A Paleo Feast: Almond Crusted Pork Chops, Homemade Applesauce, and Fig and Arugula Salad

I wanted to make an extra-special dinner for Nick last night. I’ve had a bit of a chip on my shoulder during my Whole30, feeling that I need to prove to everyone that Paleo food can be delicious and, in fact, better than the food everyone else is eating. Nick hasn’t given me any reason to think I need to prove this to him, but it’s important to me nonetheless. To prove my point, I put together a Paleo feast for two! Anytime there are more dishes on the table than diners, I figure it can be considered a feast. 🙂

Our meal consisted of three dishes: Fig and Arugula Salad, Almond Crusted Pork Chops, and Homemade Applesauce. It’s fairly easy to put together, requires minimal ingredients for a meal of its caliber, and can be ready in about 30 minutes!

The applesauce has the longest cook time, so that’s where I started. I chopped four medium apples (Royal Gala is a great choice for this) into chunks, about 8-10 pieces per apple. I put the apple chunks in a saucepan with about 3/4 cup of water and a generous amount of cinnamon. You can customize your applesauce to be a cinnamon-y as you want! I brought it to a boil, reduced the heat to medium, and covered the pot.

While that cooked, I started to heat some coconut oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. I scrambled an egg in a small bowl and poured a large heap of almond meal seasoned with a little garlic powder on a plate. I salted and peppered my pork chops, dipped them in the egg, coated them in almond meal, and put them in the skillet!

20130719-110638.jpg The key to this dish is buying high quality pork. It doesn’t need to be expensive, but it should have the dewy pink color and plumpness that makes pork look super fresh. If your pork chop manages to look appetizing while it’s still raw, you’re probably in good shape.

I let the pork cook for about six minutes on the first side before I flipped it.

20130719-111351.jpg While the pork was cooking, I put together the salad. I skillet-toasted some pine nuts in coconut oil and combined them with quartered figs and an arugula blend. Olive oil and balsamic work great as a dressing, but for those not on a Whole30 you can add a little extra pizazz with a honey balsamic vinaigrette.

20130719-111746.jpgOnce the pork has cooked for about six minutes on both sides, everything is done! Just use a fork to mash up the apples and you’re good to go.

20130719-111837.jpgThe pork was the juiciest I’ve ever had. It was so good that even an iPhone picture was able to capture it’s perfection!

20130719-112053.jpg

Fig and Arugula Salad

4 cups arugula or arugula blend
4 fresh figs, quartered
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste

Heat coconut oil in skillet and toast pine nuts in oil. In serving bowl, combine arugula, figs, and toasted pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with olive oil and vinegar.

Almond Crusted Pork Chops

2 pork chops, about 1/3 lb. each and 1 and 1/4 inches thick
1 egg
3/4 cup almond meal
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Heat coconut oil in large skillet. Crack egg into small bowl and scramble, and mix almond meal and garlic on a small plate. Salt and pepper the lamb chops and dip them in the raw egg. Coat them in almond mixture. Cook in the skillet for about six minutes on each side.

Homemade Whole30 Applesauce

4 sweet apples (Royal Gala is a great choice)
3/4 cup water, plus 1/4 cup
cinnamon to taste

Core apples and cut into large chunks, approximately 10 pieces per apple. Combine with 3/4 cup water and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer. When water is fully absorbed, add additional 1/4 cup. After a total of 20-25 minutes, remove apples from stove and mash using a potato masher or fork.

Tuna and Grape Salad

I want to create Paleo mayonnaise, but the blender I have is unfortunately not up to the task. I need to get a proper food processor before I can begin that challenge.

In the meantime, I have been creating mayo-free tuna salads. One of my favorites involves chickpeas, but since I’m in the middle of a Whole30, that recipe is off limits! I had a bit of a sweet tooth this morning, so I whipped up this version for lunch. The grapes give a nice, light juiciness, the celery adds crunch, and the dates give it the touch of sweetness I was craving. Dried cranberries would work well in this recipe too, possibly better than the dates, but I can’t eat them these days. Give them a try and let me know how it is!

20130715-200512.jpgTuna and Grape Salad

5-6 romaine leaves, or other lettuce leaves for wrapping

6 oz can of tuna, drained

approximately 12 grapes, halved

1 stalk celery, chopped into small pieces

2 Medjool dates, pitted and minced OR small handful dried cranberries

juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 and 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp dried dill

salt and pepper to taste

Separate and wash romaine leaves and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients and mix well. Scoop onto lettuce leaves, fold, and enjoy!

Cilantro Carrot Slaw

As a food blogger and creator of recipes I often struggle with how original a recipe needs to be to truly call it my own. When is an altered recipe merely adapted, and when does it become an entirely new creation?

I found this recipe for Carrot and Cilantro Salad shared by Debbie from Easy Natural Food. She got the recipe from Cuisine Magazine and altered the proportions slightly.

When I made my version, I did a little more than alter. I consider it to be an entirely new recipe, albeit strongly inspired by Debbie’s post.

20130710-213702.jpg

Since I’m in the middle of a Whole30, I swapped out the honey for 1/2 a shredded pear. I used a variety that is still rather firm upon ripening in order to avoid it turning to mush when I grated it. I’m a major lover of combining cilantro and lime, so I went with lime juice instead of lemon juice. I also drastically decreased the amount of onion in the recipe. I did this mainly because I have a hard time tolerating large amounts of raw onion, but the tangy flavor from the cilantro and onion was just enough. I wouldn’t add more even if I could!
20130710-213725.jpgThis slaw was unexpectedly delicious. It’s always nice to include an entirely raw dish in your menu plan! Whether you want to follow my recipe, Debbie’s recipe, or make up your own, I highly recommend it! And if you have the option, splurge for some organic carrots. In my experience, the organic variety taste infinitely better – a difference I don’t notice between the organic and regular versions of most produce.

Cilantro Carrot Slaw

Serves 2-3

2 carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 pear, grated (firmer varieties work best)
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tbsp onion, minced
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and toss to coat with lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Minted Avocado Smoothie

Nick and I used to frequent a salad chain in Hong Kong called Dressed. I’ve stopped going because I found some much better salad spots, but Dressed carries one menu item that can’t be beat: the Minted Avocado Smoothie.

Dressed’s version is made with avocado, yogurt, simple syrup, and mint. I would say it’s inexplicably delicious, but it’s unfortunately quite easy to explain: simple syrup makes everything delicious. Needless to say, I don’t order the smoothie anymore, and especially not during my Whole30!

This homemade version is sugar-free and still refreshing and tasty. It’s extremely different from the original, but still delicious and great for a filling breakfast on-the-go.

20130709-111713.jpg

Minted Avocado Smoothie

1 ripe avocado
1 ripe pear
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp fresh mint leaves
large handful ice

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Depending on the consistency of your coconut milk, your smoothie may be quite thick. Add more ice or water until it reaches the desired consistency.

This recipe is shared on Slightly Indulgent Tuesday. Check it out for great, healthy recipes from my fellow bloggers!

Pumpkin and Beetroot Salad

One thing that is very important to me during my Whole30 is the inclusion of vegetarian meals. One of the main complaints of those trying out the Paleo diet is that their cholesterol levels go up considerably. While Paleo’s biggest supporters claim this is nothing to worry about, I tend to disagree. Am I okay with my cholesterol going up a little on this diet? Yes. Am I going to actively encourage it to go up? Of course not! I still want to include a fair number of low-cholesterol, vegetarian meals in my Paleo diet, just like I do when I’m on my standard gluten-free, sugar-free diet.

That being said, getting enough calories from a Paleo, vegetarian meal is far from a guarantee. I need to ensure that I’m still getting sufficient energy without beans, grains, and dairy, which I typically use to fill out vegetarian meals and make them more hearty.

20130706-233720.jpg

This Pumpkin and Beet Salad is a Paleo version of one of my favorites, and it’s quite filling. I got the original recipe from two friends when they both showed up at a BBQ with similar versions of the dish. I’m not sure which one of them came up with it first, but they had shared it with each other enough times to know it would be a crowd pleaser.

Typically when I make this dish I sauté the pumpkin in butter and sprinkle a liberal amount of crumbled goat cheese over the finished product. I do plan to go back to that version someday, but this one is a wonderful Whole30 compromise! The recipe was already vegetarian, gluten-free, soy-free, and sugar-free, but the changes also make it dairy-free and vegan, which certainly never hurts when cooking for a large crowd. You never know when you’ll be the hero of the potluck for the guest who arrived thinking he would only be able to eat his own dish.

Pumpkin and Beetroot Salad

serves 1

1 and 1/2 cups pumpkin, in 1-2″ cubes
1 large roasted beet
2 cups spinach, washed and drained
large handful raw sunflower seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
balsamic vinegar to taste (optional)

Coat pumpkin in coconut oil and roast for 15 minutes at 400F. For last 3-4 minutes, sprinkle sunflower seeds over pumpkin.

While pumpkin cooks, chop beet into 1″ cubes. Combine in serving bowl with spinach, and mix in warm pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Serve with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Add vinegar if desired.

This recipe is shared on this week’s Wellness Weekend.

Asian Roast Chicken with Carrots and Red Pepper

I’ve always enjoyed pan-Asian cuisine, but even more so since moving to Asia. Since I wasn’t raised in an Asian kitchen, most of the Asian-inspired dishes I come up with don’t subscribe to just one of the food traditions. I know what flavors I enjoy, and I often throw them together in ways heavily influenced by Western cooking.

20130706-223027.jpgThis dish is the perfect example. It’s a fairly simple meal of chicken baked in the oven, but instead of the typical Western herbs and spices, I’ve prepared it with coconut aminos, coconut oil, garlic and ginger. And in place of the usual potatoes, this chicken sits on a bed of carrots and red pepper, cooked right alongside the meat. The result is a healthy, refreshing, Paleo meal bursting with Eastern flavor. I’m definitely making it a staple in my kitchen!

I didn’t plan ahead to marinate the chicken, but I definitely will next time. It was plenty flavorful, but some extra time to soak everything in will give it even more zing!

20130706-223309.jpg
One note: Although the cilantro might seem like just a garnish, it contributes tremendously to the flavor of this meal. I highly recommend including it in your version of this dish, unless you’re one of those crazy people who think it tastes like soap. 😉

Asian Roast Chicken with Carrots and Red Pepper

Serves 2

4 meaty chicken wings
2 large carrots
2 medium red bell peppers
4 tbsp coconut aminos, tamari, or soy sauce
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp olive oil
1 inch piece freshly ground ginger
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp fresh cilantro
salt to taste (optional depending on saltiness of your chosen aminos/soy product)

Combine coconut aminos, coconut oil, olive oil, ginger, garlic powder, and salt in a large zip lock bag. Cut 2-3 small slits in each chicken wing to expose more meat to the marinade. Place chicken in bag and marinate, refrigerated, for at least one hour.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400F. Add chopped carrots and red peppers to the bag, covering well with marinade. Pour contents of bag into a baking dish and cook for 20-25 minutes.

Sprinkle with cilantro leaves before serving.

This recipe has been shared on this week’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesday and Allergy Free Wednesday. Check them out for more creative, healthy recipes!

Whole30 Beef Stew

Once a week, I get to leave work in the early afternoon. I usually head into the city for yoga, but every now and then I come home and have a lazy afternoon reading, watching TV or movies, and relaxing. On those days, I love making beef stew. Hanging out at home while the aroma of slowly cooking meat and veggies fills the room is such a blissful escape from the usual routine.

I started my first Whole30 this week, so I’ve been spending a lot of time planning meals that will be hearty and filling even though they don’t contain any grains,legumes, or dairy. I tend to get a lot of my calories from those sources, and since weight loss is not one of my Whole30 goals, I have to make sure to plan substantial meals! Beef stew seemed like a great place to start.

20130704-214546.jpg

Typically, I make my beef stew with carrots and celery as the main vegetables and have a piece of gluten free bread or some rice on the side. Since that’s off limits during my Whole30, I decided to add pumpkin to fill out the stew a little more.

If you are making this stew while doing a Whole30 and decide to use store-bought broth, make sure it doesn’t contain added sugar!

Whole30 Beef Stew

Serves 2

.75 lb stew beef (I recommend chuck roast)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 cup water, divided
1 cup beef broth, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large celery rib, chopped
1 cup cubed pumpkin

Brown beef in hot olive oil in medium-large saucepan. Once beef is browned on all sides, add 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup beef broth, onion, garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and paprika and bring to a boil. Cover and lower to a simmer for 1 and 1/2 hours.

Add additional 1/2 cup water,1/2 cup broth, carrots, and celery. Return to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes.

Add pumpkin, cover, and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Cooked Spinach and Salmon Salad

Some of the recipes I post on this blog are created with the blog in mind. I’ll know from the get-go that I’m going to write a post about the meal, so I’ll take pictures along the way and generally try to keep my cooking space neat and clean and my ingredients well measured.

This recipe is not one of those! This “salad” happened totally on accident while I was making some curried spinach and salmon for dinner tonight. Instead of putting the spinach and salmon on a plate, I put them in a large bowl, and the idea of a cooked spinach salad took hold. I threw in half an avocado and a big handful of sunflower seeds and all of a sudden I had an awesome new dish.

20130702-205415.jpg

This salad reminds me of my Curried Shrimp and Avocado Salad, but the cooked spinach and curry powder throughout gives it a much heartier feel. Even though it’s light, this is the kind of dish that could satisfy me even when I’m having a major urge to stuff my face!

Cooked Spinach and Salmon Salad

Serves 1

1 salmon fillet
2 cups spinach
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tbsp curry powder, divided
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
half an avocado, cubed
handful raw sunflower seeds
Salt and pepper to taste

Season skinless side of salmon fillet with salt, pepper, garlic powder and 1/2 tbsp curry powder. Sauté over medium-high heat in 1 tbsp olive oil, skin side down, until mostly cooked through. Flip toward the end to cook the seasoned side.

While the salmon cooks, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat and add garlic. Wash and drain the spinach, but leave some water clinging to the leaves. When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the spinach, 1/2 tbsp curry powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir frequently, cooking for 3-5 minutes until spinach is considerably wilted.

Put spinach in a bowl, and top with the salmon fillet, chopped into several large chunks. Add avocado and sunflower seeds.

Mesquite Cinnamon Smoothie

One of my favorite parts of blogging about my “fulfilled” lifestyle is discovering new ingredients on the blogs of like-minded eaters. On my last trip to the health food store, I came across mesquite powder. I’d read about this superfood, which has a nutty, caramel-like flavor, on a few blogs, and decided to give it a try.

20130701-104518.jpg
Since I’ve never had it before, I wasn’t exactly sure what type of recipes I wanted to create with it. I decided to start with a smoothie this morning.

20130701-104656.jpg
I used coconut milk, banana, yogurt, ice, mesquite powder, and ground cinnamon in my smoothie. If you want to make a vegan or dairy-free version, you could do it easily by leaving out the yogurt and adding a little extra banana. If you want a thicker smoothie, start with cold coconut milk so you don’t need the ice!

The end result was creamy and satisfying, although I wasn’t able to completely pick out the flavor of the mesquite. I may just have to try a small taste of this stuff straight-up so I can figure out what else I want to use it in!

Mesquite Cinnamon Smoothie

1 cup coconut milk
1 large banana
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tbsp mesquite powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, plus more to top
4-6 ice cubes

Combine ingredients in blender. Serve topped with additional cinnamon.

Steak Salad with Beetroot

Nick and I have been working as a team when it comes to dinner lately. The warm summer weather has made grilling a fantastic option, so oftentimes Nick heads to the roof to grill some meat while I prepare the rest of our meal inside.

Aside from the fun of grilling, an added benefit is that this method cuts the prep time for our meals in half! We put together this delicious steak salad in 10 minutes!

20130625-120506.jpg
Steak Salad with Beetroot

Serves 2

1/2 lb. lean steak
5 oz arugula
1 medium roasted beet, cut into small cubes
2 slices bacon, cut into small squares
1/4 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 and 1/2 oz crumbled blue cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil and vinegar to taste

Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is coated with fat from the bacon, add the onion slices and salt and sauté. While the bacon and onions are cooking, combine the arugula, blue cheese, and beet in a serving bowl. Add onions, bacon, salt and pepper and mix again.

Cook your steak as desired on the grill or in a skillet. Slice into strips and serve warm on top of the salad. Serve with olive oil and vinegar of your choice.