consciouscavegirl

We're all about local-eating, the paleo way!


Leave a comment

Paleo Strawberry Pudding

IMG_0401
Well, my patio-grown strawberry experiment seems to have been a success. For the past 3 weeks or so I’ve been rewarded with about a daily dozen ruby red jewels. That may not seem like a lot, but considering I only have about 16 plants total, I’d say I’m doing pretty well.

One of the challenges I’ve been having with growing the strawberries this year has been pollination. Colony collapse disorder has taken it’s toll on honey bees all over the country and Colorado is no exception. My area specifically is undergoing a lot of development and colonies of wild pollinators just aren’t around.

The first couple weeks my plants had blossoms, I wasn’t paying attention and was disheartened to find vine after vine of dead flowers. I’ve since been more proactive and everyday I take my handy dandy pollinator (also known as a q-tip) and pollinate the blossoms myself. It’s tedious and impractical and there’s no way I could do it if I had an entire strawberry field full of plants. But for my tiny little project, I’m willing to put in the effort to make sure I get their delicious bounty. It just makes me appreciate how vital pollinators are to agriculture.

To reward my persistence, I decided to make a sweet and tangy strawberry pudding. Cool and refreshing, it is the perfect dessert for a hot summer’s day.

Paleo Strawberry Pudding

IMG_0400
* 4 TB cold water
* 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin
* 3 cups fresh hulled strawberries (you could use frozen if you want)
* 1/2 cup honey
* 1 tsp vanilla
* 1/2 cup plain coconut milk yogurt (you can use greek yogurt instead if you like dairy)

Mix the gelatin and water in a small, microwavable dish and let sit for 1 min. Microwave for about 20 sec until gelatin is dissolved but not boiling. Stir until smooth.

Add the strawberries, honey, and vanilla to a food processor or blender and puree. Add the yogurt and pulse to combine. With the food processor running, slowly add the dissolved gelatin. Cover and chill until set, about 4 hours. Garnish with more chopped strawberries or mint sprigs.

Note: This is an excellent way to use older strawberries that have lost their texture but still have great flavor.


1 Comment

First CSA Meal-Ginger Garlic Stir Fry

IMG_0398
I got my first veggie CSA share this week! It is kind of funny how excited I get over a box of veggies but honestly I’m like a kid on Christmas. As I pull up to the lined up coolers, I get that little wave of anticipation until I reveal the goodies in store for me each week. Then of course, I immediately start brain-storming what I’m going to make with said goodies. That’s the fun part. Before I started buying CSA shares, I always planned my meals by looking at recipes and then going to the store and buying the ingredients. Looking back, I can’t believe I did it for so long. Not only was it more expensive because the ingredients I needed rarely matched up with the sales, but often times the ingredient I wanted really didn’t look all that great. Let’s face it. It a draw on whether or not grocery-store produce is going to look good that day, or kind of sad and picked over. Things never look sad and picked over when they were in the field a mere 24 hours before they are in your kitchen. Even at the farmers market, I plan my meals based on what looks good at the market that day. I get better quality ingredients, and frankly taking the time to live in the moment and enjoy the experience of getting food for my table is something I’ve often taken for granted.

As I have mentioned in other posts, my veggie CSA is from Lora’s Nourishing Produce. I was so thrilled with her work last year that I decided to join again. This week’s share, like most beginning CSA seasons, was small but satisfying. I got a big bag of spinach, a bag of garlic chives, a tray of radish microgreens, garlic scapes (my absolute favorite), and 2 big bunches of bok choy. I have a confession to make. I have never cooked with bok choy before. My dad has always shied away from less-than-conventional greens when I was a kid so I just never tried them. This is what a CSA is all about. Playing with things that may be out of your comfort zone. I looked up some recipes online and everything seemed to center around a stir fry so here we go. I’d say my first shot at bok choy was a success.IMG_0397

Ginger Garlic Stir Fry
* 1 lb cubed, boneless chicken (2-3 breasts, 3-4 thighs)
* 2 bunches Bok Choy, chopped, leaves and stems separated
* 2 TB grated ginger
* 4 cloves garlic (less if you’re not a garlic fanatic)
* 1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
* 1/2 cup soy sauce
* 3 TB rice vinegar
* 1 TB sriracha (optional)
* 2 TB toasted sesame oil
* 1 TB coconut oil, or other fat with a high smoke point (I used some of my lard)
* 1/2 tsp arrowroot starch

Mix together the ginger through the sriracha in a med bowl. Pour 3/4 of the mixture over cubed chicken and marinate for about 20-30 min. Reserve the remaining 1/4 for the end.

In a large skillet (or wok if you have one), heat the sesame oil and coconut oil over med high heat. By heating the oils together, you get the flavor of the sesame oil and the high smoke point of the coconut oil so it doesn’t burn. Add the bok choy stems* and toss in the oil for about 1 min. Add the chicken. Lower the heat to med and cook until chicken is cooked through. Spread the chicken in a thin layer so it cooks evenly. Add the bok choy leaves. Whisk arrowroot starch to the remaining marinate and toss into the stir fry until thickened slightly and the bok choy leaves have wilted.

*Cooking the stems and leaves separately allows the tougher stems enough time to cook without over cooking the more delicate leaves.


Leave a comment

A Lesson in Lard-Curried Chicken Pot Pie

IMG_0392

Yep, that's a crockpot of pork fat

Yep, that’s a crockpot of pork fat


If you had told me even a year ago that I would hacking away at a giant pile of pig fat getting ready to render my own lard, I would’ve asked politely if you’d been seeing purple elephants too. For most of my life, I have followed the conventional wisdom that “fat is bad” and of course pig fat was the absolute worst, right? (Never did understand the logic behind that) Well I have seen the light! I have decided fat is my friend and I’m embracing all it’s culinary possibilities.

When I first heard about the paleo diet, I found it very hard to believe that something so radically different from conventional wisdom could hold any truth whatsoever. But as a scientist by trade, I felt it was important to look past what I thought was accepted fact and look into the research behind those conclusions. What I found was hole, after hole, after hole in the evidence. Of all the articles I could find on the benefits of whole grains, only ONE of them was not sponsored by either Kellogg’s or General Mill, 2 companies whose sole existence is based on public consumption of grains. Hmm, interesting. Next I learned that the main study behind the FDA’s recommendations for a high carb, low fat diet was essentially looking at the general diet and population of 7 countries and saying, “you’re fat so your diet must be bad. You’re skinny so your diet must be good. Oh but you’re fat but your diet is like skinny man’s over there so I’m not going to count you in my study.” Any scientist will tell you that a study that relies on a correlation=causation conclusion is not a very good study and yet it has been the entire basis for the FDAs nutrition guidelines for over 40 years. Surprise, surprise Americans have only gotten fatter. (For an entertaining podcast that summarizes the history of America’s current nutrition guidelines in a funny way, check out How the Paleo Diet Works; there are some flaws in their representation of the paleo diet which I actually wrote in to correct them but it’s an interesting listen)

So, in light of this new revelation I have thrown in all my “evil fat” mantras in favor of some very tasty fat-embracing changes. Result: I feel fuller faster, I’m less likely to snack unconsciously, my nails and hair look great, and I’ve lost weight. Who knew? And a couple weeks ago I decided to embrace the root of all fatty evil things, LARD. In addition to my 2 veggie CSAs, I have also joined a chicken CSA in Fort Collins that also happens to raise pork. As much as I wanted to try to incorporate lard into my cooking, I found it was very hard to get ahold of. Highly stigmatized, the only readily available stuff on the grocery store shelves is hydrogenized to make it shelf stable (i.e. you have now turned it into a trans fat). No thank you. Solution: Ask a very happy farmer who is practically giving the stuff away and render it yourself.

The process is very simple. Cut the fat into tiny pieces, throw it in a crockpot on low, let it melt for 8+ hours, strain through some cheeseclot and viola! While I was expecting it to make the entire neighborhood smell like bacon, it hardly had a smell at all. About the middle of the process, it kind of smelled like a Sunday roast but even then you had to be right next to the crockpot to smell it. Mission accomplished!

Curried Chicken Pot Pie with Homemade Lard Crust

I got lazy on the pie crust and didn't wait for things to get cold enough; So I made a pie crust crumble on top instead

I got lazy on the pie crust and didn’t wait for things to get cold enough; So I made a pie crust crumble on top instead

* 1 lb cut up chicken thighs
* 1 cup chopped carrots
* 1 cup chopped celery
* 1/2 cup chopped green onion
* 1 tsp dried thyme
* 2 cloves minced garlic
* 1 TB garam masala
* 1 TB sweet curry powder
* 2 cup chicken broth
* 2 TB arrowroot starch
* 1 cup flour
* 1/2 cup cold lard (next time I will probably put it in the freezer for 30 min or so)
* 1/2 tsp salt
* ice water

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1-2 TB olive oil in a large pot over med heat. Add chicken, veggies, and spices. Heat until fragrant and chicken had a little color. Add chicken broth and cover. Cook for about 10 min until chicken is almost cooked through. Add arrowroot starch and simmer until thickened.

In a food processor, combine flour and salt. Add lard in small chunks and pulse until mealy. Add just enough ice water until the dough comes together. Gather into a disk, wrap, and chill for about 20 min.

Pour filling into a 9″ pie plate. Roll out dough into a 10″ disk and top off the filling. Prick with a fork to vent. Bake at 375 for about 35 min.

***For full paleo goodness, omit crust and make a nice, tasty curried chicken stew.***


Leave a comment

Very Berry Crisp

Patio-grown strawberries..drool

Patio-grown strawberries..drool


I LOVE fruit desserts. Absolutely adore them. Why? Because they don’t feel healthy. They are nature’s ultimate guilty pleasure…without being that guilty. And they are so easy to make even healthier, without ever making you feel deprived. In fact, I have found by giving some of my fruit desserts a makeover, substituting coconut and almond flours and natural sweeteners like honey, I’ve actually made them MORE delicious.

When it comes to paleo baking, I often find myself facing a dilemma. Paleo baking is very rarely as good as traditional baking; and the fact of the matter is, if I’m going to indulge myself and go to the trouble of making a pie crust (or cake or cookie or you get the idea), I’m going to make it the traditional way and savor every delicious albeit less-healthy bite.

Berries drizzled with golden honey...bliss

Berries drizzled with golden honey…bliss

There are 2 exceptions where I have found the paleo method FAR surpasses the traditional method; streusels and shortbread crusts. The extra texture and flavor that paleo-friendly flours like almond and coconut give to these fairly simple dessert bases is just phenomenal. These two techniques paired with the sweet/tart fruits of the season are an absolute match made in heaven.

This time of year, berries are the star. While raspberries and blackberries don’t do nearly as well here in dry, sunny Colorado as they do in the pacific northwest, with a little searching you can find a farmer who can provide you with bright, luscious berries. I do not have the space for them this year, but I have started a nice patio garden on hanging strawberry baskets instead. There is absolutely nothing better than a home-grown strawberry. Picked right off the plant, these ruby-red beauties explode in your mouth as a burst of sweet, juicy goodness.

Very Berry Crisp
IMG_0382
* 1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
* 1 cup blackberries, fresh or frozen
* 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
* 2 TB water
* 1/3 cup honey
* 2 TB instant tapioca
* 1 TB fresh lemon zest
* 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
* 1 cup almond flour
* 1/4 cup cold butter, cut into chunks*
* 1 tsp cinnamon
* 1/4 cup brown sugar*
* 1/2 cup chopped pecans
* 1/2 cup rolled oats*

In a large saucepan over med heat, combine all the berries, water, honey, tapioca, zest, and lemon juice. Bring mixture to a bubble and stir until slightly thickened. Pour into individual ramekins (or a small pie plate).

In a med bowl combine almond flour, cinnamon and brown sugar. Using a pastry cutter or 2 forks, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until there are pea-sized chunks of butter throughout the mixture. Add pecans and oats and stir to combine. Sprinkle over the berries. Bake crisps at 350 F for 15 min or until struesel is golden brown. (Baking times should not change if you do 1 big crisp instead of individual ones).

*Totally Paleo substitutions: Use cold coconut oil instead of butter, 3 TB maple syrup instead of brown sugar, and omit the oats. Result is equally delicious!


Leave a comment

Green: The Color of Spring

IMG_0364
I’m baaack! Wow, 2014 has been a bit of a doozy. As I mentioned in my previous post (way, way back ago), my head has been trying to explode on me. Well after months of obnoxious pain, trials of drugs that I found I was allergic to, more drugs that made me feel like Dopey from the Seven Dwarfs, ridiculously strict diets, and intense poking and prodding from doctor after doctor after doctor, I seem to have gotten my headaches (somewhat) under control.

For the past few months while I’ve been trying to keep my head from falling off, I have learned that one of my triggers in severe stress. While this is incredibly inconvenient as stress seems to follow me like an extremely dark and creepy shadow, it has sort of forced me to drop my obligations every now and then and focus on “me time”. While sitting on the couch and doing nothing might work for some people’s “me time”, it doesn’t cut it for this girl. So I have taken to playing in the dirt. No I’m not making mud pies or I’m working on my garden. While in years past, I have focused on a somewhat obsessive and extremely crowded patio container garden, my wonderful parents gifted me with a 100 square foot garden plot at Flat Acres Farm that has expanded my gardening ambitions. My garden has just blossomed this year (pun intended).
The plot is currently loaded withIMG_0371
Tomatoes-4 varieties
Sweet Peppers
Chilies-2 varieties
Eggplant-2 varieties
Peas-Snap and Pod
Beans-Dry and Green
Pumpkins
Zucchini
Corn
Celery
Edamame
Greens-Spinach,Head Lettuce, Salad mix, Kale, Collards
Onions-Candy, Leek, Green
Carrots-3 varieties
Beets
Herbs-Basil, Cilantro, Dill, Parsley, Mint, Lemon Balm, Feverfew, Sage, and Oregano
and I have several flats of fall crops waiting to be planted in late summer. I have to say, playing in the dirt is very therapeutic. For one, I really can’t think about anything other than the work in front of me. I pop on a podcast (this morning I learned about Black Beard while planting eggplants), grab my trowel and have at it. I have hopes that this “new connection with the earth” (as my yoga instructor, also my yoga therapist who is helping with my migraine control) will continue to feed my body as well as my soul.
IMG_0362
Ok enough worm-worshiping hippie talk. Spring has sprung. Farmers market season has begun, produce is rolling in, and my “eat good” season has begun. One thing I have noticed is spring is always a very green season among the farmers market. Plants are still young and haven’t quite flowered yet. Spring crops are all various shades of green. Early rains make fields a beautiful, lush green. Green is just a very renewing color. So that being said, I decided to make a very springy, green quiche from my pickins at the Parker Farmers Market. This year, the market has a TON of new vendors and I’m so excited to do a number of new Market Pick segments this year. This was a 100% market inspired meal. I had no idea what I was going to make until I saw what looked good, and I planned around that. I grabbed a nice bag of organic spinach (mine still needs a few weeks), a hunk of goat cheese, a bunch of asparagus, a few green onions, and a carton of pasture-raised, free range eggs (The farmer actually put the names of the chickens on the carton! Kind of overkill, but hilarious none the less. I will be a repeat customer).

I believe there was an episode of Portlandia about this

I believe there was an episode of Portlandia about this

Green Spring Quiche

*Pie Crust of Choice-Homemade, Paleo or optional (fritatta is delicious too)
* 3 cups of fresh spinach, roughly chopped*
* 3 large spring green onions*
* 1 cup chopped asparagus*
* 1 cup chopped artichoke hearts (canned, frozen, fresh, I got mine from the antipasto bar at Whole Foods)
* 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese*IMG_0365* 7 eggs*
* 3/4 cup half and half

Preheat the oven for 350 F. Roll out the pie crust and lay in a greased pie plate. Line the crust (or bare pie plate if you’re making a frittata) with chopped spinach. Layer with artichoke hearts and asparagus. Sprinkle the top with chopped spring onions and goat cheese.

In a med bowl, whisk together the eggs and half and half until pale yellow. Pour over the vegetables. Bake for 45-50 min until filling is set and puffy.

*Sources
Spinach-Eat a Peach Organics, Onions and aspargus-Miller Farm, Goat Cheese-De La Cheve Creamery, Eggs-Pumpkin Hollow Farms


1 Comment

Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine

IMG_0200
I warn you, this is a bit of a whiney post so I apologize in advance. No, I have not disappeared off the face of the earth. As sometimes happens in the beginnings of a new year, this has been a bit of a difficult one. Ironically, one of the things that has been keeping me from writing has been the absolute required dedication to the diet of which I have grown to promote.

Let me take a step back, and also stop writing like someone out of Downton Abbey (just got caught up, so the lingo is fresh in my mind). I’ll be blunt. Migraines suck ass. They suck even more ass when you’ve had close to 10 in the last month. They suck even more ass still when they are broken up by intermittent headaches. Just in case I haven’t gotten my point across, this past month has seriously sucked ass.

So what do I do? I’ve seen the doctor, I’ve seen the neurologist. I’ve started a headache journal to try to pinpoint what they all have in common. I’ve started several medications; some that work, some that don’t. But by far the most challenging change has been…completely cutting processed food out of my diet. The fact that I call this challenging may come as a surprise to those who have followed my blog consistently. I am always preaching the value of real, wholesome, local food in order to nourish the body and the spirit. While I still hold by that belief, it is incredibly more difficult when you have to follow it to a “T”. The past 2-3 weeks I’ve been good as gold, looking at every label for anything that I don’t recognize as a real food ingredient. Heavy cream, gone. Boxed coconut milk and almond milk, gone. Most inexpensive cheeses, gone. It’s been exhausting but I am starting to feel better.

One of the things that truly does help the pain when my head is throbbing is spicy food. Weird, but true. Maybe it has something to do with the capsaicin. I do not know, all I know is that a hefty does of chilies or cayenne in a dish does ease the pain when I have a headache.

So, my dinner of choice these last few evenings has been an absolutely delicious Ancho Chile Butternut Squash Soup. I got the inspiration for a southwestern cooking class I took last week at The Seasoned Chef Cooking School. If you’ve never taken a cooking class, I highly recommend it. It’s a fun way to spend an evening, especially if you like conversing with other foodies.

Butternut squash can be so delicious but most of the recipes out there try to make it sweet. Yuck! I know I’m in the minority here, but sweet squash is just not my thing. This soup is not sweet at all. It’s perfectly velvety with a subtle chili undertone that you feel in the back of your throat but is not overpowering. Complimented with herbs and white wine, the way to finish it is pure genius…at the last minute, stir in 2 tablespoons of ghee. It makes it so luscious, you’ll think you’re on vacation in Mexico.

Ancho Chili Butternut Squash Soup
IMG_0198
* 1 large butternut squash peeled, seeded, cubed
* 1 medium onion
* 3 ribs celery,diced
* 3 carrots, diced
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 large dried Ancho Chilies, seeded and torn into big chunks
* 1 1/2 cups dry white wine (I used a pinot grigio)
* 4 cups chicken broth
* 2 tsp dried thyme
* 1 tsp dried oregano
* 1 cup canned coconut milk
* 2 Tb Ghee (or butter)

Preheat the oven to 400. Toss butternut squash cubes with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in a thin layer on a sheet pan and roast for about 20-30 min until soft and slightly caramelized. Cool completely.

In a large pot, drizzle a layer of olive oil and add onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and chilies. Allow to sweat out over med heat for about 5-7 min. Add white wine and herbs. Bring to a bubble and add chicken broth and squash. Allow to simmer for about 20-30 min.

Puree with an immersion blender (or blender in batches). Remove from the heat. Stir in coconut milk and ghee until melted. Garnish with cilantro, roasted pepitas, or goat cheese.


Leave a comment

Coconut-Almond “Breaded”Mahi-Mahi with Nutty Kale

IMG_0332
Whew, what a weekend. After that miserable cold spell we have had day after day of absolutely gorgeous weather. It’s my birthday on Sunday so I decided to treat myself to a ski day at Copper Mountain on Friday. It was an absolutely perfect day for it. Only a touch of wind at the top of the mountain, beautifully sunny, and nearly 20″ of fresh snow from the last week. I haven’t been skiing in 4 years so it was a great way to break my hiatus.
IMG_0328
Saturday, I began the day with an honor WOD at Crossfit Parker. I have to say, if anything sets the Crossfit community apart, it’s their ability to unite together and support one another in their time of triumph and in their time of need. If you have not heard, Kevin Ogar, a Crossfit coach from Crossfit Unbroken in Englewood, suffered a severe back injury while competing in the OC Throwdown in California last weekend. Kevin is uninsured and he is fighting to regain the use of his legs. The Crossfit community has rallied around him, hosting workouts, workshops, and fundraisers to raise money to help with his medical bills. If you are interested in donating to help Kevin, please check out http://kevinogar.com/.

So today it’s my birthday. I’m chilling out of the couch, blogging, and waiting for the Broncos game. I decided to be good for lunch today because tonight there is a white-chocolate blueberry cheesecake with my name on it. Hey, if you’re going to indulge, REALLY indulge. As my legs are absolutely ACHING from the weekend’s festivities, I decided to have Mahi Mahi in hopes that the omega-3s will help any inflammation…not really, I just really wanted Mahi Mahi. I decided to “bread” them in hopes that I might find a technique that will work for fish tacos. I have to say, these came out rather nicely. Nice crispy crusted fish, and 100% paleo. Happy Birthday to Me!

Coconut-Almond “Breaded” Mahi Mahi with Nutty Kale
IMG_0339
* 1 Bunch Kale (I used lucinato), washed and roughly chopped
* 1 shallot, thinly diced
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 TB coconut oil
* 1/4 cup almond butter
* 2 TB coconut milk
* 2 Mahi Mahi fillets (or any hardy white fish)
* 1 cup almond meal
* 1 egg
* 1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

In a large skillet, melt the coconut oil and add the onions. Cook over medium low until translucent. Add garlic and stir to heat. Add kale, and 4 TB of water (to help it steam) and cover. Cook until wilted. In a small bowl, mix the almond butter and coconut milk until smooth. (If necessary, you can use a blender). Turn off the heat and tossed into the kale. Season with salt and pepper.

Create a 3 bowl “breading” station. In one bowl, add the almond meal and season with salt and pepper. In another, beat the egg. In the last, add the coconut. Dip the fish into the almond meal, tossing to coat, then into the egg,then into the coconut, coating thoroughly at each station. Allow to sit on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes, allowing to dry slightly.

Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Once the skillet is how, add the fish. Cook about 3 minutes per side until the fish flakes easily with a fork and the crust is golden brown. Thicker pieces of fish may take longer.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.