Boozy Lamb Short Ribs

Short Ribs 1You know how you have friends coming over and you want to cook for them, but lack the kitchen space, air conditioning, and energy to execute it?

Yeah.  Me, too.

Here’s The Thing, though.  I am fairly certain my love language is food. And I’m also fairly certain I have conditioned my family and friends to receive my love in this manner.  Food is NOT love, but food can be a loving gesture in a world of convenience and fast meals.  What’s better than sitting down with friends and sharing a great meal, enjoyable conversation, and choice adult beverage?  Not much.

Also, food is effing delicious, so there’s that.

When I want to share the love and keep the temperature in my kitchen down while making the most of my limited energy, I always turn to my crockpot.  I used to have major bias towards slow cookers. I grew up with crockpots galore at church potlucks.  Everyone clamored for an outlet to plug in their pot before service started so their mystery dish would stay hot and avoid poisoning a whole congregation. It was a sea of crockpots

A couple of decades later, I decided to try to resurrect my slow cooker that was still sitting in my kitchen in the box from our wedding when my truly kind souled cousin gifted us with it. I got brave.  I bought the food.  I read a couple of blogs. I studied and sweated and prayed to the kitchen gods that it would all turn out beautifully.  It didn’t.

I ruined a 5 lb brisket.

$40 of beautiful, succulent, grass-fed meat totally ruined because I didn’t understand fully how to use my slow cooker.  I did not sear it.  I under-seasoned it.  I ADDED WATER. Then I cooked it on high for 4 hours.  It was totally inedible, but of course we ate it anyway because we have a strict budget and can’t afford to toss food when it doesn’t turn out well.  I nicknamed it the Brisket of Tears, because I wept when I ruined it, and again every time I ate the chewy, gray, tasteless meat.

A couple of years ago, I decided to master the crockpot.  I did a massive amount of research. After a week of fretting and praying and hoping that I could pull it off, I made a pork shoulder.  It was phenomenal.  It gave me confidence. And I went further into the slow-cooker abyss.

When I found a ridiculously good sale on New Zealand grassfed lamb, I knew I could execute it well.  My dish would not go the way of the church potluck or failed brisket attempt of 2009.  Nope.  It would succeed.

This is probably one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.  I’m not exaggerating in the least. The flavor of the lamb is complex and finishing the whole dish off in the oven to crisp up the fat made this dish completely decadent.

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lbs of lamb riblets or short ribs
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 1/3 cup olive or avocado oil (I prefer avocado bc of the mellow flavor)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup(ish) fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup  fresh rosemary
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium shallot or small onion, quartered
  • 2 tsp tumeric
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp (+) fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp (+) salt

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients (except for lamb) in blender or NutriBullet.  Pulse until everything is combined.  Pour over lamb and marinate in a ziplock bag or covered dish for 2-12 hours, or if you’re in a hurry, skip the marination and use right away.
  2. Rub crockpot with a little oil, and put lamb and marinade in.  For best results, cook on Low for 6-8 hours.  Eight hours is optimal, but do what you can.
  3. When the lamb is finished in the slow cooker, transfer to a baking sheet and bake on 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes to crisp up the fat and caramelize.
  4. Garnish with chopped mint leaves and devour immediately.

Short Ribs 2I served this with a side of saffron infused basmati rice, pan fried mushrooms and sweet onion, along with a fruit-filled salad.  There wasn’t even a speck of lamb left on the bones, and we devoured an entire plate in 20 minutes flat.

You will love this.  Trust me.  Or don’t.  But take a chance.  And make friends with your crockpot this summer.

It feels good to be baaaaaad,
Carrie

 

 

Hemp Heart Crusted Zucchini Fries {Vegan, Paleo}

I know.  You just read “hemp” in the title and immediately assumed it was about marijuana.  I GET IT.  I live in Oregon, where it is now legal to smoke, grow, and posses these controversial little plants.

But that’s not what this post is about.  Because I’m not about to touch that conversation with a 10 ft bong pole.

Hemp hearts.  These are the shelled seeds of the hemp plant, and they are loaded with maximum nutrition.  Back when we were trying to find new and varied protein sources for my food intolerant toddler, these were a saving grace.  I mixed them with a little bit of raw honey to make them barely sticky, and gave my kid the spoon.

He was a serious fan.

Now that summer is squarely upon us, I have zucchini coming out of my ears.  It’s one of my kid’s favorite foods so I planted a few little seedlings…and they grew.  In fact, they’re mutant and grow as big as my head. Or roughly seven times as big as my hand.

We have to get creative to use them all, so I’ve been trying out different recipes using as few ingredients as possible to maintain the natural flavor of the fantastic zucchini, and to get them out of my kitchen fast.

I made a fast coating of hemp seeds, arrow root, a dash of tumeric, paprika and salt.  They were a fast hit with my family, and we chowed all of them.

HempHeartZucchini

ALL. OF. THEM.

They went so fast that I didn’t even manage to get a good picture because they were so tasty and nobody could wait for a dumb camera.

Did I mention they’re paleo and vegan, too?

Ingredients:

  • 1 large (ish) zucchini, cut into sticks
  • 1/2 cup hemp hearts
  • 2-3 Tbsp arrow root powder or tapioca flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric (optional)
  • dash of paprika
  • small bowl of water
  • Coconut oil for cooking

Instructions:

  1. In a medium frying pan, heat 1/4 inch of coconut oil until hot. (Typically medium+ setting, but don’t let it smoke.)
  2. Combine hemp hearts, arrow root, and spices and blend throughly.
  3. Take a piece of zucchini and dip it in the water. Remove and lightly shake excess water off.
  4. Press each flat side firmly in the flour mixture and then place into hot oil, flat side down.
  5. Rotate the zucchini to get both flat sides nice and brown (2-3 min each side). Be careful not to burn them!
  6. Place on paper towel lined plate to drain off excess oil.

Eat as soon as they are cool!  These stay fresh and delicious for a good 30 minutes after cooking.

EZucchini

What are your zucchini hacks?

Zzzzz,
Carrie

 

Mediterranean Tabbouleh {Gluten-Free}

This is a big day for me, friends. This is our first (of many) guest recipe posts.  It looks like this little blog is growing up fast!

Having tasted several of Kileah and Micah’s dishes, I can personally vouch for the delectable awesomeness of everything they make.  Plus, they call themselves hobbits and love all things Scottish (and apparently Middle Eastern).  All four of their tiny hobbit children are funny, sweet, curious, spirited and full of energy. Read on to see what they feed their brood, and fall in love with their version of GF Mediterranean fare.  

From Kileah:

My husband and I love good food.

We have a special food-shaped hole in our hearts labled Middle Eastern Food. In our most recent quest to make sure we live to 100 and not die on the couch watching our favourite Firefly and Arrow re-runs (gluten free brownie points for those of you who’ve watched all of the Firefly episodes!!!), we have been focusing on:

  • how much we eat
  • what we eat
  • the quality of our ingredients
  • it passes the “7-year-old test”

Because we have four small hobbits who also like to eat, if we prepare food that they don’t like…well…let’s just say we have a Shire Situation on our parenting hands.

Ok, back to food! So here’s our take on a quick and easy summer Tabbouleh. If you’ve never eaten tabbouleh, (insert sad hobbit face), it’s a middle-eastern salad chocked full of fresh summer tomatoes and herbs and the itsy bitsy teensy pasta. Normally, traditional couscous is made from wheat, but we prefer using a good brown-rice version of this tiny pasta and it’s just as fantastic! The brown rice couscous enhances the flavor and texture of the dish and leaves us feeling satisfied without the heavy feeling of traditional wheat pasts.

TabboulehGF1

(editor’s note:  You can get the gluten-free couscous at vitacost.com or whole foods, etc.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. water
  • 2 T. ghee
  • ¼ c. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ½ c. brown rice couscous
  •  2 c. chopped heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • ½ .c. organic mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • ½ c. crumbled feta cheese
  • ¾ c. roasted/sliced almonds
  • kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring water and ghee to a boil in a small pot, add in couscous and lemon juice, turn down heat to simmer for 5 minutes, then remove pan from heat.
  2. Add tomatoes, cilantro, mint, shallot, feta and sliced almonds together in a large bowl.
  3. Fluff couscous with a fork and add to the tomato/herb mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste
  4. Cover and chill in fridge until ready to eat. If you can wait that long.
  5. Live Long and Prosper!

May the Couscous Be With You!

-The McIlvains

Star Anise Shortbread {Paleo}

Sometimes, you do crazy things to get a job.

Several years ago, I was feeling slightly disillusioned with the non-profit sector (which I had worked in for over a decade at that point) and really wanted to try something new.  I had mad administrative skills but I wanted to be in an environment where my skills were appreciated without the pressure of saving the world.  Okay, maybe that’s a TAD melodramatic.  But just a tad.

When an opportunity came for me to work for my favorite doctor, I jumped at the chance.  It was the single best professional decision I’ve ever made.  In this job, my confidence was restored, my skill set broadened, and my body healed right along with my heart.  It was the best kind of job.

When we decided to leave our city and have a new adventure in the Pacific North West, I was heart broken to leave my favorite job and my favorite doctor.  I had a glowing recommendation to carry with me along with my new skill set and healthy body.

After working in a job I wasn’t thrilled about for a few months, I began looking for other positions.  My friend and also my former boss connected me with a doctor who was looking for administrative help.  I was determined to woo him.

I went to his office.  I dropped off my resume with a batch of paleo shortbread cookies.

Three weeks later, I had a new job.  Coincidence?  I think not.

While I would love to think that I earned that job all on my own, I’m pretty sure these nifty little shortbread cookies had something to do with it.  Yep, I said NIFTY.  Because shortbread is classic and can handle words like “nifty” and “neato” and “groovy”.

I can’t guarantee your future employers will love these as much as I do. However, I can guarantee that, unless they have a nut or egg allergy, they will adore these treats.  And you probably will, too.

(If you are looking to cut back on sugar, you can substitute erythritol 1:1 in this recipe.)

shortbread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (or butter)
  • 1 cup coconut sugar or erythritol
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp anise extract or 1 tsp finely ground star anise
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, erythritol, and baking powder (and ground star anise if you use it)
  2. Combine egg, coconut oil, extracts, and stevia
  3. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and form into a log shape
  4. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for at least five hours (I chilled mine overnight and it was great)
  5. Once chilled, slice dough and place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle a TEENY bit of sea salt over the top.
  6. Bake at 325 degrees for 12-17 minutes, until just slightly browned around the edges.
  7. Allow to rest for a few minutes on the baking sheet. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving.

Have you ever done anything unorthodox to get a job?  What was it?  I want to know!

Your Favorite Paleo Cookie Monster,
Carrie

 

Cauliflower Fried Rice {Grain Free}

CauliflowerRiceCornerI’m always looking for ways to get more vegetables.

You guys.  IT IS HARD.

While I don’t hate grains, (in fact, I adore them), I know my body doesn’t do well with a carbohydrate-heavy diet and I tend to feel uncomfortably full and bloated after eating them.  I also truly believe in a veggie-based diet, especially because I struggle with PCOS and endometriosis.  I have to keep my babymaker in good shape, and the best and first line of health for me is nutrition.  It’s part of an overall commitment to health and hormone balance.

When I can replace grains with veggies, I do. When I can replace grains and not miss them even a little bit, I absolutely do.

I’ve perused Pinterest and have seen the fried rice recipes with cauliflower.  I usually dismissed them because it’s typically so much prep work to get cauliflower to taste like something awesome. But with the fried cauliflower “rice”, it was a total breeze.

Are you ready for my secret weapon?

grater

Yep, a cheese grater.

I’ve tried a food processor, blender, knife tricks, and dicing or mashing after steaming.  The cheese grater, though, was so easy to use (albeit messy).  I just plunked the grater in a deep bowl,  trimmed and quartered the head of cauliflower, then grated away.

Easy.

The final result? A flavorful, slightly spicy dish that is wonderful as a standalone and completely filling and satisfying.  I didn’t miss the rice even a little.

CauliflowerRiceFull

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and grated
  • 1 12 oz bag of frozen mixed veggies (I prefer the California Blend)
  • 1 12 oz bag of frozen cut green beans
  • 12 oz of cooked protein of your choice (optional, but leftover meat works great!)
  • 1 head of garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • Bragg’s Amino Acids, Tamrari, or organic soy sauce (I prefer Bragg’s)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp Avocado oil, ghee, or another high smoking point oil
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, add frozen veggies and a tablespoon (or more) of Bragg’s.  If you want some extra spice, add red pepper flakes. Cook on medium high, stirring every five minutes until they are steaming hot.
  2. While vegetables are cooking, sauté onion in a large skillet or wok in 2 tablespoons of oil until translucent.  Add garlic and ginger and cook until soft and slightly golden.
  3. Add grated cauliflower to the garlic, onion, and ginger.  Add remaining oil, two tablespoons of Bragg’s, and mix thoroughly. Allow cauliflower to cook until tender.
  4. Once cauliflower is tender, push it to the sides, creating a hole in the middle of the pan.  A three inch circle of the pan should be exposed.  Crack eggs into the exposed circle, scrambling with a fork or spatula continuously.  The egg will cook into the cauliflower, and that’s okay.
  5. Once your eggs are scrambled, add protein and veggies (minus any liquid), to the cauliflower and mix thoroughly.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

I’m eating this today for lunch as leftovers.  It tastes so good without heating, but reheats like a dream in a skillet on the stove top.

This veggie thing.  It’s not THAT hard.
Carrie