Orange Ginger Thai Carrot Soup and Blackened Ahi Salad with Oranges

Dearest Angeline,

It has been so long since I have met up with you in cyberspace and exchanged a recipe and other tidbits of information! I have missed this! Even though my blogging skills have not been in action recently, my adventures in the kitchen have not dissipated; thank goodness. This post has a whole bunch of pictures. Just a heads up before you get too comfortable reading this post. You have been warned!

Anyways, life around here in East TN has been uneventful. The weather has been getting increasingly warmer and, regretfully, we are abandoning the lovely 60 degree weather and we are moving into temps in the 70’s/80’s. Yuck. Spring has sprung and everywhere from the ground up has been changing colors. Its a beautiful thing (I still prefer the dry brown west coast though!). I am excitedly awaiting the arrival of summer, 46 days and counting!

Nevertheless, Springtime calls for fresh, new recipes. I think that spring is such an odd season to cook for because the weather is so strange. It almost seems as if the weather is still waking up from its long winter hibernation. Today hot, tomorrow cold. Strange. Strange. Strange. Spring is still a good season for soup, but so many typical recipes really are truly intended for snowy December evenings. But, that is why I think that this recipe is so good for this time of year. It takes that warm, comfortable feeling that soup provides and transforms it into a fresh (and easy!) meal for those awkwardly warm/cold spring nights. It is good both cold and hot and still offers that filling feeling without the heaviness of winter and fall flavors! Give it a try, its my own recipe!

Orange Ginger Thai Carrot Soup

Yield: 4-6 servings Level: Easy Cook time: 30 minutes Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

◾15-20 Carrots

◾12 oz orange juice

◾2 tsp. ginger

◾1/2 ginger root (for garnish/desired texture)(optional)

◾1/4 cup unsweetened coconut, toasted

◾1 cup of almond milk (coconut milk, heavy cream, whatever you use)

◾1 tbsp. Thai seasoning

◾Salt as desired
◾1 orange for garnish

1. clean, cut and cook carrots until tender.Let cool for a few minutes and then puree in a food processor or blender. Pour into a pot and set aside.
2. Add OJ, almond milk, ginger(not the fresh!), thai spice. Stir and let simmer until you are ready to serve.
3. In a separate pan toast coconut with about 1/4 of the ginger root. This adds a little spice to the coconut. If desired, you can add the root, when finished toasting, to the soup.
4. Cut the orange into thin slices. Cut a small slit down the center and twist the slice to make a ‘curl’.
5.Serve soup and garnish with the coconut, ginger root, and orange ‘curl’.
6. Enjoy! It’s delicious!

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Homemade Labneh – Lebanese Yogurt Cheese

Dearest Laural,

It’s 6:20 PM on a Tuesday night, and I am determined to break my blogging fast and post something healthful and delicious for you! I just got home from work and I am already at the computer, getting down to business…

… OK, so an hour later and I am back in business. (Sorry, had to break for dinner.) So, where was I?

Well, yes. I have been pretty darn busy lately. I spent last week a few weeks ago traveling between California, New Mexico, and Washington, DC for work, so I hardly cooked at all! Now I am pulling out some photos for a post I’ve had in mind for a while: yogurt.

Who doesn’t love a good, homemade yogurt? As you know, I’ve been making yogurt at home for some time now, and I can practically do it in my sleep at this point. You also know that I almost never stop there, but always strain my yogurt for extra richness. I usually call it Greek yogurt, but as you’ve found, my yogurt is quite a bit thicker than the Greek-style yogurt you’ll find in grocery stores. My yogurt is really more like the Lebanese yogurt cheese called Labneh.

Labneh and Greek yogurt are both extremely healthy, and like most foods, when homemade they are even better because they contain no additives, fillers, sweeteners, or preservatives! Yogurt made at home from live cultures is about as good as you can get. As a bonus, it’s much less expensive than store-bought yogurt – especially the high quality, gourmet varieties.

Cultures (bacteria) in yogurt ferment the lactose in milk producing the lactic acid that gives yogurt its tang. Cultured properly, yogurt is essentially lactose-free and well tolerated by people with lactose sensitivity (even your stepsisters!). It’s rich in protein, calcium, and B vitamins. The cultures in yogurt are also excellent for the digestive system. They have been shown to be effective at preventing diarrhea in patients on antibiotic therapy and minimizing yeast infections. Straining yogurt concentrates all these health benefits, lowers the calorie content, increases the protein to carbohydrate ratio, and results in a rich and creamy consistency. Labneh is so rich that it is sometimes referred to as “Lebanese cream cheese”.

I take Labneh to work almost every day for lunch. I usually top it with blueberries, nuts and/or seeds, and sometimes a drizzle of honey or spoonful of coconut sugar like so:

Lunch!

Labneh with Blueberries, Chia Seeds, Honey, and Pine Nuts

Making Labneh from yogurt is a snap. Making the yogurt itself can be a bit tricky at first. It is a curious mix of science and art, but once you get the hang of it, it quickly becomes second nature. There are some basics concepts to understand – how the culture works to transform the milk and the environment in which it thrives, for example – and I won’t go into excruciating detail here, but there are few hard and fast rules. If you don’t want to make the yogurt at home, you can always “cheat” and start with store-bought yogurt, but I encourage you to go all the way and make the yogurt yourself. It is healthier, better tasting, and incredibly economical in comparison!

Homemade Labneh – Lebanese Yogurt Cheese

Yield: 4 Cups (4-6 servings);         Prep time: 15 minutes;  Total time: 7+ hours

Ingredients:

8 Cups milk

1 Tbs. fresh yogurt (for starter)

Directions:

Making the Yogurt

  1. Heat milk to between 170 and 200 degrees F. This can be done carefully in a pot on the stove, or in a large, glass bowl in the microwave. Watch carefully and remove from heat before the milk boils over.
  2. Let the milk cool to between 105 and 120 degrees F.
  3. When milk reaches desired temperature and not before, whisk in approximately 1 tablespoon of fresh yogurt with active, live cultures as a starter.
  4. Cover the container and incubate at a steady temperature (around 100 degrees F) for 6-8 hours. This can be done using a specialty yogurt maker, in an oven on the proofing cycle, or anywhere the temperature can be kept steadily warm.
  5. When the mixture has thickened and is recognizable as yogurt, it is done.

Remove the yogurt from its incubator and either refrigerate for later or proceed immediately with straining.

Straining the Yogurt

  1. Line a large sieve or a colander with a flour sack towel, several layers of cheesecloth, or paper coffee filters and place over a deep bowl.
  2. Carefully pour the yogurt into the lined sieve. Liquid whey will begin to drain immediately. Gather up the sides of the towel or cheese cloth and twist gently to hasten the straining process.
  3. Continue to strain yogurt, making sure whey stays below the level of the strainer, until the desired consistency is reached. (If whey rises to the level of the strainer during this process, simply pour some out.)
  4. When mixture has reached desired consistency, spoon into a smaller container and refrigerate.

Practice Makes Perfect!

As for my personal method, I like to start with whole milk from pastured cows. (If you’ve read up on “whole food” diets, you know why, but that is a post for another day.) I heat my milk in the microwave for convenience (you know how busy I am!) and it usually takes 18 minutes on high to come to just under 200 degrees F. Depending on the temperature in the house, it can take anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes to cool back down to my target temperature of 120 degrees F. If I’m in a hurry, I will sometimes attempt to speed the cooling process by placing the bowl in an ice bath in the sink, but I’m not convinced this is really all that effective (and it’s a waste of water). I usually just find something else to do while the milk cools – like cook up some sausage for breakfast. J

It is important to let the milk cool to less than 125 degrees F, however – higher temperatures will kill the all-important culture bacteria. Once the milk has cooled, I add a spoonful of yogurt saved from my last batch. You can also use a spoonful of plain, store-bought yogurt as starter. I never measure, but I usually add about a tablespoon. The amount isn’t critical; you just need enough to get things started. The cultures multiply quickly under favorable conditions. The one time I managed to kill the cultures in my starter (by adding it while the milk was too hot), the incubation failed. I just added more starter and put the mixture back on the warmer before bed. The next morning, I was rewarded with a perfect batch of yogurt.

After I whisk things together, I pop on a lid and set the bowl atop the (preheated) warming bottom of my yogurt maker. I bought the yogurt maker, complete with individual glass jars and lids, several years ago, but I only ever used it to make individual servings of regular yogurt once or twice. Now I just put my big batter bowl on top, pop on the batter bowl lid, and wrap it in towels to retain heat during the incubation stage. (The plastic lid that came with the yogurt maker doesn’t fit over the batter bowl.) I have incubated yogurt in the oven on occasion, but I prefer this method because it is more consistent and it leaves my oven available for other uses. (On a hot, summer day here in California, I could even incubate yogurt outside, where temperatures often stay above 100 degrees F in the shade for hours at a time – but I’d rather not invite any curious cats or insects to feast on it. The point is you can be pretty creative with the incubation process.)

I also don’t time incubation anymore. If I start my batch of yogurt in the morning, incubation is usually complete by dinner time. If I start it in the evening, as I often do, it is done by the time I get up in the morning. The time itself is only one factor, anyway. The amount and health of the cultures in the starter and the ambient temperature also affect how long incubation takes. Fortunately, I’ve never had a problem with over-incubation (I’m not even sure what that would like, to be honest) and only under-incubated once or twice. Then, I just added another spoonful of starter and put the bowl back on the warmer. Several hours later… success!

Straining the yogurt to make Greek yogurt or Labneh requires little more than patience. Straining can take as few as 20 minutes for Greek yogurt to 2 hours or more for Labneh. The time required will vary depending on the type of milk used (skim, low-fat, or whole) as well as the material used to line the sieve. My standard method includes lining a sieve with a flour sack towel and suspending it over a bowl to drain on the counter. After a couple hours, I just spoon the Labneh into a container, cover, and refrigerate. Stored this way, Labneh will usually keep for at least a week, but I usually run out within a few days. Or fewer if all you girls are here!

The strained liquid can be discarded, or you can save it to dress acid-loving plants, tenderize meats, or add to smoothies. As you know, it also makes an excellent treat for dogs! Stumpy now comes running to the kitchen as soon as I open the lid of the incubated yogurt and the warm, sweet scent wafts his way.

So now you know all my yogurt-making secrets. I hope you’ll have the chance to make some of your own soon. And I look forward to your next visit, when I’ll have your help in the kitchen – and at the dining table!

I am sorry it has taken me so long to post this recipe. As you know, I’ve been incredibly busy at work and with my class lately. I’ve also been devoting a good percentage of my time to trying to make some improvements in our personal lives. I’m hoping things will ease up soon. In the meantime, I will do my best to keep in touch to keep cooking!

I hope you are well, and I look forward to talking to you soon…

Love,
Angeline


Paleo Banana Bread

Dear Angeline,

I am finally up to date with my blogging, and this will be my last post for the evening. Today I came home craving banana bread, so I made some and it was awesome. I really wish I could share it with you but, because we are so far apart, it looks like virtually will have to do. Sorry for the inconvenience, but this doesn’t even look as good as it tastes. Let me try to describe it for you. This recipe is kind of like little rays of sunshine are tickling your tongue. It also could be compared to clouds, soft and light, caressing your taste buds. However you imagine it, its better than that. Unless, that is, you are one of those few adults with an active and bright imagination. I don’t think you are, so you need to make this and experience the joy. Seriously, I’m serious. I think that you will thank me for gifting you with this recipe, truly I do.

 

Paleo Banana Bread

Yield: 3 mini loaves ( I made mine in a heart shaped mold, 10 hearts)  Prep time: 10 minutes   Cook time: 50 minutes   Level: easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • Add ins (nuts, chocolate chips, etc.) (opt.)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three mini loaf pans with coconut oil.
  2. Place bananas, eggs, vanilla, honey and coconut oil in a food processor and pulse until combined.
  3. Pulse in almond flour, salt and baking soda.
  4. Scoop batter into mini loaf pans.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, then lower heat to 325 degrees F and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  6. Cool loaves in pans until they can be handled, then remove to cool further on racks.

 

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Paleo Ketchup

Dear Angeline,

This one was all Abigail. I can take no credit except for the fact that I taste tested and that I made the sweet potato fries in the picture. Oh, and I took the pictures. Nonetheless, this is a great recipe and super good for you because it skips around the corn syrup typically found in ketchup.

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Paleo Ketchup

Ingredients

(2) 6 oz. cans of tomato paste

  • 1½ cups of water
  • 2 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • ½ tsp. allspice
  • 1 tbsp. honey or maple syrup (optional)
  1. In a saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and simmer on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir often and remove from heat to allow to cool.
  3. Store in a glass container for up to 2 weeks or freeze extra for later use.

 

Laural (and Abigail!)


Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes and Frosting

Angeline,

This past Friday was Abigail’s and Ashlyn’s birthday party (Impact, the Christian youth conference at our church,  falls on their real birthday this year), it was a wonderful night from what I can gather. All I know, though, is that the highlight of their party were these Paleo chocolate cupcakes. You may notice that the frosting recipe looks similar to your paleo chocolate pudding recipe, and I can assure you that it is pretty dang delicious. Abigail made the cupcakes for her party and I made the frosting, we should be bakers or something to that extent. My recently turned paleo friend even approves! These are so good that I am seriously trying to come up with excuses to make them. Give them a try, you will be doing yourself a favor.

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Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes

Yield: 7-8 cupcakes

  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 4 large eggs, room temp
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 raw  honey
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Combine the coconut flour, cocoa powder, sweetener, baking soda, and sea salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, coconut oil, and lemon juice.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix to combine.
  5. Line a muffin tin with 7 cupcake liners.
  6. Fill cupcake liners evenly with the batter and bake for 18 – 20 minutes or until cooked through.
  7. Allow to cool before topping with the icing.
  8. Pipe chocolate frosting (directions below) onto each cupcake and serve.

 

Paleo Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 3 very ripe avocados
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  1. Place the meat of the avocados in a mixer and mix until completely smooth.
  2. Add the cocoa powder and sweetener and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Add the butter and mix to combine.

 

Laural


Paleo Dark Chocolate Mousse

Angeline,

I’m back, and this time with something that will knock your socks off. My friend Abby and I made this for Valentines Day and man alive, it was delicious. This year, being that my friends and I are all single, V-day was an early dinner followed by a night of mean girls and chocolate. Basically, the best girls day ever. I won’t bore you with the details of how much I love my best friends or how great being single is any longer, I promise. Our Paleo Mousse was served on the side with strawberries and 90% dark chocolate to dip it in. Also on the plate are baked brown sugar peaches, but I won’t talk about those because they are not paleo. Whoops.

 

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Paleo Dark Chocolate Mousse

Yield: 4-6 servings (or just 1 😉 )  Preo time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Can coconut cream, full fat (refrigerated over night)
  • 2 tbsp. raw honey or pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Open the can of refrigerated coconut cream and transfer the hardened cream to a separate bowl. Drain off any remaining liquid if needed. To the cream, add cocoa, vanilla, honey/syrup, and salt. Mix until well combined and smooth/mousse like. Enjoy!

Lots of love,

Laural

 


Slow cooker Pork Chops

Dear Angeline,

Do I have a treat for you! For some reason I have been stockpiling all of my most recent culinary achievements and now, all at once, I am going to be blogging them too. So, to start things off, I am going back about 2 weeks ago to this lovcly pork chop recipe. This is great for a hands off meal that you throw into the slow cooker before work  or, in my case, school. I served mine over a bed or steamed baby arugula, with seasoned potatoes and broccoli. Super tender, super delicious, it’s worth it.

 

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Slow Cooker Pork Chops

Yield: 4 servings  Prep Time: 10 minutes  Cook Time: 6-8 hours

Ingredients

  • 4 loin chops, lean
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • parsley, garnish
  1. In a large bowl melt butter and whisk together the broth and seasoning. Pour mixture into slow cooker.
  2. Place onions and garlic in slow cooker and place the pork chops on top of them.
  3. Place a slice of coconut oil on top if you’d like and cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours, or until chops are tender and onions are done. When done, sprinkle on fresh or dry parsley.

 

Laural


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