Saturday, August 9, 2014

Crockpot Copycat Chipotle Beef Barbacoa (Paleo / Gluten-free)

I used to be a huge fan of Chipotle. But, lately, it's been disappointing. Portions have gotten tiny. The steak has gotten super crazy spicy. And, it just leaves me feeling meh. Sure, I'll still eat there once in awhile when I need a quick meal on the go, but I definitely won't seek it out anymore. 

With Chipotle heading out of my life, I've decided that it's time to start making my own burrito bowls. I have great recipes already for pork and chicken, but I decided to try my hand at the barbacoa beef tonight. 

Since I've been home from vacation, it's been rough transitioning back into the kitchen. Even though the vast majority of our meals were cooked by us on our trip, they were very basic and I got out of the habit of meal planning, food shopping, and cooking for fun. Cooking on our trip was very much about just staying fed! So, it's been a week since we got home now, I've spent too much money eating out and gotten glutened once, and I'm re-dedicating myself to cooking. 

When you cook as often as I do, it's easy to get burned out. I mostly keep things fresh by rarely making the same thing twice. But, when I'm just not feeling it, I turn to my crockpot to save me. A few minutes of prep that magically becomes dinner is perfection when I'm caught in a cooking rut!

This meal was incredibly simple. My oldest son made the barbacoa and we had it with greens (me), cilantro lime rice (the kids), peach salsa, plantain chips, and guacamole. The house smelled amazing after the beef cooked all day, and everyone enjoyed the barbacoa! Absolutely perfect for a busy summer day.

Since my kids aren't into spice, I made this with a very non-spicy pepper. If I were to make it for myself, I would use a spicier pepper. Feel free to adjust as necessary for your palate! 

Crockpot Copycat Chipotle Beef Barbacoa (Paleo / Gluten-free)

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 6-8 hours

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
4 cloves garlic
4 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 poblano pepper, seeds removed (roasted briefly over a gas stove flame or broiled)
3 tbsp lime juice

3-4 lb beef chuck roast, cut into 6 chunks
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 bay leaves

1. Combine first set of ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. 

2. Heat oil over medium-high heat and sauté the meat until all sides are browned. Pour meat and drippings into a crockpot. Cover with the sauce from the blender. Add the chicken broth and bay leaves. 

3. Cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 8-10. 

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Easy Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Mocha Buttercream Frosting (Paleo / Vegan / Nut-free / Coconut-free)

I was going to make cookies today but I'm out of everything. So, instead, I made cupcakes. Completely at random. No recipe or even a plan, really. But, they worked! Really dang well. 

I love it when that happens. Don't you?

These are probably the simplest cupcakes I've ever posted. No flours or egg replacers or anything time consuming. Just a few simple ingredients that combine to be awesome. 

My kids inhaled these. Seriously, I frosted them with kids hanging off me, and they barely survived while I snapped a few pictures. Then, like locusts, they devoured every last crumb. It was impressive, really.

You could certainly omit the espresso from the frosting if you're not into that. It's a mild coffee flavor, though, and it's kid approved. Obviously.

Easy Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with  Mocha Buttercream Frosting (Paleo / Vegan / Nut-free / Coconut-free)

Makes 6 cupcakes 

Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 30-33 minutes

2 yellow/black plantains (should feel a bit soft and squishy to the touch)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup Spectrum palm shortening
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground espresso 

1 cup Spectrum palm shortening
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup honey (or agave, if vegan)
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch sea salt
3 drops liquid stevia 
1/2 tsp very finely ground espresso

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line or spray six muffin cups. Mix together cupcake ingredients until smooth. If lumps remain, blend it up. Pour in to the cups and bake for 30-33 mins, or until the centers just slightly give when pressed. Cool and then remove from pan. 

2. Combine frosting ingredients and then beat on high until fluffy. Pipe on to the cooled cupcakes.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Paleo Queso Sausage Dip (Dairy-free / Gluten-free / Nut-free / Soy-free)

One of the perils of going on vacation as a foodie is that you can't really cook like you can at home. We cooked plenty, believe me, but it was very basic fare that didn't include an oven. Because, you know, we didn't have one.

When I saw a recipe for eggplant-based queso dip online, I literally went to the store, bought the ingredients, and went home and made it. Yes, we just got home. So what?! There was queso to be made, folks.

Since I'm not a vegan, I un-veganized the heck out of the dip by turning it into a sausage queso. I also was out of nutritional yeast, so I used spices for that "cheese" flavor, instead. I'm sure it's good either way, really, but my kids ate this up. In the immortal words of my oldest son, it was "surprisingly not bad, actually." His plate was clean, though. Just sayin'.

For myself, I dumped queso into romaine leaves, topped with more salsa, and then crumbled 1-2 sweet potato chips on top of each one. Oooooh my yes. My kids had it as a nacho sauce, drizzled over a heaping plate of sweet potato chips and white rice, and topped with salsa. It's hard to go wrong with this goodness. 

Do yourself a favor, though, and use good sausage. Chorizo would be amazeballs in this. 

Paleo Queso Sausage Dip (Dairy-free / Gluten-free / Nut-free / Soy-free)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

1 cup roasted eggplant, skin removed
1 1/2 cups cashew milk (or any unsweetened nut or seed milk)
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp arrowroot powder (optional)
2 sausages, casings removed (I used sweet to keep the spice level down but adjust accordingly)
1/2 cup salsa, drained

1. To roast the eggplant, preheat oven to high broil. Cut into thin slices. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray, and place slices with spray. Sprinkle with sea salt. Broil on each side until tender and brown, but not burned, about 5 minutes. 

2. Remove eggplant from peel and add to a blender along with the cashew milk, garlic, spices, arrowroot, and salt. Purée until completely smooth. 

3. Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add sausage, crumbling with a spoon, and cook until browned. Drain. 

4. Pour queso into a saucepan and heat over medium heat until bubbling and thickened. Stir in drained salsa. Top with sausage. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Easy Beef, Broccoli, and Sweet Potato Curry (Paleo / Gluten-free / Coconut-free / Soy-free)

Tonight, I was in the mood for something a bit more hearty than our recent road trip fare. After a quick rifle through the cabinets, I settled on a very simple yet flavorful curry.

This curry uses only a few spices since those are all that I have with me on the road. While it isn't quite as complex in flavor as some of my other dishes, it's absolutely delicious! Plus, it comes together very quickly, and you probably have all of the ingredients already in your kitchen! While there's a time and a place for complicated cooking, sometimes we all just want a simple meal that still tastes delicious. For those kind of nights, this is perfect. 

While I made this with broccoli, it would be equally good with cauliflower. If you eat peas, it would also be great with a handful or two of frozen peas added at the end. Just don't skimp on the salt. It really is needed to bring out the flavors!

Easy Beef, Broccoli, and Sweet Potato Curry (Paleo / Gluten-free / Coconut-free / Soy-free)

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 35-40 minutes

2 medium white sweet potatoes, cubed
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
1 1/2 cups filtered water
3 tsp curry powder, divided
1 1/2 tsp cumin, divided
1/2 tsp paprika
Pinch cinnamon
Sea salt and pepper, to taste (if the flavors aren't popping, you haven't used enough!)

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring only occasionally, while you cut the other veggies. 

2. Once the other veggies are cut, heat oil in another pan over medium-high heat and then add the onions. Cook until beginning to brown and then add the mushrooms. 

3. Add the broccoli and bell pepper to the potatoes. Continue cooking. Once the onions and mushrooms are golden brown, add them to the same large pot. Using the same pan you cooked the onions in, brown the ground beef. Add 1 tsp of curry powder, 1 tsp of cumin, and season with sea salt and pepper.

4. When the meat is browned, pour the meat and pan drippings into the potatoes. Add the remaining 2 tsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp paprika, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Stir well to coat, and then add water. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender but not mushy. Remove kid and simmer for another minute or two, or until the sauce has thickened. 

I had this alone as my dinner, but my kids had it over white rice seasoned with EVOO, curry powder, cumin, and sea salt. 

Sweet Italian Sausages and Peppers with Onions and Mushrooms (Paleo / Gluten-free)

Sometimes, simple food is the best food. But, what can make all of the difference in the world is the quality of the ingredients. I made this with some handmade sausages that I found at a local market and it was incredible. Flat out incredible! That fennel flavor? Omg. 

Sausages and peppers is a pretty ubiquitous Italian dish. I'm not Italian so I pretty much just enjoy the food! Served up over spaghetti squash, which I tossed with evoo, garlic powder, and sea salt, this dinner was simple, easy, perfection. But, hey, if you have your old family recipe, that's cool. Whatever works! Give this a try, though, with really nice sausages and let me know what you think.

Sweet Italian Sausages and Peppers with Onions and Mushrooms (Paleo / Gluten-free)

Serves 4

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

1 pack of sweet Italian pork sausage links 
2 bell peppers, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup spaghetti sauce (no junk added!)
1 tsp dried oregano
Sea salt and pepper, to taste 

1. Heat oil in a large pot over high heat and then add the sausages. Brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes each side. Remove sausages from pan and slice.

2. Add a bit more oil to the pot, reduce heat to medium-high, and then add the veggies (except the garlic), oregano, and salt and pepper. Cook until the veggies are starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cook another minute, and then add the wine to de-glaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits. Add the sauce and the sausages, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 15 minutes. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

3-Ingredient Peach Salsa Glazed Pork Chops (Paleo / Gluten-free / Corn-free)

As we've been traveling this summer, I've stuck to my particular paleo basics: no gluten, dairy, eggs, legumes, dyes, etc. But, when you're in the middle of nowhere, it just isn't feasible to eat as clean as I do at home. It took me 3 towns to even locate organic ground beef and it was $13/lb!! That's not financially sustainable for me, and what was I supposed to do in the other two towns?

The reality is that I'm spoiled as a suburban Seattle area resident. It's easy to eat clean there and prices reflect the broad availability. So, while on vacation, I have to let go of the idea of perfection or even my own blend of it and really stick to the basics. 

Mostly, I've been successful at keeping things legit. The craziest things I've eaten are occasional rice pasta and lemonade made with cane syrup. But, it's been a real challenge to ensure that we're able to eat well while roaming the west!

This meal was a huge hit and perfect for any weeknight or even on vacation. It comes together in 10 minutes but tastes delish. My kids all loved this and I did, too! 

For the salsa, I would say to just use whatever is freshest. I found a local peach salsa and wanted to try it. It contained no weird ingredients and it was so good that we ate the entire jar in one day! But, pretty much any fruit salsa will work if you can't find peach. Peach, mango, pineapple. Just try it!

3-Ingredient Peach Salsa Glazed Pork Chops (Paleo / Gluten-free / Corn-free)

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 1 minute
Cook time: 8 minutes

8 thin cut boneless pork chops
1 tsp ground cumin
Sea salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups peach salsa

1. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Liberally season pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with cumin. 

2. Working in batches, cook the pork chops on both sides until browned, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Add all pork chops back to the pan, reduce heat to medium, and add the salsa. Cook another 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the salsa forms a glaze. Serve with more salsa.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

GUEST POST - Simple Avocado Chicken Salad (Paleo / Egg-free / Dairy-free)

Summer is a great time to lighten up your meals a bit. Jennifer has a great, simple recipe for chicken salad that is perfect for hot summer lunches!


Hello! I am Jennifer from My passion is blogging about food that is affordable and healthy for the whole family, while traveling the country living full-time in an RV with my husband and kids. 

Summer is in full swing here in Montana and nothing is better than a cold chicken salad! I decided to skip the mayonnaise this time and try something a little different! Avocado chicken salad is a great way to load up on healthy fats and protein while staying cool this summer. It is a great dish to bring to picnics and barbecues as well! Switching the mayonnaise with avocado gives this chicken salad that creamy, delicious texture without mayonnaise. My husband takes this in his lunch and it is perfect in a lettuce wrap, as a dip for veggies, or eaten alone! I hope you enjoy it as much as our family.

Simple Avocado Chicken Salad (Paleo / Egg-free / Dairy-free)

Serves 1-2

Prep time: 5 minutes

1 avocado, diced
2 chicken thighs, cooked and chopped
A squeeze of Lime juice
Garlic (powder or crushed)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and serve immediately. 

We serve this with either iceberg or romaine, in butter lettuce leaves as wraps, or use bell peppers, cucumbers or carrots to dip in it.