Slow Carbbq Sauce

It has finally happened! A sugar-free, completely slow carb and paleo barbecue sauce! I’m sure anything remotely authentic will put it to shame, but hey, you can have this one any night of the week.

This sauce is super quick to put together and goes great with any protein, but we’ve particularly enjoyed it with boneless pork ribs and chicken thighs so far.

You will need: 
A small pot
Spatula

Ingredients: 
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp grass-fed butter
1 can tomato paste
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce*
1 tsp yellow mustard
1 tbsp liquid smoke
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently until the mixture becomes a uniform sauce. Taste and adjust flavors accordingly. If it tastes too sweet or has too much tomato flavor, add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and/or 1 tsp apple cider vinegar. Stir to combine, adjust as needed.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use. Consume within two days.

boneless pork shoulder with homemade bbq sauce

* Please note, while Worcestershire sauce does have some sugar, it is ~ 1g per serving and is not a material amount for this recipe.

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Sweet Hundos: Oven-Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

Mmm saucy!

Courtesy of our lovely next-door neighbors, late last week I found myself with close to four pounds of cherry tomatoes in the kitchen, mostly of the irresistibly orange Sweet 100 variety. We couldn’t possibly eat them all, and soup was out of the question – have you ever peeled that many tiny tomatoes? I certainly wasn’t going to. So here it is, oven-roasted cherry tomato sauce: so good, I literally ate half the jar before it had cooled enough to put away.

For this recipe, you will need: 
Large baking pan (glass recommended)
Food processor
Heat-safe jar (glass recommended)
Plastic bags for freezing (optional)

Ingredients:
2-3 lbs cherry tomatoes (Sweet 100, or other variety)
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2 tsp onion powder
2-3 tbsp high quality oil (olive or avocado)
~ 0.5 oz fresh basil (10-15 g)

Gently remove stems from all tomatoes and rinse with cold water (I saw a hobo spider while out in the garden, so I made sure to wash them really well).

Pour 1-2 tbsp oil in a glass pan, tilting the pan to cover most of the bottom. Add tomatoes, garlic, onion powder, and an additional 1-2 tbsp of oil and carefully toss – you want to be gentle so the tomatoes don’t break, but you also want them to be coated with the onion powder and in a flat layer.

Roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and wrinkly and liquid is lightly boiling. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes.

Oven ready!

Oven ready!

Transfer full contents of the pan (including any liquid) to a food processor. Add fresh basil, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend for 1-2 minutes or until desired texture is reached (some people like it chunky, but I like it pretty smooth).

Transfer sauce to a heat safe container like a mason jar and let cool before storing in the fridge.

Serve with… basically everything. I put it in my roast chicken and even in a sausage and pepper stir-fry! Or just eat it with a spoon, ’cause it’s really that good.

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This recipe makes about one quart of sauce. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen in a ziplock bag for 1-2 months (to defrost, place bag in a bowl of warm water).

Homegrown Summer Ghee

I’m sure by now you have heard plenty about clarified butter. No? Let me explain, ’cause it’s pretty wonderful. Clarified butter, also known as ghee, is made by separating milk solids from butterfat and removing them. This Yahoo article sums it up quite nicely: “A staple of Ayurvedic medicine and Indian cuisine, ghee is made by heating butter until the milk solids are separated and then removed, meaning it’s not dairy, just fat—mostly saturated—which is essential to brain health, muscle recovery, and immunity.” … “It’s ideal for cooking at high heat (less prone than olive oil to go rancid when crisping or frying). And, with a rich, nutty flavor, it’s delicious on everything from lobster to Brussels sprouts.”

Now that you know the truth, it’s easy to see why the dairy-free product has become so popular with slow carb and paleo eaters. The best part is… it’s ridiculously easy to make. I’ve made clarified butter before, it really is quite simple, but I tried a few new things this time and it’s pretty damn hard not to eat this batch straight off a spoon!

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Putting my little garden to work! Fresh homegrown basil.

Appliances/Equipment: 
1 large pot
1 fine mesh strainer (small)
1-2 ice cube trays
1 sealable container (preferably glass)
Measuring Teaspoon
Measuring cup or small pitcher
Large bowl or pitcher with pouring spout

Ingredients: 
~ 1 lb grass-fed butter, unsalted
4 oz fresh basil (bonus points if it’s homegrown!!)

Cut butter into chunks and add to a clean pot. Over medium-low heat, melt butter until completely liquefied, stirring often to prevent burning. While the butter is melting, rinse basil with cold water. Gently pat/roll dry with a paper towel and remove all leaves from the stems – I do this by lightly pinching the base of the leaf between my thumb and forefinger and it just pops right off; discard the stems.

Lay the leaves out and pat both sides dry again. Using your hands, tear the basil into small pieces – small enough to fit several into each individual ice cube mold (but don’t throw them in yet).

Once the butter has melted completely, remove it from the heat. Set up your strainer or a piece of cheesecloth over a large bowl or pitcher and pour the liquid through – this is the first step in separating the milk solids from the butterfat.

Now, set the strainer over a measuring cup and pour butter through again – you don’t actually need to measure anything here, I just found my measuring cup to be the best shape for the steps that follow.

At this point, you should see the butter start to separate – the milk solids will sink to the bottom while the butterfat will float to the top. Using a measuring teaspoon, layer a small amount of the butterfat only into the bottom of each ice cube mold. On top of this base layer, place a small piece of basil. Cover with butter and repeat the butter-basil layering process until all the cubes are full – I think I got 8-10 pieces of basil in each one, possibly more. Remember to only use the butterfat for this, the idea is to keep it separate from the milk solids!

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So I used an entire pound of butter for this and ran out of ice cube trays. If you encounter the same problem, you can repeat the layering process on a larger scale in any container with a lid, but glass is preferable. Remember to put a layer of the butterfat in first so the basil doesn’t stick to the container.

Place ice cube trays in the refrigerator until the ghee solidifies – at least 12 hours. You can toss them into the freezer just like that, or if you are lazy like me, bang them all out at once and store them in the freezer in a ziplock bag for easy access later on.

Enjoy!

I’ve already used these little ghee cubes a few times and they paired wonderfully with my Saturday Morning Shakshuka and my Thai-ish Spicy Peanut Chicken.

Stomping Grounds: Five Minute Mustard (sort of)

Mmmmustard. So yummy. So much sugar… at least, in all the good store-bought varieties, and I’ve had enough! It’s probably the easiest condiment to make, and yet it’s constantly packed full of sugar and other crap no one needs to eat. Don’t recognize an ingredient? Neither will your body.

Right, sorry for that little rant. Back to the mustard. This is, in all seriousness, the easiest condiment to make at home and completely, 100% slow carb. It’ll take just a few minutes to pull together, then let it ripen on the counter for a few hours and you’ve got a spicy, pungent mustard way better than that $12 bottle on your shelf.

This recipe makes about 4 servings (two dinners for The Boyfriend and myself), we had the first half tonight mixed with a touch of mayonnaise for my Whatsername Fish Tacos.
Adjust proportions accordingly for a bigger group – this stuff is gonna fly away fast!

Ingredients: 
1 tbsp yellow mustard seed
1 tbsp black or brown mustard seed
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mustard powder

Special Equipment: 
Mortar & pestle/molcajete (recommended) or equivalent, such as a spice grinder
Mason jar or other canning jar

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Using your mortar and pestle, grind the mustard seeds to desired size. I prefer them quite coarse, but to each their own. Keep in mind: the finer your ground, the spicier and more potent your mustard will be.

Add ground mustard seeds to your jar of choice, and add in remaining ingredients. Mix well with a fork (forks have become my preferred mixing tool as the tines prevent too much product loss, unlike all the good stuff that would get stuck to a spoon).

Let the ripening process begin!

Let the ripening process begin!

Leave your mustard uncovered on the counter to ripen for at least one hour, up to eight hours (your mustard will stop ripening once refrigerated). I’ve read that you can actually cure it for several days at room temperature (covered of course), but have yet to try this – perhaps next time.

If you want to get really creative, replace the water with a dry white wine or even beer for a deeper, more complex flavor (haven’t tried this yet either, but one of the benefits of making small batches is plenty of opportunity to experiment!)

Store unused mustard in the refrigerator.

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Cheatin’ on Chipotle: Beef Barbacoa

The barbacoa at Chipotle is a thing of beauty. Other than the new Bonfire Bowls at Baja Fresh, Chipotle’s barbacoa is by far my most frequent craving for a slow carb meal when we’re out and about. Now, The Boyfriend and I fully appreciate Chipotle’s more natural approach to feeding the masses, but sometimes we just don’t want to pay extra for guacamole.. or wait in line. You might have to wait all day for this homemade take on your favorite burrito bowl, but it will feed you all week without actually having to eat the same meal twice (see suggested pairings below).

Ingredients: 
~ 6 lbs boneless chuck short ribs (or equivalent)
2 yellow onions, halved
7 oz chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (1 can)
2 dried red chilis
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp True Lime crystals (or 4 tbsp fresh lime juice)
~ 3 tbsp vegetable oil, for searing
1 small bunch radishes, thinly sliced (optional, for garnish)

Seasoning: 
3 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cayenne

Appliances/Special Equipment: 
Blender or food processor
Slow Cooker

Dig in!

Dig in!

Slice onions into thin half-moons and place at the bottom of the crock pot (in theory, this step is completely optional, but I love onions and think they add great flavor to this dish). If you don’t want to use onions, add 1 tsp of onion powder or granulated onion to the blender sauce (further instructions below).

Rinse meat under cold water and pat dry. Trim about 40% of the fat off – leaving enough to render down in the crock-pot, but not so much that the meat won’t sear. Cut the chuck into smaller pieces – I ended up with about 10 total – this will make it a bit easier to fit everything in the slow cooker as well as increasing surface area available for searing (a must-do step to lock in all that great flavor).

Heat oil in a large pot or pan over medium heat. Sear each piece of meat until golden brown (1-2 minutes per side) and for a few seconds on each edge. Add to the slow cooker.

In your blender or food processor, combine: apple cider vinegar, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, True Lime crystals (or lime juice), dried peppers, and all seasoning/herbs/spices. Blend until smooth. Note: If you have a mortar and pestle, I’d recommend crushing up the dried peppers and discarding the seeds before adding them to the blender. Add blended sauce and 1 cup chicken stock to the slow cooker and mix gently, coating as much of the meat as possible with the sauce (my crock pot was pretty damn full at this point so it was a bit of a challenge, but I did what I could).

Set crock pot on high for 6+ hours or on low for 10+, stirring occasionally (and to make sure that any pieces of meat sticking up out of the liquid do not dry out or burn). We actually went out in the middle of making this dish, so I had it on high while I was home for about five hours and then set it on low for an additional four hours (nine hours total) and it came out perfect.

When meat is fork-tender and falling apart, remove meat and onions from the crock pot to a scratch-resistant bowl. Add about 1/2 cup liquid from the slow cooker back to the barbacoa and, using two forks, shred the meat. Adding some liquid back to the barbacoa will keep the meat moist and will also help keep it alive in the fridge a little longer.

Serve immediately: with a few thin slices of radish for a nice little crunch, with lettuce leaves for “green tacos,” or however you choose! Leftovers can be refrigerated up to 5 days.

Suggested Pairings: 
Nice Rice: Cauliflower
Busy Black Bean Soup (recipe coming soon!)
Holy Crap! Garlic Soup
Perfect ‘Stachio Guac

Saturday Morning Shakshuka

This recipe was updated on 02 June 2014. My seasoning ingredients have been slightly altered, the recipe itself remains the same.

I saw a recipe for this sumptuous North African/Israeli dish months ago, but hadn’t had a good opportunity to play around. An errand-less Saturday morning is just what I needed! Packed with some serious flavor and topped with a half-dozen farm fresh eggs, shakshuka is the perfect dish for breakfast in the living room, brunch with the folks, or dinner for two.

As with most delicious things, you will need a deep cast iron skillet.

Ingredients: 
5-6 large eggs
28 oz canned tomatoes with liquid (diced or whole)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tsp minced garlic (3-5 cloves)
2 medium hot peppers, seeded and chopped
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil

Seasoning: 
Freshly cracked salt, to taste
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp harissa
1 tsp za’atar
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp celery salt
2 tsp basil (or 2 Dorot cube)

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Egg #5 of 6. The last one goes in the middle!

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in your cast iron skillet over medium heat, moving from side to side to cover the bottom of the pot. Add chopped onions and sauté for 3-5 minutes or until softened. Add peppers, basil, and garlic and continue sautéing for an additional 5 minutes or so until peppers begin to soften. Note: if using fresh basil, add it after the eggs to retain flavor and freshness.

Add 28 oz crushed tomatoes in their liquid plus two large tablespoons of tomato paste, mix very well. Add all seasoning/spices/herbs and mix again, making sure to break up any clumps that may have formed. Bring to a simmer and allow mixture to reduce slightly on medium-low heat (about 10 minutes). Now is the time to taste and adjust your flavors.

Reduce heat to low and crack 5-6 large eggs over the tomato mixture – I did five around the outside and one in the middle. Cover with lid, leaving slightly ajar, bring heat back up to medium-low, and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes until eggs are cooked (whites should actually be white) but yolks are still runny. If you like your eggs with a more solid yolk, cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.

Serve immediately – as is, with protein of choice, or over zoodles!

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Chicken Satay-Kebabs & Peanut Sauce

Inspired by Moroccan flavors, a craving for peanut sauce, and beloved ingredients in my pantry, I had a ton of fun experimenting with the marinade for this satay/kebab mashup today. If you are using wooden skewers, you should soak them in water for about 30 minutes before cooking to prevent the meat from sticking. Unfortunately I was super excited about this recipe and prepared the marinade before realizing that I (a) am out of skewers, and (b) no longer have a grill pan, so my photos won’t be exactly what I envisioned but the taste was all there!

A sneak peek into my brainstorming session

A sneak peek into my brainstorming session (click to buy your own Smashbook from Amazon)

Ingredients: 
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lemon, juiced (~2 tbsp)
1 tsp minced garlic (~2 cloves)
2 tbsp olive oil + more for cooking

For Peanut Sauce: 
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (creamy)
1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
1.5 tbsp tamari
1-2 tsp sriracha
1 tsp lime juice
1/4 cup hot water
salt to taste

Seasoning: 
1.5 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp ground ginger

Skewer-less, we got creative with toothpicks for serving.

Skewer-less, we got creative with toothpicks for serving.

Cut the chicken into 1″ pieces. In a small bowl combine: olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and all seasoning/spices (paprika, turmeric, cumin, salt, cayenne, pepper, coriander, celery salt, onion powder, ground ginger) and mix well. Combine chicken and spice mixture in a Ziploc bag, toss to coat, and marinate in refrigerator for at least one hour (overnight is fine too).

When ready to prepare, heat olive oil in a grill pan on medium-high heat (if you do not have a grill pan, a regular skillet will do). Slide several pieces of chicken onto each skewer and place in the pan. Grill until cooked through, 4-5 minutes per side. As stated above, I realized late in the game that I didn’t actually have skewers at home so I just sautéed all the chicken at once, cooking time is the same.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the peanut sauce. In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, rice vinegar, tamari, sriracha, and lime juice. Mix well. Add hot water 1 tbsp at a time to thin out the sauce, mixing well before adding more, until you reach desired consistency. I only ended up using 3 tbsp of hot water, but to each his own – there is no wrong answer here.

Serve chicken satay-kebabs immediately with peanut sauce and additional sriracha if desired.