Re: Paleo Breakfasts (with recipe for Almond Crusted Flounder)

Of all the things that have changed in my approach to eating since I transitioned to eating Paleo, the meal that has changed the most drastically is breakfast.

It is sad (to me) but true that I had been in the habit of drinking my breakfast by way of a high-protein shake almost every day of the week. And almost every time, I would think of the lyrics to Alix Olson’s spoken word piece “I Believe,” in which she proclaims (among other things) that “I believe too many women drink their meals.” (I was bummed to discover that there were no Youtube videos of her performing that particular piece to share with you all, so as a pretty darned good consolation prize, here’s a link to her song “Eve’s Mouth.”) I suppose that these “breakfasts” did what they needed to, in that I lasted until lunch with a modicum of nutrition in my system, but they were not fulfilling.

Previous to the breakfast beverage era, my breakfasts were (as they are for many people) high-carb affairs involving lots of toast, cereal, pancakes, waffles, bagels, and/or apple fritters. Oh, how I love an apple fritter… (Note to self: develop a Paleo-friendly apple fritter recipe.)

And none of those items are even remotely Paleo. Not even a little bit.

So, what do my breakfasts consist of nowadays? Usually, it is either a poached egg or some fish served alongside some leftover veggies or salad from the previous night’s dinner and a piece of fresh fruit. I will eventually try out some of the recipes for Paleo pancakes that I see posted to an assortment of Paleo cooking blogs, but so far I haven’t felt the need to. Damn, I’m enjoying these breakfasts! They feel good, they’re quick to make, and I don’t just make it to lunch, but I thrive through the morning with energy and enthusiasm. Huzzah!

And the best part is that my breakfasts rarely take more than 5-10 minutes of actual prep time, so I’m not finding it to be any sort of hardship on my morning routine.

Since today was one of my days off, I did a little bit more than my usual plain-jane (and yet still absolutely delicious) fish preparation method of just searing or broiling a piece of lightly salted and peppered fish: I added a simple almond “breading,” and it worked out beautifully! So beautifully, in fact, that I’m going to share the recipe with all of you… I hope you like it! (Also… this probably goes without saying, but feel free to serve this recipe at lunch or dinner, too!)

I served this delicious flounder next to some of the leftover veggies from the Mediterranean Chicken I made a few nights ago and a sliced pear... now that's a good breakfast!

I served this delicious flounder next to some of the leftover veggies from the Mediterranean Chicken I made a few nights ago and a sliced pear… now that’s a good breakfast!

Almond Crusted Flounder (serves 2)

  • 3-4 T coconut oil, divided
  • 3/4 c almond flour
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 egg
  • 6 oz. flounder fillets
  1. Preheat your broiler: if it has multiple settings, set it to low. Cover your broiler pan with a sheet of aluminum foil and grease it with 1 T of the coconut oil.
  2. Combine the almond flour, sea salt, pepper, and garlic in a medium-sized bowl or large plate.
  3. Whisk together the egg and 1 T of the coconut oil in another bowl.
  4. Dip the flounder fillets in the egg mixture, and then thoroughly coat with the almond flour mixture. Place on the prepared broiler pan.
  5. Drizzle 1 or 2 more T of coconut oil evenly over the fish: this will help the breading get nice and tender-crisp.
  6. Place under the broiler for 7-10 minutes, until the fish is cooked thoroughly and lightly browned. Serve next to some veggies or a salad and a piece of fruit (maybe even a mug of yerba mate, if you’d like), and enjoy your day! It’s already off to a great start!

Oatmeal Cake

Last month, my dear friend Anna and her husband Josh came over to my humble abode for dinner. This was a particular treat, because Anna is one of my best friends from college, but I hadn’t seen her since I graduated several years ago. Oh, sure, we keep up to date with each other through Facebook and occasional phone calls, but nothing beats face-to-face conversations. Plus, I hadn’t yet met her husband, which I was very much looking forward to getting to do.

They had been on the road for a while doing the holiday family visitation circuit: they were able to visit because Rochester is conveniently located between Syracuse, where Anna has family, and Pittsburgh, where she and Josh currently reside. Knowing that they had been away from home for a while and had been stuffed to the gills with restaurant food, I offered to make them a homemade meal, an offer which they gratefully accepted.

I made more recipes that I am going to post tonight, but the rundown of the meal was: tomato and fennel soup with vegan “sausage,” potato& rutabega au gratin, garlic bread, and oatmeal cake. Sure, a starch-heavy meal, but sometimes that’s just what sounds good in the dead of winter. It was all wonderfully delicious, and the conversation was lively and laughter-filled. I was delighted to discover that I liked her husband greatly, and that the tenderness between them was immediately obvious. And their dog was absolutely adorable.

I made a specific promise to Anna to send her the recipe for the cake, a promise that has until now gone unfulfilled. Anna sent me a very kind reminder earlier today, and I figured since I’ll be typing it up anyway, I might as well turn it into another post.

The downside of the time that has elapsed since our dinner is that I do not have a picture of the cake. However, this is a recipe I make fairly regularly, and I will be sure to upload a picture the next time I make this moist, flavorful pan of deliciousness.

This is yet another recipe that is adapted from The Joy of Cooking, which as you can tell from this post and the previous one is a book I refer to often. If you don’t have a copy, I strongly suggest picking up this classic cookbook the next time you’re at your neighborhood bookstore.

One gentle reminder: in order for the texture of the cake to turn out as good as possible, it is important that the ingredients be at room temperature (unless otherwise specified: good luck trying to get water to boil at room temperature!).

Also, you will notice that I do not suggest using parchment paper to line the baking pan, despite my previously-expressed fondness for the stuff. The thing is, the frosting for this cake is broiled, and the last thing you want to put under the broiler is paper. So, yeah, just this once, do NOT line the pan with parchment paper.

While many cakes are best the day they are baked, this is one cake that is actually better the next day. By all means, have a piece once the cake has cooled if you must, but I strongly suggest making sure a good amount gets saved for later. This is a trait that actually makes this an ideal dessert when entertaining, because it is optimal to prepare it ahead of time, making the day of the event that much saner and stress-free.

One more thing: there is a huge difference in the quality of flavor from freshly grated nutmeg and the pre-ground stuff you can get in a little plastic bottle. In my opinion, it is totally worth the initial investment to get whole nutmeg and a microplane on which to grate it. Feel free to disregard this suggestion and use the pre-ground nutmeg, but I can promise you it won’t be quite as good. 

Oatmeal Cake

The cake:

  • 1 c old-fashioned oats
  • 1-1/2 c boiling water
  • 1-1/3 c unbleached white whole wheat flour (King Arthur brand is commonly available at most grocery stores)
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 t vanilla

The frosting:

  • 1 c raw turbinado sugar
  • 5 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 T heavy cream or half-and-half (or you can substitute Silk creamer)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 c shredded coconut
  • 1/3 c chopped nuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9″ by 13″ baking pan. 
  2. Combine the oats and the boiling water in a bowl, and let stand for 20 minutes. 
  3. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk to combine thoroughly. 
  4. Beat the butter and the sugars in a large mixing bowl on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (really, let it take that long: when you cream the butter and sugar together well, the cake will end up fluffier and happier. And everyone likes a happy cake.). 
  5. Beat the eggs into the butter and sugar, one at a time. Beat in the vanilla.
  6. On slow speed, beat in the oat mixture. Then, beat in the flour mixture in three parts, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Scrape the batter in to the pan and spread evenly.
  7. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean: begin testing the cake after it has baked for 30 minutes, but it can take almost an hour. Make sure the toothpick comes out clean, but don’t overbake or allow the edges to burn.
  8. Let cool briefly in the pan while you pre-heat the broiler and make the frosting.

Frosting:

  • Combine all the ingredients. Spread on the slightly cooled cake and broil 3″-5″ below the heating element: check it after 3 minutes, and then check it every minute until the icing is bubbly all over the surface. Take care that it does not burn!
  • Cool before serving.

Acorn Squash with Fruits and Sesame Seeds

So, I was sick through most of the weekend. While I am no longer sick, I am still feeling the need for extra rest and some extra TLC.

As a result, I decided to cancel my usual Wednesday night plans, stay home, have a healthy, simple dinner, and go to bed early.

As has been true for several of my recent posts, this is a recipe that goes without much explaining: the direcctions are clear and free from confusing elements. Feel free to adapt the recipe somewhat, using whatever dried fruit suits your fancy, or substitute chopped nuts for the sesame seeds (following the proportions listed in the recipe).

I made this a complete meal by serving it along with some cooked wild rice blend mixed with some peas.

This recipe is adapted from The Joy of Cooking.

Acorn Squash with Fruits and Sesame Seeds

  • 2 medium acorn squash, halved, seeds and strings removed
  • 1 ripe pear, cored and diced
  • 1/2 c dried fruit of your choice (raisins, cranberries, cherries, or currents can be used whole: dates, prunes, apricots, etc. should be chopped)
  • 2 T sesame seeds and 2 T ground flax seed OR 1/4 c chopped nuts
  • 1/4 c shredded coconut (optional)
  • grated zest of 2 clementines
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 T apple cider
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Place the squash cut side down in a baking pan, and add 1/4″ hot water to the pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the pear, apple, dried fruit, seeds or nuts, coconut (if using), zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the fruit mixture and honey and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cider. Simmer, stirring often, until the fruit is tender, 3-5 more minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Remove the squash from the oven, carefully pour the water from the pan, and turn the squash cut side up. Fill with the fruit mixture. Bake until the squash is tender, 10-15 minutes more.

Winter Squash Bisque

Again, this is a simple recipe and I’m terribly busy nowadays, so here’s the recipe… An anecdote may be added later, or perhaps not.

·         2 T olive oil
·         1 large Vidalia or Mayan Sweet onion, finely chopped
·         1 c carrots, finely chopped
·         2 to 4 T fresh ginger root, minced
·         6 c winter squash (butternut, pumpkin, acorn, etc.), peeled and cut into large cubes
·         8 c vegetable broth
·         1 15.5-oz. can cannellini beans
·         1 t salt
·         ½ t cinnamon
·         1/8 t nutmeg
·         2 T soy sauce
·         1/3 c hazelnut butter (or you can substitute with almond, sunflower or peanut butter)
·         1 T maple syrup or honey
·         Pinch black pepper
Garnish (optional):
·         2 T hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
·         2 T chopped fresh chives or Italian parsley
1.       Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, thick-bottomed pan. Add the onions and sauté until they are translucent. Add the carrots and ginger and sauté for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the squash and sauté 5 minutes longer.
2.       Add the broth, beans, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until the squash is tender.
3.       Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the nut butter, maple syrup and black pepper.
4.       Cool the soup to almost room temperature, then place in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth: you will have to do this in several batches. Season to taste. Garnish with toasted nuts and chopped parsley or chives.
Notes: 

  •  Depending on how sweet the squash is, more or less maple syrup may be added. You can also add a little juice and/or zest of lemon, orange or lime. 
  • Fresh sage, rosemary, and Italian parsley as well as other herbs can be added while the soup is coming to a boil for a slight undercurrent of flavor. 
  •  I strongly recommend having a few slices of a nice pumpernickel bread with a schmear of butter or Earth Balance spread on-hand to dunk in this soup. Delicious!

Pasta with Sauteed Leeks, White Beans, and Walnuts

I’ve been busy because life is full and rich.

The downside: I haven’t posted in, like, forever. The upside: now that I’m posting again, you can be sure to get healthy and seasonal recipes that are quick and easy to make. Huzzah!

So, in the interest of making a post efficiently, I’m going to jump right to the recipe. I promise: future posts will include anecdotes. But this one won’t.

Pasta with Sauteed Leeks, White Beans and Walnuts 

1 T olive oil
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 c low-sodium vegetable broth
6 cloves garlic, chopped
12 oz. pasta of your choice (I used wild mushroom fettuccine from Flour City Pasta. It was delicious.)
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese (optional)
1/2 c chopped toasted walnuts

  1. Put large pot of salted water on to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leeks, bell pepper, and red pepper flakes: saute 10 minutes, or until vegetables just begin to brown.
  3. Stir in beans, broth, and garlic. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. When water boils, cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Drain. 
  5. Gently fold the leek and beans mixture and the walnuts into the pasta. Serve sprinkled with feta or goat cheese, if desired.

(Adapted from a Vegetarian Times recipe)

Legen-(wait for it)-dary Banana Bread

So, it has been a long time since my last post. Over a month. I am not going to bore or insult you with a long enumeration of reasons why this was, but trust me, I’ve been busy doing very worthwhile, necessary things. I apologize, and hope you will all be able to forgive me.

One of things I did was spend a week in Indiana, visiting various friends and family members. It was a precious and enjoyable trip: I feel as though I connected with my family on a deeper and more authentic level than ever before, and it was a complete joy. *cue the kittens and rainbows* *audience gagging from the overly sweet aftertaste of my sentimentality*

But seriously, it was that good. So, there.

Of the many people I spent time with while in the Hoosier state, there was one friend who I was particularly excited to see, Cherrie. You see, she and I were like soul-siblings for several years.

For example: nine years ago, when I got back from a month on the Appalachian Trail, her home was the first place I went to when I got back to Indiana. One of my favorite pictures of me of all time was taken that day. It shows me, sweaty and buff and clothed in dirty forest gear, lifting all three of her daughters at once: one on my back and one in each arm. My hair was dreadlocked, my knees were scuffed and scabbed, and I was smiling the dorkiest, most delighted smile you can imagine. She and her family were like home for me.

Then, sadly, Cherrie and I had a parting of the ways. It was over everything and nothing, and the long and short of it is that we didn’t speak for over 3 years. By the time our feelings had settled, our phone numbers and email addresses had changed, and both of us had moved. Sigh. Although I wanted to, I had no way to reach her.

That is, until we found each other in the virtual ether of Facebook. After the apologies, we exchanged messages, pleasantries and links in the way that all good Facebook friends do. Which was a perfect delight, except for the way that it made me miss her and her family even more than I had.

So, of course I made it a priority to spend some time with her while I was in the area. It was such a joy to sit down with Cherrie over a cup of coffee, talking about everything and nothing while her daughters and husband chatted, played, and watched television in the next room. We made dinner together, laughing and catching up on how our lives have shifted and changed.

One thing that particularly tickled me was the way they all remembered my banana bread. In fact, when I was on the phone with Cherrie, before I even got to their home, I could here the young voices in the background asking if I would be able to make banana bread while I was there. I knew that they always loved it, but I honestly didn’t expect that, years later, they’d still be raving about it.

Sadly, I didn’t have the time to make bread while I was there, but I made them a promise: upon my return to Rochester, I would make a few loaves of the banana bread recipe that they so fondly remembered and send it on to them. I also promised that my first blog post after my more-than-a-month-long hiatus would be the recipe.

I did as I promised, and sent two loaves on to them: I just got a call a few hours ago from Cherrie that the loaves arrived. She thanked me, we chatted a bit about the general stresses and joys of life, and when I finally hung up, I had a big smile on my face. It is truly one of the blessings of life to be able to share our gifts, talents, and food with loved ones.

So, now there’s nothing left to do but post the recipe.

Just so you know, this isn’t the world’s healthiest bread recipe: it actually exists somewhere on the border between bread and cake. But it is beyond delicious, and should be made and enjoyed often, despite the butter and sugar within.

If you do want to boost the nutritional value a bit, be sure to use a whole grain flour or oat flour, and add the optional nuts and dried fruits. You can also substitute 1/2 c wheat germ for 1/2 c of the flour. Even if you do none of these things, at least there’s a plethora of banana in the recipe to ensure that there are some vitamins and minerals to go along with the sweet indulgence.

This recipe has two ingredients that make it different than most other banana breads, and it is these two items that make it such a moist, memorable bread: yogurt and maple syrup. They are such simple, commonplace ingredients, but they do wonders towards improving the texture of the finished loaves.

One quick tip: I find that it really helps to grease the measuring cup lightly with canola oil when measuring viscous, sweet liquids such as maple syrup, honey and molasses. I mean, why waste the gooey sweetness because it’s stuck on the side of the measuring cup and all along your rubber spatula, when you could easily just pour it all in with no trouble?

Whenever you bake with bananas, you want them to be really ripe. Like, almost completely brown and kinda gross and slimy on the inside. Also, whenever you have some bananas that are going overripe but not the time to make bread, feel free to freeze them in an airtight baggie until you have the opportunity to bake. After all, why waste the most important ingredient of this delicious recipe??

Making this recipe takes some time, patience and attention: there are quite a few steps, and all of them are important. That’s why I make a big enough batch of batter to make several loaves at once: even if it’s too much bread, these loaves freeze well and can make some pretty transcendent french toast. And as long as you follow the directions and avoid over-baking it, it is guaranteed to be the most legendary banana bread you’ve ever had.

Legen-(wait for it)-dary Banana Bread

(Makes three 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 loaves)
(Have all ingredients at room temperature)

  •  4 1/2 c sifted flour (Yes, it really makes a difference if you don’t sift it. Just do it.)
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 c mashed ripe bananas 
  • 1/2 c plain yogurt
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 t grated lemon zest (optional)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 c chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 c chopped dried apricots or other dried fruit (optional)
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Combine the mashed bananas, yogurt, and vanilla. 
  3. Beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the maple syrup. Then, gradually add the sugars and lemon zest (if using): beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  4. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternately with the banana mixture in two parts, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the nuts and dried fruit, if using. 
  5. Scrape the batter into lightly greased bread pans. Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon or spatula. 
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out nearly clean, about 45 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through the baking time (unless you’re lucky enough to have a kickass convection oven, in which case you can skip this step and know that I am very, very jealous of you).
  7. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, and then gently slide a thin knife around the edge of the pans to loosen the loaves. Invert the pan to remove the bread from the pans. Allow to cool at least another 15 minutes before slicing.

Roasted Poblano Corn Muffins

Okay, so I decided that black bean soup (http://bit.ly/fimd0P) was a great idea… but that it would be an even better idea if it was served next to some cornmeal muffins. Argue with me if you dare: I’m pretty sure I’m right.

Unlike many baked items, the batter for corn muffins can be altered in any number of ways and still turn out perfectly. Feel free to fold in chopped veggies, bacon, or ham (be sure to cook these ingredients first!). When corn is back in season next summer, add some diced fresh corn. Add a teaspoon or two of diced fresh herbs, or (if you want your muffins to be particularly zesty) 2 t of chili powder and 1/2 t of cumin. And, of course, some grated cheese also works well in this recipe. For any of these variations, just substitute whatever addition(s) you’ve decided upon for the poblano pepper and fold them in during step 3.

However, I decided to keep it fairly simple tonight, since the black bean soup is already hearty and flavorful. So, I roasted one poblano pepper (for info on roasting peppers, visit my previous post on “Spinach, Mushroom, Kalamata and Roasted Pepper White Pizza,” http://bit.ly/ghDRsq).

One warning: this recipe makes a batter that is thinner than many muffin batters. Don’t worry. It will be okay. 🙂

All other hints and tips are worked right into the recipe. And that’s that: enjoy!

Roasted Poblano Corn Muffins

  • 1 1/4 c yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 c sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 c granulated sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 heaping t salt
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 1 c milk
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 roasted poblano pepper, diced
  1. Combine the dry ingredients with a whisk.
  2. Mix together the sour cream, milk, eggs and butter. Add to the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.
  3. Fold in the poblano pepper.
  4. Portion into a greased muffin tin, filling approximately two-thirds full.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F until done, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.