food

Chocolate Banana Protein Bread

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One of my friends gave me a recipe for ultra light banana bread. The thing is, I’m not one for substitutes (fake egg, chemical sugar substitutes, etc). I think there’s a trade off of biting the bullet for “real” ingredients over zero fat or zero sugar additives that may save you calories, but give you a nice serving of processed crap instead. I don’t want finding ingredients to be a bitch, I don’t want chemicals in there or for the flavor to leave a weird coating on my tongue. I want my food to be mostly clean, but I’m no die hard. That’s just me. And I’m an ass, so by no means do you have to agree. Point is, I’m eating this banana bread and without the egg substitute and with real sugar it’s good. It’s an absolutely fine banana bread. But I am trying to be very conscious of everything I put in my body. That banana bread didn’t give me anything. So how could I get it to give me more?

Well, for starters I added dark chocolate. Ya know, for the antioxidants or whatever the hell. I substituted some of the flour for organic protein powder, changed the sugar substitute to real sugar and reduced the amount, added a little fat for moisture, and now have a protein boosted Banana Bread/Muffin for a quick breakfast to go prior to work.

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Chocolate Banana Protein Bread

1 cup + 2 TBSP whole wheat flour (or all purpose or some mix of the two, doesn’t matter)

2 scoops (1 serving) Orgain Organic Chocolate Protein Powder

1/2 cup granulated sugar (Or sugar substitute. You do you.)

2 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp Vanilla

1 1/2 to 2 cups smashed over-ripe bananas

2 eggs

2 TBSP Greek Yogurt (or light sour cream or regular sour cream or 0% greek yogurt)

1/2 cup Apple Sauce (or no sugar added applesauce)

1/4 cup Ghirardelli dark chocolate bittersweet chips

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Preheat ye olde oven to 350 degrees. Take a bread pan or muffin tin (makes 8 muffins) and spray with non-stick spray. Mix everything, except the chocolate in a bowl. Seriously. Just chuck it all in at once, skip the pomp & circumstance of sifting this or blending that or creaming. Screw that. Just put everything in a bowl and mix it with a hand blender, a good spoon, or your kitchenaid mixer. Once mixed well and mostly smooth, pour the batter into your prepped bread pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes for bread (35-40 minutes for muffins) or until a tooth pick comes out mostly clean. I like my bread moist, a little dense. If you want yours dryer or more cake like, cook it longer.

Let cool for an hour at least. I took mine out of the oven and let it cool a good couple of hours, then I sliced it into 8 pieces, wrapped them individually, and stacked them in the fridge for a quick grab-&-go breakfast for during the week. Each slice has less than 200 calories, 3 grams of fat, and about 8 grams of protein. That’s a lot less sodium, less fat, and less calories than an Odwalla, Kind, or Clif Bar and more protein than the Kind. And CHOCOLATE! Boom.

 

 

Austin Gastro Graze: Micklethwait Craft Meats Trailer

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I heard about this little trailer in a recent BBQ write-up featuring numerous places in the Austin area. Opened only right around 9 months, the critic reviewed Micklethwait Craft Meats as “..the next Franklin’s.” And that’s something any self-respecting Austin resident doesn’t ignore.

We headed down to their location near Hillside Farmacy about 11:15 am on a Saturday. They’re located at 1309 Rosewood Ave., near east 11th. There was little to no parking in their tiny lot, but no line for their food, either. Quite the contrast to Franklin’s just down the street. The yellow painted trailer and impeccable picnic tables were a welcome site, surrounded by trees on a sunny morning. It’s a great little spot for what would turn out to be the best bbq I have ever had within Austin’s limits.

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We ordered a half pound of brisket, 3 pork spare ribs, a side of jalapeno cheddar grits, cole slaw, a pork belly sausage, and a homemade Moon Pie. The total came to just under $30 and was more than enough food for 3 people. They accept both cash and credit cards (yes, their Facebook page says Cash Only; this is incorrect, coming from their people directly). I’m in the mood for BBQ about once a month…maybe once every 6 weeks. I’ve been killing to go back to Micklethwait’s since I first bit into their brisket. And it’s only been 3 days.

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Their meat is sold by the quarter pound. This makes getting ribs a little awkward, I tend to order them by the number, “I’d like 47 pork ribs in my face right now, please”, but their customer service is stellar and they were patient with my less than perfect order style. All meat is about $13 a pound, rather than different prices for different cuts, and they also do plates, but I’m a choosie kind of girl when it comes to my Q and just order by weight. Their sides are $1.50 a piece and their cheesy creamy cheddar jalapeno grits were AMAZING. Perfect texture, not too salty, very flavorful and creamy, and an excellent compliment to their meat. The cole slaw was homemade as well, bright, a little citrusy, but paled in comparison to the grits.

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The meat. Holy crap, where do I begin? I’m an opportunivore when it comes to love. I’m not biased for men only or women or dinosaurs. If something is worthy of true love, it earns mine – but it must be worthy. And Micklethwait’s brisket is sooooo worthy. Tender, juicy, perfectly seasoned, flavorful and perfect. They give you a little cup of sauce, but you don’t need it. If someone told me Micklethwait’s brisket was actually Solient Green I wouldn’t love it any less (or, rather, Soylent. Thanks, Dave). It’s THAT GOOD. Their ribs were big and meaty, and so juicy that I took video of the juice dripping out of the pork as I went to take a bite. That’s love right there. Now, I’m not a huge sausage fan. If it’s not a jalapeno cheddar brought out of New Braunfels I probably won’t eat it, but their pork belly sausage was very tasty and a nice change of pace to the usual merely spicy or overly-greasy BBQ joint sausage.

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We ended the meal with one of Micklethwait’s homemade Moon Pies. Flaky, sweet, moist, and creamy, not to mention massive, it was an excellent ending to a fantastic meal. I’m not sure these are the best for a hot summer’s day because the chocolate does get messy, but they come out of a cooler all nice and chilly, and the sweetness cuts through the savory meat flavor, perfectly rounding out a great meal.

Is it better or as good as Franklin’s? Well, them’s fightin’ words and it’s too early in my young years to get into that kind of debate. What I can say, however, is I have no problem skipping the line at Franklin’s and hitting up this joint and I certainly don’t feel I’m missing anything. I no longer have to drive to Lockhart or stand around on hot pavement for three hours to get great brisket and ribs. I can get incredible Q right here in Austin from a food truck and not have to take a half day from work to do it, provided Micklethwait is open. And I believe it will only be a matter of time until they either have to expand or start running out of food early in the day due to popularity. Bottom line is they’re just that good.

UPDATE: I went with coworkers for lunch today. I got a single huge 1/3 pound pork rib, a 1/4 pound of brisket, 2 bottles of water, and a small side of grits. Myself and a male friend split the meal and the entire thing was $11 with tip.

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Micklethwait Craft Meats trailer is open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday 11am – 3pm and is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday 4:30pm to 8pm. They are located at 1309 Rosewood Ave., near east 11th street. CASH AND CARDS ACCEPTED

Austin Gastro Graze 6: Stiles Switch

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So, I haven’t written a Gastro Graze in a while. We have been trying to cut back on eating out, but the amount of new eateries popping up in Austin hasn’t slowed. Yesterday Chip and I decided to try Stiles Switch, a new local barbecue joint on North Lamar.

Stiles Switch has a nice location with an industrial feel and, best yet, lots of parking. That being said, it was 1:30pm on Saturday…and the place was almost empty. The interior of the restaurant was very clean and well kept, and it has a more established feel than the 10 months it’s been open. The gentlemen behind the counter were very nice, as well. For our lunch, Chip and I decided on BBQ staples: 6 pork ribs, 1/2 pound of brisket, and cole slaw. There wasn’t an option for moist (fatty) or lean on the brisket, and we didn’t notice that they also served sausages until after we’d paid for lunch, so I would go back to try their jalapeño cheddar offering. I generally stay away from chicken at BBQ places, which Stiles does serve, only because of its tendency to be dry. We also got a root beer and an orange soda. The total came to $31, which means they’re a bit pricier than Black’s or Smitty’s out in Lockhart, but that’s the price of not having to drive an hour out of town.

Ribs are a staple when gorging myself on smoked meats. A rub can make or break them; I find Cooper’s to be too black peppery though Chip disagrees. Stiles had a decent rub on their ribs, however, that was a good balance of smokey, sweet, salty, with the flavor of pepper coming through without being over-powering. Our lunch order came with a cup of the Stiles sauce which was…interesting. I’m not a big fan of BBQ sauces, but they seemed to be attempting a new spin. Rather than use a base of ketchup in their sauce, it tasted heavily of canned tomato soup. It was odd to say the least, though not all together bad, but most of it remained when Chip and I finished eating.

Stiles Switch sells two kinds of cole slaw and we got a small serving of each. I’m generally not a fan of mayonnaise based cole slaws, but theirs was tasty and not heavy. Chip felt it seemed to be a very basic slaw, however, and nothing special. The other slaw they served was a lemon vinaigrette variety, which was  flavorful and bright, and a nice change of pace from the usual offering. Stiles also offered potato salad and macaroni & cheese, neither of which Chip or I tried.

Now to the brisket. I am picky about my brisket. It should be moist – but not too moist. Unfortunately, the brisket we had at Stiles was closer to beef jerky than to juicy, tender brisket found at Iron Works or Franklin’s. As you can see on the left side of the picture, this brisket is dry. It was also cut very thick, which only served to make its texture all the more unappetizing. Between the two of us, Chip and I only finished one piece of our 1/2 pound of brisket. The bark was tasty, but was ultimately too tough to enjoy.

Would I return to Stiles Switch? Yes, because I would like to try the sausage, and maybe even give the brisket a second chance, but it won’t be any time soon. Would I recommend it? Probably not. My issue that barbecue is not cheap, and there’s so much competition near and far in this area, that a restaurant really can’t afford to make less than great.

 

Spicy Coconut Curry Stir Fry with Tropical Quinoa

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In the ever constant search for something new and exciting in the kitchen, I’ve decided to start making that which I crave from restaurants. The below recipe is very similar in flavor to P.F.Chang’s/Pei Wei’s Thai Coconut Curry sauce. I made this with a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and a teaspoon of chip oil and the heat is barely noticeable, just a hint, which is nice. And my heat tolerance is not very hot at all. Filled with veggies, lean protein, and quinoa instead of rice, this is a flavorful, healthy dinner that comes together relatively quickly and is super tasty! This makes enough for 4 people. You can also use shrimp instead of chicken for extra awesomeness.

Sauce

1 TBSP Sharwood’s Mild Curry Powder (That’s what I used because it was easily found in my local grocery store, but you can use whatever you like or can find.)

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp chili oil

2 tsp ginger

juice of one lime

1 cup coconut milk (You can use Lite if you’d prefer)

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl, whisk together, and let sit for flavors to marry. Set it aside.

Stir Fry

1 20oz. can pineapple chunks, drained (reserve some liquid for the quinoa if making as below). You want to slice up a pineapple fresh? Go nuts.

1 red bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces

1 small or 1/2 large white onion, diced

1 1/2 cups snow peas

1 8oz. can baby corn, cut or whole

6 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast

2 TBSP coconut milk

3 cloves minced garlic

In a large sauté pan, caramelize or brown the pineapple chunks over medium high heat, about 10-12 minutes. Remove pineapple from pan and set aside in a bowl for later. Add a TBSP vegetable or olive oil in the same pan without cleaning the yummy residue left over from the pineapple. Add the chicken and brown, just cooking through, about 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. In the same pan add another TBSP of oil and toss in the onion and red bell pepper. After about 2 minutes, turn the heat down to medium.

Quinoa

1 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup chicken broth/stock

1 cup + 2 TBSP coconut milk

2 TBSP pineapple juice (bottled or from the can of pineapple chunks)

Place the quinoa and liquids into a sauce pan. Heat to a boil, cover, and then turn the heat down to a simmer and for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered for an additional 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and try not to immediately start gorging yourself on this. It’s super tasty, slightly sweet, and a little nutty. The perfect compliment to the Stir Fry.

Spicy Beer Poached Pulled Chicken Tacos & Crispy Baked Veggies!

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We’ll start with dinner’s side, crispy un-fried “fries”.

I am not a huge fan of potato chips. I’m really not, can’t remember the last time I bought a bag, and will take a scoop of dressing-free coleslaw over them any day (I don’t like creamy coleslaw, either). I do occasionally like fries, though, especially sweet potato fries. Actually frying the perfect fries, though, is a multi-step process and a messy pain in the ass. Oh, and they’re SUPER unhealthy. Luckily, veggies can be easily manipulated to become something else.

Baked Veggie Fries

Carrots, zucchini, parsnips cut into wedged sticks. Figure 1-2 vegetables per person.

2 TBSP olive oil

2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp black pepper

1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp red pepper flakes, optional

sprinkling of dried parsly

I took carrots, zucchini, and parsnips, but you can seriously do this with any fruit or veg. Halved Roma tomatoes would be bad ass done the same way. But I was searching for a fried sweet potato alternative. I cut the root veggies and the zucchini into somewhat evenly sized wedged sticks, equaling what was probably 4-5 cups of “fries”. It’s hard to measure sticks in bowl form. I used 1 zucchini, 2 large carrots, and 1 parsnip, and it was more than enough for 3 people.

Preheat the oven to 450 and spray a cookie sheet with Pam (or whatever cooking spray ya got). Toss the “fries” in olive oil and then toss them in the panko. The panko isn’t meant to completely coat the veggies; it’s just meant to make up for a little bit of the crunch missed from deep fried anything. Spread the sticks out on the cookie sheet and sprinkle evenly with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes if going for spicy fries. Roast at 450 for 20-25 minutes. The baked carrots are exactly like fried sweet potato. You know how people say Coke Zero tastes just like regular Coke, when, in fact, it tastes gross, plasticy, diety? Well, these actually taste JUST like sweet potato fries! You’ll be searching for ranch or honey mustard to dip them into. And they’re baked and delicious and a little crispy, too. I’m not going to say they’re “healthy” because I’m at a point where I feel like just eating at all is unhealthy (fat complex, leave it be), but they are a great alternative when you’re craving something that is truly not great for your system.

Entree Time…

The chicken was a no-brainer dinner – I wanted flavorful, moist chicken tacos! Poaching is a great way to keep chicken breast tender and juicy, but visually it ain’t pretty. Everything looks delicious when it’s in a taco, though! So, I went for it, and it’s something I’m going to add to my usual weeknight dinner line up. This recipe is more than enough for two people.

Spicy Beer Poached Chicken Tacos

6 oz. boneless chicken breast or tenderloins

1 bottle beer (I used a brown ale)

2 TBSP Franks Hot Wing Sauce

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp chili oil or red pepper flakes, optional

1 tsp kosher salt

2 TBSP brown sugar

1/4 cup orange or grapefruit juice

Dump everything, but the brown sugar and OJ into a saucepan together, stir, and bring to a simmer. You want the chicken to be mostly covered with liquid, so use a smaller sauce pan with tall sides. Once simmering, poach the chicken for about 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove the chicken breast with a slotted spoon and let rest five minutes. While the chicken is resting, add the brown sugar and orange juice to the poaching liquid in the sauce pan and bring to a boil, reducing the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2. You can add the orange juice right at the beginning, but adding it at the end and then reducing keeps its flavor bright. “Pull” the chicken apart using 2 forks, go with the grain, making it a very easy process. Once the liquid has reduced, turn off the heat and return the now pulled chicken to the sauce. Let the chicken absorb the liquid for about 5 minutes or so before making into tacos.

I topped my tacos with a little spring mix, diced tomatoes and onion, freshly cracked black pepper, and a squeeze of lime. A little sour cream  goes perfect to quell the sweet heat as well. Served with the veggie fries this was a filling dinner on the lighter side of the usual American taco meal!

Crispy Coconut Shrimp & Spicy Citrus Mint Marmalade

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I recently made a crispy baked Escolar filet with coconut. I really liked this bright, sweet, and oh-so-summery punch of flavor. As I had a bit of coconut leftover, I began to think of other foods that incorporate similar flavors that I love.

Years ago something I became addicted to (shamefully) was Outback’s Coconut shrimp. I’ve noticed a number of restaurants have picked up a similar recipe, but the last few times I’ve tried this dish, it’s been disappointing. The coating was too much or soggy, and the shrimp were small and sometimes not even cleaned.

The great thing about perfecting a recipe at home is that you control what does and does not go into it; the bad thing is once you have it down pat you find it’s harder and harder to eat out. …Maybe that’s a good thing.

The interesting part of the coconut shrimp was creating the spicy citrus marmalade that compliments the sweet coconut perfectly, and it was super easy. I fried my shrimp, thinking of this offering as an appetizer and not an entree. Frying the shrimp of course insures crispiness, but it also keeps the shrimp from shrinking as they so often do during cooking. You can bake the shrimp instead – it honestly comes out JUST as good – and directions for doing so are below.

Take the time to clean your shrimp. It’s really not that bad and you can pretend you’re a rugged chef who hunted the wilds for the bottom feeders you’re about to devour. I tend to butterfly the shrimp about 1/2 to 2/3’s of the way up the back of the shrimp because it helps it cook evenly, makes them seem larger for a more effective appetizer, and they have more surface area for the awesome dip. You don’t have to do that, but be sure to “devein” the shrimp in the very least. Surprise: It’s not a vein. It’s the poop shoot. So devein away.

Shrimp:

1 pound “Collosal” shrimp, deveined

1/4 cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup panko

1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

vegetable oil for frying (or an oven for baking!)

Spicy Citrus Mint Marmalade:

3 heaping tablespoons orange marmalade

1/2 TSBP chiffoned mint leaves

2+ tsp red pepper flakes or wasabi powder based on your heat preference

1 tsp chili oil

1 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp curry powder (IF you’re not allergic to it!…I mean, it’s optional.)

Frying directions: Fill a heavy, deep pan or stock pot with about 3 inches of oil and heat to roughly 375 degrees. The shrimp are going to cook quick and you want them to brown, but not burn. Combine the panko and coconut shreds in a bowl. While the oil is heating up, dredge your cleaned shrimp – lightly coat in flour, shaking off excess, followed by a dip in the beaten eggs, ending with a coat in the panko & coconut mixture. Fry in the oil for about 3-4 minutes per shrimp. They should start to get golden pretty quickly, and they will continue cooking a bit after you take them out of the oil, so if it’s been 3 minutes and they’re brown, pull them out and move to a paper towel coated plate to drain.

While the fried shrimp are resting, make your dipping sauce: Combine all ingredients in a bowl, adjusting the heat with more or less red pepper flakes or wasabi to fit your own preference. Remember that as it sits it will get a little spicier if you’re using red pepper flakes.

If you’d rather bake the shrimp, preheat your oven to 400. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray (Pam works), prepare the shrimp the same as if you were going to fry them,  and layout the shrimp on a single layer on the pan. Spray the tops of the shrimp with a bit of the olive oil spray. Cook for 10-12 minutes, flipping half way through. Seriously, I was surprised that these came out just as tasty as their fried counter parts, there was less mess and less calories. The only difference was there was slightly less browning as well.

Serve with slices of lime and make sure you put a few shrimp to the side for yourself because these will disappear entirely too fast. Ridiculously too fast. I recommend a pound of shrimp as an appetizer for four people who like shrimp. People seem to have a tendency to eat far more than they expect of these, like really good pizza. You may have to double the marmalade as well depending on heavy handed dippers. So freakin’ good.

Panko & Coconut Crusted Escolar with Grilled Baby Bok Choy

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I’m not a fish eater. I like Salmon every once in a while and filet of sole (or flounder) in Franchaise sauce, but that’s pretty much it. And the second I eat something “fishy”, I’m off fish for a month or so before having the stomach to try, try again. I’ll happily eat sushi and I’d love to indulge in grilled rare tuna steaks more often…provided someone else wants to foot the bill.

One affordable fish I do love, however, is escolar, also know as Butter Fish. Boy oh boy, is it delicious, BUT there is a reason sushi restaurants serve it in limited quantities when they serve it at all. I’ll get into that later. Escolar is rich, super delicate in flavor, fresh, and almost sweet. It’s much less expensive than Tuna, but, like it’s red relation, it’s excellent for those who swear they “…don’t like fish.”

Inspired by Ming Tsai, I wanted to make a version of crispy fish without having the added calories and heaviness that comes with frying. Using his cooking method combined with my own flavors ended in crispy, summery, deliciously bright fish that was perfectly complimented by smokey grilled baby bok choy and a spicy lime cream sauce.

The recipe:

Two 4oz. center filet cuts of escolar, no blood line and as uniform in shape and thickness as possible.

1/2 cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup panko

1/3 cup coconut flakes

3 TBSP olive oil

Cream Sauce, served under fish and on the side:

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

3 TBSP sour cream

The juice and zest of 1 lime

1-2 tsp red pepper flakes or wasabi paste/powder

1/2 avocado, optional

1 tsp salt

Grilled Baby Bok Choy:

6 heads baby bok choy, split in half the long way

2 TBSP olive oil

2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 TBSP ginger, ground into paste

1/2 tsp chili oil, optional

1 TBSP ponzu

For the sauce, combine everything in a bowl to a smooth consistency and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

For the fish, rinse and pat dry your filets. Set up the flour and beaten eggs in two separate shallow bowls. In a third bowl or dish combine the panko and coconut flakes. Lightly coat all sides of the escolar in the flour, gently shaking of the excess. Dip into the beaten eggs and then into the coconut/panko mixture, making sure each side is coated. Place to the side.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a medium oven safe pan (I used cast iron) heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Once the oil is nice and hot turn the heat down to medium and put the fish top side (serving side/pretty side) down in the pan and cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Once nice and tan, flip the fish and place the entire pan into the oven to cook the fish through, about 7-8 minutes.

To complete this dish with grilled bok choy, pre heat your grill on high. Take the liquid ingredients and ginger, and whisk together in a bowl. Paint the mixture liberally over the cut sides of the baby bok choy. Place on the grill cut side down, and grill for 2 minutes. Flip bok choy and continue cooking one minute on other side.

To plate this dish, I did a zig zag drizzle of the creamy sauce on one side of the plate, piled the bok choy high on the other side, and placed the Escolar right onto the sauce. It was light, bright, crunchy, summery, smokey, and well balanced. I can’t wait to make this again in the near future.

Now, 4oz doesn’t seem like a large serving, but if you’re still hungry have some sticky rice or a salad, NOT more fish! It’s nicknamed Butter Fish for good reasons: It’s rich, indulgent, and so fatty that too much of it will make your body be unable to digest it, expelling it opposite your mouth rather quickly. Yes, over 5 oz of the stuff can turn it into the Olestra of the fish world, so definitely partake, but do so within reason. Besides, 4 oz is a healthy serving of any protein; we’re just used to HUGE sizes that are unnecessary.

Pig & Fig 2: Spicy Fig Glazed Grilled Pork Chops

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I’ve started mixing sweet with savory just for the thrill. It’s taught me a lot about food, made me a bit more adventurous, and aids me in cooking. With a recent bounty of figs I knew I had to come up with a few new creations before the figs went to the great fig tree in the sky, i.e. went bad. Working on something sweet, I originally made a fig sauce for dipping chicken into or pouring over fish, but the moment I tasted it I knew: This sauce was born for charring pork. My buddy tasted it and said “It’s good,” and then proceed to dunk a grilled chicken tenderloin into it. “Mmmm!…Yeah, okay,” he said while still chewing. “It would be best with pork.” Yes, padawan. I know.

Fig Sauce/Glaze:

1 1/4 cup roughly chopped figs

1 1/2 cup water

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 TBSP soy sauce

1 TBSP Ponzu

1 tsp red pepper flakes

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup orange juice

Throw everything into a sauce pot and cook down over medium high heat until it’s reduced by at least a third to half. It’s going to be pretty thick. Set it aside to cool.

While the sauce was marrying post simmer, I took two gorgeous, thick-cut bone in pork chops, about 6-8 ounces each, rinsed them, and patted them dry. Once the sauce cooled a bit (you can make this sauce a few days in advance if need be and keep it in the fridge in tupperware for 3-5 days) I blended it with an immersion hand blender, you can also use a potato masher. It’s fine if the sauce is still pretty chunky.

I then slathered the chops with the fully cooled sauce and let them sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. These were thick and needed to come to room temperature before I through them on the grill.

I operate on one speed: Fast. The also means that I generally cook on one temp: High. I preheated my grill, cleaned the grates, and slathered the pork just a bit more and cracked fresh black pepper over them before putting it on the grill. Now these chops were about 1 1/2 inches thick, so they had to cook a while, and though I wanted a char, I didn’t need dry pork. No one needs that. After 4 minutes on one side my friend gave the chops a quarter turn and left them for another 4 minutes.  We dripped a bit more sauce on the top and topped with black pepper again prior to flipping them and lowered the burners to medium-high. After about 4 minutes, there was a quarter turn and they were done two minutes later. You want your pork to register at 145 degrees – YES, this is safe – and remember that as it rests, it will continue cooking a bit.

This was a lot of pork for 2 people, so I served it with simply an arugula and summer greens salad dressed with olive oil, quartered figs, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, which really intensifies the natural flavor and sweetness of the ripe figs. It was a perfect, protein packed, low fat dinner for a summer evening. This is great for everyone, but it’s also paleo friendly and excellent for South Beach or Atkins

The sauce and char makes ’em!

Summer Cakes: Berries, Lemon, & David Bowie

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Summer desserts have to be easy, fun, and minimal on oven time.

I want a flavor that reminds me of my childhood, bright, complex, lemony, and sweet. I also bought my first ever bundt pan, so I want to make something in that, because I didn’t spend $8 for nothin’! I took a simple cake recipe and added a bit of lemon flavors, creaminess, and berries to make the plain extraordinary, and then coated it in a glaze because why not?

Cake:

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 sticks/1 cup room temperature butter

1/3 vegetable oil

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 TBSP lemon curd

juice and zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 TBSP honey

1 1/4 cup berries, fresh or thawed from frozen, and pureed. (I used a blend of strawberries, blue berries, and raspberries, but any will work)

Glaze:

1 TBSP lemon juice (or use 1/2 TBSP lemon juice and 1/2 TBSP lime juice)

Zest of 1 lemon

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 and grease the crap outta your bundt pan. In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside. Blend the eggs, oil, butter, sugar, lemon curd, lemon juice and zest until smooth. The lemon may make the butter look almost as if it’s curdled; don’t worry about it. Using a spatula combine the wet mixture into the flour mixture. The batter will seem thicker than your average cake batter.

In yet another bowl, mix together the Greek yogurt, honey, and sour cream. Fold or cut the cream mixture into the cake mix. Pour 1/2 of the the pureed berries into the batter and mix slightly. Pour the second half into the batter, but don’t mix, let it hang out all messy like.

Pour/dollop the batter into the bundt pan and cook on the middle rack of your preheated over for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool at least 20 minutes before inverting it and removing from the bundt pan. Let the cake cool at least another 30 minutes before pouring the glaze over the cake and letting the excess drip over the sides. You can also poke small toothpick holes all over the cake before topping with glaze to really allow the sweetness to penetrate the freshly baked goodness. One of my favorite things about this is that it’s flavorful without being very sweet, so a slice in the morning is a great alternative to coffee cake or some other stale pastry.

Want a simpler version? Get a boxed lemon cake mix, prepare the batter according to the directions with the addition of the juice of a lemon, mix in the sour cream concoction noted above, pour in the berries just as I mentioned previously, and bake in a bundt pan according to the box. It’s a faster, less involved way to meet the same ends.

And in the spirit of cakes, a friend made a sheet cake of psychedelic colors, and an airbrushing of Aladdin Sane, in honor of the 40th anniversary of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It was delicious and absolutely worth sharing here.

Quinoa & Tomato Summer Salad

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Quinoa (I call it Qwi – No- Ah. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be pronounced Keen-Wah. I don’t care.) is an excellent course of protein, fiber, and iron with a very low glycemic index and no fat. Best of all, it can be used in a number of ways, has great texture and is a great addition to a low-carb lifestyle. It’s gaining in popularity due to its naturally healthy nature and has become relatively easy to find in the pasta or rice aisles of most grocery stores.

One of my favorite summer meals is thinly sliced, grilled rare London Broil with tomato salad. To get rid of the carbs in a serving of fresh white bread or a side of mashed potatoes, I decided to combine my love of tomato salad with quinoa. This in no way needs to be a mere side. The flavors are fresh, bright, and summery. It’s perfect to swap out the heaviness of your average pasta or potato salad with this dish, or just for a filling vegetarian lunch.

Quinoa & Tomato Summer Salad

2 cups water

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 cups uncooked Quinoa

3 – 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 TBSP salt

1/2 TBSP black pepper

2 TBSP balsamic vinegar

3 TBSP freshly chopped basil. A chiffonade is easy, looks awesome, and spreads the flavor.

3 cups various tomatoes. I used 1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, 1 cup multi-colored cherry/slightly larger heirlooms, and 1 cup of a beef eater tomato cut into inch chunks

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

a sprinkle of lemon juice (optional)

Bring the water and stock to a bowl in a medium sauce pot and add the quinoa. Prepare as instructed on the box, usual over low for 15 minutes, and then covered over no heat for 5 minutes. Let any extra liquid evaporate after 5 minutes and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Gentle toss ingredients and let sit until quinoa is cooled to room temperature. Add cooled quinoa to the tomatoes. Drizzle the olive oil over everything and toss. Taste and add more salt or pepper to taste if need be. A fresh sprinkling of lemon juice over it all right before serving adds extra deliciousness. You can also break up a wedge or Parmesan cheese and throw that into the mix, for added texture and richness. It’s a great side with any grilled meat or on it’s own as a filling meal with a slice of focaccia!