Monday, March 31, 2014

Cauliflower Carrot Mash (Healthy Alternative to Mashed Potatoes)

I'm (hopefully) traveling to Italy this week!

Hopefully... because our airline just went on strike and cancelled our outbound flights. We are rebooking as I write this post. The reason for the sojourn to Italy?

I was accepted to the Sirenland Writers Conference held in Positano, Italy. I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be working with Meg Wolitzer, one of my favorite writers. Her latest book, The Interestings, is just out on paperback and it's fantastic. I highly recommend picking up a copy.

That is... assuming we actually can get there!

I should have lots to report back on in terms of food, wine and travels. I've even managed to find some gluten free restaurants that offer pasta and pizza selections.

If I post on the trip while I'm away, I'll post on my writing blog:

In the meantime, I wanted to share this recipe before I left. It's for Cauliflower Carrot Mash. It's super delicious. It's a healthier alternative to mashed potatoes. It's also much more interesting, though it still has that great mashed texture. There is butter in it. Copious amounts of butter.

Grassfed butter.

I'm not apologizing.

Butter is back.

Cauliflower Carrot Mash
Serves 4 to 6 people
Cooking time: about 30 minutes
Gluten-free; vegetarian (if using vegetable broth)

1 large head of cauliflower, chopped
1 bunch of carrots, peeled and chopped
1 or 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for mashing if desired
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Place the cauliflower, carrots, stock and 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot. Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer the vegetables until tender (about 20 minutes).

2. Once the vegetables are tender, remove then from the heat. Add more butter into the pot if desired, or even a good dash of olive oil. Using an immersion blender or masher, mash the vegetables together with the cooking liquid until they achieve the desired texture. More stock may be added as needed. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Slow Cooker Beef & Vegetable Stew

So... I've been making this recipe a ton lately.

It's the perfect comfort food, yet still plenty healthy. I buy organic or pasture-raised stew beef whenever I can find it. In fact, I just bought some at my local farmers market today.

I love a few things about this recipe. For starters, it's a slow cooker recipe, so I throw it in early and then smell it simmering away all day, and by the time dinner rolls around I feel like somebody has cooked for me (even though it was little ole me all along). I also love that it's foolproof. That's the great thing about slow cookers. You just can't mess it up.

Though the recipe specifies certain vegetables, you can play around with it and add or subtract what you want.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling extra fancy, I make cornbread, such as this:

Gluten Free Blackberry Cornbread

Slow Cooker Beef & Vegetable Stew
Serves 4 to 6 people
Cooking time
Gluten-free; dairy-free

2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 ounce can tomato paste
32 ounces beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups baby carrots
4-5 small red potatoes, cut into cubes (about 3 cups)
2 cups green beans, chopped
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary)
1 cup frozen peas
2-4 tablespoons gluten free flour
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Combine beef, celery, carrots, onion, potatoes, green beans, garlic, parsley, rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, and tomato paste in the slow cooker. Stir to combine the ingredients and mix in the tomato paste. Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8-10 hours. 

2. About 30 minutes before serving, mix the flour into the slow cooker to achieve desired thickness. Mix until well combined. This will add a nice thickness to the stew. Continue cooking covered for 30 minutes.

3. Before serving, pick out the rosemary sprigs and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Slow Cooker Organic Whole Chicken with Carrots & Potatoes

I'll put it this way...

I'm obsessed with my slow cooker. It's an oval crock pot. It was quite inexpensive. And it's one of my favorite kitchen essentials. I've been using it a lot recently. One of my staple recipes is my Slow Cooker Whole Chicken. There's no easier way to make a chicken.

Cooking a whole chicken—instead of chicken breasts, for example—has many benefits. One is flavor, which comes from skin and bones and fat (all lacking in the straight chicken breast). Another is that you can use the carcass to make chicken stock in your slow cooker overnight. Then the fun starts. You can use your homemade stock and leftover chicken to make chicken soup in the crock pot the next day. Just add any variety of beans, quinoa, and vegetables. Also, homemade chicken stock has a huge array of health benefits that store bought doesn't have.

To make homemade stock, just return the chicken carcass to the slow cooker (along with any drippings from cooking it). You may add onion, carrots, celery, peppercorns, ginger if you want, but this is in no way required. What is required—raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar or another acid. I throw in about one or two tablespoons. This helps leach the important minerals out of the bones. Cover the carcass with filtered water and cook on low for ten hours or so (overnight).

When you get up the next morning, strain the broth. I usually then place it in the fridge at this point to allow the fat on top to congeal. The fat can then be easily removed from the stock. You can cook with it, for example making chicken chili or soup in the slow cooker, or freeze it for later use. It keeps for about six months in the freezer. Always great to have on hand for soups and risottos.

In case you're wondering, I buy my chickens from either Whole Foods (pastured if available) or Trader Joe's. I'm a fan of their Brined Organic Whole Chickens. And I make a whole chicken about once a week or every other week. It's an absolute staple in my household.

This recipe for Slow Cooker Whole Chicken with Carrots & Potatoes is a whole meal in one pot. That's what I love about it. Put everything in the slow cooker in the morning and then by dinnertime your house smells amazing and you have a full meal. If you want to get some extra greens, you can serve the chicken and carrots and potatoes with a nice salad.

My favorite salad to make lately is organic mixed greens with dried cherries, crumbled goat cheese, candied pecans, tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette (recipe forthcoming).

Now I'm hungry!

Slow Cooker Organic Whole Chicken with Carrots & Potatoes
Serves about 4 people
Cooking time 6 hours on high
Dairy-free; gluten-free

1 organic whole chicken
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into one-inch chunks
4 medium red potatoes, cut into one-inch chunks
1/2 cup dry white wine
bunch of thyme or other herbs to stuff in side the chicken (optional)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Note: You may season the chicken with any dried herbs or seasoning mixtures you desire (lemon pepper, smoked paprika, thyme, etc.). I was just keeping this recipe simple.

1. Layer the onions in the bottom of the slow cooker. Rinse the chicken with cool water and pat dry. Season the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper and stuff with the fresh herbs if desired. Place the chicken on top of the onions in the slow cooker. You may truss the bird if you wish, but it's not necessary in the slow cooker. Pour the white wine into the slow cooker. Place the carrots and potatoes around the chicken.

2. Drizzle the chicken and vegetables with olive oil and season them liberally with the garlic powder, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high for about six hours. Enjoy!