What’s For Breakfast? Paleo Chocolate-Bar Omelet


ChocolateCoconutPlatanosMadurosOmelet

UPC’s Paleo Chocolate Bar Omelet

I’m a very playful guy. I love to run, jump, spin… There are few things in the world that are more gratifying to me than attempting something, and failing. Don’t ask me why, I don’t really have a good answer; though I am certain that it’s related to my “muchness” as Johnny Depp so adroitly described Alice’s childlike wonder and fearlessness in Alice In Wonderland. But landing flat on my butt in green grass under a blue sky after an awesome attempt at something both exciting and stupid is precisely what I envision when I think of “what would I rather be doing right now?” Except when I’m blogging, of course. This, much to my surprise and delight, has not turned out to be me, rubbing my butt as I stand up off the grass and attempt to figure out how to do it right the next time.

My playfulness translates in to the kitchen as well. I like to play with ingredients, experiment, and actually just being playful in general. I’m a very playful guy, and I can’t think of a time in my life when I didn’t want to spend time being playful. Being playful in the kitchen is somewhat more challenging; there are rules in there, sharp instruments and objects, dangerous surfaces… But my playfulness will not be overcome!
I’ve been spending a lot of time experimenting with cocoa nibs recently. They’re a touchy flavor, and so I’ve been hesitant with them for a long time. Now I look back and wonder “what took me so long?” As touchy a flavor as they are in the raw, they turn out to be amazingly adept at blending their savory chocolate goodness with just about anything I’ve managed to throw their way!

UPC’s Paleo Chocolate Bar Omelet; What you’ll need:

  • 4 eggs (Use the good stuff if possible)
  • 2 tablespoons Cocoa Nibs
  • 2 tablespoons Shredded Coconut
  • 1 Baked Sweet Plantain, chopped (prepare your Baked Maduros ahead of time)
  • 3 tablespoons Coconut Oil

Serves: 2
Prep and Cook time: 40 minutes

1. In a pot, add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, the cocoa nibs, and the chopped maduros. Cook on medium-low heat, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

2. Add the shredded coconut to the pot, and continue to cook while you make the omelet. Continue to stir regularly.

3. Heat up the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil in an omelet pan on medium-high heat.

4. Pour the eggs in to the pan and cook, covered, for 2-3 minutes.

5. When the eggs are about 2/3 cooked, or about 2-3 minutes after adding them to the omelet pan, pour the cocoa nibs, shredded coconut, and sweet plantain mixture on to one side of the omelet. Continue to cook, covered, until the omelet is fully cooked through.

6. Serve, and enjoy!

What’s For Lunch? Ham-Steak, Roasted Mushrooms and Maduros


HamSteak1

I love ham steak; especially when it’s braised, UPC style!

Recently on my Facebook page (if you guys haven’t been there, definitely drop in and give me a shout out) I shared a link to a food prep video, where a professional goes through the steps she takes to prep food for pictures. It was quite a little demonstration, and a little bit sad that they have to work so hard to make their food appetizing… I mentioned then, and am reiterating now: I guarantee you that I am showing you pictures of real food, which I have prepared for my meal, and I am taking time before eating to take a photo of the food that I am about to eat. To demonstrate that, I am including a picture of the above meal half-finished later in this post. I just think it’s important to make good, appetizing food. And if you do a great job with your cooking, it should be photo worthy too!!

Braised Ham Steak, Mushrooms and Maduros; What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb Ham Steak (from a quality farm, please! This one is from Vermont Smoke And Cure; the makers of my favorite bacon)
  • Optional Spices: Pepper, Nutmeg, Turmeric (You probably don’t need salt…)
  • 2 cups chopped Mushrooms (I used a frozen organic mixed bag)
  • 2 ripe Plantains, sliced and baked/fried (see here for Baked Maduros instructions)
  • Greens (I used Arugula)

Serves: 2
Cook and Prep Time: 65 minutes

1. Begin cooking the ham-steak in a wide pan with 1 cup of water on medium heat.
Note: You may need to start the Maduros first if you’re baking them

2. Add the mushrooms around the outside of the ham-steak, and spice the top of the ham-steak.

3. Check on the steak every 10 minutes, refreshing the water to a 1-cup level in the pan. Do not cover the pan or flip the steak.

4. About 5 minutes before meal-time, prepare the plates with a bed of greens for the ham-steak, mushrooms, and maduros. Serve and enjoy!!

ChiquiEatingHamSteak

Notes about this meal:

Braised Meat: I really enjoy all versions of slow-cooked meat, and braising is one of my absolute favorites! Properly done, braised meat takes hours rather than the 1 hour that I allotted for this meal. If you have the time, I highly recommend taking the full amount of time to do a proper braise. If you do this right, the top of the meat should have a caramelized layer on the top. It’s a delightful flavor and color, and looks particularly excellent on pork!
Maduros: You’ve all seen my steps for baked maduros. They’re delicious, and I highly recommend eating your maduros baked. If you don’t have the time for that, or forgot to start them before starting the meal, fried maduros are an excellent consolation to their better baked brother. Just use some oil and heat them on medium-high heat for at least 20 minutes, 10 minutes per side. Continue to flip and cook them as you have time to a maximum of about 40 minutes. The longer you can cook them, the better they’ll taste!

Questions:

  • Last chance for Dessert – I asked which desserts people miss from their SAD diets; send them along if you want me to attempt to translate them in to Paleo desserts.
  • What kind of slow-cooked meals are your favorite? Smoked? Braised? Crock-pot slow-cooked? Barbeque? Left-it-on-the-stove-and-forgot? Pig-Roast?
  • Do you cook this yourself? Do you go to a friend or family member for this?
  • What is the recipe/steps to make it? What makes it special?

Baked Maduros – A Sweet Treat!


Maduros

Also known as Platanos or Sweet Plantains, this exceptional treat comes to us from the Latin traditions. While there are plenty of foods that I am eternally grateful for, Maduros is definitely high on the list! They’re delicious, easy to work with, not terribly expensive, and high in fiber so they’re actually quite good for you! Now, while being good for you, they’re also quite sweet, like their cousins the Banana, so don’t overdo eating them.

How to make them:

  • Most restaurants serve these deep-fried.
  • They can be baked/boiled, etc. like a sweet potato, and used in almost all the same ways.
  • A great desert recipe for these is Plantains baked in honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  • For an appetizer, you can bake them in just coconut oil, or you could add just a bit of sea salt and cinnamon.
  • I like to put some coconut oil on both sides, and bake on low temp (with no spices).

How to do Maduros, UPC style!

Cook and Prep time: about 60 minutes
Serves: 1 person per Plantain

Image courtesy of karma-free-cooking.com

Image courtesy of karma-free-cooking.com

Select very ripe plantains, or wait for them to ripen. You will know that they are ready when they are all yellow, and should have some brown spots. Once they are ready, peel them, and then slice them in to long, slightly thick slices. To peel these, I cut the peel down the outside of the curve of the fruit, then peel it off from outside to inside. For the thickness of the slices: we’re looking for slices the thickness of bread, not potato chips – these are best when they have some substance to them!

Take out a baking sheet, put a layer of foil over it, and pre-heat the oven to 325. I also put a thin layer of coconut oil on my baking sheet, but this is not a necessary step. I have just learn from experience that a little extra oil is better than being a little short on it. Plantains can get sticky and soft when they’re baked, which is a very challenging combination!

Heat up about 2 tablespoons (per plantain) of coconut oil on the stove. Once the plantains are peeled and sliced, you can take each piece and dip it in to the coconut oil, then place it on the baking sheet.

As soon as the plantains are on the baking sheet, add them to the oven. If you’re going to spice these, now is the time. I usually don’t spice them; but I occasionally like a little bit of variety, and here is what I do most often when I’m looking for some extra flavor: Take a pinch of sea salt and sprinkle it lightly over the plantains. Then take a liberal serving on cinnamon and sprinkle it, equally liberally, over the plantains. The combination of sea salt and cinnamon will really bring out the sweetness of the plantain!

In about 20-25 minutes, flip the Maduros, and put them back in the oven. At this point, the side of the Maduros which are touching the baking sheet should be a light-golden color. This color will deepen slightly, like you see in my picture up above, while you cook the other side. If you’re using spices, you may want to spice both sides, depending on how much extra flavor you want the spices to add. Just spicing one side will be more than enough, so consider this an advanced technique. Only spice both sides if you’re familiar with the flavors and have done this before. If most of your Maduros are lightly browning, and most of them did not stick to the baking sheet, then you’re in good shape!

Pay attention during the last 10 minutes or so – you want the color of the bottom of the Maduros to match the color of the top. This means that you may have to go check on them every few minutes to see how close they’re getting. You may end up baking these for longer than 20 minutes on the second side. Be careful, though, Maduros are better underdone than overdone.

How you can use Maduros:

  • You’ve seen me serve them as a side many times on my blog. I’ve served them along side beef, pork, chicken, etc.
  • You can chop them up and put them in a salad.
  • They make a great appetizer, or desert.
  • You can store them, they’re almost as good cold as they are hot!

For a bit of information on what is a Plantain, and how it’s different from a Banana, take a look at this post from grabemsnacks.com:

http://www.grabemsnacks.com/what-is-a-plantain.html

And finally: Enjoy! For more Plantain recipes, keep your eyes peeled! I love Plantains, as you’ve see with the Mofongo Paella (yes, it’s made with green plantains) – and will definitely be using them more!

What’s For Breakfast? – Sweet Salad


SweetSalad

I have a sweet tooth. Big time. Giving up my sweets was one of the biggest and most difficult hurdles for me when I went Paleo. I haven’t looked back, even for an instant, and the health benefits of cutting the sugars out of my diet have been undeniably amazing, not to mention that I am no longer ruled by my cravings… But every once in a while I like to be indulgent. I indulge in avocado, grass-fed stewed short ribs… There’s no reason I can’t occasionally have an amazing “sweet salad” to pick me up in the morning, right? So this morning I took a little extra time putting together my salad, and made it a “Sweet Salad”. Not in the traditional sense – it wasn’t sugar laden. It was a special combination of ingredients, all of which are fantastically good for you, designed to give the satisfaction of having had a sweet indulgence, without the guilt!

How I did it, and what you’ll need:

  • Salad Greens (I used a spring mix)
  • White Button Mushrooms, chopped
  • Baked Maduros, chopped (baked with coconut oil)
  • Carrot, sliced
  • Zucchini, chopped
  • Avocado, chopped
  • Honey Smoked Turkey, chopped
  • Hazelnut Oil

Baked Maduros: These need to be done ahead of time. My wife and I love eating these as a desert on some nights, or as a side to our steak meals. You’ve seen these show up fairly regularly on my blog, because they’re delicious! So here’s how you make these: pre-heat the oven to 325. While the oven is heating up, slice the Ripe Plantains in to long thin slices (no more than 1/2 inch thick; and at least 2.5 inches in length, longer is better). Lightly oil a baking pan with coconut oil. Maduros will absorb the oil while baking, so you may need to add some more coconut oil later too – you’ll have to pay attention for that. Place the sliced plantains in the baking pan and bake for 15 minutes.

At 15 minutes, flip them over with tongs (they can get sticky!), add more oil, if necessary, and put them back in for another 10 minutes. Once these are done (lightly browned on each side), take them out of the oven and let them cool before serving (or storing them, in this case). They’re best served a little warm, and they keep really well for meals later in the week.

It’s a salad, so the short version of the directions is this: chop all the ingredients, combine them, and toss them. Ok, that’s done. Now let’s talk about how I did it! As above: chop up the salad greens, carrot, zucchini, baked maduros, and avocado and mix them in a bowl. On top of this, add the chopped mushrooms, then drizzle the hazelnut oil over the mushrooms. I’ve come to appreciate that the oil gets absorbed by the mushrooms, and the mushrooms, since their natural flavor is so mild and complimentary anyway, end up tasting like the oil. With hazelnut oil, that can be a very “sweet” tasting flavor! Last, add the turkey, and mix again. Et Voila! You have your very own “Sweet Salad” for breakfast!

Additional or alternate ingredients: If you have it, you could add some dried fruit to the meal. A dried apple or mango would likely support the flavor of the meal nicely! Similarly, a specialty vinegar, like a raspberry vinegar, could really make this amazing. Finally: if you have the time, you can add the carrots to the baking pan and bake the carrots with the maduros – the end result will be that much more sweet and savory! Lastly, I would warn against adding any actual hazelnuts – they’re not very “sweet” like the hazelnut oil, and will interfere with the flavor profile of the meal.