Well, hello there.

If you’re wondering if I’d fallen off the edge of the earth, you’re not alone – I’ve been wondering that myself.  But no, just extremely busy (more on that tomorrow).

I’d mentioned a bit earlier that ever since The Young One has been off to college, I hadn’t felt much like cooking.  Or at least cooking anything worthy of a blog post; most of it’s been either recipes I’ve posted before, or stuff so simple that you could hardly call it “cooking.”  A lot of it couldn’t even remotely be considered “paleo” (but again, more on that tomorrow).

At any rate, I have prepared a few things worthy of a photograph and blog post – this is one of them.

My first husband was (is, I suppose, since he’s still living) Hispanic, and his grandmother was one of the finest cooks I’ve had the privilege to have known.  It was she who introduced me to authentic Mexican cuisine, rather than the Tex-Mex I’d grown up with, and her handmade tortillas, refried beans, menudo, and caldo de res were beyond compare.  I couldn’t wait for the holidays every year, when she and my mother-in-law would crank out enormous batches of tamales, both sweet and savory, and the buñuelos she made us as a treat for New Years were the best I, or probably anyone else, have ever tasted.

And she introduced me to Migas.

In the Mexican-American household – or at least, her Mexican-American household – Migas is a simple dish of eggs scrambled together with bite-size pieces of corn tortillas, and I loved it from the first time I took a bite.  Having said that, it occurred to me when I made this particular recipe that I hadn’t eaten it in over 25 years.  You see, when I was pregnant with Darling Daughter (in 1986 – yeah, I’m that old), migas was one of those things that, for no good reason I could tell, just turned my stomach – I simply couldn’t eat it. (Pregnancy will often play horrible tricks like that on you.)  I re-entered the workforce when she was about 6 months old, and I guess it just never occurred to me to ever cook it again.  I don’t know why.

Fast forward to a couple of days after Christmas.  Jolly and The G Man had spent Christmas Eve with us, and I had made Mexican for dinner, which included beef and cheese enchiladas.  (Hey, it was our Christmas Eve dinner – we could eat what we liked.  And we did.)  So, here I was, left with half a package of corn tortillas sitting in my fridge, softly calling to me, “Here we are…are you going to let us go bad?’

The answer to that would be, “No.”  And Migas, which Beloved had never eaten before, was the result.

Ironically, this version is a gussied-up, restaurant-style, Tex-Mex version of the simple dish Grandma taught me, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious.  You can, of course, make it with just the eggs and tortillas, but the addition of the vegetables is just wonderful.  You can also leave out the cheese and half and half for a dairy-free version, or you can leave out the tortillas if you’re avoiding grains.  It won’t be Migas without them, of course, but it’ll still be pretty darn good.

Migas. Simple Tex-Mex comfort food at its finest.

Click the image to enlarge

Serves: 4
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 8 corn tortillas, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack or cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Whisk together the eggs and half and half until well blended; set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to soften and the onion turns translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the jalapeno and cook for another minute more.
  3. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the pan. Stir the tortillas into the vegetable mixture and cook for one minute; pour in the egg mixture and stir gently to combine. Reduce the heat slightly and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the eggs are softly scrambled. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then gently stir in the tomatoes.
  4. Divide the Migas between 4 plates; top each with cheese and serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 479 calories, 30.8g total fat, 430.2mg cholesterol, 350.2mg sodium, 457mg potassium, 27.7g carbohydrates, 4.3g fiber, 3.8g sugar, 23.7g protein

Fried Okra, Revisited

The Young One is officially a college student and we are officially empty nesters.  And Beloved is officially going crazy attempting to track down odd noises in the house, which I also hear. (For what it’s worth, I think we’re so accustomed to noises from the second floor of the house that we’re hearing things that aren’t there.)  Things are still crazy busy in Sushi Land, but hopefully it will all start to wind down soon, and I can actually cook something again that is worth posting.

Now, on that note, we’ve begun harvesting the late summer crops from our garden; mostly tomatoes, but we’ve got some kale and chard ready to go – we’ve even harvested a huge spaghetti squash.  But among our favorite late summer foods is – yes, we’re southern – the humble okra.

Okra probably originated somewhere around Ethiopia , and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians as early as 1200 B.C.  It came to Caribbean and the U.S. in the 1700s, probably brought by slaves from West Africa, and was introduced to Western Europe soon after.  Despite the fact we treat it like a vegetable, like tomatoes, okra is really a fruit.

And a tasty, tasty fruit it is!  Many people don’t like okra because of its mucilaginous quality, which is a polite way of saying that it can get “slimy” when cooked.  Leaving the pods intact, such as Roasted Okra, combining it with acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes (Tomato Okra Soup) or vinegar, or long, slow cooking, such as gumbo, will often help mitigate the sliminess.

Slicing, “breading” and frying it will also keep the “slime factor” to a minimum.  It will, in fact, turn the okra into a crunchy, delicious bit of heaven.  When I first posted this recipe two years ago, I just used almond flour as a substitute for the traditional white flour and cornmeal; delicious, but a little on the heavy side.  In this version, I replace half the almond flour with tapioca flour – it lightens up the coating, and helps keep it crisp.  A little more carby, perhaps, but still considerably better than the traditional version, and every bit as tasty.

Fried Okra is well loved in the south – and for a good reason!  This one is gluten- and corn-free.Click the image to enlarge

Fried Okra, Revisited
Serves: 4
  • 2 cups sliced okra
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 cup tallow or other fat suitable for frying
  1. Mix the almond and tapioca flours with the salt, pepper and cayenne in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate. In a small bowl, whisk the egg together with the water. Set aside.
  2. Melt the tallow or cooking fat in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat to a temperature of 350 F. Toss half the sliced okra in the egg wash and remove using a slotted spoon, allowing the excess to run off. Add the okra to the seasoned flour mixture and lightly toss until well coated.
  3. Fry the coated okra until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes, turning once about halfway through. Remove the okra from the fat with a spatula or slotted spoon, transferring to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  4. Repeat with the remaining okra. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 395 calories, 32.9g total fat, 74.4mg cholesterol, 492.4mg sodium, 263.8mg potassium, 19.9g carbohydrates, 3.7g fiber, 1.2g sugar, 2.7g protein

Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy

Yes – chicken fried steak.

With gravy.

It’s been a long time since I’ve made chicken fried steak, which is really a shame because Beloved, The Young One and I all really love it.  But I thought once I’d given up grains and dairy that I’d never have it again, and that made me sad – chicken fried steak may be the state dish of Oklahoma, but we Texans are quite fond of it, as well, and it’s literally been years since I’ve eaten any.

But when we were watching Patty be cut up a couple of weeks ago, I was watching them slice our round steaks when a thought popped into my head.

“Hey, can you tenderize some of that?”

I’d no sooner asked, when they whipped out this contraption:

Meat Tenderizer

And before I knew it, half of our round steaks had been tenderized, and I was thinking about how to make grain-free, dairy-free chicken fried steak.  With gravy.

And all was right with the world.

The actual cooking of the dish went fairly smoothly once I’d decided how I was going to go about it.  Now, for those readers with nut allergies (hi, Keith!), I used almond milk for the gravy but you could use So Delicious ® Unsweetened Coconut Beverage, or even just dilute canned coconut milk with water and it should work just fine (I may use the latter option myself next time).  I will say that I wasn’t sure about the gravy when I tasted it by itself – it just doesn’t taste like a gravy made with milk (of course) – but once it was on the steak, it was all wonderful.  I really couldn’t have been more pleased.

This is neither low calorie nor low carb – I don’t think anyone would classify chicken fried steak as “health food” under any circumstance – but as an occasional treat, it is a delicious comfort food alternative for those of us who do not consume grains or dairy, either by choice or necessity.

Note:  if you want to sub the tapioca and almond milk with flour and cow’s milk, go right ahead – the recipe is pretty much the basic one for chicken fried steak.  With gravy.

Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy
Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy
Serves: 6
  • 2 pounds round steak, cut into 6 equal pieces and tenderized
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • few grinds black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond milk or other milk substitute
  • 2 cups tallow
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 2 cups almond milk or other milk substitute, at room temperature
  1. Melt the tallow in a large, heavy skillet over high heat; bring to 350 F.
  2. Stir the salt, pepper and tapioca flour together in a shallow dish. Whisk together the eggs and 1/2 cup almond milk or milk substitute in a medium bowl until well blended.
  3. Dredge the pieces of steak in the tapioca flour, shaking off the excess. Dip them in the egg mixture, then coat them again with the seasoned tapioca.
  4. Place the steaks in the tallow and fry until they are brown and crispy, and the steak is just cooked through, turning once. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate and keep warm.
  5. Place two tablespoons of the remaining tallow in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk the two tablespoons of tapioca starch into the 2 cups of room temperature almond milk or milk substitute, then whisk the tapioca mixture slowly and steadily into the tallow in the saucepan. Cook, stirring continuously, until the gravy reaches desired consistency; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Plate each steak and spoon the gravy over the top. Serve immediately.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 440 calories, 21.8g total fat, 175.6mg cholesterol, 377.8mg sodium, 616.1mg potassium, 22.2g carbohydrates, 1.2g fiber, <1g sugar, 36.2g protein.


Western-Style Beans

I love beans.  We ate a lot of them growing up – they were cheap and relatively simple, if time-consuming, to prepare.

Of course, when we changed our diet legumes were one of the first things we drastically reduced; compared to fruits and vegetables, legumes are somewhat lacking nutritionally and the protein they provide simply does not compare either in quantity or quality to the protein found in animal foods (meat, eggs, dairy).  They also contain a hefty amount of low-grade toxins known as lectins which bind not only to the nutrients in the legumes themselves, preventing your body from absorbing the vitamins and minerals, but also the nutrients in any foods consumed with the legumes.  Soaking, sprouting or fermenting beans will neutralize some of the lectins, but will not eliminate them.

Now, that being said, if beans are properly prepared there are certainly worse things you could be eating (the box of pumpkin-shaped, heavily-frosted sugar cookies a client shipped to our office comes immediately to mind – and no, I have not touched them…well, other than to play “catch” with Beloved with one, so we could tell people we were tossing our cookies).  I make one batch of black beans in the early fall when sweet corn is in season so we can enjoy Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa, and recently I made this recipe to go with a HUGE brisket that Beloved smoked.

When I first moved to northeast Ohio, I sorely missed Ranch Style Beans which had been a staple in my mother’s Taco Salad – something of an institution in our family; so popular, in fact, that Oldest Son, who only performs the most rudimentary cooking, often makes it himself.  I missed them so badly that I asked everyone who came to visit us from Texas to smuggle cans in their luggage.  (What’s amusing about that is that after awhile I had so many cans that I gave many of them away – we simply couldn’t eat them all.)  While Taco Salad is no longer on the menu, the beans go very, very well with smoked and barbecued food, and when I suggested them to Beloved as a treat with our brisket, his eyes lit up.

So, here they are (I just don’t call them “Ranch Style Beans” here because there’s the whole brand-name thing and all).  I don’t miss burgers or pizza or candy or cookies or cake or pie (well, maybe pie a little bit), but when it comes to thinking about what I’m going to eat 20% of the time that might be less than optimal for my health and well-being, properly prepared beans are definitely an option.  And when made in this recipe, a delicious one at that.

Note:  A tablespoon or two of vinegar or lemon juice in the soaking water will help neutralize those pesky lectins – just make sure to drain and rinse the beans after you’ve soaked them.

Western-Style Beans

Western-Style Beans

serves 8

1 pound dried pinto beans
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon lard or butter
2 cups tomato sauce
3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 cup water
6 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Soak the beans overnight (or longer), covered in very warm water. Drain the soaked beans.

In a 6-quart stock pot or Dutch oven, melt the tablespoon of lard or butter over medium heat and cook the onions for until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the tomato sauce, ancho chile power, coconut sugar, apple cider vinegar, paprika, cumin, oregano, water and beef stock.

Stir in the soaked pinto beans; bring the pot to a boil and cover. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for two and ahalf to four hours, stirring occasionally, or until the beans are tender and the chili sauce has thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve.

Nutrition (per serving): 271 calories, 3.1g total fat, 1.5mg cholesterol, 735.9mg sodium, 1428.6mg potassium, 45.2g carbohydrates, 11.2g fiber, 6g sugar, 17.3g protein.

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Posted in participation of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday

Texas Style Chili, Revisited

Remember how I said I was going to look at some of my old recipes and retrofit them to suit our new way of eating?  Turns out, going through the cookbook files, I already had begun.  And with the logical choice.

In January 2009, I not only posted my recipe for chili, but damn near wrote a treatise on the subject.

At the end of Goodfellas when Ray Liota’s character enters the Federal witness protection program and is relocated far from his home (one presumes NYC), he laments that he asked for spaghetti with marinara sauce at a restaurant and received egg noodles with ketchup.

I can relate, for the first time I ordered chili in Ohio, I received tomato soup with ground beef and beans in it.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been too terribly surprised; I honestly thought I’d gone beyond surprised when connecting through the airport at Cincinnati and saw that these nutty Ohioans eat their version of chili on a bed of spaghetti.

Hey – we Texans take our chili very seriously.

I went on to discuss not only what should and should not go into chili (yes to beans, no to ground beef and poultry), but what to eat with chili (yes to corn tortillas, cornbread, saltines and Fritos, no to flour tortillas and any cracker that’s not a saltine).  For the most part, I stand by my rules for what goes into chili – yes, even the beans, although I don’t always include them and when I do they’re properly prepared (pre-soaked in an acidic medium) and in far fewer quantities than pre-paleo/primal/real food/whatever you want to call it.  But the accompaniments have sadly gone the way of the dodo, although my Savory Almond Flour Muffins are a fine replacement for cornbread.

At any rate, autumn is upon us in most areas of the country and it’s a fine time to revisit what is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the best damn chili outside of the great state of Texas.  And I have to tell ya, adapting this recipe was hard work, folks.

I took out the beans.

Texas Style Chili

Texas Style Chili

serves 6

2 pounds chuck or round steak, cut into 1″ cubes
2 tablespoons beef tallow
3 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 medium roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 medium roasted green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large Poblano pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 medium jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican oregano
4 to 6 cups cups beef stock, preferably homemade

Heat the tallow in a large, preferably cast iron, Dutch oven or stock pot. Season the beef with salt and pepper, and brown in the fat. Add the onion, cooking until the onion begins to soften. Add the peppers and garlic, and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, paprika and oregano, cooking until fragrant, another 1 – 2 minutes.

Add enough of the stock to cover the mixture well; bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 hours, until meat is tender, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if the liquid is boiling away too quickly.  Once the meat is fork tender, continue to cook, uncovered, until mixture thickens, 15 to 20 minutes.

Garnish with cheese, sour cream and/or guacamole, as desired.

Nutrition (per serving): 456 calories, 30.7g total fat, 104.3mg cholesterol, 647.4mg sodium, 1287.1mg potassium, 12.4g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 4.9g sugar, 35.2g protein.

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