in batches in the food processor, then cooking over medium heat in your melted ghee or coconut oil as described in our cauliflower rice post, then remove from the heat.
  3. Also while the asparagus and broccoli are steaming, halve your grape tomatoes, dice your peppers, and thinly slice your basil and green onions, and add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl.
  4. When the asparagus and broccoli are steamed, place in colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking, then cut into small pieces and add to the rest of the ingredients. Add the cauliflower rice, so that is in proportion to the rest of the ingredients, and save the rest for other meals (stir fry etc.) if it ends up being too much.
  5. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and toss to coat the veggies evenly. Add your optional ingredients. I didn’t really measure the olive oil and vinegar, just poured a little bit of the oil over the top then mixed, then added a bit more to get the right coated texture without being too oily. And I did the same thing with the vinegar and salt and pepper – added a bit, mixed, tasted, added a bit more . . .)
  6. Refrigerate for at least an hour for the flavors to meld. Enjoy!

Roasted Vegetable Bone Marrow Broth

To be honest, the first time someone (Neena!) suggested I roast up some marrow bones and eat them to fortify my system, I turned up nose and said “ew, no thanks.” What a difference some research makes! And a new organic local meat butcher shop in nearby Ashland, Oregon. Bone broth is a superfood! It is full of bioavailable minerals, helps to heal any perforations in your gut, and the gelatin is great for healthy hair and nails.

Now there’s an easy, short cut way to make bone broth, that takes about 5 minutes of prep time. In that version, you take about 2 pounds of leftover bones (like the carcass after roasting a chicken but you can use any high quality bones and cartilage) and put them in your slow cooker, completely cover with cold water, add a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar (to help extract the minerals from the bones) and cook on low for about 10 hours. Then you strain the bones from the broth and store in glass jars (in the fridge about 4 days, in the freezer, several months). Why buy broth ever again?

Now this second version takes a bit more prep time and ingredients, but roasting marrow bones, herbs and vegetables makes for a richer, fuller flavored broth.

Ingredients

For roasting
2 pounds organic grass fed beef marrow bones, split lengthwise or in rounds to increase surface area of marrow.
4 medium carrots, cut into large pieces
1 medium white onion, cut into large pieces
3 stalks of celery, cut into large pices
1 leek, cut into large pieces (optional)
1/2 pound mushrooms, wiped clean and halved (optional, about 9-10)
1 head of garlic, most of outer paper removed and top cut off
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons coconut oil, ghee or pastured butter, melted
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

To add to slow cooker along with roasted bones and vegetables
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar
Sea salt (or kelp granules for added iodine) and black pepper to taste
Cold, filtered water, enough to cover the bones and vegetables in the slow cooker (about 12 cups)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Cut up the onion, carrots, celery stalks, and leek, and clean and halve the mushrooms
  3. Prepare the garlic for roasting by taking most of the outer paper off (leaving a layer or 2) and cutting off the top to expose the cloves.
  4. Toss the chopped vegetables, rosemary sprigs and head of garlic in the melted coconut oil or butter and salt and pepper
  5. Layer in a large roasting pan, adding the marrow bones. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the bones.

  6. Roast for 30-35 minutes until the bones and vegetables are browned
  7. Remove the bone and vegetable mixture from the oven [and at this point you will probably want to make yourself up a little bowl of roasted veggies and scoop out some marrow because it will smell so amazing you won’t be able to help yourself. Succumb.]

  8. To a large slow cooker, add the bone and vegetable mixture, squeezing out the roasted garlic and discarding the outer layers, and fill with enough cold filtered water to completely cover the mixture, then add the vinegar, bay leaves, salt and pepper and cover.
  9. Cook on high about an hour, then reduce to low and cook for 7-10 more hours.
  10. Allow the stock to cool, then strain through a fine metal strainer or cheesecloth. Much of the “discard pile” is an edible and delicious stew. Store as indicated in the shortcut method, above.
  11. You can drink the broth by itself, or use as a base for any dish calling for soup stock. After the broth has cooled, scrape off and discard any solidified fat from the top before using. This yielded about 3.5 quarts.

Spicy Raw Sauerkraut

Our ancestors have made raw sauerkraut for thousands of years all over the globe. It has many important health benefits, such as providing an excellent source of dairy-free probiotics (to restore beneficial bacteria), helping to heal the mucosal lining of your intestines, and providing fermentable fiber for improved overall digestion and elimination. It’s nutrient dense –lots of vitamins C, B, and K; the fermentation process increases the bioavailability of nutrients rendering sauerkraut even more nutritious than the original cabbage. Sauerkraut is also low in calories and high in calcium and magnesium, and it is a very good source of dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese. Fun fact: Americans called it “Liberty Cabbage” during World War I to avoid associations with Germans (“Freedom Fries” anyone?)

Sauerkraut and other raw foods pickled by lacto-fermentation are also cheap and easy to make and oh yeah, delicious! I enjoy a small serving several times a week (in my salads or on a nitrite-free organic beef hotdog for a quick snack.) You will need a few 32 oz mason jars or other storage jars and a large mixing bowl.

Ingredients

1 large or 2 small heads of green cabbage, chopped in the food processor or sliced into thin strips (remove and set aside a few of the outer leaves first)
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 cups shredded carrots (about 2 large carrots)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon peeled ginger, (about an inch) minced
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
Black pepper to taste

Instructions

Wash your hands – you’re about to get primal with your kraut! In a large mixing bowl, add 1/2 of your sliced cabbage and 1 tablespoon of salt. Knead and squeeze the cabbage until the water releases and it is quite damp. Add the rest of the cabbage and salt and keep squeezing to release more water. This will take maybe a minute or two.

Add the shredded carrots garlic, ginger, caraway seeds, cayenne and black pepper and mix with your hands until blended together. Resist the urge to just eat it all with a fork.

Fill your jars evenly with the mixture and press down on the kraut so that the water level is above the vegetables. Tuck the reserved cabbage leaves on top of the mixture, again, making sure it is all under water. Add a weight (I used a spice jar filled with water; you can also use a ziplock bag filled with water or small bowl with a rock in it; use your imagination :))

Store the jars in a dark cool place. Check every few days and make sure the vegetables are still under water and skim off any mold (it’s common and harmless unless it is dark and starts smelling nasty.) Taste it in about a week; it should start to be tangy and soft. It should be fermented in 2 weeks and ready to put a lid on it and refrigerate. It will last in the fridge several months.

Note: while most people can benefit from adding sauerkraut to their diets, if you have thyroid issues and are avoiding cabbage and other goitrogenic foods (such as kale, broccoli and bok choy), you can cook it first, just use carrots, supplement with sea vegetables (they have iodine which can counteract the goitrogenic properties of cabbage) or just use in small, condiment-size doses and of course consult your health practitioner. Even if you have a normal thyroid, you don’t need to be consuming large bowlfuls to reap the health benefits. A little goes a long way. More information here, here and here.

Easy Frittata

I’m pretty sure “frittata” means “awesome” in Italian. This morning, I was running late and in a rush to get out of the door to drive several hours for a meeting, and I was wondering what to make for breakfast that would be fast and sustain me until lunch. And then I remembered, Yesterday StephyD made frittata!!! Awesome! Thanks for looking out, Yesterday StephyD! I love making this dish because it’s so easy, you can use whatever ingredients (veggies and meat) you have on hand (as long as you have enough eggs) and is fantastic for the next few days, if it lasts that long. You can even freeze individual portions and reheat for later.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee (or one tablespoon of each)
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup grated sweet potato (about 1 small sweet potato)
1 pound ground bison or grass-fed beef (or 2 cups of any meat you have, or you can leave the meat out. If you use bacon, pre-cook it, please)
1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used baby portabellas)
1 red pepper, diced
A few handfuls of leafy greens – spinach, kale etc.
10-12 pasture eggs, vigorously whisked with spices (below)
Sea salt and ground pepper, other spices to taste (I used 1 teaspoon rosemary garlic sea salt, 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper, and 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper for heat. I also added 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast for a “cheesy” taste. Sort of. It can be good in recipes where you really miss the cheese, but let’s not kid ourselves. It ain’t cheese.)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large cast iron skillet, heat the oil on medium to medium high heat, then add the diced onion and grated sweet potato, and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until soft, a few minutes.
  3. Add the ground bison and break up and mix in with the onion and sweet potato, until the meat starts to brown.
  4. Add the diced red pepper and handfuls of greens, and continue to cook until the greens are wilted and the meat is fully cooked, and make sure the mixture is spread evenly on the bottom of the skillet.
  5. Top the meat and veggie mixture with the spiced whisked eggs mixture and cook 4-5 minutes until the eggs start to set on the sides.
  6. Put the entire skillet in the oven and cook, uncovered, about 15 minutes until the top is fluffy and golden, and the middle is firm when you shake the skillet.
  7. Let cool a few minutes, then slice like a pie and serve. This will yield 8 large slices, 4-8 servings depending on how piggy you are. So 4 servings around here 🙂