Pork Free Post: Carrot-Almond Milk Pudding

20 Aug

We’re off for a much needed 15-day vacation this week, and I couldn’t be happier. It has been waaaay too long since we’ve had a real getaway. Very excited for relaxing on Nantucket beaches.

I’ve got the house to myself for a few days, so I’m trying to work through the fresh food we have before we go away. First on my list was some almond milk that I needed to use up. I figured that a pudding would be a good use, since I could snack on it over time and it wouldn’t make too much. I loaded up Google to find a good almond milk pudding recipe and came across the most interesting idea on the My Creative Flavors blog – Carrot and Almond Milk pudding. That would be perfect, since I’ve got a whole bunch of carrots that need to be used. Christian has also started to buy key limes for cocktails, but we didn’t go through the last bag – I thought that might be an interesting addition to the pudding as well.

I doctored up the recipe a bit, based on what I had and didn’t have. So the below one is slightly different that the original, but absolutely delicious. It is sweet, but not too sweet; rich in texture, but still light tasting. Nutritionally, it isn’t too bad for you. Each serving has about 168 calories, 5 grams of fat and 15 mg cholesterol. For a dessert, those are pretty good numbers. Amazing stuff – definitely will be made again. You need to make this!

Carrot – Almond Milk Pudding

  • 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • zest from 3 key limes

In a saucepan, add the almond milk and shredded carrots. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes. Cool for roughly 10 minutes, then add to a blender or Cuisinart and puree. Rinse out saucepan and return milk-carrot mixture to it.

Add the half-and-half, sugar and cardamom to the milk-carrot mixture. Remove about 1/2 cup of the mixture and add the cornstarch; whisk to incorporate and return to the saucepan, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and simmer for a minute or two until it starts to thicken. Stir in lime zest.

When done, ladle into four 1/2-cup ramekins. Chill for an hour or so. Garnish with additional zest, if desired.

Day Thirty Four: Pupusas de Chicharrones

19 Aug

Normally, I wouldn’t be into anything labeled “chicharrones”. Even though I love pork, I’m not particularly fond of pork skin. Sin, I know. But lucky for me, in El Salvador, chicharrones means something different, and something way better in my opinion. It is essentially pork that has been boiled, then fried in it’s own fat, then minced or pureed into pure deliciousness with a tomato-based sauce. What isn’t to like about that?

Latin American food is heaven sent when it comes to eating a gluten-free diet. Take for instance the pupusa, basically El Salvador’s answer to a real gordita (not Taco Bell’s pathetic rendition) or an arepa. A homemade corn tortilla stuffed with fillings like meat, beans, cheese, etc, with a traditional offering being the Pupusa de Chicharrones. That brings us to day 33.

I was super excited to make these. Fresh tortillas are fantastic, but a filled one is even better. And really, it is quite easy. Time consuming, maybe, but a lot of it is unattended since you have to cook that pork down real good before frying it. The recipe below is an adaptation of one I found on Food Network here.

I served these with the traditional accompaniment, cortido – a simple slaw you serve on top of the pupusa. It is a bit fermented, as you are supposed to leave it out for a while at room temperature. It is tangy, crunchy goodness that pairs very well with the pupusa. You really can’t skip this part if you want the real deal. I also fried up some yuca that I bought at the store yesterday, and grilled up some corn from the farmer’s market.

Overall, this was good, but not great. The dough dries out pretty quickly, which made some of the last ones a bit dry. But the filling, which is the most important part of course, was very tasty. The recipe below makes WAY more than you’ll need, unless you plan on making 800 pupusas. Christian ended up piling extra filling on top of the pupusa, whereas I used it for a pork sandwich the following day for lunch. Delish.

I have to apologize (yet again) for the crappy pictures here. Our “good” camera was out and about with Christian, so I was stuck without it. I promise you, they taste better than they look!

Pupusas de Chicharrones

  • 1 1/2 lbs pork shoulder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 jalepeno, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp Mexican oregano
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup cotija cheese or feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 3/4 cups masa harina
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp warm water
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Place the pork in a crockpot with garlic, onion, water and 1/2 of the chopped jalepeno. Cook on low for 6 hours, until tender.

When done, transfer pork and juices to a large heavy pot (enameled cast iron, for example); cook over high heat so that the pork starts to fry in the juices and fat. Cook until most liquid is gone. Add the tomatoes, rest of the jalepeno, oregano, cinnamon, and salt/pepper to taste. Cook over medium low, covered, until thick and very little liquid is remaining. You’ll want to stir a lot in order to break up the meat – you want it to really incorporate with the sauce. Set aside to cool, then stir in the cheese.

To make the dough, combine the masa harina with water and salt until you have a dough; let stand for about 20 minutes. Add more water so the dough becomes very soft, like Play-Doh, but not sticky. Divide into 8 balls and cover with a moist paper towel.

Take each ball and press your thumb into the middle to form an indentation, then turn the dough to begin to flatten it into a disk. Add some filling to the center and bring the edges together over the filling; squeeze to form a seal. Gently press each dough ball into a flattened disk that resembles a thick pancake. Repeat with remaining dough.

Brush each pupusa with oil and place them on a heated and greased griddle. Cook until puffy, about 4 minutes on each side. Serve with the cortido on top.

Day Thirty Three: Chashu Rice Bowl (Chashu Don)

12 Aug

Day 33 (which by the way, is extremely delayed due to my laziness) takes us to Japan, one of Christian’s favorite cuisines. When he asked what I was making, and I told him Japanese food, his reponse was “Oh good, that is my favorite”. So the bar was high for me. The food is so clean, but so flavorful – there isn’t much to not like about Japanese cuisine.

While I really wanted to make ramen, I couldn’t do it without the real noodles, and since I can’t eat real noodles, it just wasn’t worth the effort. So, instead I opted for another uncomplicated, traditional dish – donburi, or a rice bowl. A super versatile concept adaptable to any type of meat, fish or vegetables. And yet another bonus is that it is so simple, and it really lets the meat (or whatever topping) shine as the star. Basically, you want your meat to be as flavorful as possible, because there is nothing there to overshadow it or emphasize the flavor. That is a good thing – uncomplicated dishes can really result in some of the best tasting food.

This rice bowl features chashu, a traditional Japanese boiled pork that becomes really tender, but not falling apart – it is sliceable meat, not pull apart meat. It should be made from fatty meats, like the shoulder, belly and even cheeks. The cooking liquid is full of flavor, with soy sauce, ginger, green onions and mirin. I added some white miso for a bit more flavor, but it isn’t necessary at all. I love miso though, and will find a reason to put it in whatever I can now. (This was another new discovery during the cleanse – dressings, soups, marinades, etc.)

After Christian’s first bite, he said “this is f’ing awesome”, so that is good. I thought it was really good too, but did not have the same level of appreciate for it that he did. The pork was tender and had quite a bit of flavor. I think, for me, the end product would have been better if I had reduced the cooking liquid down to a more concentrated and thicker sauce. Seemed like that is what fell flat for me. But the pork was cooked well and tasted great.

The recipe was really easy to make, and definitely could be a weekday thing (it was for me, at least). To go with the chashu, I quickly sauteed some beautiful white turnips and mizuna from the Farmer’s Market, adding a bit of tamari and mirin to finish it off. Delicious!

I ended up doing a lot research on this, since it was a new concept for me. I finally decided to take two recipes and mesh them together – this one and this one.  The latter site, from No Recipes, made me really want to seek out some pork cheeks – it is like the best of pork shoulder and pork belly combined. Sounds like heaven.

Chashu Rice Bowl

  • 1 1/2 lbs pork shoulder
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 2″ piece ginger, sliced
  • 1 green onion, green part only
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp miso paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • About 20 peppercorns
  • 1 cup
  • 1 additional green onion, sliced on the diagonal, for garnish

In a large pot or dutch oven, combine all ingredients except rice. Liquid should almost cover the pork. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Leave lid ajar slightly, and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, until meat is tender (but not falling apart). Remove and let rest, covered in foil. Meanwhile, boil the sauce for about 10 minutes (longer if you want to try to make it more concentrated). Slice the meat thinly against the grain.

While meat is cooking and/or resting, make 1 cup of what rice (more if you want, less if you want). To serve, dish up the rice and top with pork, a drizzle of sauce and the green onions.

Day Thirty Two: Grilled Pork Kebabs with Basil Chimichurri

12 Jul

I have a bad habit of buying basil and never being able to finish it before it goes bad. At Whole Foods, or at least ours, you have to buy a rather large container of it and frankly, not everything I cook works well with basil. I’m also not big on making a ton of pesto to freeze – I just find it so much better when it is freshly made. But that is just me.

Anyway, so I decided that I was not going to waste basil this time. It is just too good to waste, and I get so mad every time I realize I’ve made that mistake, yet again. I used some this week for a chilled roasted beet side dish, but had a ton left over. That led to this recipe, one that I thought would be great way to use more of it up. A fresh basil chimichurri would definitely pair well with marinated and grilled pork kebabs, right? Yep, it did.

This recipe is so darn easy, it is like child’s play. Some of the best recipes are the simplest, with no complicated methods, ingredients or flavors. Marinate the meat overnight and grill, throw sauce ingredients together in a bowl and mix for 30 seconds. Done. It would really make a great dish when you don’t have a lot of time or don’t want to be cooking when you have guests over, since the sauce and pork is mostly prepared ahead of time. All you have to do at game time is grill.

The fresh flavors make this a great summer meal. I served it with a roasted fingerling potato and arugula salad and some grilled spring onions, as well as an Argentinian Malbec – delicious side dishes and wine. The pork was juicy, tender, and nicely charred on the outside, with just the right amount of lemon coming through from the marinade. The chimichurri added to the bright flavors and pulled it together nicely. The dinner really was perfect for eating outside on the deck overlooking Lake Tahoe (well, what we see of it at least). We finally have summer here, and the weather is just too good not to be eating every single meal al fresco.

Note that the recipe will probably yield more chimichurri than you’ll need. I’m planning to use the rest mixed with roasted fingerling potatoes, or perhaps on some grilled chicken. I have a feeling it would be good with anything, really, even just eaten on it’s own!

Grilled Pork Kebabs with Basil Chimichurri

(Serves about 3)

For Pork and Marinade:

  • 1 1/2 lbs pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut int 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
For Basil Chimichurri:
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Combine marinade ingredients together in a bowl and transfer to a ziploc bag or dish. Add pork and move around to coat. Marinade up to 24 hours in refrigerator.

About 2 hours before you are ready to grill, make the chimichurri. Combine sauce ingredients together and cover; transfer to refrigerator until ready to use. You’ll want the flavors to infuse and develop before you serve it.

Prepare grill at medium (with a gas grill) until hot. Put pork pieces on metal skewers and grill until done, turning once, about 14 minutes total.

To serve, remove pieces of pork and put on plate; top with chimichurri.

Day Thirty One: Pork Tostadas with Pickled Farmer’s Market Vegetables

10 Jul

And we’re back! Oh how I’ve missed pork shoulder! Still feeling good, albeit with some minor setbacks along the way. I’m very excited to pick up where I left off back in May (I can’t believe it has been that long).

Summer brings us one of my favorite things – the Farmer’s Market. I get so excited on Thursdays to see what great, beautiful, fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers the vendors have. So far, it has yet to disappoint. I’m currently obsessed with bright purple spring onions one stand has been having – they are amazing on the grill. Sweet, charred deliciousness.

For the newest recipe here, I added some Asian flavors to the tostada concept. The result? Pork tostadas with pickled farmer’s market vegetables. The pickled veggies consisted of kohlrabi, cucumbers and radishes that I picked up at the market. And “pickled” is used here loosely – they are more like veggies that have been marinated in a vinegar-sugar solution, long enough for flavor them but while staying a bit crunchy. Whatever you call them, they are good.

If you’ve never had kohrabi, I suggest trying it at least once. The taste is sort of like a combination of a radish, celery root and a turnip, while the texture is almost jicama-ish. I love it, and it is surprisingly versatile. I’ve made it into slaws, and more recently, made a salad with raw diced kohlrabi, steamed chard and red lentils. I had 1/2 of a bulb left over and figured this “pickling” method would be a good way to use it up.

The succulent pork was marinated in a cilantro, lime and soy mixture, then slow cooked to pull-apart perfection – it was a great accompaniment to the vegetables.  For the tortilla, I used brown rice tortillas in lieu of traditional corn, and rather than frying them, I brushed them with oil and crisped them in the oven (this was a staple item on the cleanse). This method is not only a bit healthier, but at least with the rice tortillas, they get really crispy. They also hold up well to the topping, without getting soggy from the juices and sauce.

We really enjoyed this recipe. I served it as an appetizer/first course with some friends we had over for an impromptu bbq at our house. Definitely think this is a great entertaining recipe since the serving size can be so adaptable – larger tortilla portions for main course, or really small bite size for appetizers. I opted to serve the tortillas in quarters, with each person having 2 pieces. There was leftover pork that would have made 2 more, but I wanted it the next day for a sandwich (which was great, by the way).

The bright flavors of the vegetables really matched well with the rich but fresh, juicy pork. And by topping it off with a bit of fresh cilantro and black sesame seeds made this a pretty dish.  I think it needs to be stressed how important the vegetables are to pull the dish together. Our friend, Steph, doesn’t particularly like vinegary stuff, so she had one first without them. For her second, she had one with the veggies and definitely agreed it was much better. It is amazing how something so simple can make a dish just taste right. Highly recommend this one!

Pork Tostadas with Pickled Farmer’s Market Veggies

(Serves about 6 as a first course/appetizer, more for hors d’oeuvres and less for main course)

For Pork and Marinade:

  • 1 1/2 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 3 equal pieces
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 4 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ginger (you can add more or less)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
For Pickled Veggies:
  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 radishes
  • 1 small cucumber, or 1/2 regular
  • 1/2 bulb kohlrabi
  • Brown rice tortillas (or corn tortillas)
  • Olive oil
  • chopped cilantro
  • black sesame seeds (optional)

Mix together all the marinade ingredients with a whisk. Set aside 1/2 cup of marinade for later (keep this in the refrigerator). Pour the rest of the marinade in a dish and add the pork, turning to coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours. Add the contents of the dish to the crockpot and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, until falling apart. When done, shred into large pieces.

While the pork is cooking, make the veggies. Using a mandoline on the thinnest setting, slice the vegetables. For the kohlrabi, once sliced, julienne the pieces so they are thin sticks. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a glass bowl and add the vegetables; cover and refrigerate at least one hour.

When ready to serve, cut the brown rice tortillas in 1/4’s (if using small corn, don’t worry about doing this). Brush top side with olive oil and broil until crisp and brown, about 3 minutes. To each tortilla quarter, add pork and drizzle with a spoonful of the marinade that you set aside. Top with some of the vegetables and sprinkle with black sesame seeds and extra cilantro. Serve and eat.

Pork Free Post: No More Cleanse = Pork (Yay!)

27 Jun

Finally, the end of my 21-day Clean cleanse journey has come. No more having to explain why I’m not drinking wine, or why I can’t have green peppers with my fajitas, or why I can’t have a s’more after dinner. Nope, I’m free to make whatever food decisions I want.

I learned so much about myself over the past 3 weeks, it is crazy. Noticeable changes:

— Much more energy. Instead of being exhausted at the end of a day and plopping on the couch before dinner, I want to go out and play tennis.

— Sleeping better. I now am asleep within 30 minutes of hitting the pillow, as opposed to possibly laying there an hour or more. I also sleep through the night uninterrupted, and if I do get woken up, I go back to sleep immediately. Result is waking up feeling less tired and more refreshed.

— Better moods. I’m more happy on a regular basis – just in a good mood all the time. I think this is because I feel better physically.

— WAY less bloat. Noticeable in my face and neck, as well as in my tummy area. My clothes feel more loose and I feel lighter.

— Softer skin on my face, and a healthy “glow”. This was a remark made by my husband after the first week.

— Noticeably reduced needs/cravings for various foods. Coffee will not be a part of my regular day – don’t miss it at all. Sweets aren’t anything I feel like I just have to have. I think desserts now will consist of fruit or cheese. Big deal for me! Sorry new gluten-free bakery down the street – I won’t be visiting you as much anymore.

— Increased alertness and better memory. I’m not forgetting the simple things like I used to – I guess I’m less absent minded than before.

— Lost about 6 lbs. This was a welcome bonus.

— Fewer headaches. I would suffer from headaches almost everyday. While yes, I had some headaches from the cleanse, they are less frequent and not as intense as before.

— Less hunger. I definitely identified boredom eating. Thankfully I can nip that one in the bud. Now, if I could only find a job that wasn’t making me so bored……

I will not lie – I did  miss wine. It was hard but I managed to resist even a sip over the last 3 weeks, even while we had company. Another side effect of this cleanse that is highly valued – increased willpower. Towards the end it wasn’t that hard to say no, because I knew I was doing this to better myself and that, frankly, I wouldn’t feel like crap the next day. It was nice to not have the congestion and headache that can come along with too much red wine.  I will note here that the first day off the cleanse I may have overindulged on wine. I needed to celebrate.

I had to give up a lot of stuff, namely certain meats. While I will still be enjoying all these things, they will be enjoyed in moderation. Pork shoulder recipes will be reappearing very soon, but may not be appearing as often. I will, however, add more non-pork recipes as I continue on with experimenting with the cleanse’s “Elimination Diet”. It is piquing my interesting in something so opposite of pork – vegan and raw food. No, I’m not going to be sprouting nuts and other random crunchy things like that, but I may be eating less dairy and meat products to balance things out. I’m emphasizing balance now in my food-related life

My first non-cleanse meal Saturday night wasn’t a total bust, but it was kinda borderline. You see, I’m supposed to reintroduce things one at a time and see how my body reacts. I opted for a three prong approach: organic grass-fed and hormone/antibiotic-free steak,  some wines, and a bit of Cowgirl Creamery’s Lamb Chopper cheese (sheep’s milk cheese). I don’t know if it is my mental state or if Whole Foods had a bad batch of meat, but the steak was not what I was envisioning. Normally, you can’t go wrong, but it was tough and not very good. Total fail, and an utter disappointment. I can’t wait though for the pork chops I bought – I may cry if those are bad too, as it might be a symptom of me not having these delicious things for 3 weeks. God, I hope that isn’t the case.

I can’t express how much I’d recommend this program to someone. It was no doubt very difficult at first to wrap my head around soup for dinner or no stinky cheeses, but in the end, I actually really liked what I was feeling. I will definitely be doing this again at least once per year, as well as mini versions periodically when I feel like I may have gone back to bad habits.  My daily routine will be permanently changed for the better.

Cleanse Update

13 Jun

I figure I should update on my cleanse. I’ve made it through week 1, and am currently on day 10. This cleanse is amazing, really. I’ve dropped some pounds, mostly of bloat and puffyness that I had no idea existed. It goes so far beyond just not eating gluten.

Surprisingly, we’ve managed to eat quite well on this plan. Yes, you have to have soup for dinner, but you can really make fantastic soups. Lunches we’ve had grilled lamb chops, fish with red apple slaw, wraps with chicken and apples, and so many others. Last night I grilled up some chicken kebabs marinated in mint, cilantro and garlic, served along side a red cabbage and mango slaw with cashews. So good.

I can’t believe how easy this has been, honestly. The smoothies in the morning for breakfast are great, considering I don’t really like breakfast anyway. And eating a big meal in the day is nice – I don’t feel full and uncomfortable at night or when I go to bed.

I’ve managed to not eat a dessert once. Weird. I think I’m going to make one on Wednesday when I’m home to have with my lunches. I’m dying without a little something. Just not sure how to do it totally vegan. So new to me!

I’ll do another update after week 2. But so far so good!