Paleo Grilled Lemon Garlic Chicken — My FAVORITE Chicken Marinade

There is this middle-eastern restaurant near me that makes a fabulous chicken shwarma dish with whole grilled chicken breasts.  The chicken is always super juicy and has such a great flavor with a hint of lemon and garlic.  I halfheartedly tried to copy it once or twice, but didn’t have much success.  A few weeks ago I stumbled across a yogurt based lemon and garlic marinade that sounded promising.  I omitted the yogurt to make it paleo friendly, and changed some of the seasonings around to suit my tastes a bit more.  The result was something pretty fabulous (if I do say so myself).  It was actually pretty close to the restaurant chicken, but even better!

I let my chicken sit in the marinade for 24 hours.  You could possibly do less, but the salt in the marinade brines the chicken, making it super moist and helping draw the flavors into the chicken.   If you are going to try for a shorter time, I’d give it at least several hours.  If you have the time, do yourself a favor and let it sit all night.  There is nothing remotely subtle about the resulting flavors here.  The lemon takes center stage and the resulting flavor is bright and bold and the fresh ground black pepper gives it a little kick.  Perfect for summertime!   A teaspoon of salt sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t come out overly salty and the salt brines the chicken to perfection.

Ingredients:

1.5 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (feel free to use bone-in pieces or other parts as you desire)

Marinade:

1 Tbsp Lemon Zest (about 1 medium lemon)

1/2 Lemon, juiced

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

4-6 Cloves Garlic, Crushed

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Pepper

Sprig of Fresh Rosemary

Few Sprigs of Fresh Thyme

Directions:

Add dry marinade ingredients to a gallon size zip lock bag (or lidded Tupperware container) and then add the wet ones.  Squish them around to mix up a bit and add chicken.  Seal bag and squish bag (or shake container) to thoroughly cover chicken.   Chuck it in the refrigerator and forget about it for 24 hours — Unless you are the overly attentive type, then you can go shake, flip, or squish your chicken a couple of times while waiting.  I just let mine sit and it came out fine.

Pre-heat grill on high for about 10 minutes (or until hot).  Reduce heat to medium.  Using tongs, place chicken on grill (using a fork will poke holes in the meat and let some of the juices out, making drier chicken).  Let sit 5 minutes.  Flip chicken breasts with tongs and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Smaller thinner breasts should be done at this point.  The larger breasts stayed on the grill and cooked for an additional 3 minutes per side.  Check chicken with a meat thermometer or slice into the thickest part of the breast and see if its done.

I served it with steamed broccoli and sweet potato hash browns.  I’ll be posting the sweet potato recipe next.

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Best Freakin’ Lamb Roast Ever!

Did you ever take a bite of your dinner and hear angels sing?  If not, you need to try this lamb recipe pronto!   My tummy is still humming with delight.

We didn’t eat a lot of lamb growing up. I remember grandma making it for Easter a few times when I was pretty young, but ham became our traditional meal long ago.  I didn’t have lamb again until 6 years ago when my brother and I took our dad to Ireland.  There was quite a bit of lamb on the menu over there.  As we were there in the spring, there were oodles of new lambs in pretty much every field across the country.  This was a little off-putting when trying to order the fluffy little fellows for lunch.  Eventually I just started referring to them as “lunch” or “dinner” instead of “cute lamb” whenever we’d see one in a field.  After that, I found that I had much less apprehension about eating one.   Since then, I have eatten various lamb entrees periodically at Middle Eastern restaurants.  However, this is by far the best lamb I’ve had.

Ingredients:

1 semi-boneless lamb leg roast (mine was about 4.5 pounds) You can use boneless as well.

2 medium lemons, zested and juiced (about 2 – 2.5 Tbsp of zest)

3 Tbsp. fresh oregano, minced

3 Tbsp. fresh thyme, minced

1 1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 – 3 cloves of garlic, sliced into slivers

1 – 2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves

2 pounds carrots, cut into pieces (optional)

1 – 2 pounds turnips (I used 1 lb, but could have had more) (optional)

8 oz. button mushrooms, halved (or quartered for the big ones)(optional)

2 cups beef broth/stock (could probably use chicken or veggie broth/stock also) for bottom of roaster to keep things moist and make enough juice. (optional — if not roasting veggies, the lamb will make its own juices.)

Directions:

In a small bowl, thoroughly combine lemon zest, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper.

Pat meat dry with paper towels.

Brush lamb with lemon juice, then olive oil, then massage in herb/seasoning mixture. Do both sides.

Fresh herbs massaged onto both sides of roast

Using a thin paring knife, cut deep slits all over the leg.  Stuff each slit with a sliver of garlic and rosemary leaves.  Let leg warm on kitchen counter for three hours. (Because I was in a bit of a hurry, I only let mine sit out for about an hour.  It turned out fine).  Note: The lamb can be prepped an entire day in advance then simply allowed to warm up on the counter before cooking.

Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put carrots, turnips, and mushrooms in bottom of roasting pan. Add 2 cups beef broth to pan (I’m paranoid about my meat drying and I wanted some extra liquid with the veggies in there).  Put rack in pan and position the leg on the rack.

Veggies & roast in roaster. Ready to roast!

Cover with aluminum foil and  roast to the desired doneness.  I cooked mine to an internal temperature of 160 degrees and it came out nicely medium.  Cook to 140 degrees for medium rare.

Remove from oven, leaving foil in place, and let rest for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat oven to it’s highest setting (475 – 500 degrees).

Uncover roast, return to oven, and cook until browned – 10 to 15 minutes.

Best Freakin' Lamb Roast Ever!

Remove from oven and let sit 15 minutes before carving.  Top meat with juices from the pan.  You can put juices in a saucepan and reduce a bit if desired.

Deconstructed Paleo Egg Roll – Challenge Accepted!

(Since posting this, I have worked on the recipe more and came up with something I’m happy with.  Here’s a link to the new recipe.)

Yesterday I fell off so far off the paleo wagon that I got run over by it!  It started with the giant assortment of fabulous gourmet popcorn that showed up from one of our vendors — I sort of fell head first into that.  Also, there may or may not have been some pizza consumed at some point.   It was the culmination of a week in which I found myself cheating more than normal.   Needless to say, it wasn’t my proudest moment.

If there is a plus side, it made me realize how easy it is to slip back into your evil old ways.  I’ve felt so much better (and lost weight) while eating paleo that I definitely want to stay with it.  I decided to recommit myself to it and no better way to do that than to whip up some fabulous recipes!  While at it, I thought I’d challenge myself to try some new stuff.

The other day in my post on shopping for spices in ethnic markets, I suggested looking around while you were there to see what inspired you.  As I typed it, I realized that I hadn’t done a lot of that myself lately.  I shop often at the Middle Eastern and Indian markets but have never been to the Asian market, so I decided to pop in there this afternoon.   I lingered for a while over the dried seaweed/kelp section before deciding that I wasn’t up to that particular challenge (you can thank me if you’d like).  Further down the aisle I found the powdered chinese hot mustard — my favorite egg roll topper.  I’ve been craving egg rolls something fierce lately, so I picked up the mustard and decided to figure out a way to make a paleo egg roll.

I considered using a cabbage leaf to create a paleo friendly wrap, but decided that a deconstructed egg roll might be a better/easier option.  I started by shredding a 1/4 of a small head of red cabbage (it’s what I had in the house), two stalks of celery, and a couple of shallots in the food processor.  I stir fried these in 1 Tbsp of coconut oil until the cabbage was wilted but still slightly crispy.

Shredded cabbage, celery, and shallots

I added 1 Tbsp (+/-) of coconut aminos (a paleo soy sauce alternate) and heated a few more minutes.  I then served it topped with a dollop of fresh chinese hot mustard.

Deconstructed Paleo Egg Roll - Try #1

The result was not bad for a first effort. It was definitely close enough that I think it merits another go with a few modifications.  It definitely could use a little meat.  I think I’ll add some ground pork next time — and cook the cabbage right in the pork grease.  It needed a little extra seasoning too.  Definitely a pinch of salt.  I’ve never used Chinese 5 spice blend, but think I may check that out too.  If any of you give this a try, let me know how your version turns out.

Paleo Pan Seared Cod (or Halibut) in a Coconut Sauce

Ready to spice up your life a little?  This Indian dish will add a little flavor to your hum drum winter night. And as far as Indian cooking goes, this one is pretty basic (although, you may need to pick up the curry leaves in an Indian or ethnic market).  If you are not a fan of super spicy food, fear not, because this dish is very mild.  You can make it even milder by omitting the peppers completely.  If you like to crank up the heat, just add a couple more!

I’ve been dabbling with Indian cooking for a little over a year and, by far, one of my favorite dishes is a mild white fish in a coconut sauce.  The coriander and ginger complement the sweetness of the coconut, onions, and curry leaves.  I used Wild Alaskan Cod for this because that is what was available at the grocery store.  Halibut would work equally well.

Pan Seared Cod in a Coconut Sauce

Ingredients:

Coconut Sauce:

 2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh or dried curry leaves (You will likely need to go to a specialty grocery for these.  Use fresh if they have them.)

1  tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed (You can use a mortar and pestle or the palms of your hands to break open the seeds.  You could also use a spice grinder, just barely grind it)

2 dried red chilis with stems removed  (or 1 fresh green chile, chopped)

1 can coconut milk

salt and pepper to taste

Fish:

3 tablespoons coconut oil

1 lb cod or halibut fillets

2 teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoon ground cumin

A pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:

For the coconut sauce:

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When it is hot, add the ginger and onions and cook until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the curry leaves, coriander seeds, and chiles and cook for 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk, turn the heat down to low and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened.  Stir occassionally and start the fish.  When thickened, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed (Definitely add at least a pinch of salt.  The salt seems to make the curry flavor pop).

Coconut Sauce

For the fish:

Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil.  Mix the spices together and place on a plate.  Dredge both sides of the fish with the spice mix and place them in the pan.  Cook for about 4 minutes (less for thinner fillets) on each side until done. Fish should just flake with a fork.  If your pieces are not evenly thick, watch for some to cook faster than others.

Seasoned Fish --- Nicely Golden

Add sauce over fish and serve.

Broccoli or asparagus are nice accompaniments with this dish.

Homemade Paleo Mayonnaise & A Cautionary Tale of Baconnaise

Being relatively new to the paleo lifestyle, sometimes I will be sharing some recipes I find that are experiments for me.  Today’s effort is mayonnaise.  In the great Mayonnaise vs. Miracle Whip debate, I am firmly in the Miracle Whip camp.  I come from a long line of Miracle Whip lovers.  My great-great-great-great grandfather lugged around a giant block of ice so that he could have a supply of Mircle Whip durring his campaigns in the Civil War.  O.K., that last bit isn’t true, but Miracle Whip is practically in my genes.  It is one of the non-paleo foods still in my fridge.  However, I have been determined to try to get rid of it.  As a result, I have been playing around with homemade paleo mayonnaise.  I found some great recipes on the Paleo Diet Lifestyle website including one I’m sharing below for homemade mayo.    In the paleo version you replace the soy oil with a 50/50 mix of olive oil and coconut oil.

The results are O.K.  Does it compare in flavor with Miracle Whip (which I know isn’t real mayo) or Helman’s?  No.  Just tasting it straight up, I didn’t either like or hate it but found it to taste pretty oily.  However, when I spread it on my bacon wrap I found the taste to be much better when mingling with other flavors.   So, its not bad, but I am hopeful that this will work out even better with a little more experimentation.  Subsequent to finishing the mayo this morning, I found another site that stresses that using regular olive oil and not extra virgin olive oil is important so that it doesn’t have a strong olive oil taste.  I used Bertolli EVOO and didn’t think it was OVERLY olive oily, but I’ve long suspected the Bertolli olives are not quite as virginal as they pretend to be — the tramps!  Nonetheless, next time I make this I will use a different oil and see if the flavor changes.

Bacon Wrap with Homemade Paleo Mayonnasie

Technically, this is the second time I have attempted a homemade mayo.  The Paleo Diet Lifestyle site also said animal fats, such as bacon fat, can be used to replace the oil in the recipe.  Immediately I was drawn to trying to make it with the bacon fat.   The resulting product, baconnaise, sounds fabulous in theory — who doesn’t like mayo with their BLT? — but tasted horrible.   Baconnnaise = epic fail.  Blech!  It really just tasted like bacon grease and there wasn’t anything I could add that seemed to change that.   I think I’ll stick with non-animal fat versions for now.

PALEO MAYONNAISE

Ingredients:

2 egg yolks

1 tsp dry mustard (optional)

3 tsp lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil (see note in my post above about EVOO)

1/2 cup coconut oil – melted

Directions:

Most recipes I’ve seen say this can be made in a blender or food processor. Several tries (and several wasted eggs) later I discovered that both my blender and food processor had too large of gaps under the blade to make mayo.  The eggs settled under the blades and nothing mixed.  I finally dug out my Kitchenaid stand-mixer and it worked perfectly.   A hand mixer, or possibly an immersion blender, would also work well.  Hand whisking is doable, but seems like a lot of work.  On a somewhat unrelated note, I sold an antique mayonnaise maker on Ebay for $700 a few years ago.  I wonder how that would have worked?  One thing is for sure —that would be some expensive mayonnaise!  On with the recipe…

Put the yolks in the mixer bowl  with the mustard (if using) and 1 tsp lemon juice and mix those ingredients together;

Start whisking vigorously (mixer speed setting medium low to medium) while dripping the oil very slowly, even drop by drop in the beginning. You’re creating an emulsion and if you put too much oil at once, it will separate and will be very hard to save. Whisk non-stop;

As you add more oil, the emulsion will form and the mayonnaise will start to thicken and you can pour the oil faster at this point (but still drizzle in relatively slowly);

When all the oil is incorporated and the mayonnaise is thick, add the rest of the lemon juice and taste your creation.  I used a spatula at this point to scrape any splashed oil off the side of my mixing bowl to be sure it got mixed in.   You can season to taste with salt and pepper.  (Be a little careful with the salt.  I found it got very salty very easily.)  I also added 1/8 tsp dried thyme for a little extra flavor.  You can experiment with other herbs that will complement what you are serving it with.

Homemade Paleo Mayo

It makes about 1-1/4 cups.  Store in fridge for 1 – 2 weeks.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Mushrooms, & Shallots

I was feeling a little guilty for revealing in yesterday’s post that I used to think that brussels sprouts were the work of the devil.  To atone, I am dedicating this post to the little green fellas (and to Wade Jennings who claims that not even bacon can make brussels sprouts appealing).  On their own they are still not my favorite veggie so a little something something is necessary to give them a boost.  The special somethings in this case are sautéed mushrooms and shallots and a little bacon.  Bacon makes everything better (this is a proven fact) and there are few things that I like better in this world than sautéed mushrooms.  How can adding both be anything less than fab?  Although I may never enthusiastically embrace brussels sprouts like a long-lost relative in a tear jerking Folgers Coffee commercial,  it is good enough to make me want to give them a hearty whack on the back like an old college drinking pal I don’t mind seeing every now and then.  Seriously, this is pretty darn good.  For those that don’t care for the taste of sprouts, cutting them into smaller pieces lets more of the other flavors permeate and you get less brussel sproutiness.   And yes, sproutiness is a word.

Without further ado…

Ingredients:

5 – 6 slices bacon

2 Tbsp Grass-fed butter

8 oz. white mushrooms – quartered or thick slices

4 medium shallots

2 cloves garlic – chopped

16 oz. Brussels sprouts – ends trimmed and quartered (halved if they are tiny)

Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook bacon to the desired degree of doneness (I like mine crispy).  When done, remove from pan and set aside to cool.  When cool, break bacon into smaller pieces.

Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon grease from the pan.  Add 1 Tbsp of the butter, shallots, mushrooms, and garlic to pan and saute on  medium high heat until shallots become translucent and mushrooms start to brown.

Mushrooms & Shallots

Ready for the sprouts!

Add remaining 1 Tbsp of butter and brussels sprouts.

w/ sprouts added

Cook, stirring occasionally,  until sprouts are tender (about 8 to 10 minutes).  When tender, add bacon, stir to mix, and heat for a few more minutes to spread flavor.  Salt and pepper to taste & serve.

All Done! Doesn't it look yummy?