Posts Tagged ‘clean eating’

Green Beans with Toasted Almonds &
Blood Orange Vinaigrette

This recipe for green beans gets a zesty punch from the blood orange vinaigrette. It’s a perfect side dish for a summer BBQ! The blood orange vinaigrette would also make a great dressing for a brunch salad.

green beans with blood orange vinaigrette

While most of the kiddos in Chicago are heading back to school today, I am sitting in my house enjoying a hot cup of coffee with the windows open. Getting Easter Monday off is one of the perks of working at a Catholic school. I mentioned that the windows were open, right?! OPEN. Begone, winter! See you next year! spring is finally on the horizon!

You know what is awesome about spring? The seasonal fruits and veggies that start to pop up at the grocery store and farmer’s markets. You start to see things like asparagus, ramps, peas, and fennel. The sheer RETURN of the farmer’s market is an exciting thing about spring. 

On my weekly trip to the grocery store, I happened to see blood oranges were on sale so I picked up a few thinking I would enjoy them as a snack throughout the week. Lately, I’ve been using olive oil and lemon juice to dress my lunch salads and as I was washing my weekly produce haul, I wondered if I could make a delicious blood orange dressing for my salads.

Blood Orange Vinaigrette by Cucina Kristina

A quick Pinterest search turned up this recipe from CHOW. I’ve adapted it below by swapping the vegetable oil out for extra virgin olive oil, adding some garlic, and sweetening it up just a hint by adding pure maple syrup. After portioning out enough dressing for the week, I had some left over so I decided to test it for an Easter side dish. I really wish I had experimented with this sooner because this dish was a winner!

Green beans with a blood orange dressing

This was such an easy side dish and would be a wonderful addition to a BBQ, picnic, or holiday meal. I think it would also be a great dressing for a breakfast or brunch salad. If the idea of a vinaigrette doesn’t appeal to you, you could always use those blood oranges to make a margarita!

Green Beans with Toasted Almonds &
Blood Orange Vinaigrette
This recipe for green beans gets a zesty punch from the blood orange vinaigrette. It's a perfect side dish for a summer BBQ!
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Blood Orange Vinaigrette (makes 1 1/4 cups)
  1. Juice from 3 medium blood oranges
  2. 1/2 teaspoon blood orange zest
  3. Juice from 1/2 lemon
  4. 1 clove garlic
  5. 1/2 small shallot
  6. 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  7. 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  10. 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the green beans
  1. 3 pounds green beans, trimmed
  2. 1 cup almonds, chopped and toasted
To prepare and blanch the beans
  1. Trim and cut the beans so they are roughly all the same length. I like to cut them on a slant so they look pretty on the plate.
  2. Boil the green beans in a large pot of salted water for 3 minutes.
  3. Immediately remove the beans and plunge them into a separate bowl of ice water. This stops the cooking process so they maintain their bright green color.
  4. Toss with blood orange vinaigrette and toasted almonds.
  5. Garnish with a few extra toasted almonds and remaining orange zest.
For the almonds
  1. Roughly chop 1 cup of almonds.
  2. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and toast at 325˚ for 10-12 minutes. Watch them to make sure they do not burn!
  3. Reserve a small handful to garnish your green beans.
For the blood orange vinaigrette
  1. Zest your oranges. Add 1/2 tablespoon to a blender or food processor. Reserve the rest for garnish.
  2. Add all of the ingredients (except the olive oil) to your blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Slowly, drizzle in the olive oil and blend until well-combined.
Adapted from CHOW
Adapted from CHOW
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/
 

How to Make Homemade Tahini

If you’ve ever wondered how to make tahini, keep reading. This recipe for homemade tahini is easy to whip up in your food processor and will cost you a fraction of the cost of buying it in the store. 

how to make homemade tahini

Have you ever roasted your own peppers on your stovetop? It’s incredible easy and they taste so much better than the canned stuff. I do this a lot more in the summer when I have the time to devote to fancy things.

how to roast red pepper

This weekend, I read on David Lebovits’s site that you can do the same thing with eggplant before making baba ganoush in order to give it a smoky flavor. I decided to give it a whirl because I love a good baba ganoush. I make it a lot in the summer because we grow eggplants in our garden and the thought of smoky baba ganoush sounded too good to pass up.

fairytale eggplant growing in our garden

David warns you not to leave the eggplant on the stove for too long because the smoky flavor may become too strong for most folks. Well, I didn’t listen because I am not very good at following directions. Ever noticed there aren’t any baking recipes on this site? That’s why. The result? A baba ganoush that was Way. Too. Smoky. Just as he had warned. 

roast eggplant to give it a smoky flavor

As the eggplant was roasting, I started gathering the other ingredients I needed to make the baba ganoush. I needed garlic, lemon, chili powder, olive oil, and tahini. Gah! I was out of tahini. I considered substituting sun butter for the tahini and crossing my fingers when I saw a jar of sesame seeds in my cupboard. 

Woo! Homemade nut butters are made by whirling nuts in your food processor and adding a bit of olive oil until you get the desired consistency so it makes sense that tahini could be made just as easily.

I am super bummed that the baba ganoush didn’t turn out, but now I have 1/2 cup of tahini so I can experiment quite a bit before we are up to our eyeballs in eggplant!

Homemade Tahini
This recipe for homemade tahini is easy to whip up in your food processor and will cost you a fraction of the cost of buying it in the store.
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  2. 4-6 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a pan over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds until they are golden and fragrant. This took me about 7 minutes. Make sure you stir often because, like nuts, they can burn quickly.
  2. When the seeds have cooled, add them to your food processor.
  3. Turn the food processor on and add olive oil by the tablespoon until you get a smooth consistency. I used about 5 tablespoons.
  4. Store in an airtight container in your fridge.
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/

Turkey and Vegetable Chili

Turkey and Vegetable Chili | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Soooo…. according to Fox Sports, the Superbowl could be played at any point between Friday, January 31 and Sunday, February 3. Really? I thought this was a hoax when I first read about it as I was not aware that you could move the Super Bowl, but apparently this is really a thing. Craziness! Winter can be done now, amiright? I mean, they are talking about MOVING THE FREAKING SUPER BOWL because it is too cold and snowy! Ugh. My brain cannot process that.

BUT! Do you know what my brain can process? Tasty chili. :-) Chili is one of those dishes that lends itself perfectly for preparing on a Sunday and eating throughout the week. It also freezes really well so you can always make a huge batch, portion it out, and have it on hand for a quick mid-week meal. It’s no secret around here that I am a fan of preparing my meals for the week on Sunday afternoon. I get a lot of questions about what I prep and how I do it and I am in the process of writing up a Sunday Food Prep Tips and Tricks post so stay tuned for that. I am aiming to have that posted early next week so you can get a healthy start to the week after stuffing yourself silly with wings and chili at a Super Bowl party. 

I usually make chili with ground beef, but all I had on hand was ground turkey so I decided to give that a try. Much to my delight, it turned out great! In fact, I noticed that ground turkey forms larger chunks when cooked than ground beef which lead to a chunkier chili. Since I did not use beans in this recipe, I appreciated the heartiness of the turkey and will probably continue to use it from here on out. Don’t you love happy accidents? 

Turkey and Vegetable Chili
Serves 6
This chili recipe is highly adaptable! You can use any ground protein you'd like and can add more vegetables than the suggested amounts for a super chunky chili.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons chili powder
  2. 2 tablespoons cumin
  3. 1 tablespoon oregano
  4. 1 teaspoon paprika
  5. 1 teaspoon onion powder
  6. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  7. 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  8. 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  9. 2 cans of water (I measure using the tomato can)
  10. 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  11. 1/4 ounce baker's chocolate (optional)
  12. 2 pounds ground turkey
  13. 1 red pepper, chopped
  14. 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  15. 1 orange pepper, chopped
  16. 4 carrots, chopped
  17. 1 clove of garlic, minced
  18. 1 large white onion, chopped (reserve about 1/3 for topping!)
  19. 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, cook the onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the ground turkey and stir frequently to cook the turkey all the way through.
  3. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, water, spices and chocolate and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 40 minutes to let the flavors combine.
  4. Add the chopped carrots and chopped peppers and simmer for an additional 20 minutes or until the carrots have softened.
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/

Butternut Squash Flour

I am on the hunt to expand my Paleo breakfast ideas past fried eggs. I love eggs, but sometimes you just gotta change things up. I am still experimenting with this idea, but I was pretty surprised by the way these turned out so I thought I would share the test recipe with you. While browsing Amazon the other day, I came across pumpkin powder. Pumpkin powder is dehydrated pumpkin that is ground into a fine powder and can be used in place of flour. I was rather intrigued and decided to experiment with making my own.

Unfortunately, my local grocery store was totally out of pumpkins, so I picked up a butternut squash instead. Close enough! I wanted to experiment with making tortillas. Traditional corn tortillas are made from corn, water, and lime. Flour tortillas are made from flour, salt, water, and lard. Therefore, it stands to reason that you could make tortillas from any flour, right?

The result was pretty awesome even though my tortilla recipe still needs a bit of work. I think I made this first batch too thick because they split apart when I picked them up and didn’t hold together like a traditional tortilla. However, they tasted great so I just ate my breakfast with a knife and fork, tostada-style. :-) I might try adding a binder (flax seed, perhaps?) to the next batch and see if that helps. I’ll keep you posted!

Paleo Breakfast Ideas

Butternut squash toastadas!

To Make Butternut Squash Flour

Peel, seed, and cube the squash and spread it onto a dehydrator. You want small, evenly sized cubes. The pieces took FOREVER to dehydrate. I had them in there for close to 24 hours. Next time, I am going to shred the squash and see if that helps speed up the process!

When they are fully dehydrated, add to a blender and grind into a powder. This also took a bit of time because I have a pretty cheap blender. I imagine a VitaMix could do the trick in a few seconds! I am going to move the VitaMix to the top of my Christmas Wish List. :-)

Butternut Squash Tortillas (Test Recipe)

In a bowl, combine 1/3 cup butternut squash flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Add warm water by the tablespoon and mix until you get a doughy consistency. For me, 3 tablespoons was too little, but 4 tablespoons was too much. I had to play with this and add a little bit more flour to form a dough. Like I said… I am still experimenting!

Divide dough into 2 balls. Place dough between 2 pieces of waxed paper and press with a tortilla press. If you do not have a tortilla press, you can roll these out by hand. Toast the tortillas in a skillet, about 4 minutes on each side.

Butternut Squash Toastadas
Assemble the toastadas by placing two tortillas on a plate. Top with your favorite toppings.

In the photo above: 2 butternut squash tortillas, shredded chicken, tomatillo salsa, pickled carrots, and pumpkin seeds.

Other Paleo topping ideas: Shredded pork, ground beef, eggs, lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, olives, cilantro, fresh lime, onions, peppers, and thinly sliced radish.

Have you ever used squash flour? 

My Paleo Food Diary

Hi Friends!

I’ve been MIA on this blog for the last two weeks because I have been (unsuccessfully) recipe testing. I think one of the common misconceptions about Lifestyle blogs is that everything we post turns out perfectly the first time. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Since the inception of this blog, I’ve probably have more kitchen flops than successes, and I’ve had plenty of crafts turn out looking like they were done by a preschooler rather than a full-grown adult.

Let me preface this by saying that we ate a lot of take-out this week. I managed to put together an example food diary from the recipes that turned out palatable. Nothing was mind-blowing, except for the arracherra, but that’s because it’s one of my “go-to” recipes that I knew would not disappoint. I can only take experimentation for so long!

Breakfast – Sun-Dried Tomato Sausage Link from Trader Joe’s (not pictured) and “Green” Smoothie
To make the smoothie, I juiced 2 carrots, 1 cucumber, 1 lemon, a handful of parsley, and a 1-inch piece of ginger. I added that to a blender with 3 stalks of kale, 1 tablespoon of flax seed, and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. The result was OK. The texture wasn’t a little too grainy (if only I had a VitaMix!) and it needed something in the taste department. Next time around, I’ll probably juice all the veggies and blend in a banana or some strawberries for some added sweetness.

Paleo Food Diary Breakfast - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

This Green Juice Boost (of Energy!) is so much better!

Lunch – Cucumber & Lox
This was my Paleo rendition of the classic bagel and lox sandwich. Since cream cheese is not Paleo, I omitted that. The result wasn’t terrible, but it was definitely missing something. I need to whip up a dressing or a sauce to accompany this because it wasn’t my favorite dish in the world.

Paleo Food Diary Lunch - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

A take on bagels and lox without the cream cheese.

Snack – Apples with Sunbutter
I discovered Sunbutter as an alternative to nut butters and I can’t get enough. The classroom I was student teaching in was a peanut and nut free classroom and I wasn’t allowed to bring my almond and cashew butters to school. I think I actually like this better than almond butter! If you do not have any apples lying around, this is just as tasty right off the back of a spoon. :)

Paleo Food Diary Snack - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Better than peanut butter!

Dinner – Arrachera (Skirt Steak) with Cauli Rice and Grilled Green Onions
If you have not coated a green onion in olive oil, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and popped it on the grill, you are missing out on life. Green onions are mild to begin with, but when you grill them they become very sweet and tender. They are the perfect accompaniment to arrachera. I love arrachera because it is inexpensive and cooks up quickly. If you do not have outdoor grill space, you can cook it on the stove top very easily. Because it is thinly sliced, it takes about 3 minutes per side for a well-done piece of steak. I marinated the arrachera for 8 hours in olive oil, red wine vinegar, onion, garlic, and adobo. While my husband was manning the grill, I made fresh pico de gallo and guacamole (not pictured).

Paleo Food Diary Dinner - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Did you know you can regrow green onions? True story.

This dinner was by far the best thing I have cooked up in the last two weeks! Hopefully, I will fare better this week. Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

Za’atar Scented Carrot Fries

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you have undoubtedly heard me rave about the Foodie Penpals program I participate in each month. Well, I found a Paleo version hosted by Tarah over at What I Gather and Brittanie over at Three Diets One Dinner. How perfect! Paleo Penpals is very similar to Foodie Penpals. Each month you are paired with another participant and you exchange Paleo-friendly items with them. Then, you create a recipe using the items you received from your pen pal. Tarah and Brittanie will put together a roundup post with all of the recipes that were submitted and post it on their blogs at the end of each month. I thought this would be a really great way to expand my Paleo pantry and get some inspiration for new recipes.

This month I was paired with Amanda from Kentucky. She sent me two different spice mixes; one was her own “super secret” pork rub and the other was a spice mix called za’atar. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix that is a mixture of dried herbs, sesame seeds, and sumac and it used on pretty much everything in the Middle East. It can be used to season root veggies or you can add it to olive oil to make a dip for bread. Some people eat it straight from the jar.

Sumac has a slight citrus taste so my original thought was to make za’atar spiked marinara sauce; however, after adding nearly three tablespoons of it to the pot and finding it didn’t have the punch I was looking for, I gave up that idea. I’ve seen pictures of carrot “fries” floating around various Paleo blogs and decided to give that a try. Success!

Carrot fries are awesome! They have a consistency that is similar to sweet potato fries. The sweetness of the carrots and coconut oil pairs nicely with the tartness of the sumac. You can purchase za’atar online or you can make your own from scratch. If you can’t get your hands on any, you can substitute the za’atar in the recipe below for your favorite all-purpose spice blend or season with plain old salt and pepper.

By the way, have I showed you my method for melting coconut oil?

How to Melt Coconut Oil | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

We don’t own a microwave so I had to get creative!

Yup. That’s my bathroom. That’s my hairdryer. Laugh all you want, but it works like a charm! :)

Za'atar Scented Carrot "Fries" | Via Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Served alongside homemade mayo

*NOTE: This recipe makes a single serving of carrot “fries.”

Ingredients:

  • 2 carrots, peeled and quartered
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon za’atar

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 425˚.
  2. Peel and chop carrots into quarters. You want them to be roughly the same size and thickness.
  3. In a bowl, toss carrots in melted coconut oil for a few minutes to make sure they are well coated.
  4. Add za’atar to the bowl and toss the carrots for another few minutes making sure to distribute the spice evenly.
  5. Spread the carrots onto a baking sheet lined with foil and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Flip and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes. Watch these as they have a tendency to burn quickly! It may take a few more minutes or a few less depending on how thick you cut your “fries.”
  6. Remove from the oven and let sit on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Making homemade broth is incredibly simple and seems to really impress people. It is also inexpensive, totally customizable, and so much better tasting than any canned broth or bullion cube on the market. I make homemade vegetable broth approximately once a month. I keep a gallon sized freezer bag in my freezer and throw any vegetable trimmings and ends from my food prep into it.

Store vegetable trimmings in a freezer bag to make homemade vegetable broth

Store vegetable trimmings in a freezer bag to make homemade vegetable broth

When the bag gets full, I dump it out into a large pot of water and 4-5 hours later have a rich, dark amber broth that is perfect to use as a soup base. You can refrigerate the broth if you are using it that week or freeze it for later use. I like to freeze my broth in ice cube trays and use them to cool down hot soup. I use this method for cooling down my hot coffee.

Ice Cube Tray Measurements

2 cubes = 1/4 cup
4 cubes = 1/2 cup
6 cubes = 3/4 cup
8 cubes = 1 cup

Save Vegetable Peelings and Ends for Homemade Vegetable Broth | cucinakristina.com

Don’t discard gems like this!

This is also a great way to use up any vegetables you won’t be able to eat before they spoil. The smell that will seep throughout your house is amazing as this broth is simmering. The hardest part about making broth is waiting

Ingredients that can be used:

  • Carrots (shavings, tops, trimmings)
  • Parsnips (shavings, tops, trimmings)
  • Radishes (trimmings)
  • Celery (leaves, base, trimmings)
  • Onion/Shallots (all types! skins and trimmings)
  • Garlic (skins and trimmings)
  • Mushrooms (whole or scraps)
  • Fennel (trimmings, base, tops, scraps)
  • Leeks (base, tops, trimmings)
  • Turnips – I always toss a whole one into any batch of stock
  • Any vegetable you have on hand!
  • Herbs (rosemary, oregano, parsley, whatever you like!)
Freeze odds and ends for later

Freeze odds and ends for later

The great thing about this method is that your broth will change flavor depending on the scraps you collected in the bag. Generally, I make sure to add a few garlic cloves, an extra onion that is chopped into quarters, and a turnip. I find the turnip gives the broth a nice earthy undertone that is otherwise missing.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Save Vegetable Peelings and Ends for Homemade Vegetable Broth | cucinakristina.com

Simmer for ~4 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 turnip, quartered
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bag of vegetable trimmings*
  • Water – The amount of water you start with will depend on the size of your pot. Generally speaking, you want the water to reduce to about 1/3 of the original amount. The more it reduces, the more concentrated your broth will be.
  • Salt and pepper**

*NOTE: If you do not collect trimmings and want to make broth from scratch just use whole ingredients from the list above.

**Generally, I don’t add salt or pepper to my broth. I usually wait until I am cooking with it to add salt, pepper, herbs, etc. However, you should experiment and season according to your taste!

Directions:

  1. Place all items in a pot and fill with water. Leave about 1 inch from the top of the pot.
  2. Bring water to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for ~4 hours. Times will vary depending on the size of your pot so be sure to check periodically the first time you do this.
  4. When the water has reduced to about 1/3 of the amount, remove from heat and strain.
  5. Let the veggies cool and then squeeze them over the broth to make sure you get all the flavor you can out of them.
  6. Strain again to remove any big chunks of vegetables.
  7. Freeze in ice cube trays and store ice cubes in a large freezer bag.

Weigh In Wednesday: February & Roasted Rosemary Lemon Chicken

How is it the end of February already?! Time seems to be flying by at warp speed lately, I can’t believe I start student teaching in 2 weeks, and I graduate in 3 months! Because I am so behind on posting, you guys are going to get a 2-for-1 post today.  Three total if you count my February Foodie Penpal Reveal post. How lucky for you!

I’ve been eating Paleo since the first of the year because I am trying to build muscle mass and trim fat. I am honestly amazed at how awesome I feel! I am sleeping better, getting stronger, and fitting into clothes that were snug at Christmas. I also don’t feel the need to obsessively count calories like I did in the past, which has been so freeing. In fact, if I count calories at all, it is in the other direction to make sure I am getting enough on a daily basis. Calorie restriction DOES NOT work, but I will save that for another post. :)

The biggest change I have seen has been the significant difference in my overall strength. For example, when I started weight training, I was only able to do 8-10 push ups. Now, I am able to do 20 fairly easily! I am still a long way away from completing a pull up, but I am hoping to complete one by my birthday in mid-May. Stay tuned!

January Body Fat Percentage – 28.2%
Current Body Fat Percentage – 26.7%

Yay! Down 1.5% I had to adjust last month’s totals because I realized I was reading the chart incorrectly. I was in the wrong age bracket. Whoops! I am back on track though and heading forwards. My goal is to get to 17%-19% body fat.

Here is a recipe for a dish I whipped up last night. I served it alongside some roasted brussels sprouts and asparagus.

Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken
Serves 4
Time: ~30 minutes

Lemon & Rosemary Roasted Chicken. Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

So tasty!

Ingredients:

  • 4 Chicken breasts, skin on and bone in
  • 1 Lemon, quartered
  • 2 Cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 Sprigs of fresh Rosemary, chopped
  • 1 Cup chicken broth – You may need a little more or a little less depending on the size of your pan
  • Olive Oil
  • Your favorite all-purpose seasoning. I use Back of the Yards from The Spice House.

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375˚.
  2. In a cast iron (or oven safe) skillet, heat olive oil so that you will get a nice seer on your chicken breasts. While your oil is heating, liberally season your chicken breasts with your favorite all-purpose seasoning. 
  3. Seer chicken skin side down until the skin is golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Flip the chicken breasts over and sear the under side for another 4-5 minutes.
  5. Squeeze lemon juice over the chicken and place the quartered lemons into the skillet. 
  6. Add the chicken broth, smashed garlic, and half of the rosemary to the skillet and place it into the oven for 20-25 minutes or until juices run clear.
  7. Garnish with remaining rosemary and more lemon juice, if desired.