What’s For Dinner? – Basil, Bacon and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Mushrooms


StuffedMushroom_Take7

UPC’s Basil, Bacon and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Mushrooms

Inspiration can come from a lot of different places, for a lot of different things. I love it when inspiration strikes me, and I am most definitely the kind of guy who will pull over to the side of the road to take a picture or write something down. I’m not so much of a sing-in-the-shower person, but you shouldn’t be the least bit surprised if I were to break into song while standing on the subway platform, or walking down a crowded street. Why? I was inspired. Interestingly, most often when inspiration strikes me, I’ve completely forgotten what inspired me by the time the inspired action begins. It’s one of the reasons why I believe in inspiration so thoroughly. Fortunately, for those really life-changing events, the ones that have a lasting impact on my life, I usually remember the inspiration for those. For instance: I remember what inspired me and my wife to go Paleo. In fact, I can trace that particular decision through an interesting path of choices, all made possible by one single moment of inspiration (and not a terribly pleasant one, I might add) almost a year before we did finally make the decision. And, depending on how you look at it, that particular moment, that inspiration, may in fact be responsible for my blogging as well. Sometimes it’s amazing to consider the implications that one action may have such lasting impressions! If I could, I’d go Paleo AGAIN – though I’m certainly not willing to give it up first…

My inspiration, as small as it may seem, for today’s meal was a box of mushrooms. Some mushrooms just say to me “I want to be chopped up in little bits and eaten in a salad.” Some of them say “I want to be sliced thin and made into a soup.” And these mushrooms that you see here, they were jumping up and down, screaming to be made into stuffed mushrooms as loud as they could! Honestly, I don’t understand how everyone else in the grocery store wasn’t annoyed by all the ruckus.
On a slightly more serious note: I saw these mushrooms and was instantly and immediately inspired to make stuffed mushrooms with them. Unlike bursting in to song, stuffed mushrooms take some preparation, consideration, and planning. I knew that they wanted to be made in to stuffed mushrooms, but I still had to figure out what to stuff them with! Not to worry; it came to me. Or, rather, my wife and I spent an agonizing 30 minutes spit-balling ideas back and forth until one stuck. Like inspiration, I knew it once we had it. So, here it is!

UPC’s Basil, Bacon and Caramelized  Onion Stuffed Mushrooms; What you’ll need:

  • Large Mushrooms (I used 20 oz) – any large cup-mushroom (white button, crimini, etc.); or cake the stuffing on top of a cap-mushroom (portobello, shiitake, etc)
  • Mushroom Stems, diced
  • 1 lb Bacon, cooked and crumbled (Top-Quality only! 🙂 )
  • 1 large Red Onion, diced and caramelized (also called “Spanish Onion”)
  • 1 medium Rutabaga, finely chopped.
  • 2 cloves Garlic, diced
  • 5-6 sprigs Fresh Basil, diced (including the stems – they add to the texture)
  • Several Fresh Basil Leaves, diced (keep separate from above)
  • Spices: Savory, Anise, Marjoram, Turmeric

Serves: 4-8
Cook and Prep Time: 60 minutes

2GarlicOnionBaconStuffedMushrooms-Bacon1. Cook and crumble the bacon. Drain the pan of most of the bacon grease (to be used in some other culinary creation!).

2. Add the onions and rutabaga to the remainder of the bacon grease and begin cooking on medium heat. Stir regularly (every 1-2 minutes).

1GarlicOnionBaconStuffedMushrooms-Mushrooms

Remove the stem, cut out the lip, and scrape out the gills.

3. Remove the stems of the mushrooms, cut out the lip of the cup, then scrape the gills off the inside of the cup (or cap, if you’re using caps) of the mushroom with a spoon. This makes more room for the stuffing.
Note: Don’t know what the gills are? Check here.

4. After about 10 minutes of cook time, add the garlic and mushroom stems to the onions and rutabaga and continue to cook and stir for another 5 minutes, or until the onions are thoroughly caramelized.

5. Turn off the heat, add the spices and diced basil and mix thoroughly.

5GarlicOnionBaconStuffedMushrooms-Stuffing-LastStir

Stir in the spices and basil with the caramelized onions and rutabaga.

6. Pre-heat the oven to 350.

7. Spoon some stuffing in to each mushroom, making sure that they’re filled to the top, but not over filled. The mushrooms will shrink while baking.

6GarlicOnionBaconStuffedMushrooms-PreBake

Don’t over-fill the mushrooms; they shrink while baking.

8. Grease the bottom of each mushroom thoroughly (yes, you can use the bacon grease 🙂 ) and place the mushrooms in a baking pan with enough space between them so that they’re not touching.

9. Put the pan in the oven once it’s up to temperature; set the timer for 15 minutes.

10. When the timer dings, sprinkle the remaining diced basil on top of the mushrooms, and serve and enjoy!

Optional: If you’re a cheese person: you can add cheese to the recipe at the end, while you’re adding the basil and spices to the stuffing.

StuffedMushroom_Take6

Questions:

  • What kinds of inspiration strikes you?
  • Do you ever have inspiration that you can act on immediately? Do you?
  • Do you ever have food inspiration?
  • How would you use this stuffed mushroom recipe?
  • How might you change it to suit your needs?
  • Are there other stuffed mushroom recipes that you like?
  • Would you serve this as a meal, or an appetizer?
  • What would you serve this with?

What’s For Lunch? UPC’s Bento-Boxes


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UPC’s Salad Bento Boxes

I’ve shared pictures of my lunch salads before, but today’s post is somewhat special. My wife and I making a concerted effort to remove unnecessary plastic from our lives. There are a couple of reasons for that, but the biggest one is an attempt to reduce our impact on the world. I’m a firm believer in the “Golden Rule” and my wife recently pointed out to me that I really should be working hard to use as much re-usable materials as possible, since that’s ultimately the best application of the “Golden Rule” in regards to my impact on the environment. She’s right, of course, and I didn’t need any convincing. The plastic containers that I had been using previously would often last me months before being replaced. But they’re still plastic. So we made the shift to glass for out refrigerator items, and we just picked up several of the Smart Planet “Meal Kits” that are made entirely from silicone.

These are awesome for a couple of reasons, in my book: they’re durable, they’re light, they’ll last until we don’t like the colors anymore, and they collapse once you’re done with them to take up less space. And, of course, most importantly, they’re not ugly. Which makes it easier for me to share my lunch recipes with you!

I may make this “Bento Box Lunch” a whole separate category, if you all end up think it’s a hit. Be sure to read the “Questions” at the end to help me figure out whether this should be a regular thing, or if I should just keep in in the 3-meal rotation that I have going now.

Today’s UPC Salad Bento Box; What you’ll need:

  • 1 Serving of UPC’s Salad Eggs
  • 1 Serving of Rosemary Carrots and Mushrooms (instructions below)
  • 1 Double-Serving Tossed Salad (any great lunch-salad will do; instructions for pictured salad below)
    UPC’s Salad Eggs:
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Organic Yellow Zucchini, chopped (obviously green zucchinis will work too!)
  • 2 Organic Carrots, chopped
  • 1 bunch Organic Basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
    Rosemary Carrots and Mushrooms:
  • 2 medium Organic Carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup Crimini Mushrooms, quartered (chopped large)
  • 4 sprigs Organic Rosemary, Rosemary pulled off the sprig and chopped
  • Optional: Add copped Celery for additional flavor and green.
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil (for extra credit: use bacon grease!)
    Tossed Salad
  • 1 large Organic Avocado, chopped
  • 1 medium Organic Cucumber
  • 2 cups UPC’s Pulled Pork (alternately, sliced ham or bacon)
  • 1 bunch Organic Basil, chopped
  • 3 cups Organic Arugula, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2 (Breakfast and Lunch, depending on your meal sizes)
Cook and Prep time: About 1 hour

1. Start the UPC’s Salad Eggs. I’m going to skip the instructions for this, since they’re well documented in the linked post.

2. In a small pot, add the carrots first, then the mushrooms, rosemary, and coconut oil. Cover, and cook on high for 1 minute. After 1 minute, turn down to medium-low, and leave covered, stirring every 3-4 minutes while you prepare the rest of the Bento-Box.

3. Tend the UPC’s Salad Eggs, continuing to follow the directions in the post.

4. Turn off the carrots and mushrooms after about 12 minutes of cook time.

5. Add the chopped arugula (or your favorite salad greens) and basil to a mixing bowl. On top, add the avocado, cucumber and pulled pork. Then spread the olive oil evenly over the salad and mix carefully (I mix with my bare hands; yes I wash them first).

Serve each meal portion in to a separate section of your Bento Box, and enjoy!

Questions:

  • What are your thoughts on a full-meal post from time to time?
  • Do you like the idea of the lunch Bento-Box format?
  • Would you like to see more hot-meal components, or cold-meal components?
  • What do you bring for your own breakfast and lunch?

Roasted Mushroom Pulled Pork – A Weekend Meal Stash!


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UPC’s Pulled Pork

The weather last night was icky, cool, and wet. Naturally, that made it perfect for me to go out and play in the rain!! And, of course, while I was playing in the rain, I was attempting another one of my “What’s For Dinner?” meals in the kitchen. As I’ve mentioned before, not every experiment ends in delighted success. On occasion, I cross the line a bit in my attempt for new and exciting flavors, and end up trying something that just simply doesn’t work. At least, according to me.

Last night I tried something that simply didn’t work.

What was it? I hope you’re asking with baited breath; heightened anticipation. Well, whether you are or not, I’m going to share. Right now. Well, after telling you that I’m going to share.

Almond Butter Coconut Steak.

As they say on TV: “Folks, do not try this at home.” I did, and it didn’t work. Take it from me, this is not a good idea. Of course, I’m not finished experimenting. That’s part of what I do. I’ll likely try something similar on chicken next; I think the flavors will mix better. And after trying it on chicken, maybe I’ll spice it heavily with some smoked habanero peppers, and see if it works better with steak and seriously hot peppers… And maybe I’ll… Well, anyway, I’ve got more ideas, and I’ll get to the bottom of how to combine those flavors deliciously. But last night, they were not delicious…

Roasted Mushroom Pulled Pork; What you’ll need:

  • 2 lbs Pork Loin Roast (at least 2 lbs; more works better!)
  • 1 lb Mixed Organic Mushrooms (this will work just as well with quartered crimini mushrooms)
  • 4-6 Organic Carrots
  • Spices: I used Black Pepper, Sea Salt, Italian Seasoning; use your favorite meat seasonings

Serves: 2 people, for several meals
Cook and Prep time: 6+ hours

1. Evenly spread the whole carrots across the bottom of a crock-pot or slow-cooker.

2. Place the pork roast carefully on the top of the carrots, making sure that the carrots are still fairly evenly spread across the bottom of the pot.

3. Spice the meat, add the mushrooms to the pot by spreading them evenly around the meat, and cook on a low setting (mine just has high and low; I use low) for at least 6 hours. You can continue to cook this for as many as 8-10 hours, as desired.

4. After 6+ hours of cook time take a fork and a set of grilling tongs and carefully pull the pork apart. To the limits of your patience, the smaller chunks you manage to pull the pork apart in to, the more “pulled” your end product will be!
Note: This step can be done at 6 hours of cook time, and you can continue to cook afterwards, if you’re available at that time. Alternately, you can do this just before serving the dish as well.

Questions:

  • What are your favorite spices to use on a Pulled Pork dish?
  • Have you had some epic gaffes in the kitchen lately?
  • Are you interested in seeing some non-food products that I make as well? Examples: Jewelry, face cream, art… And if so, how much would you like to see me intersperse non-food items in this entirely-food-related blog?
  • Did you notice the topic of discussion yesterday, and did you have thoughts that you didn’t have a chance to share?

What’s For Breakfast? Mushroom And Tomato Omelet with Bacon


MushroomTomatoOmeletAndBacon

UPC’s Mushroom And Tomato Omelet with Vermont Smoke And Cure Bacon!

I know that some of you have been enjoying my Diet And Workout posts, where I am sharing with you everything I am doing to reach my goals this summer. They’re tough goals, and I am really excited by the prospect of trying to meet them both! Well, my wife has been increasing her workout activities as well. We both love to workout regularly, and we can often be seen out together doing various different workouts. We’ve both been careful about how we increase our workouts, and are monitoring our body’s needs carefully. So it came as no surprise to either of us that our bodies have been craving more protein, and we have been more than happy to oblige!! Today’s breakfast comes from that increased need.

Mushroom and Tomato Omelet and Bacon; What you’ll need:

  • 4 Eggs, whipped (I use a fork)
  • Salt and pepper mixed in with the eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut oil
  • 2 cups Mushrooms, chopped (I used a new mixed organic mushrooms that I picked up in the frozen section of Whole Foods)
  • 1 cup Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 lb Bacon (Vermont Smoke and Cure!!)

Serves 2
Prep and Cook Time: 30 minutes

1. Start the bacon in a pan, covered, on medium heat.

2. In a small cook pot, heat up the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon coconut oil on medium heat.

3. Heat up an omelet pan (needs to have curved sides) with the remaining 1 tablespoon coconut oil to medium-high temperature.

4. Once the omelet pan is hot, pour the mixed eggs in to the omelet pan. Swirl the mixture in the pan so that the omelet has a relatively uniform thickness.

5. Turn the heat down on the omelet pan immediately to medium heat, and cook covered for 3-5 minutes.

6. Using a spatula, move the omelet around in the pan carefully, making sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

7. After about 5 minutes of cook time, spread the mushrooms and tomatoes across the top  of the omelet.

8. Fold the omelet in the pan, then slide it out onto a dish.

9. Add the bacon to the plate, and serve!

MushroomTomatoOmeletAndBacon1

Questions:

  • What are your favorite omelet ingredients?
  • Do you prefer them cooked, or raw?
  • How much are you willing to branch out, stretch yourself, with your omelet ingredients?
  • Do you like your omelet ingredients spilling out, like in my picture, of do you prefer the omelet to completely contain your ingredients?

What’s For Lunch? Return of the Hot & Cold Salad!


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UPC’s Hot & Cold Salad: Can a winter favorite become a summer favorite too?

Yesterday was a long day for me. I got up early and went to the local track for a hard workout with a bunch of my friends. And as if that workout wasn’t challenging enough on it’s own, I was low on resources because I had been up late the night before drinking wine and having a good time with my in-laws, and to top it off, I had done a hard speed workout the day before! Despite the challenges, the workout was great. But the rest of the day was mired with fatigue – no surprise there, right?
At some point during the day, my wife came over to me and said: “I love the salads you’ve been sending to work with me, but I need something different.” We talked about it for a short while, and determined that because I had sent virtually the same lunch salad all week, she just wanted some variety. Well, tomorrow is shopping night, so I won’t have any new ingredients in the house. So I will have to bring about some change without changing the ingredients! Enter: the Hot & Cold Salad. Raw food ingredients taste one way, while cooked ingredients taste sometimes entirely different. So it was time to bring back a winter standby to spice up our lunch life a little bit.

UPC’s Hot & Cold Salad; What you’ll need:

  • Hot:
  • 6-8 oz Ham, chopped (I am using cooked ham cold-cuts)
  • 1/2 Yellow Squash, chopped (Zucchini will work well too)
  • 4-6 Crimini Mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 Carrots, chopped
  • 2 inches Ginger, diced
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • Cold:
  • Mixed Salad Greens (I am using a “Spring Mix”)
  • 1 cup Green Onions, chopped
  • 1 cup Celery, chopped
  • 1 small Avocado, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil

Serves: 2
Cook and Prep Time: 25 minutes

1. In a pan add 1 tablespoon coconut oil to the mushrooms and carrots on a medium heat (4-5 out of 10). Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the ham, yellow squash, and ginger after about 3-5 minutes of cooking; cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring regularly.

3. After 10 minutes total cook-time turn the pan down to medium-low, and cover. Let this cook for another 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Once the “Hot” portion is done, put it in your lunch container and put it in the refrigerator to cool.
Don’t forget to pack this when you leave for work!!

5. While the “Hot” portion of your salad is cooking, prepare the cold portion, putting it in it’s own travel container.

6. When it’s time for lunch, heat up your “Hot” salad and combine it with the “Cold” salad. Mix thoroughly before eating; they combine quite well. Enjoy a nice, refreshing change to the traditional lunch salad: UPC’s Hot & Cold Salad!

Questions:

  • Do you eat Hot & Cold salads at work?
  • If so, do you make them fresh in your work kitchenette? Or are you, like I do, limited to cooking your food at home, and heating it up in the microwave?
  • What kinds of ingredients and flavorings would you like to see in your Hot & Cold salads?

If this is the first you’ve seen my Hot & Cold Salads, please try them and enjoy! I’ve done many variations, and they’ve all been quite excellent successes! I’ve found that I really prefer leafy green vegetables in their raw state. Maybe it’s taste, maybe texture, but I just prefer my spinach, kale, and lettuce as salad greens. So I found a way this past winter to have my greens and eat them too! Wait, that doesn’t work quite right…
Anyway, long-story short: I decided one afternoon that I wanted a salad meal, but I really didn’t want to cook the greens. So I cooked up some meat, and the vegetables that I wanted cooked. Then I combined them with a bunch of greens. Unlike the dish that I’ve seen so many times on the internet, I chose not to add in copious amounts of broth, making the final product more like a soup than a salad. The resulting salad was delicious! And thus was born the UPC’s Hot & Cold salad! It’s been a huge hit in my house all winter and spring. I “put it away” for the summer, thinking that I would prefer the completely cold salad in the summer heat. But when my wife asked me for “Something different” – I knew just what I could dust off and take out of my bag-o-tricks!