Monday, September 15, 2014

recipe tryouts: korean pajeon

I've been thinking of making an instagram account for random photos of food I take. I guess that's the thing to do? But mostly I want a place to collate the random photos of food I take on a weekly basis but never get around to making blog posts about (or simply choose not to post because of not having anything interesting to say about them). So, I might do that!

But here's another recipe tryout in the meantime.

>> Korean pajeon

I watch a lot of cooking-related channels on YouTube, and most of them aren't in any way paleo/primal or low carb. But they do have delicious-looking visuals, and sometimes they inspire me to try primal versions of their recipes. Also they're just entertaining (Cooking With Dog is the best). One recipe I've long admired from afar that I've never tried is that of Korean pajeon. Pajeon is a pretty simple green onion pancake recipe and it looks utterly delicious (I LOVE any and all onions).

There are a couple videos I used as inspiration, the first from Eat Your Kimchi:

This recipe was the first time I'd seen it, and I think it's notable for the inclusion of the egg.

But I mostly took direction from this recipe (which is essentially the same recipe, but using a slightly different technique):

(Skip to about 1:50 to get to the cooking part.) I thought her method was more interesting, as she basically fried up the onions in the oil for a minute or so before pouring on the batter. That was the method I decided to go with.

As for the batter, both recipes call for 1/2 cup flour and water. My alteration (well, more like completely fundamental change) was to use a batter of 2 beaten eggs plus a couple tablespoons of almond flour (plus the salt). It did end up a bit more eggy in texture (though it didn't actually taste very eggy) than pancakey this way, and I might alter the recipe in the future. Perhaps 1 egg, almond flour, and some water? 

But despite its slightly less traditional texture, the pajeon came out amazing. 

onion punch in the face!

In the true spirit of impulse cooking and lack of preparation, I didn't have the right kind of green onions on hand. Though from what I can glean, it really doesn't matter. What's inside are a mix of leeks which I sliced up real thin, and Mexican green onions (without the bulbs). I chopped up a chili pepper for the top because I love spiciness, and on the side I threw together a quick ginger soy sauce and wasabi for dipping and OMG. Chris was speechless, I was speechless. These things are truly as delicious as I always suspected. 

I still want to try to tweak the batter into something a bit crispier but even if I don't, think is amazing the way it is. And is a super cheap snack to make. It would also be a good breakfast as long as you don't have any important meetings that day. (Onion breath like whaaaat.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

recipe tryouts: mustard chicken & crunchy green beans

Oops, it's been a long time since I made a post.

The past month+ has been the peak of summer, and when it's about 800 million degrees outside every day spending a lot of time in the kitchen isn't too appealing. But recently I've been getting back on the horse.

I've discovered I get bored pretty quickly doing the same things over and over. So I am constantly looking up new recipes for inspiration. It's amazing how often my food comes out nothing like the photos and descriptions from the various blog posts I pull the recipes from. I've learned that there is great wisdom to be had in reading all of the comments on a recipe post before attempting to do a recipe myself. In any case, trying out other people's recipes can be a crapshoot in my opinion. So I think I'm going to try a new thing where I blog once a month with my experience with a recipe or two. Because maybe that will force me to update more, haha.

This week's recipe(s):

>> The Pioneer Woman - chicken with mustard cream sauce

I had some chicken breast chilling in the fridge, and my usual answer to dealing with chicken breast is just to throw some spices on it and throw it in the oven. And then eat it. Fine, but super boring. So after forty-five minutes of searching through Googled results for "paleo chicken breast recipe", I came across this one. It's not from a paleo source, but there's nothing terribly offensive in the ingredients and I changed up a couple anyway. But it sounded so delicious (mmm, mustard) that I had to give it a go.

My chicken breasts were apparently extraordinarily huge. I cut one in half and cooked them up, and they were still super thick. They looked like two regular sized chicken breasts in the end. DISAPPOINTED. I really wanted the thin chicken like in the picture. So the second breast I cut into three pieces, and that worked better. Frying up the chicken was surprisingly easy. Except for all the hot grease spitting in my face. That was less fun. No reward without risk though.

I made some modifications to the sauce - namely, I omitted the alcohol (mostly I just didn't have anything suitable), instead of heavy whipping cream I used sour cream (because that's what was in the fridge), and instead of chicken broth (which I didn't have) I just used some water and threw in some vaguely chicken broth-appropriate herbs like thyme and sage. (I'm sure it's not obvious at all I looked for a recipe immediately before cooking dinner. Planning ahead? What's that?)

The sauce came out looking different, and was thicker thanks to the sour cream, but I liked that actually. Overall, the flavor was amazing. I love mustard! (Did I mention that already?) And the thin fried chicken was super moist and delicious. I think I've definitely found my new go-to way to cooking up chicken breast.

Verdict: A+++ would make again

>> random forum thread - Crunchy Green Beans

I wanted crunchy green beans. What I had was a bag of frozen green beans. After some googling, I arrived at this recipe. Seemed easy enough. I just defrosted the frozen green beans a bit first, then followed the instructions, my only change being I tossed them with coconut oil.

It went.. okay. A few of them got a bit blackened and I just left those stuck to the foil. The rest were a mix of somewhat crunchy and just kinda-dry. The texture was fine, it was mostly the flavor that was less than awesome. They all ended up with a slight bitter taste to them. I'm not sure if it was the green beans or the parmesan cheese that was contributing to the bitterness. In either case, it was just a meh result.

Fresh green beans would probably work better for this.

Verdict: C, might attempt it again when enough time has passed and I convince myself I can do it better

my finished products. plus salad. because salad.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

goodbye zucchini plants, we hardly knew ye

My zucchini plants all died. :(

I think it was a two-part problem. One, the hellish, unrelenting heat of the Phoenix desert. Once the temps started hitting the 100s every day and not cooling off below the 80s at night, the plant leaves started looking drier, browner, and wiltier. I watered as much as I was able, but my research showed me that most people who get their plants to survive the summer around here have a combined approach of constant watering misters and shade cloths, all stuff I'm too much of a cheapskate to shell out for.

Secondly, in the last couple weeks of their lives, the zucchini plants had a growing squash bug problem. I killed them when I saw them, but I'm sure plenty hid from me, and I saw they were laying eggs everywhere. And, apparently, no poison can kill them? The zucchini had stopped producing fruit at this time so I decided the best thing to do was just rip them all up and try again in the fall, once it's cooler. And I'll try to see if there are any squash bug preventative measures I can take.

Also, here's a fun fact about growing your own zucchini that nobody ever tells you: the fruit contain a substance that secretes when it is cut, and this substance, if it gets on your skin, dries it out and makes it tight-feeling, and eventually it peels. Almost as if your fingers are coated in dried glue, but it's just your skin. I haven't been able to find much info about this reaction from the zucchini, because a lot of my googling led to crazy talk about how it's the pesticides that cover the zucchini or it's a result of GMO or whatever. Considering I grew this myself and put no pesticides on it whatsoever, I know that's a falsehood. I saw a lot of people think it is a allergic reaction/contact dermatitis, but I've been eating zucchini bough at the store for a long time and that never happened to me before. It was only with my own zucchini. I managed to find a few sane people who put some thought into it, and their conclusion is that it is some sort of defense mechanism from the fruit. It turns out the fresher the harvest, the more likely the fruit is to have this reaction. So eventually I learned to keep my zucchini in the fridge for a week or two before cutting into it. (And that explains why store-bought zucchini never does this, since store-bought probably sat in a crate for three weeks before hitting the shelf!)

My zucchini and I had some educational and delicious moments. Here is a small photospam of the good times we had together, in memoriam:

a typical harvest off my plants. so pretty!
the first meal made with the first harvest. a chicken leg and herb-roasted zucchini
made "zucchini boats" with tomato sauce, sausage, and cheese
unbelievably delicious. and also, super filling. i could barely finish this.
me with the first harvest. RIP zucchini

Monday, July 21, 2014

such biscuit. very crave-satisfying.

I admit to being only human and sometimes I get cravings for things I don't eat anymore. One of the most prominent things I miss is biscuits. But I figured if once in a while I want biscuits, it's better to do something that's at least grain-free and sugar-free, than to just indulge with regular wheat biscuits. So I went on the hunt for a suitable biscuit recipe and have spent the last couple weeks dialing it in.

I'd seen this biscuit recipe floating around the low-carb/paleo/primal-sphere for a while, and the final product looked most appealing of most of the recipes I've seen, so I decided to try it.

My very first batch was a total failure. They looked ok coming out of the pan, but they tasted terrible. This is mostly due to the fact I was out of baking powder, so I substituted with an equivalent amount of baking soda + cream of tartar in proportion (2 parts cream of tarter to 1 part baking soda, according to Chef Google). All that lead to was baking-soda flavored biscuits. They were also exceedingly greasy and I'm not sure why. Maybe some weird reaction with the baking soda and cream of tartar? Either way, into the trash they went..

For the second batch, I actually went to the store and bought some damn baking powder. I followed the recipe exactly, and they were pretty good. They tasted great - not very almondy. They were rather crumbly, though. I think this is partially due to the fact I just put them straight into a muffin tin. Though it was greased, it was still very difficult to remove the biscuits without them falling apart. But even still, they didn't hold up well to attempted applications of butter, or cutting in half, etc.

For the third batch, I consulted my boyfriend (who actually can cook) and together, we reformulated the original recipe into something that held up better and we both enjoyed.

muffin cups would prove to be an integral part of the process
The biggest changes we made were to reduce the amount of baking powder - 2 tbsps is an unnecessarily high amount - and to replace the sour cream with almond milk (slightly less amount, since sour cream is so thick). Additionally, we added in flaxseed meal to give a bit more stability and keep the biscuits from crumbling. Flaxseed meal is like magic glue. And, lastly, this is a small point, but I feel like the amount of butter in the original recipe is a tad high (blasphemy, I know) so I toned that down a bit. We also doubled the whole recipe to make great big batches in one go so as to have biscuits to last a while. 

These biscuits hold up well; they can be cut in half and used for sausage sandwiches or the like and don't crumble. Their texture is actually fairly similar to corn bread, just without the corn flavor of course. I find the almond milk makes them taste slightly more almondy than the version with sour cream, but once you've slathered butter on there you don't notice anymore. 

biscuit sliced in half
The texture inside is moist but not soggy, fluffy, slightly craggy, and very reminiscent of cornbread.

Here's the full, modified, doubled recipe:

"Reminds Me Of Cornbread" Biscuits

makes 24 biscuits in regular-sized muffin tins


3 cups almond flour (I use Anthony's Almonds blanched almond flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
4 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk
6 tbsp melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 400 deg, put some muffin cups in a muffin tin. Or use a fancy silicon muffin tray, I bet those would work fabulously. Or just grease a regular muffin tin if you're not inept at using them like I am.

2. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly in a big bowl, being sure to break up any almond flour clumps.

3. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and put all wet ingredients in there. Just crack the eggs into the well, dump in the almond milk, and pour in the melted butter. (I like to let the butter cool a bit before putting it in, just to prevent any chance of cooking the eggs with hot butter.)

almond flour seems very forgiving, this is not too exact of a science
4. Mix it all together like crazy. You can't over-mix almond flour like you can wheat flour, so just mix until all the wet stuff is incorporated and there's no obvious egg strings showing.

5. Drop heaping spoonfuls into each muffin well. This should make 24 smaller biscuits, or you can put everything into just 12 wells and they will be bigger and more muffin-y.

I just used a big soup spoon and eyeballed it, but I'd guess there's ~2 tbsp of mix per well
6. Bake for 15-17 minutes. (It needs more time due to the inclusion of flaxseed meal.) When you press on the top of a finished biscuit, it should give slightly, but not feel squishy. If it's squishy it needs more time.

7. Enjoy! 

Carb break-down according to the ingredients used in my recipe (be sure to check your own ingredients, your almond flour or milk may have different carb amounts):

24 total biscuits: 40g net carbs
Per single biscuit: ~2g net carbs (rounded up)


Tips for enjoyment:

sage sausage + slice of cheddar

i missed you, sausage sandwich
Obviously they're great for breakfast. I love sausage sandwiches and it's been like a year and a half since I had one, so getting to eat this was like having a chorus of fluffy, biscuity angels descending onto my tastebuds from on high. I've also tried the biscuits just warm with some butter and sugar-free jam and they're marvelous that way too. 

the sweet variation
For a lark I also tried sweetening a half batch to make dessert biscuits. I just put about 1 cup equivalent of sugar-free sweetener in the mix, as well as a splash of vanilla. When they came out, they reminded me sort of a muffin-poundcake type of texture/flavor, so I cut some in half, topped with fresh strawberries and real whipped cream for a ridiculously delicious and indulgent dessert. The picture above is three biscuits cut in half and if you were less gluttonous than me (or if you are being strict about your carbs - I estimate that whole plate was about 26 carbs) you might share that with someone else. Or if you're just as gluttonous as me, you'd eat it all yourself. Yum. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

the tale of the dehydrated cauliflower flakes

For a while now I've had a dream of a big carton of dehydrated cauliflower flakes, a la instant mashed potatoes. Because I love mashed cauliflower, but one of my favorite past times is putting in an inordinate amount of time on one task just to make another task down the road faster and easier. I googled around and couldn't find that anyone had attempted this exact scenario, so I thought, well, why not give it a try?

So, a couple weeks ago, I started a test run with a single head of cauliflower.

in case you forgot what cauliflower looks like
 I decided to cook it, then mash it, as if I was just going to serve it up.

chopped into manageable pieces
make-shift steamer basket of tin foil
makeshift lid of tin foil. look, I never said I had a fully stocked kitchen
poking with a skewer to determine done-ness
I originally tried using a hand masher. HAHA NO. technology to the rescue!
since my plan was to dehydrate this, I didn't add anything except some water to help liquefy the cauliflower. no butter, no flavorings.
one head of mashed cauliflower fit 2 Excalibur trays
I stuck the trays in my dehydrator for a fairly long time, at a low temperature. The next day, I had cauliflower that resembled a desert.

aerial shot of Death Valley? or dehydrated cauliflower? you decide!
it released from the Paraflexx sheets fairly easily and crumbled into large-ish flakes
one head of cauliflower, dehydrated. this is a quart-sized bag
Now I fully intended to attempt rehydration in a day or two, since this was just a test run. But I kept forgetting about it/making other things and I only just got around to cooking it back up the other night. If I had known I wouldn't be eating it for a couple weeks I would have stored it better than just a ziplock bag, but oh well.

Here it is after a couple weeks of sitting in a bag:

the dehydrating process added some browning, but it seems to have browned even further while in storage
Now, the dehydrating was totally the easy part. Here comes the experimental part. Because while I had this vision in my head of the cauliflower flakes acting exactly like instant mashed potatoes, my more realistic side forced me to acknowledge that probably was not going to be the case. But I forged ahead with a simple rehydration/cooking process.

added approximately 2 cups boiling water
covered with plastic wrap and let sit a few minutes
seems rehydrated? and hot enough? tasting confirms it has retained the cauliflower taste
mixed in a chunk of butter, some seasonings.
annnnnnd plated!
Texture-wise, it ended up like slightly lumpy mashed potatoes. Chris doesn't enjoy the usual watery result of fresh mashed cauliflower, so he liked this drier/lumpier version. But I imagine it could be thinned out with more water, or milk/cream to adjust for individual tastes.

Flavor-wise, it tasted just like mashed cauliflower as usual. With butter and salt, it was a yummy addition to the plate.

Eye-appeal wise, I have to admit the browning was slightly off-putting. But I think after a few more times of making and eating it I'd get over it. It's just cosmetic, as I detected no off flavors. Or, there might be some way to prevent it. Perhaps I had my dehydrator temperature up too high, even at the low temp I set it at. I'll have to look into that possibility. I think the slight browning would matter less if this were to be mixed with something (like diced veggies/meats) and formed into cauliflower patties, cooked on the stove. That sounds good actually, now that I think about it, hah.

All in all, I think this was a fairly successful first attempt. Now I know it can definitely be done, at least! I might try some more fine-tuning of the technique before attempting large-scale production. I must zero in on my dream of instant mashed cauliflower!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

squash: finally!

We got so lazy about planting the squash after I prepared the garden bed for it, it became too late. It's getting really hot every day now, and I was wary of planting seeds out in the full sun. My research tells me squash like heat, but, I tend to interpret that as "non-Arizona heat" because the heat here is about an order of magnitude worse than everywhere else.

So! Instead, we got some pots to plant the squash in, and placed them in the shade. Once they have sprouted and strengthened a bit, we'll transplant them to the ground.

I'm all about squash
We got 8 pots, and planted 4 with spaghetti squash (my favorite) and the other 4 with butternut squash (my second favorite). Both these squashes are delicious but also both so expensive to buy at the store. I'm not here for $3/lb squash.

increasing my odds of success
I'm still pretty new to gardening and I kind of scoffed at first at the instructions on them all stating to plant multiple seeds close together then weed them out later, but judging by just how many seeds I've planted so far that haven't sprouted, there's like a 60% success rate when it comes to sprouting.

in the glorious shade
Crossing my fingers this works!

Friday, May 23, 2014

zucchini overload

We're definitely starting to approach critical mass on the zucchini front - and it's glorious.

I harvested three more from the garden today, and there were five already in the fridge. There's a bunch more small ones on the plants, some of which should be ready to harvest within the week. Pretty soon I'm going to have to make a big batch of zucchini chips!

Since I don't eat grains, coming up with delicious and interesting ways to use up zucchinis is slightly more challenging. (No zucchini bread for me, I am afraid. Or cake, for that matter. Or cookies, or brownies. Etc.) Today for lunch I decided to make spaghetti. And since I would be using spaghetti squash to stand in for spaghetti, then why not zucchini as a stand-in for meatballs? I find zucchini is a very meaty type of vegetable so it serves this purpose pretty well.

I didn't follow a recipe, because if I follow a recipe and mess it up then I become sad, cause what kind of doofus can't follow a recipe? (Hint: this kind.) But if I just make it up and it turns out less than ideal, well hey, at least I tried! So I just started randomly grabbing things from the fridge.

I diced up and cooked some bacon for its grease, then slapped in a pat of butter, and sauteed two diced garlic cloves. Then I diced and cooked the zucchini in the buttery garlic bacon grease. (I'm getting hungry again describing this. It was delicious, man. You really can't go wrong with butter and garlic.)

Then I nuked a small spaghetti squash, threw that in with the zucchini, and served it up.

I topped it with some shakes of parmesan and the cooked bacon. It needed more salt (squash needs a lot of salt, I find) and some of the garlic bits were a bit burnt, but it wasn't bad! Which is about all I can ask for.

Now to think up something zucchini related for dinner..