Tajaditas Dulces de Platano

As the voting for Shape.com’s Best Healthy Eating Blog competition winds down, I am now a “front-runner” (apparently 7th place out of 20 makes me a front-runner) and have been asked to submit a short essay about myself and my blog (thank you SO MUCH for your help, Jen!!) which I’ll post here as soon as they tell me what format to submit in.

Aw, to hell with it – they’re getting a Word document.  I just hope they can read it.

This week, I’m going to talk a bit about something called The 80/20 Rule.  Popularized by Mark Sisson (sorry, Beloved, I know you’re upset with him because he hasn’t mentioned the Shape.com contest), it’s the idea that if you eat “cleanly” 80% of the time, you can eat less desirable foods the remaining 20%.  For some people, that means not necessarily sticking to their diet when they go out to eat, for some it includes things like the occasional beer and pizza, and for a few it means potato chips, ice cream and candy bars.

Because I simply cannot tolerate gluten-bearing grains or cow’s dairy at all, for us it means things like using more natural sweeteners than we probably should and occasionally consuming legumes, white rice, corn and white potatoes.  The corn and potatoes are mostly seasonal additions to our diet – we eat them two or three times in the fall when they’re at their peak – and the white rice is almost exclusively an indulgence when eating at our favorite Japanese restaurant.  Legumes, mostly in the form of properly prepared dried beans, have become a recent occasional indulgence – but more on that in a couple of days.

Another part of the 20% in our household is indulging in the occasional non-local (but still organic and sustainably grown/sourced) food.  This weekend we visited a marvelous natural foods store in Akron and purchased squid, sea scallops and 3 large plantains.  The squid and scallops are on the menu for later this week, and the most ripe of the plantains became part of breakfast Sunday morning in the form of this delicious South American/Caribbean side dish.

Tajaditas Dulces de Plantano roughly translates into sauteed sweet plantains (tajaditas is the diminutive form of tajadas, which means “slice” or “slab”).  Rather than sauteed, these are fried in coconut oil but you can also use a combination of olive oil and butter if you prefer.   Make sure your plantains are very ripe, or the taste and texture of the dish will suffer.

Tajaditas Dulces de Platano

Tajaditas Dulces de Platano

serves 3

¼ cup coconut oil
1 large very ripe plantain, peeled and cut in 1-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
kosher or sea salt, to taste

Heat coconut oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Gently toss plantain slices with brown sugar, then place into hot oil. Fry until the plantains begin to turn golden brown and the sugar begins to caramelize, about 2 or 3 minutes per side.

Drain plantains on a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt before serving.

Nutrition (per serving): 161 calories, 9.3g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 2.4mg sodium, 297.7mg potassium, 21.4g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, 11.3g sugar, <1g protein.

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Cream of Tomato Soup

I understand it’s still pretty warm (“hot” would be an accurate description) in many parts of the country, but here in northeast Ohio the weather is chilly, gray and dreary.

In other words, it’s autumn.  Soup weather!

Once in awhile, I find myself with the need to use only a portion of one of the 372 jars of tomato sauce and stuck for what to do with the rest of it.  One answer is to haul out another jar and make this lovely cream of tomato soup.  It’s quick and easy and completely dairy-free if you use the coconut milk instead of the cream.  I included the honey because my tomato sauce was a bit on the acidic side – feel free to leave it out if you like.  (It’s also vegan if you use the coconut milk and leave out the honey, but don’t let that deter you – it’s still an awesome soup).  You can, of course, use canned tomato sauce; read the label and make sure there’s no sugar or anything else undesirable in it.  The soup isn’t really smooth, even if you dice the onion very finely, but you can always make it so by running it through a blender or food processor.

For someone who was a Campbell’s Cream of Tomato soup junkie in my youth, this quick and off-the-cuff lunch was surprisingly satisfying.

As written, each serving is about 3/4 cup – sorry about that, Gretchen!  We ate ours with bunless burgers, but if you’re going for a lighter meal, this would make two large servings and be pretty filling.

Cream of Tomato Soup

Cream of Tomato Soup

serves 4

1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups tomato sauce
1 tablespoon raw honey (optional)
1/2 cup coconut milk or heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
fresh basil, coarsely chopped

Heat the olive oil in a small, enameled cast iron Dutch oven over medium low heat. Cook the onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes; add the garlic and cook another minute more.

Add the tomato sauce to the onion/garlic mixture and cook bring to a simmer; continue cooking, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Stir in the coconut milk or cream and honey, if needed; remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide evenly between 4 small soup bowls or plates. Garnish with the fresh basil and serve immediately.

Nutrition (per serving): 181 calories, 13.1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 967.4mg sodium, 690.8mg potassium, 16.2g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 12.6g sugar, 3.2g protein.

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Honey-Soy Carrots and Sugar Snap Peas

This was one of those dishes that was just thrown together because of a lack of planning it sounded good and, aside from the tons of tomato sauce we canned, was the first time we truly benefited from all of the preserving we did this summer.  When we signed up for the CSA co-op this year, we received a sheet from our farmers explaining that they were going to plant extra of certain crops for those of us who are nuts enough to do all this darn canning and freezing and drying.

Well, they put it a little more diplomatically than that, but you get my drift.

At any rate, we asked for extra tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, garlic and sugar snap peas.  The tomatoes were all made into sauce, the garlic was dried and sits on my kitchen counter (I was tempted to pickle it), and we never saw the cucumbers because the bugs beat us to them.  We also got quite a few pimento peppers unexpectedly that we roasted and canned.  There was an abundance of carrots; we canned 8 pints of them, but because I cooked them beforehand they came out way to soft to eat on their own, so they will most likely go into sauces, soups and stews this winter; the remaining carrots were peeled, sliced and frozen.  These were the carrots that were used in this surprisingly tasty side dish, along with some of the 4 quarts of sugar snap peas that I froze this spring.

I’ve given directions for fresh peas and carrots, but as I said above, frozen worked just fine – just adjust the cooking times accordingly.  These went very well with the Sweet and Sour Meatloaf.

Honey-Soy Carrots and Sugar Snap Peas

Honey-Soy Carrots and Sugar Snap Peas

serves 3

1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 tablespoon tamari or wheat-free soy sauce
1 tablespoon raw honey
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the carrot slices in a small, heavy skillet with the chicken stock; bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook until the carrots are tender crisp, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the sugar snap peas and continue cooking until the peas are hot and most of the chicken stock has cooked away, another 2 or 3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and add the tamari and honey; toss the vegetables until they are evenly glazed. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Nutrition (per serving): 63 calories, <1g total fat, 1.2mg cholesterol, 418.8mg sodium, 217.7mg potassium, 12.6g carbohydrates, 1.6g fiber, 9.1g sugar, 2.6g protein.

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Sweet and Sour Meatloaf

Hey, y’all!  I’d like to thank everyone who’s been voting and spreading the word about the Best Healthy Eating Blog competition over at Shape.com.  You’re all so wonderful!  Just a clarification, though – it won’t block you from voting more than once, but it won’t count it; if you vote a second time, when it takes you to the results page, scroll up to the top of the list and you’ll see a message saying, “Thank you, we have already counted your vote.”  I’ve dropped to 7th place (not that I ever expected to win), but everyone that I’m ahead of, I’m ahead of by a comfortable margin.  I really appreciate your support – there’s 10 more days of voting, so if you can continue to spread the word of the only paleo/primal/real food blog in the running, I’ll be ever so grateful.

Sorry there was no post on Friday, but I spent the day playing one of my most important roles:  Grandma.  No photos, sorry; I took my camera but I just wanted to spend time doing the grandparent thing rather than documenting it, if you get my meaning.  Not to worry, though – The G Man is going to spend an entire week at the Sushi Bar the week following Thanksgiving while his Mommy takes a trip, and you can bet I’ll find plenty of opportunities to follow him around while saying, “G – look at Grandma and smile, honey!!”

But now to the business at hand.  You know, it was warm and sunny (albeit windy) in Cincinnati this weekend, but when we returned to Podunk it was wet, dreary and cold…all part and parcel of autumn in northeast Ohio.  I had a hankering for something resembling Chinese food last night, but it was clearly meatloaf weather, so I threw this together.  I have to admit, it was pretty darn good, too, as were the side dishes, one of which I’ll likely post later this week.  It doesn’t take any longer than a traditional meatloaf, and it is reminiscent of good old Chinese-American Sweet and Sour without the fake bright red color.  If you need an endorsement – The Young One gobbled it down in about 7.3 seconds.

Note:  I made two smaller meatloaves to shorten the cooking time; you can make one large meatloaf if you wish.  Also, if you want to make it a little more “authentic” (although there’s precious little that’s authentic about Chinese-American Sweet and Sour), use ground pork instead of ground beef.  Also, if you cannot find coconut sugar, use an equal amount of honey or – as a last resort – sucanat (evaporated cane juice).

Sweet and Sour Meatloaf

Sweet and Sour Meatloaf

serves 6 to 8

2 pounds ground beef, preferably grass-fed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 tablespoon lard or butter
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup coconut sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Melt the lard or butter in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion and bell pepper, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Whisk together the tomato sauce, coconut sugar, apple cider vinegar and mustard in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, egg, salt, pepper, onion/bell pepper mixture and ¼ cup of the tomato sauce mixture, mixing well with your hands. Form it into two loaves and place them in a shallow glass baking pan. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

While the meatloaves are baking, pour the remaining tomato sauce mixture into the skillet you cooked the onion and bell pepper in. Cook it over medium heat, stirring frequently, until reduced by about half and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and set aside.

After 30 minutes, remove the meatloaves from the oven. Glaze them with the thickened tomato sauce mixture and return to the oven. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer.

Allow the meatloaves to rest for 5 to 7 minutes before slicing and serving.

Nutrition (per serving): 352 calories, 25.8g total fat, 109.8mg cholesterol, 546.2mg sodium, 439.8mg potassium, 6.6g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 5.5g sugar, 21.5g protein.

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Turnips and Greens

I just want to thank each and every one of you has voted for Jan’s Sushi Bar for Shape.com’s Best Healthy Eating Blog competition, and those of you who have spread the word of the contest.  You are all so wonderful – I was (and am) overwhelmed by your support.  Again, thank you so much!  Voting continues through October 28, and there seems to be no limit on how many votes you can cast, so I humbly beg for you to continue to vote and help get the word out – again, I am the only paleo/primal/real food blog in the running.  Clicking this link will take you directly to the voting page.

And now on to business.

Among the many seasonal vegetables available this time of year, turnips are overflowing at our farmer’s market, and are pretty inexpensive at the grocery store as well.  I know for many people, turnips provoke the same sort of response as another ubiquitous fall/winter root vegetable – beets – and that response is not exactly positive.  I posted a recipe for Roasted Beets and Wilted Greens in Feburary 2010, and the only other recipes I’ve ever posted that had more negative feedback are the two beef liver recipes.  Which is really a shame, because those beets are very good.  And, when cooked properly, turnips and their greens are also quite delicious – turnips have a mild, slightly sweet flavor and their greens are firm and chewy –  and they are so very, very good for us.  Turnip greens are an excellent source of A, C and K, and have an appreciable amount of calcium, as well.

This is a hearty, and pretty straight-forward, side dish that goes well with beef dishes like pot roast.  If you want to get really “Southern” with it, sprinkle a few drops of cider vinegar on the greens before serving.

Note:  If your turnips come without greens, or the greens are unsuitable for cooking, substitute another green – collards work very well with this recipe.  You can also substitute the bacon fat/butter with olive oil and the chicken stock with vegetable broth to make this vegetarian.

Turnips and Greens

Turnips and Greens

serves 6

3 medium turnips
1 pound turnip greens, or other greens such as collards
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons bacon fat or butter
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Wash the turnips and greens thoroughly; remove the greens from the turnips, if necessary, and strip them of any heavy center veins. Tear or cut the greens into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl of ice water to prevent them wilting. Set aside.

Peel the turnips and dice. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add the diced turnips; cook just until they start to become tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Melt the bacon fat or butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion until soft and almost translucent, but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute more.  Toss the turnips in with the onion and garlic mixture; increase the heat slightly and cook until the turnips begin to brown slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the greens and chicken stock; reduce the heat slightly and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are wilted and tender, but not mushy, and the turnips are cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium high, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 additional minutes, or until the majority of the liquid in the pan has evaporated.

Season to taste with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, if desired, before serving.

Nutrition (per serving): 100 calories, 5.1g total fat, 5.3mg cholesterol, 135.3mg sodium, 401.3mg potassium, 12g carbohydrates, 3.7g fiber, 4.1g sugar, 2.9g protein.

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