Yum! Yum! YUM!

Yesterday, I received my package from Improveat of Pure Wraps.  I had been anxiously awaiting it’s arrival!  After first reading about these wraps on nom nom Paleo‘s site and seeing her delicious creations, I had to get my hands on some. Not able to contain my excitement or the desire to try them as soon as possible, I made my Paleo Chicken Salad (recipe coming) and wrapped it up for lunch today.  I had read that some people didn’t like them because they are kind of thick and a little greasy, but neither of those things were an issue for me.  In fact, I found them to be more thin than thick.  I think they are perfect!  They have a slightly sweet flavor to them, and I love the texture.  They do not fall apart and even kind of cling to themselves helping to hold the wrap together.  Sandwich cravings be gone!  These wraps are an easy way to get a “old school” feeling lunch.

These are soo good and at only 4 per package, I have already placed another order!

Simple Seared Sea Bass

I love seafood.  I could eat my weight in shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops, oysters etc., but I am not a huge fan of fish.  There is just something fishy (forgive the pun) about it that is off-putting to me, and forget about me eating it the next day as leftovers.  Not. Going. To. Happen.  Lately though, I have been trying to eat it more often.  After all, it is really good for you!  Wild caught fish is a fantastic source of omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential to our good health.

On one of my first trips to Whole Foods since going Paleo, I went crazy and bought three different kinds of fish…some wild caught Sockeye salmon, a few filets of Tilapia and some MSC certified Chilean sea bass.  I had never actually eaten Chilean sea bass.  I know there was (and still is) a lot of controversy about this particular fish, so this is a good reminder that it is critically important to know where your food comes from.  That way, you not only know that you are getting the highest quality meats, but also that they are sustainable.  This is at the core of the Paleo diet.  So, get to know your local farmers, your fish mongers and even the butchers at your favorite market.  Ask questions.  That is what they are there for and they love answering them.  They are the best at what they do.

I know I am way behind on this one, but Whole Foods brought Chilean Sea Bass back on the market with the MSC certification in 2006 (informative podcast here), and I just couldn’t resist it.  It is such a beautiful piece of fish, which is funny because the fish itself, also called the Patagonia toothfish, is not very pretty.

See?  Not pretty.  Really.  This is a face only a mother could love.

The Patagonia toothfish, also known as Chilean Sea Bass

The flesh, though?  Pretty!  Beautiful.  Striking.

Just goes to show, never judge a book by its cover.  Incidentally, I did not take a pic of the fish before I plated the dish, so I borrowed this beautiful picture from here.

Not having any prior experience cooking sea bass, I opted for the easiest preparation method I could think of…a simple pan sear.  Nothing like letting fresh, whole foods shine.  Here is how I did it…

Gather your ingredients…

4 sea bass filets, skin removed

1 T pastured butter

1 T olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Season the fish with s&p.  Melt the butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add filets and cook, turning once, until nicely browned and firm to the touch ~about 3-4 minutes per side.  Serve with sides of choice.  I chose my pureed turnips and sautéed spinach.  YUM!

Simple, real food.  So easy and so delicious.

What’s your favorite squash?

I love squash.  All squash.  My favorite, though, is crookneck squash.  I know, you are probably like…really?  You could pick any squash as your favorite and that’s the one you pick?  Yep.  I pick crookneck.  You know how when you are a kid and you eat something and it sticks with you and you carry the love (or hate) for it into adulthood?  The taste of it, the smell of it, and even how it made you feel?  Ok, maybe “the way it made you feel” is taking it a bit too far, but you get the idea.  Crookneck squash reminds me of summer days at my Mammy’s house, slurping it up by the bowlful.  She would boil it with onions and salt & pepper and serve it in these cute little pink Lucite bowls.  I would always burn my tongue because I could never wait long enough for it to cool down before digging in.  I am not sure who liked it more…me or my great-grandpappy.  To this day, it is one of my favorite vegetables.

So, when I saw a whole bunch of tiny ones at the farmer’s market, I snatched them up!  First of all, they are so cute.  Seriously.  They fit in the palm of your hand.  Second of all, because they are so little, they really require very little prep work.  Crookneck squash make for a beautiful (and tasty) side dish and you can bet I always have some in my fridge.  I usually just grill them, but the hubs is not a fan of squash and really prefers to have something “more” done to them.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them.  Here’s what I did…

Gather your ingredients.

(feeds 4)

6-8 baby crookneck squash (or 4 regular size)

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 sprig of fresh rosemary

2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme

pat of pastured butter

sea salt and pepper

2 T. olive oil, plus 1 T. ~ I used a Texas Olive Ranch Roasted Garlic Olive Oil (Texas born and Texas proud!)

Texas made!

Is that not the cutest, little, redheaded cowgirl on their bottle?  I am partial to red-heads, and it is NOT because I am a redhead. I swear.

Anyway…

Start by slicing your squash in half lengthwise.  Season with s&p.   Next, make your herb oil.  Chop the fresh herbs and mince the garlic and place it all in a small bowl with 2 T. of olive oil.  Add a little salt and pepper and muddle.  You know, kind of smoosh it up against the side of the bowl with a spoon to release the flavors of the herbs and garlic.  Yes, smoosh.  It’s a technical term.  You should say it, it’s a fun word to say.  You said it, didn’t you?  or…if you don’t want to go through all that smooshing, you could just add it to a mortar and pestle, if you have one.  Once muddled, set the oil aside and put a cast iron skillet on medium to medium-high heat.  Pour enough oil in the pan to coat the bottom and add a pat of pastured butter. When the oil and butter sizzle, place the seasoned squash in the pan cut side down, and leave them until they brown.  When nicely browned, about 5 minutes, remove them to a platter and drizzle the herb oil over the top.  Now, here’s the hard part…try not to eat half the platter before you get to the dinner table like I did.  Enjoy!

squash

Simple. Beautiful. Good for you.  What’s your favorite squash?

It’s the little things…

Tonight, I made hamburgers for dinner.  It was one of those nights.  I have been having them lately, and I think it must be because I am under the weather.  I am just not into cooking this week.  So, I was telling G that we were going to have hamburgers, and he gives me his tongue-hanging-out-of-his-mouth-like-a-dog pose that lets me know I have hit the jackpot with him.  He is my picky eater, so when I hit the jackpot with something that is not chicken nuggets, it is a little victory.  Then, he looks at me and with all seriousness says, “Mom, I think I want to have lettuce on my burger tonight.”  I swear, I think I fell out of the chair.  This boy does not touch the green stuff.  Any green stuff.  Ever.  Seriously, if there is a fleck of oregano in his spaghetti, he’s all…mom, I don’t like the green stuff and I’m all…yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it.  So, tonight I said, “ok buddy, sounds good”, as I was trying to maintain my composure.  On the inside I was doing freaking back flips, though.

I grilled the burgers, made stir-fried kale and bacon (again!–I think I am addicted, it is THAT good!) and some guac for the grownups and settled us all in at the table.  He took a bite of his burger and was shocked to realize that lettuce doesn’t really have a flavor.  It was pretty cute.  At one point, he takes a bite and a big piece of lettuce comes out.  He looks me in the eye and works it into his mouth and chews.  Actually chews.  On green stuff!  It was nothing short of amazing at our house tonight.  Baby steps and little victories.  I will take them whenever I can get them.

Here’s what I ate…

Chicken soup…two ways

I am of the opinion that chicken soup is magic. Seriously.  There is something that happens when you take your first sip of it when you are sick.  It’s like you feel better.  Instantly.

This past Sunday, I woke up with a sore throat and by that evening I knew it was developing into something more. I decided to take the day off on Monday to give my body rest while praying it wouldn’t become a full-blown illness. I usually have a great immune system and, in fact, was just joking with a co-worker last week about how this was the first year since starting school nursing that I had not been sick. I even knocked on wood when I said it, but I guess that doesn’t actually work. Anyway, I woke up on Monday morning feeling even worse, despite all of my herbal remedies that I was taking.

My go-to arsenal of herbal remedies

When I woke up Monday morning, all I wanted was a steaming cup of homemade chicken soup.  The only problem was I didn’t have a chicken.  I went out to my “old” stockpile (that’s another story) and rummaged through the cans until I came up with a lonesome can of chicken noodle soup.  I had already thought it through, though.  I would just warm it up, strain off the noodles and enjoy the broth.  Well, my plan didn’t go so well.  Can I just say that chicken noodle soup is essentially ALL noodles?  Yep, it is.  It should be called Can of Noodles.  I ended up with only about a 1/4 cup of broth…hardly enough to satisfy me or make me feel better!  It was probably for the better, anyway.  I made the mistake of looking at the label after I drank the broth.  I was desperate, ok?  This is actually a perfect argument for cleaning out your pantry properly so that none of “that” stuff remains!

So, my Mom came to the rescue and can I just say…Moms rock!  Mom surprised me when she called (I had been secretly hoping she would) and said she was coming by my house.  Better still, she was at the store and calling to see if I needed anything?  I was like, umm, yeah…I need a chicken and some celery.  Please and thank you.

When Mom got to my place, I discovered that not only had she brought me a chicken and celery, she had also scored on 11 (yes, 11) half pound blocks of Organic Valley Pastured butter for $2.04 each!  She bought them all.  Half of them are now in my freezer.  She took the other half.  She is frugal, not crazy.  Hello, “new stockpile”!

I started putting together my soup while we talked and an hour or so (and a little work) later, I was enjoying a wonderful bowl of my version of chicken ‘not noodle’ soup.  I feel better.  Instantly.  I told you, chicken soup is magic.  I am pretty sure there is even be research to prove this.

Chicken soup

Here’s how I did it…

Start with a 3-4 lb free range chicken.  Rinse the bird, but do not throw away the little goodies inside….and by goodies I mean, the neck, liver, gizzard, heart, etc.  Add it all to a stockpot and fill with enough water to cover your chicken.  Then add the following ingredients…

4 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces

3 stalks celery, cut into 1 inch pieces

4 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

4-5 springs of fresh thyme (You can use dried if you do not have fresh…2 tsp.)

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary  (same here for dried…1 tsp)

1 T. sea salt

fresh ground pepper to taste

Bring to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and let it go for about an hour.  Set a timer, go lay on the couch and watch reruns of Housewives…not that I watch Housewives.  I am simply making a suggestion here.  Ha.  When the timer dings, remove the pot from the heat and, using tongs, carefully remove the chicken from the broth.  Set the chicken on a platter to cool and strain the broth into a large bowl.  Discard all of the solids (I like to keep the “goodies” to chop into my soup, but that is optional) and pour the broth back into the stockpot.

At this point you can just add the chicken back to the broth (after shredding it) and call it done, which is what I did above.

Or you can take it a step further…

To the strained broth, add:

4 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch coins

4 big handfuls of kale, roughly chopped and fibrous ribs removed

Bring broth back to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for another 30 minutes.  While the soup is simmering, debone your chicken, put half of the meat away for another use (chicken salad, anyone?) and roughly shred the other half.   Add the shredded chicken back to the soup just to warm through.  Season with sea salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Chicken soup with kale and carrots

Now, don’t you feel better, too?  Instantly, right?  Yeah, I thought so.

I wonder if Housewives is still on?