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?
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!
*NOTE: This recipe makes a single serving of carrot “fries.”
- 2 carrots, peeled and quartered
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil, melted
- 1 1/2 teaspoon za’atar
- Heat oven to 425˚.
- Peel and chop carrots into quarters. You want them to be roughly the same size and thickness.
- In a bowl, toss carrots in melted coconut oil for a few minutes to make sure they are well coated.
- Add za’atar to the bowl and toss the carrots for another few minutes making sure to distribute the spice evenly.
- 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.”
- Remove from the oven and let sit on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before serving.
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
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
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
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
Simmer for ~4 hours
- 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!
- Place all items in a pot and fill with water. Leave about 1 inch from the top of the pot.
- Bring water to a boil.
- 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.
- When the water has reduced to about 1/3 of the amount, remove from heat and strain.
- Let the veggies cool and then squeeze them over the broth to make sure you get all the flavor you can out of them.
- Strain again to remove any big chunks of vegetables.
- Freeze in ice cube trays and store ice cubes in a large freezer bag.
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
Time: ~30 minutes
- 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.
- Heat oven to 375˚.
- 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.
- Seer chicken skin side down until the skin is golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.
- Flip the chicken breasts over and sear the under side for another 4-5 minutes.
- Squeeze lemon juice over the chicken and place the quartered lemons into the skillet.
- 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.
- Garnish with remaining rosemary and more lemon juice, if desired.