New recipes (from my new kitchen) coming soon!

It has been a really busy, really fun summer!!  Between buying my first house, lots of visits from family, awesome trips, exciting stuff going on at work, and life in general, I haven’t had as much time for cooking (and posting) as I would like.  I have come up with some new recipes lately though and I’m excited to post the new recipes (along with a lot of others I have been meaning to post) the next time I make them to take pictures, which should be really soon!

In the meantime, here is my current inspiration for coming up with new recipes, the only room actually completely set up in my new home, my new kitchen!

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Rare Beef Pho (Vietnamese Soup….with an Americanized shortcut)

I love pho.  I mean, I’m a little obsessed with it.  There haven’t been many weeks this year that I haven’t gone out for pho at LEAST once.  I have to admit though, that I am a little intimidated by Asian food when I cook at home.  It is one of the very best cuisines for my allergies, and the type of food I choose almost every time I go out, but somehow I have only ventured to try really basic stir fry at home.  I think it’s that everything is different, the spices, the techniques, the ingredients, and maybe just the fact that I didn’t grow up around anyone that knew how to make it, but I have always been a little afraid to try.

Recently I decided to give it a shot, to try to make pho at home, so I started researching pho recipes and almost gave up on the spot.  To make it authentically takes 1-2 DAYS, involves bone marrow and all kinds of strange ingredients (I refuse to touch bones or eat meat that wasn’t removed from the bone before I laid eyes on it….one of my little quirks), not happening.  So my experiment with an extreme shortcut to pho began and I have to say, it’s pretty darn good.  It has passed the test with a few pho-obsessed friends and I think I’m ready to share.

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Ingredients, for approx. 3 people:
– 20 oz Organic Gluten-Free Beef Broth
– 32 oz carton of Pacific Brand Organic Beef Pho Broth Soup Starter
– 1/2 tbsp chopped ginger
– 1/2 tbsp chopped garlic
– 8 oz grass-fed organic round steak sliced as thin as possible (I ask the butcher at the store to do this for me)
– 3 whole cloves garlic
– 1-2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
– 4 oz rice noodles (either pad thai style or vermicelli style)
– 3 tbsp fish sauce (get an authentic brand (one you can’t read the label of) not Thai Kitchen)
– 1-2 cups fresh spinach
– sriracha sauce to taste

About an hour before you want to eat dinner, put the steak strips, soy sauce and smashed but intact whole garlic cloves in a ziploc bag to marinate.  Every recipe I found had you put the steak in with no seasoning, which is how it is traditionally made.  However, when you aren’t making the authentic broth, the beef is very bland and I have found that this really simple marinade makes a huge difference.

About 30 minutes before dinner, put both types of broth, the chopped ginger, chopped garlic, and fish sauce in a large pot with a lid and bring to a boil.  Boil at a low boil / rolling simmer for about 25 minutes, covered.  Keep an eye on it, it sometimes has a tendency to boil over.  Side note – the reason for the two different broths is this: most recipes for pho call for cinnamon and anise to infuse the broth as well.  I have tried and tried but the flavor of these two is always overwhelming when I use an actual cinnamon stick.  The Pacific pho soup starter has both of these ingredients already in it so that guesswork is taken care of and I mix it with the regular broth so that I can still infuse it with ginger and garlic to my liking.

While the broth is simmering, prepare rice noodles according to package directions.  Once cooked, place the noodles in the bottom of the serving bowls.  Place fresh spinach on top of the noodles and place the raw steak (just the steak, not the garlic or soy sauce) evenly spread out over the bowl.  Try not to overlap the steak very much since the broth will actually cook the steak to rare in the bowl and if it is stacked on top of each other, it won’t cook properly.  See picture below.

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After simmering 20 minutes, strain the broth to remove the ginger and garlic pieces and immediately pour the broth in the waiting serving bowls, be sure the broth covers the meat so that it will cook it.  I like to add a little sriracha for some spice, that’s completely up to you though.

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Is it easier than going out for pho?  No.  Is it cheaper?  Honestly, probably not.  But it’s a fun, unique dish to make on your own and the best part is that when I make it at home, I can fully control the ingredients and knowing I’m eating all organic food and that I am not allergic to any ingredients is certainly worth it.  An added bonus: it’s delicious.  Hope you enjoy it too!

When locusts eat everything

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It’s a beautiful, sunny spring day, and we are starting to get a few hints of my very favorite time of year: Colorado summer.  This morning I met a certain special someone at my neighborhood coffee shop for breakfast and when I got back to my apartment, I grabbed my Bible and sat down on my new white leather sofa (that I have been wanting for years, love it!). Jake curled up in my lap, I took a sip of my almond latte, and as I just sat and relished the complete happiness and gratefulness I feel this morning, it’s really quite overwhelming, I felt God speak in my soul.  Just one word, with so much power, and I was instantly reminded of so much.

3 years ago, my life was pretty good; I lived in the Denver suburbs, I had a good job, I had been married to my high school boyfriend for 5 years.  My life was pretty uneventful and I was content, I felt safe, I had all of the things we are told we need to have for a “normal, happy” life.  And then it was taken from me.  Suddenly, almost completely without warning, I was alone.  I found myself in a new town I didn’t want to be in, without a job, staying with my parents, trying to figure out what had happened to my safe, normal, uneventful life.  I was broken and God provided me with time and space to rest and heal.  Throughout it all, I knew without a doubt that God had a plan for me.  I was in the midst of the loss, reeling from shock, but even then God knew, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.”  Though it was a painful time of life, it was so beautiful.  I allowed myself to show others my brokenness, to let others support me in my weakness, to fully trust God and let Him put me back together again in the way he always intended me to be, it was so freeing.  I truly am a different person now than I was before, and I am so much closer to who He created me to be.

I had never felt as loved as I did in those days.  My family and friends pulled together to surround and encourage me and hold me up when I was weak.  As people spoke scripture over me, spoke life into me, lifted my spirits, a theme began to emerge: the promise of restoration and hope.

The first parts of these verses are what I focused on when times were hard, they are the reason people spoke them over me, but I feel like I am noticing the second parts (in bold below) for the first time this morning.  God is so faithful!

“I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten…you will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.” (Joel 2:25)

” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:16-21)

“The Lord is faithful to all His promises.” (Psalm 145:13)

So here I sit, grateful to the point of tears, in the city from which I was carried into exile.  Literally every piece of my life has been restored immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagined.  I thought I had a good job as a manager then; I’m the CFO of an incredible company making a difference in the world now.  I was so grateful for my cookie cutter house in the farthest Denver suburb; now I live in a 100 year old apartment near downtown Denver with so much character in an awesome neighborhood.  I was doing my best to be healthy then but I was sick all the time; I have since discovered all of my food allergies and feel 1000 times better.  I get to travel all over the country and the world, I’m playing music again, I have the most amazing friends and family, I could go on and on and on…and then I met someone, and I am blown away.  All I can say is that God has a sense of humor and is giving me such an amazing story to tell.  My life is truly incredible, far better than I could have hoped or imagined, and it is only because God has been so faithful to restore that which was lost.  He deserves ALL of the glory!

God has spent 3 years leading me down His path towards restoration (I imagine Him chuckling a bit as He kept me on track when I tried to make plans and forge my own path).  So this morning, as I was feeling so unbelievably happy in a simple moment, to remind me of all of the promises He has fulfilled, he just said “See?”

Chicken Salad

While I avoid a lot of food because of my allergies, there are 3 foods that I won’t include in recipes because I hate them.  I’m not a picky eater at all but I absolutely will not eat: 1) olives, 2) celery, or 3) raisins.  Ants on a log snack day at school when I was young was especially awful!

I avoided chicken salad most of my life because it almost always contains at least one, if not 2, of my hated foods.  I’m also not much of a fan of mayo.  So I set out to create a chicken salad recipe several years ago that I actually liked and I have to tell you, it’s one of my favorites.  It’s not only allergy friendly, it’s very healthy too.  A perfect lunch on lettuce or sandwiches!

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1 large chicken breast
1/4 cup roasted almonds
1 apple (fuji, gala, whatever is on sale that isn’t too sweet or tart)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp vegan mayo
3-5 stalks green onion
olive oil
splash of lime juice
salt & pepper to taste

First, you’ll need to roast your chicken.  Preheat your oven to 375 and pat the chicken breast dry with a paper towel.  Coat with a thin layer of olive oil and salt and pepper on both sides.  Roast on a baking sheet for 35-40 minutes then let cool while you chop the rest of your ingredients.

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Chop the apple into cubes then place in a bowl and coat with a splash of lime juice to prevent browning. Chop the green onions into slivers (mainly green parts) and roughly chop the almonds.

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Slice the chicken breast in half lengthwise then cut into cubes.  Combine all chopped ingredients in bowl.

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Add the mustard, vegan mayo, and salt and pepper and mix well.

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Serve on a sandwich or on a salad, I like to add tomatoes and avocado to the salad as well.  This keeps really well for several days in the fridge so you can make a big batch and have it for a few days.

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Enjoy!

Mushroom Risotto

Cooking can be therapeutic and this dish is a great one for a cold fall or winter day when you have a lot on your mind.  Just grab some wine and a wooden spoon and stir for 45 minutes or so and you will have a rich, comforting meal to warm you up.  It’s also a very impressive dish to serve at a dinner party, if you have the time and energy to make it for guests.  Risottos can be intimidating to prepare but as long you as you follow the steps in order, you will be fine.  I found them to be much easier than I expected originally and that’s from a girl whose cooking nemesis is, and always will be, rice.

Allergy info: This recipe is gluten free.  I do use Sheep’s milk cheese but it is just as good without it, so for a truly dairy free dish omit the Pecorino Romano.  For a vegan version, omit pancetta & pecorino and use mushroom broth instead of chicken.  Also, this dish can be a bit pricy so I have put less expensive substitutes in parentheses by ingredients that can be changed.  This meal will still be delicious!

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This picture has a few extra ingredients in it since the last time I made this was for Christmas dinner with my family.  Anyone who gives me a Le Creuset pot for Christmas has earned themselves a homemade risotto!  To make risotto you will need:

1/2 pound of baby portobello mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (don’t use white button!)
4 cups of organic chicken stock, I use low sodium and stock really is better than broth
2 cups of water 
6 tbsp vegan butter (I use Earth Balance sticks)
2 oz diced pancetta (can substitute bacon for a more economical meal)
1/2 cup chopped shallots (can substitute 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions and 2 minced garlic cloves)
1 1/2 cups arborio rice (no substitutes, use arborio)
1/2 cup dry white wine (plus a glass to sip while you stir!)
1/2 tsp saffron threads (can omit if you are on a tight budget)
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and water and bring to a simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the pancetta and shallots (or bacon & onion & garlic) over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stir occasionally.

Add the mushrooms and sauté another 5 minutes, stir occasionally.

Add the rice and stir to coat all of the grains of rice with butter.  Add the wine and cook 2 minutes.

Now the fun part, you are going to be stirring for awhile but it’s fun to watch it come together and even better if you have some company in the kitchen.  Add 2 ladles of chicken stock mixture to the rice and the saffron, salt, and pepper.  Stir and simmer over LOW heat until the stock is absorbed, about 5-10 minutes.

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Once it is absorbed, add 2 more ladles of stock and stir every minute or so.  Cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then repeat this step until all of the stock has been incorporated.  This should take about 25-30 minutes total.  When you are finished the risotto will be thick and creamy and won’t seem dry.

Take the risotto off the heat and stir in about 1/2 cup of pecorino (if you are using cheese).

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Serve immediately with pecorino as a garnish.  Enjoy!

I have a simple, delicious recipe for any risotto leftovers that I will post soon as well.

 

 

Jalapeño Poppers

This is one of my favorite recipes.  I love jalapeño poppers but they are so unhealthy and full of cheese and gluten that I really thought I would just give them up completely when my diet changed.  After having success with baked, unbattered chile rellenos though, I decided to try making a version of jalapeños that I can eat and I honestly like them a lot better than the original.  These jalapeño poppers have become a party staple and they freeze really well so I make a big batch and keep them on hand in the freezer for get togethers or as a side with a good steak.  They are a little labor intensive but they are so worth it!  Bonus: they are a lot healthier!  They aren’t fried, there’s no bacon, and I use sheep & goat milk for easier digestion.

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3 oz Sliced Prosciutto (Nitrate free if you can find it)
4 oz Dill & Garlic Goat Cheese (If your store only has regular goat cheese you can make your own.  Let the cheese come to room temperature in a bowl then add some garlic powder and dried dill and mix it well with a fork)
3 oz Manchego Cheese (Spanish sheep’s milk cheese)
10-14 fresh jalapeños

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First, you need to clean your jalapeños (if you are wearing contacts I strongly suggest you take them out for the day before starting this, or wear gloves).  Slice each jalapeño in half lengthwise, it will look like the pepper on the right in the picture above, your goal is to make it look like the pepper on the left.  Use your knife to separate the stem at the top from the seeds and membrane inside and along the edges of the pepper.  I find it easiest to use my fingers to pull the seeds and everything out but you can continue using your knife and spoon if you want to avoid the peppers as much as possible.  The more white membrane you leave, the hotter the pepper will be so if you are looking for a milder flavor you may want to clean it out even more than I did above.

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Once you have cleaned all of your peppers, lay them out on your cutting board or the cookie sheet you will use to bake them.  Slice the manchego cheese into small long blocks, about the size of the bottom of a hollowed out jalapeño and place them in each pepper.

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Now stuff the remaining space in each pepper with goat cheese.  Again, while it’s very messy, I find this easiest to do with my hands but 2 spoons can work if you don’t want to touch the peppers.  As an alternative, you can use only manchego or goat cheese.  The reason I use the 2 cheeses together is I like the creaminess of the goat cheese but it’s a stronger flavor so the 2 balance each other out really well.

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Take each slice of prosciutto and slice into 3 pieces lengthwise, then wrap each strip around one jalapeño half.  Start at the top and wrap around the pepper until you run out of prosciutto.  Push each end of the prosciutto into the goat cheese lightly and it will hold itself in place.

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This is the point at which you separate the peppers you are going to freeze from those you are going to cook.  Place the peppers in the bottom of a tupperware container then place plastic wrap over the first layer and you can stack more on top.  Place plastic wrap between each layer to keep them from freezing together.

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When ready to cook, place the peppers on aluminum foil in a pan or cookie sheet and put in the oven preheated to 375.  If room temperature, cook 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and prosciutto is beginning to get crispy.  If frozen, cook about 20 minutes until you get the same result.

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Enjoy!  One last tip: if you plan to take these poppers to a party, make quite a few.  They tend to go really fast!

Date Night Steak

I rarely order steaks when I go out anymore because I have learned how to make such tasty ones at home.  This feels like a really fancy meal but it is easy and affordable, perfect for a date night.  It requires some attention, with timers and flipping the steak over but it isn’t hard and the results are amazing.  The great thing about this method of cooking steaks is that it makes any cut of meat taste great.  If there is a sale on meat this is, of course, best with a ribeye, strip, or filet. It is also absolutely delicious with a top sirloin or london broil if you are looking for an even more affordable meal.  New York Strip steak was on sale this week for $5/lb so I bought a 14 oz. steak for $4.38, one russet potato for 46 cents and 1 head of broccoli for 88 cents, so this entire meal with sides for 2 people only cost $5.72!  I’ll post the recipes for potatoes & broccoli separately.

Steak (Ribeye, Strip, Filet, Top Sirloin, or London Broil)
Olive Oil
Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

Set the steak on a plate about 30 minutes before you plan to cook and allow it to come to room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees with a heavy bottom skillet inside. Make sure your oven is fairly clean or you will get a lot of smoke from remnants in the oven.

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While it is preheating, pat the steak dry with a paper towel.

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Rub a very small amount of olive oil all over the steak, then sprinkle salt, pepper, and seasoned salt on both sides of the steak.

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Turn a burner on your stove to high and pull the skillet out of the oven and place on the burner.  Get your timer, tongs, and potholder ready, the next 8 minutes will require your attention.  Sear the steak for  30 seconds on each side then place the skillet and steak in the oven.

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If the steak is about 1 inch thick, cook 3 minutes then flip the steak with tongs and cook 3 minutes on the other side for medium.  If it is thicker or you prefer a more medium well steak, cook another minute on each side.  I find that ribeyes typically need a little more time but the other cuts are almost always perfect at 3 minutes per side.  Pull the steak out and set on a plate to rest for 10 minutes or so, then serve.

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And there it is, a drool worthy steak that my pup begs for the entire time I am eating.  Serve this steak and you are sure to impress your dinner guest.