Blue Cheese, Fig & Swiss Chard Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

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As I’m posting this recipe, I’m sipping on a big bowl of cold, kind of goopy avocado and celery soup.  I’m on a detox, and while it’s not half bad, it’s definitely not as delicious as this stuffed pork tenderloin.  I’m counting down the days until I can make this recipe again (five down, five to go…).  Make it this weekend so I can live vicariously through you!
This dish is simple and straightforward, and the product is elegant and perfect for entertaining or for a fancy dinner for two, with leftovers for lunch the next day. I brined my pork ahead, which I definitely recommend if you have some lead time, it makes the meat so juicy and flavorful.  You could throw it in the brine the morning of, and it will be ready by the time you’re ready to cook dinner.
Serves 4
For the brine:
2 cups apple cider
4 cups cold water (or enough to cover the pork)
1/4 cup sea salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 sprigs thyme
For the pork:
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed
2 cups swiss chard, cut into ribbons
1/2 cup dried figs, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
For the apple cider glaze:
1 cup apple cider
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder mixed with water
To make the brine: If you are brining the pork, combine apple cider, salt, garlic and thyme and bring to a boil in a medium saucepan until salt is dissolved.  Add the water, cool completely, then submerge the pork in the brine.  Brine in the refrigerator 8-12 hours.
To make the pork: Preheat the oven to 450F. Remove the pork and discard the brine.  Pat dry and place on a flat surface covered with plastic wrap.  Butterfly the tenderloin by cutting down the long edge about 2/3 of the way through, so that you can open it like a book.  Place another piece of plastic wrap over the pork and pound with a meat mallet or a small cast iron skillet until 1/2 inch thick.
Remove the plastic wrap and fill down the center with the swiss chard, figs and blue cheese, leaving 1/2 inch border on each side.  Roll up the pork from the long side and secure with kitchen twine every two inches.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle the outside with the salt and pepper and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.
In the meantime, make the apple cider glaze: Combine the apple cider and maple syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and stir frequently until the mixture starts to thicken.  If it needs further thickening, add in the arrowroot mixed with water and whisk until combined.  Remove from the heat.
After 15-20 minutes, remove the pork and pour the glaze over it.  Bake an additional 5-10 minutes, until a meat thermometer (inserted into the meat, not the filling) registers 145F.  Allow to rest 10 minutes before slicing into 1 inch slices, discarding the twine.

Goji Almond Protein Bars

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I’m not sure which I like better, these little bars or this adorable heart print cake stand I just got from Sur La Table.  It’s part of their Valentine’s Day collection, and I’m admittedly obsessed with all things hearts, this time of year and always.  Of course, you can’t eat the cake stand.  These bars are a perfect mid-morning, pre-workout or anytime snack, packing about 11 grams of protein each.  While typical protein bars are dense and heavy, these bars are surprisingly light and crunchy.  They’re also gluten free, made with airy brown rice puffs, almonds, coconut and goji berries.  The great thing is, once you’ve got the recipe down, you can really substitute any combination of nuts, seeds and dried fruit.  I’m dreaming up a version dipped in dark chocolate as we speak…stay tuned for that!

Makes about 10 1-inch x 3- inch bars

1/2 cup nut butter of your choice (I used almond)
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch cinnamon
1 cup puffed brown rice cereal
2 scoops grass fed whey protein powder, or protein powder of your choice
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup dried goji berries

Combine the brown rice cereal, protein powder, coconut, almonds and goji berries in a medium bowl.

Heat the nut butter and honey over medium low heat until bubbling. Remove from heat. Stir in the sea salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract.

Pour the nut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Press into an 8×8 pan lined with parchment paper, or into bar molds like these! Place in the refrigerator until firm, then cut into bars or pop out of molds.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week…if they last that long.


			

Apple Cinnamon Protein Pancakes

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Pancakes, though delicious, are traditionally pretty much devoid of nutrients, and thus rarely make an appearance at my breakfast table. White flour, white rice, white sugar, even white potatoes don’t really stand a chance in my kitchen. Even the whole grain varieties of pancakes are lacking substantial protein, essential to a good breakfast. These pancakes are a super yum way to add more protein to your breakfast, while still satisfying a pancake craving. They are grain free and made with almond meal, apple sauce and protein powder.  I cooked them in grass fed ghee to give them a little extra healthy fat boost, then topped them with caramelized apples and local honey.

Makes about 12 medium sized pancakes, or 3-4 servings

For the pancakes:

4 eggs
2/3 cup apple sauce, unsweetened
1/2 cup almond meal
1 scoop plain grass fed whey protein, or your protein powder of your choice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon maple syrup or honey

1 teaspoon grass fed butter or coconut oil, for cooking

Whisk the eggs in a small bowl, then add the applesauce, maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon. Add in the almond flour, protein powder and baking powder and mix until thoroughly combined.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium. Add a small amount of butter or coconut oil . Once heated, pour in about 3-4 Tablespoons of batter. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, turning once bubbles start to form and the pancakes are firm enough to be flipped. Please note, these pancakes are a little more delicate than normal pancakes, so be careful when flipping!  Repeat with the remaining batter.

For the apple topping:
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 teaspoon grass fed butter or coconut oil
2-3 Tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
squeeze lemon juice
In a small saucepan, combine the apples, butter, maple syrup or honey, lemon juice and cinnamon. Heat over medium heat until bubbling, then lower the heat and cook 10-15 minutes until apples soften and liquid thickens. Pour over pancakes and serve hot!

Broccoli Meatballs, Two Ways

IMG_5818IMG_5824 Although I may have strayed from my staunch veganism, I haven’t gone far.  I’m still eating and cooking just as many, if not more, vegetables as ever before.  These meatballs are a fun way to sneak in more veggies and a very different take on broccoli than your typical steamed variety.  I’m a big fan of sneaking vegetables into the most likely of places, like greens in a meatloaf or cauliflower in an otherwise decadent dip.  These meatballs fit that bill, and I imagine they’d go over well with picky eaters and kiddos alike. As a kind of homage to my very veggie roots, I’m posting a vegetarian version, which is adapted from a recipe by my beloved Vegetarian Times magazine, as well as a version made with grass fed beef.  The recipe makes at least a dozen pretty substantial meatballs, so you could feasibly whip up half a batch of each and pit them against one another in a taste test.  We did that, actually.  And while they were both good, like really really good, my boyfriend and I agreed that the vegetarian version was a clear winner. Makes about 12 large meatballs

For the vegetarian version:
4 cups broccoli, steamed until tender (about 10 minutes), then cooled
1 cup raw almonds, pulsed into a rough meal
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/4 parsley, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch sea salt
pinch black pepper
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 350F. Pulse the steamed broccoli in the food processor until well chopped but not mushy. Add the chopped herbs, onion, garlic and spices to the food processor and pulse a few more times, until uniform. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the ground almonds and parmesan.  Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl, then add those in as well and combine.You may want to use your hands here to make sure everything is uniform. Shape the mixture into 12 balls, either eyeballing it or using an ice cream scoop to measure them out.  Press them together by hand and smooth over. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush the tops with olive oil and bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown and crispy on the outside.

For the omnivore version:
2 cups broccoli, steamed until tender (about 10 minutes), then cooled
1 pound ground grass fed beef
1 cup raw almonds, pulsed into a rough meal
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/4 parsley, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch sea salt
pinch black pepper
2 eggs

Follow the same instructions, adding the ground beef at the same stage as the almonds and cheese. Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160F. Serve either version, or both, over brown rice pasta or spaghetti squash with a good dollop of marinara, homemade or not.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

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Tortilla Soup makes for a fun weeknight dinner, with its infinite variations of toppings.  The base of the soup too can be made any number of ways, fresh tomatoes or canned, leftover rotisserie chicken or freshly cooked bone-in breasts shredded right into the pot, chipotle peppers or ancho chiles or jalapeños, or all three.  My favorite part of this dish (besides the eating part) is the assembly at the table, which makes for a fun dinner party activity or an interactive kids meal.

Serves 4, with ample leftovers

For the soup:
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I used smoked sea salt)
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1-2 jalapeño peppers, diced, depending on your preference for spice
6 cups chicken bone broth
1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
1-14.5 oz can black beans, preferably Eden brand
2 whole chicken breasts, or the equivalent, cooked and shredded
For the condiments:
4 tortillas, cut into strips, drizzled with olive oil and baked at 350F until crispy
1 avocado, sliced
1 small red onion, diced
1 cup raw jack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup whole milk greek yogurt
1 cup cilantro, torn
1 lime, cut into wedges

In a stockpot, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, carrots, jalapeño, cumin, chili powder and salt and sauté until onion is translucent and vegetables begin to soften.

Pour in the chicken stock, shredded chicken, canned tomatoes and black beans and bring the whole pot to a boil.  Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook 30-45 minutes.  Test for seasoning and be generous with cumin and chili until desired spice is reached.

To serve, ladle into soup bowls and pile high with condiments, including a good squeeze of lime juice.

Lamb Burgers with Greek Yogurt + Cucumber Sauce

IMG_5731 IMG_5717 News flash: I’m not vegan anymore.  After seven years of devout veganism, several more years of vegetarianism, and even a brief foray into raw foodism, I am cured. Er, maybe not the right word…but suffice to say that I have happily rejoined the world of the (extremely conscious) omnivores.  And what a glorious world it is.  I can walk into a restaurant and order just about anything on the menu, no questions asked, and there are whole entire food groups previously ignored in my culinary self-education for me to play with.

Vegetables will always be my first love, and I’m not eating any less of them now that I’m also eating meat…and eggs….and cheese.  I’m still very concerned with where my food comes from, perhaps more so than ever.  If I’m eating out at a restaurant who is less than transparent with their sourcing, I’ll still elect a vegetarian option.  I choose clean proteins in the form of grass fed beef, pasture raised chicken and eggs, raw milk cheeses and recently, grass fed bison and lamb.  My reasons for making the switch were many and it wasn’t an easy decision, but so far I’m pretty pleased with the results. This lamb burger pairs really nicely with my Grain Free Tabouli recipe.  I went bun-less here with butter lettuce to keep carbs low, but you could opt for toasted pita bread or a whole grain or sourdough roll as a vessel.

Serves four

 For the lamb burgers: 
1 pound grass fed ground lamb 
1 small onion, minced
 1 clove garlic, minced 
3 Tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped 
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
 pinch sea salt 
pinch black pepper 
olive oil 

In a stainless steel bowl, combine the ground lamb with the onion, garlic, mint, parsley, salt and pepper. Shape into four patties about 1/2 inch thick. Lightly coat both sides with olive oil. Grill the burgers over medium high heat on a grill or in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop.  Cook 10-12 minutes, turnings once or twice, until cooked through and browned on both sides.
For the Greek Yogurt + Cucumber Sauce : 
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt, preferably Nancy's or Wallaby Brand 
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 Tablespoon olive oil 
1 Tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
 1 clove garlic, minced 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
black pepper to taste 

Scoop out the seeds from the cucumber half and dice the remaining flesh finely. Combine the garlic with the salt, then add in the chopped herbs and olive oil. Stir in the yogurt, then fold in the cucumber. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For assembly:
8 leaves butter lettuce or similar, washed and patted dry
4 slices red onion
4 slices ripe tomato

Place two leaves butter lettuce on a plate, overlapping. Place the lamb burger on top of the lettuce, then top with red onion, tomato and a generous dollop of Greek Yogurt + Cucumber Sauce. Serve alongside Grain Free Tabouli.


			

Grain Free Tabouli

IMG_5688 Parsley is abundant right now and to me that means only one thing–tabouli. Traditionally, tabouli is made with bulgar, yielding a distinctly nutty flavor while also lending some bulk.  Here, cauliflower and almonds replace the bulgar for a grain free alternative that is bright and crunchy and full of detoxifying sulphur compounds and antioxidants.  I like to mix in a dollop of greek yogurt and serve it alongside chicken or lamb.

¼ cup almonds
½ head cauliflower
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 cucumber, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
2 Tablespoons olive oil
juice of one lemon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

Place the almond in the food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Set aside. Break the cauliflower into florets and place in the food processor. Pulse until it resembles small grains. Combine the cauliflower and almonds, then fold in the parsley, mint, garlic, tomato, cucumber, and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice, and sprinkle with allspice, salt and pepper. Mix until incorporated and season to taste.

Brown Rice + Herb Crackers

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These little gluten free crackers are super versatile and surprisingly easy to make.  A combination of brown rice and almond flour are flecked with sesame seeds, fresh herbs, nutritional yeast and sea salt for a cracker that can stand alone or be eaten with virtually any dip or topping.  If you can find dulse flakes at your local grocery store, throw some of those in for some added mineral content and depth of flavor.

These crackers contain more fiber, protein and healthy fat than your typical boxed crackers and deliver way more flavor.  Plus, you can add them to your repertoire of “party tricks” to impress your friends…pretty much a win, win situation in my book.

Note: I have sage, rosemary and thyme growing in my garden at virtually all times. You can substitute the same quantity of any fresh herb you choose, OR use 1/2 the amount of dried herbs if you don’t have access to fresh!

1/2 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup almond flour
2 Tablespoons ground flax
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds 
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped finely 
1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped finely 
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped finely 
1 teaspoon dulse flakes
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

 In a large bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix well until incorporated. Knead by hand until you can easily shape the dough into a ball with little to no crumbling.

Shape the dough into a ball and place between two sheets of parchment paper.  Roll out to 1/8th of an inch thickness using a rolling pin…or a wine bottle, like I do.

Using a pizza slicer or sharp knife, slice into 1 inch squares.  This recipe also works well with cookie cutters for a little extra fun.

Bake for 16-18 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool and store in an airtight container, if they last that long!

Grapefruit, Fennel + Kale Juice

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This weekend, a friend talked me into splitting a giant case of beautiful Texas grapefruit at the farmer’s market.  What to do with it all remains a mystery and I’m afraid my kitchen table might collapse from the weight of it all.  So far it has made its way into a grapefruit and fennel salad, has been broiled with honey until bubbling, and has been devoured solo.

This morning I juiced it, together with some winter greens and a little ginger, and the result was refreshing and delicious without being too sweet.  This juice is high in Vitamins A, C + K, packs digestive and detox benefits and is filled with powerful antioxidants.  When juicing, and always, organic is best.

Makes two 16 oz servings

8 stalks lacinato kale (curly kale will also work)
6 stalks celery
1 small bulb fennel, plus fronds
2-3 grapefruit, peeled
1 inch nub ginger

Run the ingredients through your juicer, alternating between high moisture content fruits and vegetables (like grapefruit and celery) and those with lower moisture content (like kale).

Garnish with a grapefruit slice. Cheers!

Simple Almond Milk

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This recipe works about the same for just about any nut milk you want to make, though soaking times and amounts may vary slightly.  Homemade almond milk is amazing and is super easy, and most importantly, you’ll know exactly what is in it. Nearly all store bought almond milks contain stabilizers, some of which can be potentially harmful like carrageenan.  I don’t know about you, but for something I consume just about every day, I’d rather know what I’m putting in my body!  I make a point to start some almonds soaking on Saturday night or Sunday morning so that we can have fresh almond milk for smoothies all week.  Use this stuff in smoothies, coffee, oatmeal, desserts and anywhere you’d normally use milk.

2 cups almonds or other nut, soaked 8 hours and up to overnight
5 cups filtered water
2 dates, pitted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch sea salt
1 whole vanilla bean

Drain soaking water and rinse almonds well.  Place in a blender with the filtered water, starting on low and working your way up to the high setting for 1-2 minutes until smooth and uniform.

Strain the milk using a nut milk bag, cheesecloth or just a super fine strainer.  After straining, return the almond milk to the blender and add dates, cinnamon, sea salt and vanilla.  Blend another 1-2 minutes until thoroughly combined.

Store in the fridge for 5-7 days.