Cuban Black Beans And Rice

Well, best laid plans as they say. I didn’t intend to neglect my blog but the new job is crazier and more stressful than I expected. But, I love every minute of it and the folks I’m working with are great. So, even at just under two weeks, I’m still happy and grateful to be there.

So, my last post was my favorite chicken breasts. As promised, I’m now posting my favorite side for that recipe. Cuban Black Beans. I love them served with white rice (with maybe some cilantro thrown in) but that’s not strictly required. I know that this whole recipe is non-paleo but I wanted the freedom to be “only” practically paleo. Besides, my gym (www.CrossFitWarriorSpirit.com) just finished a 30-day paleo challenge and I need a few cheat meals before I return to a cleaner diet!

Enjoy…and as always: please send feedback! I love hearing from you!

Peace, Rick

Cuban Black Beans And Rice

PracticallyPaleo.net (adapted from Weight Watchers)

Ingredients:

 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice

2T olive oil

1 3/4 cups chopped onions

1 medium green pepper, diced (about 1 cup)

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

2 15.5 ounce cans of black beans (drained)

1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth

1 tsp red wine vinegar

1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, divided

1 medium lime, cut into 6 six wedges

Directions:

Cook rice according to package directions.

  1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add garlic, cumin and oregano.
  2. Cook, stirring frequently until fragrant –  about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in beans, add broth and salt; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 to 10 minutes to let the flavors blend. Make sure the beans are soft – some brands are harder than others right out of the can. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar and cilantro.
  4. To serve, spoon beans over rice. Sprinkle with additional onion and cilantro if desired. Squeeze fresh lime juice over top.

Chicken Breasts with Jalapeño-Lime Marinade

I’m so sorry I’ve been neglecting the blog lately. I’ve had LOTS happening and I just haven’t been able to get to it. The good news is that I have several new recipes ready or almost ready to go so I’ll try to make up for lost time!

The best news of all is that I have a new job!!! I’m really excited and I can’t wait to start. I passed the drug test (no surprise there) and they’re doing the background check now. As soon as that is done, I’ll get a start date! Yea! I promise I won’t neglect my blog though. It’s been too much fun and I’m learning a lot!

So this recipe is one of my all-time favorites and I’ve been making versions of it for some time. The original, from eatbetteramerica.com, was for grilling and it’s good that way. But, when you make it inside you get to make an incredible pan sauce that is almost better than the chicken itself! I’m torn between which I prefer so I’ve included both options. If I had to choose one though, inside is my definite favorite. If you’re not a cilantro person, it’s almost as good made with parsley.

I will follow up this recipe with one for Cuban Black Beans. They pair really well with the chicken but since legumes aren’t paleo-friendly I haven’t had those in a while. For those of you who don’t follow paleo or if you are but are wanting a not-so-bad “cheat” day, the beans are a great choice.

I look forward to feedback!

Chicken Breasts with Jalapeño-Lime Marinade
PracticallyPaleo.net (Adapted from eatbetteramerica.com)

2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons olive
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (can substitute parsley)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño, finely chopped – leave the seeds and membrane in for more heat, remove for less heat
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lb)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

1. Marinade: Mix all ingredients except chicken and pour into resealable plastic food storage bag.

2. Place each chicken breast between pieces of waxed paper smooth side down. Gently pound with flat side of meat mallet or rolling pin until about 1/2 inch thick. Add chicken to marinade; turn to coat and seal the bag. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes but not longer than 24 hours. Turn occasionally to ensure even marinade.

3. Cooking options:
1. To grill: Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and grill chicken over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut.
2. To sauté: Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Salt and pepper both sides to taste. Heat small amount of olive oil (just enough to cover the base of the pan) in a stainless steel skillet. Sauté on each side until browned. Don’t crowd the pan – cook in batches if necessary – or the chicken won’t brown.

4. Option: If cooking inside, make a simple pan sauce in the skillet. Remove chicken to platter and tent with foil. Lower heat and add 1/4 of a medium onion very finely minced. When onion is soft, add 1 clove of garlic very finely minced – do not brown garlic. After 1 minute, add 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. Increase heat to medium high and scrape browned bits off the bottom of the pan. When thickened, remove from heat and add 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (or parsley) and (optional) 1 teaspoon butter. Stir to incorporate and serve with chicken.

Pork Medallions with a Ginger-Infused Balsamic Reduction

What a week! I had a great in-person interview after two rounds of phone interviews. If I get this new job, it would be so awesome. I like the people I’d be working for and with and it’s a great organization. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I get a response. Having a great interview doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll get a job offer but I’m definitely cautiously optimistic!

I’ve also been working with the coach at my CrossFit gym to get the new location up and running. In addition to some volunteer paint duty, I’ve been working on the Marketing plan. We’ve got updates ready for our web site and Facebook pages. We’re finalizing the Twitter strategy and have pretty much agreed on the promotion plan for the formal Grand Opening on October 6th. We had out first full workout in the new space on Friday and it’s going to be awesome! Oh, and one of the folks I interviewed with today (he would be my boss’ boss) is also a CrossFit-er and it was nice to be able to work that into our conversation! (Whatever it takes, right?)

Enough of that! Let’s move on to food! My friends at Feast on the Cheap, a web site run by a mother/daughter team, have had my attention for some time. Their web site features recipes that are delicious, frugal and easy to prepare. The recipe I’m about to share with you is one of my favorites of the many I’ve downloaded there. Check them out at www.feastonthecheap.net!

Pork Medallions Shown with Oven Roased Cauliflower and AsparagusIf you’ll recall, when we first started out together, I made a commitment to sharing recipes that were simple, easy and delicious. This one meets that criteria in spades. It’s so good that – when you serve it to guests – they will never believe that it’s so easy. The original recipe was incredibly delicious…that’s a standard you can expect at Feast on the Cheap, but I think my paleo adaptation is almost as tasty and it doesn’t include any sugar.

Let me know what you think!

Peace Rick

Pork Medallions with a Ginger-Infused Balsamic Reduction
PracticallyPaleo.net  (Adapted with permission from a recipe at FeastontheCheap.net)

 Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices (Err on the side of thicker for this.)
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large shallot or one small onion, finely minced (about 2 Tablespoons)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon maple-flavored agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

1.  In a medium pan, heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil over medium flame. Add the shallots and sauté for about 2-3 minutes until the shallots or onions are translucent. Add the garlic and sprinkle with the ground ginger. Stirring constantly, sauté an additional 1-2 minutes.

2.  Add the vinegar, mustard and agave nectar to the mixture. Bring to a boil and cook at a high simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced by half; about 10 minutes. The liquid will thicken to a syrup-like consistency. Set aside. (Don’t worry…it starts out smelling really wrong but after it all comes together it’s incredibly good!)

3.  In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork medallions and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. (If the slices are thicker than a 1/2-inch, adjust the cooking time accordingly.)

4.  Stir in the Balsamic reduction, coating each medallion. Don’t cook them too long or the pork will get hard. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.

My Very Non-Paleo Trip to Houston

Sorry I’ve been so quiet! It’s been a busy week. I had the second in a series of phone interviews for a new job I’d love to have. The good news: I’m waiting to hear back on when the in-person interview will be scheduled. It should be later this week!

I also made a trip to Houston this weekend. My friend Mary Ann wanted me to help her with some projects around her house. And I was looking forward to visiting my “home” church – Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church – for the first time in a long time. I do have one confession to make. I threw caution to the wind from a paleo perspective and had wonderful meals at two of my old favorites and one that will definitely become a new favorite. So, if you’re only here for paleo, now would be the time to look away. I’m about to blow your mind! And, just so you know, we finished our list of projects earlier than we expected on Sunday. So, I came back late that night so I could start making amends at the 9:00 class this morning at CrossFit Warrior Spirit!

First up was Americas, a new restaurant that is part of the Cordúa Restaurant Group. Absolutely fabulous Latin cuisine. We started with appetizer samplers that included a beef empanada, paella with shrimp, a taco with plantain encrusted shrimp and lobster corn dogs with poblano creme. Yes, lobster corn dogs — served on skewers. They were the standouts of the appetizers but everything else was wonderful as well. On to the entrees, my friend had the Parillada Mixta (mixed grill) with beef, pork, chicken and shrimp and I had the Churrasco. This steak was voted the Top 20 Steaks in America by Esquire magazine and I can see why. Perfectly cooked as requested, so tender a knife really wasn’t necessary and so good I could have eaten two! We both had chocolate desserts that were divine. Overall, it was a stellar experience. The ambiance, the service and the food were all top-notch! http://www.cordua.com/americas/

On Saturday, it was on to Becks Prime at Memorial Park for lunch. It is sad to see the state of the trees. I read somewhere that there were more than 4 million trees in the park that died because of the drought. So sad. But, the restaurant was as awesome as always. I had my favorite — Chili Cheese Burger with sweet potato fries. The dining room overlooks the Memorial Park Golf Course so the views are great. It was nice to see the food was just as good as I remember and that the menu had expanded and has lots more healthy options. Maybe I take that route on the next trip! http://becksprime.com/

The one and only!

Finally, my favorite restaurant experience in Houston: Sunday Brunch at the incomparable Brennan’s! This was my first trip since they had to rebuild after a tragic fire. The new restaurant absolutely glows! It’s reminiscent of the old place but definitely with a new sparkle. I had a mimosa while listening to the 4-piece strolling jazz band. Our selections were absolutely outstanding. For appetizers, I had the Chicken & Shrimp Gumbo and my friend had the soup trio — Turtle, Gumbo and Shrimp Bisque. For the entrée I had Gulf Coast Shrimp with Goat Cheese Grits and she had Texas Pecan Encrusted Fish. She had the classic dessert of Bananas Foster and I had my favorite — the Classic Pecan Pie serviced with chocolate, caramel and a scoop of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Everything was absolutely perfect. The music, the service, the atmosphere and of course the food. Sunday Brunch at Brennan’s is the essence of what a fine dining experience should be…and that’s why it’s my all-time favorite! http://www.brennanshouston.com/

Peace, Rick

P.S. I have several paleo recipes queued up for you in the very near future!

Texas Pecan Crusted Fish – the standout of the meal!

Gulf Coast Shrimp with Goat Cheese Grits

Classic Pecan Pie with Chocolate, Caramel and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Bananas Foster as presented

Piri-Piri Shrimp

I recently came across Piri-Piri Sauce at my local grocery story during a cooking demonstration. I don’t usually recommend bottled sauces because almost all of them have stuff I don’t want to eat — added sugar or whatever. But, this one is different – no sugar, no glutens, no preservatives. I like all natural! I used it once in the recommended recipe but I decided I wanted to try something different. It took a couple of attempts to pull this one together but I’m really pleased with the results. It’s totally paleo, totally easy and totally awesome!

I had this for dinner tonight along with some reheated Whipped Cauliflower (see yesterday’s post) and sauteed green beans. Awesome meal!

Piri-Piri Shrimp – entree, appetizer, hors d’oeurves – AWESOME!

Piri-Piri Shrimp

PracticallyPaleo.net

 This dish is so good, I have to be really careful with portion control. I think I could eat the entire pound of shrimp myself!

I prefer large, wild-caught Gulf Shrimp for this dish but any kind will work. I don’t use farm-raised shrimp…they taste “funny” to me. I prefer to peel and devein them myself but that’s up to you. I think it looks nice to leave the tails on but that’s optional as well.

Piri-Piri is a Portuguese hot sauce made using Bird Peppers. There are many brands available but I love Green Valley Ranch. It’s all-natural, with no sugar or gluten and it’s totally awesome. Yes, it is kind of pricey but a little goes a long way. This is great as an entrée but it could also be served as an appetizer or hors d’oeurves. You could also throw in some steamed veggies to make a one-dish wonder!

Ingredients

1 pound shrimp

1 large onion, chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic to taste, chopped

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons of olive oil

4 tablespoons Piri-Piri Sauce

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley – plus some extra for garnish

Directions

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Skillet should be large enough to hold the shrimp in one layer and stir without spilling. If not, cook in batches. When the skillet is hot, add the oil. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the onion, stirring occasionally until it starts to soften. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes but don’t let it brown. Add the shrimp and cook on both sides until opaque. When they turn white, they are done! Don’t over cook them or they will be rubbery.

Remove the shrimp to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Add the Piri-Piri and chicken broth to the pan, stir and cook until hot. Return the shrimp to the pan and stir to coat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped parsley stirring well to incorporate.

Dig in…this is a MAJOR feast of yumminess!

Here we go…recipe #1: Oven-roasted Whipped Cauliflower

Since I said I was focusing on simple, easy to prepare recipes using standard ingredients, I thought I’d better really give you one that I think really rocks. I’ve made several different variations on this recipe and I may post some of those in the future. But, this version is my favorite!

Since I’ve already admitted that I LOVE garlic, I hope you’ll excuse the fact that this recipe calls for a lot of it. If you don’t like it as much as me, you don’t have to use the whole head of garlic. You have to roast the whole thing but you can add half to the recipe and taste. If that’s enough for you, you can use the other half in another recipe, spread it on crostini for a tasty treat or mix it with a little lemon juice and some fresh chopped parsley and use it as a dip with fresh veggies.

So, this recipe doesn’t meet the requirements of strict paleo because it uses some no-fat Greek yogurt. But, I wanted the flexibility to do that — hence Practically Paleo. I’m open to suggestions if someone can recommend another ingredient that will make the final product creamy. I’m thinking sour cream would be a good substitute. I also have a similar recipe that calls for using cream cheese. But, I like the tangy flavor of the yogurt.

I’ve pasted this recipe in Word format on the Recipes page to make it easy to download. I look forward to hearing what you think!

Oven-Roasted, Whipped Cauliflower

PracticallyPaleo.net

 1 head of cauliflower

1 head of garlic

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons No-Fat Greek Yogurt (I use Fage)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Slice the head of garlic in half horizontally. Place on a sheet of foil. Pour a little olive oil on both halves and sprinkle with sea salt. Wrap tightly in foil and cook for about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and unwrap. Let cool a little before handling.

Wash and dry the cauliflower. Break apart into florets — cut into evenly sized pieces so they bake uniformly. Cover a baking sheet with foil. Place the cauliflower in a bowl. Add enough olive oil to lightly coat the pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Pour about 1 tablespoon of olive on the surface of the foil and spread to cover (or use cooking spray.) Spread cauliflower evenly on the baking sheet (cut side down) and make sure it has plenty of room to roast – don’t crowd the pan. Cook in the oven for about 25 minutes. You want the cauliflower to be really soft (no resistance when you stick it with a fork) and it should be lightly browned on the edges.

Place the roasted cauliflower and garlic in a flat bottomed bowl. Using an immersion blender, whip them together. Add 3 tablespoons of yogurt and stir to incorporate. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. You may need to add a little more yogurt to get it to the right consistency depending on the size of your head of cauliflower.

Reheats well in the microwave.

Introduction

This is my first attempt at blogging. Over the last three years, I’ve been on a journey and I’ve decided it might be fun to start sharing some parts of that. During that time, I’ve lost 60 pounds, dropped most of the meds I was taking, shrank from a 44″ waist to a 34″ waist and found a new way of eating that is going to help me shed that last 20 pounds!

Practically Paleo is going to chronicle my journey. I chose “practically” for two reasons: 1. I’m not going to focus on only strictly paleo cooking here and 2. I love cooking but I’m practical about how much time I’m willing to spend in the kitchen. I focus on simple, easy to prepare recipes that use standard ingredients (I hate recipes that call for random ingredients that I will never use again) that you should already have in your pantry. I’m just starting out with the whole paleo thing but there are certain foods that I love and can’t imagine giving up for now. I’m not sure if that will change but we’ll see. So, “practically” paleo!

I have four goals when I cook: inexpensive, healthy, quick and delicious. I also have two categories of recipes: those that reheat well at the office the next day and those that should be eaten at home when they’re cooked. You’ll learn early on that I’m partial to spicy, robust foods and use a lot of onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, thyme, red pepper, cumin. I’m learning to cook with more exotic ingredients like curry and tahini so you’ll see my journey with that as well.

I’m also addicted to CrossFit. I get my workouts in at CrossFit Warrior Spirit in Alamo Heights. It’s an awesome group of people and our coach is the best! I’ll sure I’ll be talking about other parts of my life as well. I don’t want this to be only about cooking. You will probably also hear about my flag football team, the San Antonio Diablos, and my church, St. Paul’s Episcopal. But, we’ll have to see where this part of the journey takes me. I’m also a political junkie but there are already too many places to argue about that so I don’t plan to have that creep in here.

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope you’ll follow me. And, let me know who you are…I’d like to get to know you, too.

Peace, Rick

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