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food: poulet en papillote

well hello there.  i know.  it’s been a while.
so let us catch up, shall we?

i’d love to account for my absence with fabulous holidays and tales of jet-setting, but i have been pretty homebound… so that’s not it.  and i’d love to say that i’ve been doing super secret recipe tasting for something fun and exciting like a cookbook, but thats not it either.

truth be told i have been on a super healthy life mission and its just plain keeping me busy.
i have classes and meal plans and exercise routines and all that fun stuff and so its taking my free time (otherwise known as blogging time) down to about nothing.  for more proof, see my giant stack of “books to read” that hasn’t been touched since xmas.

anyways.  i’m going to share one of my current favourite mega healthy recipes.

poulet en papillote sounds super fancy pants, but really, it’s just chicken steamed in paper.
this recipe took us minutes to put together, only 25 minutes to bake and was pretty cheap on the ingredients.
combine that with the super healthy factor and you have a winning recipe in my house.

so here’s how it looks as a meal for 2 people.

poulet en papillote

ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (whole – trim ends)
  • 1 carrot (peeled and thin sliced)
  • 1 small jar of artichokes in oil, drained
  • 10-15 kalamata olives (no pits)
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1/2 cup or so of feta (optional)
  • fresh herbs (we used tarragon & basil)

vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (we used myer)
  • 1 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 & cut 2 pieces of parchment paper to fit chicken & vegetable pack.
  2. in a small bowl whisk lemon juice, mustard & honey.  slowly drizzle in olive oil to form vinaigrette.
  3. divide asparagus over two papers
  4. season chicken breast with salt & pepper and place on top of asparagus.  drizzle with 1 tbsp of dressing each.
  5. add other vegetables and feta and drizzle with another tbsp of dressing.
  6. fold over paper and crimp edges in a half moon shape to seal completely.
  7. bake for 25 – 28 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

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before (above) and after (below)

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this recipe must be tasted to be believed.
the chicken ends up wonderfully moist and tender – no easy feat for a boneless skinless breast, and it creates a natural juice that is to die for.  if you’re enjoying the bead, i certainly suggest that you get a baguette and sop up the deliciousness inside the pouch.

added bonus – the easiest clean up ever.  no pans, no pots, only a cutting board and your dinner plates.  and we ate out of the paper pouch, so even the plate was a breeze to clean up.

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food: all of the sweet potatoes

lately I’ve had a bit of a new food obsession. it’s to stuff everything and anything into a sweet potato.
for one, it’s obvs super healthy. sweet potatoes have less carbs than regular potatoes… blah blah blah… but mostly I just like the taste of them. and they are magical little vehicles for the yums.
it all stems from a paleo trick that I adopted a couple years ago to make a tuna melt using a half of a baked sweet potato instead of bread. to be honest, I was skeptical. but I decided to give it a go and lo and behold, I was addicted.

it’s so delightful and easy, I use it as a lunch for work often. I mix the tuna with fixins (I use chopped pepperoncini peppers, s&p and sometimes a smidge of mayo) and I load up the half sweet potato, pile on the tuna and top with some cheese. at work, I microwave and chow down.

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this is an obvious a solid meal choice, but honestly, I’m not always in the mood for tuna. and sometimes I have leftovers calling my name.
so, a week or two ago, we had leftover rappini from a dinner. it had been sautéed in ghee and had plenty of garlic in it. so, we reheated it in a non-stick frypan and piled it onto the sweet potato. topped with some smoked gouda and browned in the toaster oven. a little siracha on top and voila; quick & easy lunch.

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this maneuver kind of sparked a “what else?” train of thought in our house… and now the half sweet potato has become the go-to vehicle for leftovers.
If we’re baking or cooking something in the oven, I’ll scrub a couple sweet potatoes and toss them in to cook and then throw them in the fridge so they’re ready…
and I think this is my current fave stuffing; it’s kale sautéed in a little ghee with garlic and feta cheese. it’s salty, crunchy, sweet and garlicky. I could eat it every day.

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let me know if you have any sweet potato stuffing secrets! I’d love to get some new ideas.

food: beef barley soup

if there is one thing i know, its that my life is made easier by my ownership of the slow cooker and food processor.

but to be honest, i really don’t use either to their maximum capacity.  i often find myself with a big pot simmering away on the stove or meat braising in the oven, when a slow cooker could definitely be doing that work for me.
and the same goes for my food processor.  sometimes i’m elbow deep in chopped vegetables working away for 40 minutes when it dawns on my that i could have just chucked these in the food processor and i could have been done in seconds.
so i’m working on it.

to me, the slow cooker is a magical device that slaves away when i’m at work.  i throw my raw goods in before i leave, and when i’m home i reap the benefits.  nothing could be easier.
but there’s no reason that i can’t be using it on weekends while i’m nesting on my couch watching movies.  and if i have to pop out to run an errand, its a-okay to leave it to do its thing.

so, on sunday i put it to use.  my biggest temptation is to constantly be lifting the lid & stirring & tasting.  but where the slow cooker is involved, thats bad news.  so i had to really restrain myself from fussing over it.

i used the food processor to chop: 1 onion, 3 giant carrots, some green cabbage and 4 stalks of celery into a pretty uniform dice.  then i threw that in the slow cooker with a frozen ziplock bag with some bone broth i’d made a few weeks ago and let that make friends for a couple hours while my stew beef was defrosting.

i tossed the beef in salt & pepper and browned it in ghee before adding it to the cooker.  topped it up with a bit of water, dried thyme and a teaspoon of beef better than boulion.  and because my husband loves barley, i added a half cup of pearl barley.  oh, and a can of tomato paste.

that hung out in the slow cooker and got delicious for about 5 hours.  we added a bit of chopped fresh thyme and flat leaf parsley and chowed down.

as a side dish, i whipped up some savory scones.  they kinda went down like this:

– 3 cups of flour- 1 tablespoon sugar
– 2 tablespoons of baking powder
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon each of: dried thyme, garlic salt & dried jalapeno
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 stick of cold butter
– 1 cup plain greek yogurt
– 2 green onions finely diced
– 1 cup shredded cheese (i used cheddar & aged gouda)

preheat the oven to 400
mix dry ingredients in a large bowl
cut in butter with pastry blender
stir in cheese, onion & greek yogurt.  use a little water to thin if dough isn’t coming together – i probably had to add about 1/4 cup of water total
let chill 20 minutes. divide dough in half & roll out into a square.  cut into quarters and then cut each square diagonally to make a triangle.
brush with milk or melted butter (i used ghee) and bake for 15-20 minutes on parchment paper until golden brown.

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food: farro & kale salad

last week there was a fun article on buzz feed that had a bunch of pumpkin recipes and they all sounded soooooo yummy…
so of course, i took it upon myself to bastardize one of them.

this recipe below started as a lentil & pumpkin salad with feta & arugula.
and i turned it into a farro & sweet potato salad with blue cheese & kale.  because those all seemed like logical substitutions.

I started with a bag of trader joe’s 10 minute farro.  essentially its been par-cooked, so it doesn’t take an hour of boiling before its edible.
so i cooked the farro, microwaved 2 sweet potatoes and chopped a couple kale leaves, some asparagus and flat leaf parsley.

once the sweet potatoes & farro were cooled off (aka – not steaming hot, but still warm) i combined them in a big bowl with the veggies, added the juice of 1 lemon, about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of olive oil, salt & pepper and chili flakes.
then i tossed in some delicious crumbled blue cheese and topped with chopped avocado.

easy peasy!

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food: paleo beef stroganoff

okay… time for a recipe post, since its been a while.  what with all the traveling and such…
i’ve been trying to make a return to what i’m calling “practically paleo”. where for the most part, i’m eating paleo meals… my aim is 80%, but in current reality i’m probably sitting closer to 70%.  because i love carbs.

so i’ve been allowing for splurges in the form of sprouted brown rice and some white potato… and cheese.  definitely cheese.  because cheese is REALLY HARD to give up for me.

anyways.  the other day i whipped up a paleo stroganoff to satisfy my craving for some comfort food.
i had bought some precut strips of beef inside round –  “stir fry beef” as they called it in the store… but wasn’t really feeling the stir fry.  plus i didn’t have the right veggies.  so i decided to go with a stroganoff of sorts.

problem 1 – i only had 2 mushrooms.  so i filled out the mushroom quotient with a package of dried BC chanterelles that i’d had hanging out in my cupboard from the mushroom display at the PNE last year…

problem 2 – i didn’t want to do the dairy & flour thing to make it rich and creamy.  so i rocked a paleo version with coconut milk and a little cornstarch to thicken. (not super  paleo there, i know)

problem 3 -traditional stroganoff is really lacking veggies, so i threw in some dinosaur kale that i  chiffonaded.  because i just wasn’t in a side-dish kinda mood.

problem 4 – carb craving.  solution: sprouted brown rice.  ya, not my finest healthy moment, but damnit, it was tasty.

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so here’s my “recipe”…

practically paleo beef stroganoff

– 1lb (more or less) of sliced beef inside round
– 2 white mushrooms, thinly sliced
– 1 package of dried chanterelles
– 1/2 cup diced onion (optional – i didn’t put it in)
– 2 cloves of crushed garlic
– 2 cups of dinosaur kale, chiffonaded
– 1 tsp coconut oil (or more – for sauteing)
– 1 cup of coconut milk
– 1 tsp cornstarch (optional)
– 2 tsp dried thyme
– salt, pepper & siracha to taste
– splash of worcestershire sauce

  1. soak chanterelles in 2 cups of warm/tap hot water
  2. brown beef strips in coconut oil on both sides – remove from pan
  3. saute white mushrooms, onions & garlic, add kale
  4. remove chanterelles from liquid (save the liquid!) and chop into bite sized pieces.  add to saute pan
  5. add beef, coconut milk and half of mushroom liquid, spices & seasoning
  6. let simmer for a few minutes until the smell drives you wild.  add more mushroom liquid or let reduce further as you see fit.
  7. add cornstarch dissolved in a small amount of cold water to the pan to thicken if desired.  also could add a pat of butter to finish the sauce.

voila!  my finished plate.  (er… bowl)

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and then my leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch went without the rice and i basically ate it with a spoon.
that sauce was DELICIOUS.
loads of that delightful umami flavour that you’re gonna want in your meals to scratch that comfort food itch…

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fabulous las vegas: including bon apetit vegas uncorkd 2013

you might not know if from my lack of posts, but the 2013 vegas crew did indeed survive our adventure.
i also answered the question – is 6 nights in vegas too long? with a resounding NO.  i was not ready to come home and could have lounged poolside for another week easily.

and once again, i headed to vegas with a to-do/to-see list that was a mile long and really only got through a handful of things.
but i did have an excellent time.

when we checked in at the cosmopolitan, the lovely lady at the desk asked if it was our first time.  we told her it was my 7th trip to vegas, but our first time staying at the cosmopolitan.  she leaned over the desk and whispered “you’ll never stay anywhere else again”.
and by george,i think she was right.

the cosmopolitan was top notch from start to finish.  excellent service, beautiful rooms with incredible pools and terrific restaurants.  i have zero complaints about our stay there. and yes, i’ll be back.

our room was over 1000 square feet with 2 bathrooms and a giant patio overlooking the bellagio fountains.  i pretty much never wanted to move out.  it was gorgeous.

(here’s our patio view)

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and a shot of the living room when we were about to check out… le sigh…

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anyways, like most things in life, pictures don’t do it justice, but lets suffice to say it was pretty kickass.

but, more than anything, in las vegas, we come to eat and drink.
and the bon apetit vegas uncorkd was a strong lure for us…
we decided to do two events, the grand tasting and the bellagio block party.  both were very cool and very different.  the grand tasting was a totally mind blowing experience.  celebrity chefs everywhere, throngs of people loaded up with pork belly and short rib and fine liquor flowing very freely.

here’s my partners in crime and i on the red carpet on arrival.

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it’s kind of hard to see and describe, but all the food is poolside in an outer ring and then the liquor was on the inner ring, hugging the pool.  lovely setting.

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this was the most i saw of gordon ramsay all night… he wasn’t exactly hanging out making conversation…

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no big deal… just bobby flay serving food for mesa grill…

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i don’t even know which restaurant this cookie came from, but it had a syringe of chocolate ganache with it and it was a delight.

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i resisted the urge to take pictures of my food and just experience the event instead.  by now, i know that no photo can replicate being there and tasting it, so i’ll just tell you that we enjoyed to the max and kept the camera in my purse pretty much the whole night.  this was an event, not a photo op. and i stand by that decision.

the next night was the bellagio block party… and it was fun!  much more relaxed than the grand tasting and much smaller, in both size and guests.  the food portions were also bigger, as instead of 200 restaurants, you only had about 30 to try from, so you got a bit more of an appetizer vs an amuse bouche.

here’s my crew (minus my husband who left to get a beer) at the block party.

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and then under the bellagio hidden driveway sign…

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yup.  fun times!

anyways… fill in the blanks with food, sun, pool, drinks and laughing… and that was vegas!  definitely always more fun with wicked people.

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food: chicken, broccoli & rice casserole

winter is undoubtedly comfort food season… and as i’ve said before, comfort food means something different to everyone, but generally its the foods of our youth.

when i was a kid, my mom used to make this cambell’s soup recipe chicken casserole.  it had a couple cans of cream of whatever was in the cupboard soup, white rice and was topped with a layer of broccoli and chicken breasts laid over the top with a layer of cheddar cheese covering it all.

i love this casserole.
its everything a casserole should be.  it’s easy to make, one dish and relatively balanced…
in fact, i’ve blogged it before – here

but in the last couple weeks, i’ve purged my cupboards of most everything with a long ingredient list… condensed/canned  soup being one of those things.
so when i looked at the giant bunch of broccoli in my fridge and thought of this casserole… i was left with a quandary.  how do you sub for the soup?

i know that those cans of condensed soup work in the slow cooker in ways that other ingredients don’t.  if you’ve ever made the mistake of putting milk in a slow cooker, you know what i mean.  it does not work.
anyways, my fear was that a casserole that spends an hour in the oven might suffer from a similar problem… but i decided to live on the edge and just do my best.

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chicken, broccoli & rice casserole

  • 3 or 4 boneless chicken breasts (skin optional)
  • 1 cup of raw rice (i used jasmine)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups broccoli florets – washed & trimmed
  • spices to taste.  i used s&p, chipotle, garlic salt & thyme
  • 1 cup (or more) grated cheese (enough to cover)
  • paprika to top
  1. preheat oven to 350
  2. stir together stock, milk & sour cream.  add seasonings, stir in raw rice.
  3. pour liquid & rice mixture into your casserole dish
  4. arrange broccoli on top
  5. lay chicken breasts over broccoli
  6. cover entire pan with cheese and sprinkle paprika on top.
  7. cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. remove foil and bake for 10 more to brown cheese.  let stand for 5 minutes and serve.

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usually i enjoy this with cheddar, since cheddar and broccoli are bff.  but i didn’t have any, so i used a cheese called reypenaer that i brought back from amsterdam thats kinda like an aged gouda.  it was delightful.

some optional add ins i’ve seen before are diced red peppers or corn… and of course, i add spice, but that wasn’t in the original recipe… but honestly, its a casserole.
there are no rules other than to clean out your fridge.
you could get as fancy or not as you’d like.

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