3 Ways Meal Prepping Will Enhance My 2015 Goals

Resolutions are for hopeless romantics. Still, we all get that same feeling of refresh every first day of January. As if the combination of seeing “01/01” in our calendars defines our ultimate starting point. We already know this should not be the case if we want to take our own goals seriously. Yet we all get starry-eyed during that limbo week between Christmas and the ball drop. It is when we look back to our previous 360+ days and think forward of what could become of the next set of 365 days. We all have different starting points, plans and different obstacles that will test us this year. However we all have about the same goals: be happier, save more money, be healthier, lose weight, have more time to spend on what makes us happy, have more time to execute our dreams and passions.

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This year, I’m focusing on one task. Why? Because I think if I master this one task, the way will be paved for my other goals. Now before I start, I want to go ahead and release this out into the universe. My other personal goals for this year are:
  1. Monetize from my food blog
  2. See abs by my birthday month
  3. Save more money to travel
  4. Save more money to buy myself a new car in December (I need it)
  5. Travel to Croatia in August
  6. Learn how to speak Portuguese by Rio Olympics in 2016.
My ONE task that will help with these goals is simply to meal prep every week. Meal prepping will help me save more time, money, and creative thought energy. I’m not saying cooking at home will have a direct correlation to being able to travel to Croatia or that eating out of tupperware will bless me with the ability to speak Portugese,  but it will definitely open up the doorway of opportunity wider than if I won’t meal prep. Let me explain…

 

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MEAL PREP WILL SAVE ME MORE TIME
Meal prep means I can have more time throughout the week. (And more time for sleep or more time for fun things in life.) If I take the time to cook my eggs and cut my fruit in the morning, every morning during the work week I will either be 1. Late for work, 2. Wake up earlier than I already do, 3. Lazy to even eat my healthy meal. Let’s say if it takes me 10 minutes to boil my eggs and 5 minutes to chop fruits for a single serving of a protein smoothie and another 5-10 minutes to cook bacon and prepare avocado, I will probably need to wake up about 30 minutes earlier than I already do. Those are make-or-break minutes too. If I take just 1 hour every Sunday to prep my vegetables for my smoothie packs, hard boiled eggs, and avocados for 4-5 days of the week, I’ll save myself 30 minutes each day, or 2.5 hours of my work week. Compare that to 45 minutes to 1 hour on a Sunday. More importantly, the quality of my life will increase because I will have more time sleeping or working out before work. I’ll have more time for better activities like meditation in the morning, which will then launch my day into a more positive trajectory. Or I can spend that 30 minutes every morning practicing a new language. Having more time to do what I want versus what I need will have a positive ripple effect into my every day. My energy for thinking won’t be wasted on such a menial thought like “what can I eat this morning (that’s healthy)?” This brings me to my next topic…

 

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MEAL PREP WILL SAVE MY CREATIVE ENERGY
Meal prepping will leave me with more mental energy for creative thinking and will decrease my chances of eating poorly at the end of the day. Sounds far fetched, but it is not. Mental energy depletes as the day goes by with each decision made. Meaning, you have more energy in the beginning of the day than at the end of your day to think. Decision making is exhausting! If I take up energy to figure out what I want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every single day of the work week I will likely choose poorly for lunch and dinner because my energy for thinking things through will be depleted. Meal prepping makes the task of thinking about breakfast more automatic. The decisions have already been made for you and all you need to do is reach in the fridge for that tupperware of food.
If I don’t have enough mental energy to think about consuming a healthy meal I will most likely eat something fast or something that will cost me about $15 a plate at a healthier diner. For instance,the choice of grabbing that juicy looking hamburger from the closest Carl’s Jr. will win my cardswipe for dinner over grabbing a salad. Expensive salad or cheap delicious burger? I’m screwed both ways. This leads me to point three…
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MEAL PREP WILL SAVE ME MONEY
Meal prep will help me save money. (Thus, more cash for Croatia!)
Here’s an example I come across often: For breakfast-on-the-go I like to have 4 boiled eggs, 16 oz of Synergy Kombucha with Chia seeds, and almonds. When I am running late and did not meal prep the day before I run to the local Ralph’s grocery store right across the street from my work. It is convenient and I already know where to go to get my breakfast. Total price for my purchase: $8.94 (No tax).

 

  • Almark Food’s Hard Boiled Eggs (pack of 6 eggs) $2.99
  • Synergy Raspberry Kombucha with Chia Seeds $3.99
  • Planters Smoked Almonds 1.5 ounces $1.96
So that’s almost $10 a day for a LIGHT BREAKFAST. If I did that for 5 days because lets say I did not know how to boil my own eggs, I would spend about $50.00/week just on my breakfast snacks alone.
Let’s take a look at how much it would cost me to meal prep this:
  • Eggs: 1 pack of Large dozen eggs at Trader Joes $1.69 / dozen
    • Yields 2 breakfasts servings
    • Cost for 5 days: $4.23
  • Chia seed pack: 5.9 ounces $4.99 / pack
    • Yields about 12 16 ounce homemade chia drinks
    • Cost for 5 days: About $2.10 if I use just 16 oz water and 0.5 oz (1 tbsp) chia seeds (I don’t really care for kombucha anyway.)
  • Raw almonds: $5.99 / 16 ounces
    • Yields about 10 1.5 ounces
    • Cost for 5 days: About $2.80
So that is a total of $9.13 PER WEEK for my BREAKFAST. WOW. Compare that to almost $10 per DAY! Do you get me now? Meal prep will help me cut the fat off my grocery bill and transfer more cash into my Croatia trip or Audi R8 piggy bank (le sigh…)

 

Imagine if we took this “eating out” pattern to the next level. A healthy lunch will cost me about $9.00. Multiply that by 5 days and I would spend an extra $45.00 on top of my $50.00 per week breakfast. And for dinner? I’m looking at $75 per week if I buy a $15 meal every night. Grand total per week is $170. Plus gas to get to a healthy restaurant. Plus drive time… on the 405. Hailz nah! Its just not worth it! It is funny because before I meal prepped, I would look at my bank statements and say “Where did all my money go?” it all went to eating out for dinner and random trips to Ralph’s or 7Eleven. Terrible.

 

So there you have it. Now I know from personal experience that I can act too gung-ho about reaching my goals. We all know or have shyly lived through this first hand too: the burn out phase that creeps about the last week of january and into February. We have all gone through it. Why? Because we bite off more than we can chew. We announce our dreams without practicing it into our daily lives. Execution runs cold because we think no one is watching. I have many goals this year but I am going to perfect and focus on this one practice because I know it will have a ripple effect out to all the other aspects of my life. Meal prepping will launch my 2015 into the right direction with a bit of consistency and a sprinkle of faith. The challenge of staying on track will intimidate me but in the end it will all be worth the effort in more ways than one.

Calamansi Honey Pepper Chicken Skewers

Ready to prep for #MealprepMonday? I actually don’t prep on Monday but Sunday instead. That is because I start work that day and once I do I am ready to go! This is a simple recipe I made last week. It was a part of my fridge clearance and I included a spicy red cabbage slaw to go with the skewers.

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INGREDIENTS
16 – 20 4-inch wood skewers
2 Large chicken breast pieces, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Red bell pepper
1 Pack of white mushrooms, cut down the middle
2 Cups of tea (I used Arizona tea. Yea the one in the jug. This isn’t exactly paleo but I needed a quick marinade base better than coke. You can obviously change this to what you have.)
2 tablespoons of honey
Juice of 4 calamansis. Calamanses. Calamansisses. Aw fudge…
Flavor God’s Everything Seasoning.
1 tbsp cracked pepper + Pepper mill (freshly cracked works best, obvi.)
PROCESS – CHICKEN SKEWERS
MAKING THE MARINADE
Add the tea, honey, calamansi, and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk until the honey is thoroughly diluted. Set aside.
SKEWER THE CHICKEN AND MUSHROOM
Since the sticks are shorter, I used about 2 pieces of chicken sandwiched with 2 mushrooms. Then I topped it with a red bell pepper. Add your skewers in a large ziplock bag. I was able to skewer 20 sticks so you may want to divide it into two bags. Carefully pour the marinade into the bags. Set aside in the fridge for about 2 hours.

BAKE
Preheat your oven to 375. Add foil lining to a baking sheet and set aside.  Take your marinaded chicken skewers and place them on your lined baking sheet. Sprinkle a generous amount of Flavorgod’s Everything Seasoning and add a final sprinkle of cracked pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes until your chicken breasts pieces are thoroughly cooked through.
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PROCESS – SPICY RED CABBAGE SLAW
  1. Julienne half a head of spicy red cabbage. Set aside in a medium bowl.
  2. Mix with a whisk 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, 2 tbsp liquid coconut aminos, 1 tsp coconut palm sugar, 2 finely sliced chives, 1/4 cup chopped or slivered almonds. Pour into bowl of cabbage. Divide into meal prep containers. I was able to have 4 for my meal prep.
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Place about 3 to 4 skewers on top of your red cabbage slaw. This recipe is great for a light but filling lunch. Take it and GO! you’re set for lunch all under $4 each serving.

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Massive Rubbish Frittata

13-inches across, in fact. This thing is massive. Although the size is intimidating, it is easy to prepare. All you need is a fridge full of odds and ends of your almost-wilted vegetables. We all have those right?

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What inspires me the most is seeing an array of untouched vegetables in the grocery store. I see a beautiful broccoli head and think “I can make so much with this!”. What is discerning is after about 7 to 10 days, you no longer have any more inspiration or interest in using this old, boring broccoli head to its fullest potential. You’ve given up and you soon decide that the best way to get rid of it is – exactly that – toss it to the trash. NO! Don’t waste food anymore. I beg you. 2015 should be about fresh starts but if you’re going to waste your vegetables because you were too gung-ho about eating healthy but couldn’t stick to cooking everything, then shame on you. Wasting half a broccoli head here and brown bananas there add up in the long run.


 

Luckily, there are solutions to saving your odds, ends and overstock. For instance if you have over-ripe fruits like bananas (they brown like a ticking time bomb don’t they?), peaches or pears, you can quickly chop them into small pieces and divide them up into baggies to freeze for your morning ritual juice (New blog post to expect).

Butter and herb cubes are being popularized because they help save your wilting herbs. We make such a big fuss about having fresh herbs. We buy in bulk as it comes, yet we only use a sprig, leaf or a few stems.

You can also toss vegetables into a large bakeable good like this frittata I am about to show you. The reason why this recipe is so great is because of the size. It took me about 5 days to finish this bad boy. I even asked my roommates to take some to work. Frittatas are an excellent food because you only really need one extra ingredient: eggs. I bought a 25-pack at my grocery store and I used 20 small eggs to fill a 13-inch CAKE PAN! LOL! Whoops! Oh well… Anyway, here you go! Don’t forget to prepare your tummy while you prepare your odds and ends.

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INGREDIENTS

20 small eggs
1 cup pea sprouts (left over from my banh xeo recipe)
1/2 cup red onion slices (left over from my cod and basil thai curry recipe)
1 cup diced red bell peppers  (left over from my Bison Bombs recipe)
1 large zucchini, sliced diagonally
1/2 eggplant, sliced in half lengthwise and then in coins
3 green onions
3 Apple chicken sausages from breakfast

1 13 inch cake baking pan
1 large mixing bowl
1 large whisk
coconut oil or ghee

PROCESS

1. WHISK THE EGGS

Break all 20 eggs into a large mixing bowl. I used my electric mixer because I was lazy and Cobalt needed some love. Whisk until you do not see anymore whole yolks. Takes about 1 to 2 minutes on high.

2. ADD THE VEGETABLES AND SAUSAGES

Add the chopped up “rubbish” of vegetables and mix into the eggs . Use a spatula to press down any air bubbles to help ensure that there are no air gaps hiding between the leaves. Mix until there is an even distribution of the vegetables

 

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3. POUR INTO THE CAKE PAN

Cut a circle out parchment paper to fit the bottom of the cake pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the edge of the cake pan with coconut oil or ghee. Pour the mixing bowl of your frittata batter into the cake pan. Bake for 90 or until the middle is no longer jiggly. Patience, grasshopper. Don’t reopen the oven because you were too excited to see the finished product. This frittata can feed a family but it needs time to cook.


 

4. ADD DECORATIVE TOP LAYER

With the zucchini and eggplant slices, cover the top with a single layer. Decorate it as you please. If you’re into some sort of Fibonacci sequence, go for it. If you’re into stained glass window art, please feel free to express. This is your time to shine. lol.

 

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4. SERVE

Once your 90 minutes are up and you no longer see the jiggle in the middle (or hint of raw) take the cake pan out of the oven and cool for about 10 minutes. Use a plastic knife to loosen the edge of the frittata off the pan. Carefully using a medium plate, use your dominant hand to cover the top of the pan. Then with a careful fluid motion flip over the cake pan so that way you are “catching” the frittata into your dominant hand. Lay the frittata on a serving platter. Cut into slices – any size you wish!

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Enjoy this as a meal prep. One slice is enough to keep me full during the first part of my shift in the hospital – and I can’t say that with a lot of my packed breakfasts. It is hearty, handy, and its not bad cold if you’re into cold breakfasts. It is packed with protein and fibers so it will satiate your morning energy demands without leaving you with an empty tank. Let me know what you think with your comments down below! Enjoy!

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Gluten Free Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Style Crepes)

There is a place near where I live now thats known for their vietnamese food. Primarily for their nem nuong (pork spring rolls) and their number 2 item: Banh Xeo. Right now I want to showcase their number two item because frankly I am just addicted to it. As I pay for the bill and exit out the doors of this restaurant I leave a bit mad at myself for spending money on a dish I know I could make at home. Enter this awesome recipe. It is a bit altered from the one on Food and Wine because I did not have dried mung beans. In the end, the flavor is all there and I am so glad I can say that this is a pretty easy recipe. The hardest part was shelling and deveining the shrimp and the prep work of the vegetables. Serious. Why pay over $10 for one crepe when you can have 3 for the same price at home?

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INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup mung bean flour
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
3 cups tapioca flour
4 cups of water
2 teaspoons of turmeric
3 scallions, thinly sliced
Salt
Coconut oil
3/4 lb boneless pork loin, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3/4 lb medium shrimp – shelled, deveined and halved lengthwise
Bean sprouts
Pea sprouts
Red leaf lettuce
Mint leaves
Pickled carrots or radish

 

PROCESS

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1. MIXING THE CREPE BATTER
In a large bowl, mix your mung bean flour and coconut milk. Whisk until incorporated. Add your tapioca flour and water and whisk as well. Add the turmeric, scallions, and about two pinches of salt. Set aside. The consistency should be thin and runny.

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3. COOKING THE PORK AND SHRIMP
In a medium sized skillet over medium high flame, add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Add a few pieces of pork and about 3 pieces of shrimp. Cook for about 1 minute. With a measuring cup, pour 1/2 cup of the runny yellowish batter into the skillet and tilt it to swirl and maneuver the batter to cover the bottom. Reduce the flame to medium low. The most enjoyable crepes are the crunchiest, in my opinion. You want to leave the crepe on the skillet until it crisps but does not burn.
4. COMPLETING THE CREPE
Once you have your desired crisp texture, add the bean sprouts and the pea sprouts. With your spatula and a bit of finesse, gently fold the crepe in half. Place on top of serving ware

 

5. MIS EN PLACE OF SIDES
Prepare your table of the fixings by separating each clean lettuce leaf, washing the mint leaves, and separating the pickled carrots into a small bowl.

 

 

6. EATING THE DAMN THANG
So if you have not had banh xeo before or if you’re not blessed with a Vietnamese bestie like I am, never fear, I am going to explain to you how to eat this thing. First you are going to take one lettuce leaf and hold it in your non-dominant hand or place it on your plate if you’re trying to show good manners. Next, tear off a third of your crepe and make sure you have some shrimp and pork on there. Add the bean sprouts that slipped out of the crepe while you tore it off. Yes. There you go. Now, add 1-3 pieces of mint and a small chopstick pick of the pickled carrots. Wrap the lettuce leaf around the crepe like you were about to eat a taco. Then, dip the asian taco into the sauce. Manners don’t count right now. And bam! Stick it in your mouth. Chew and enjoy the wonderful texture of the crepe, flavors of the shrimp and pork and the freshness of the greens and mint. This is why I love bang xeo its just the right amount of texture, flavor and freshness. Addicting! Enjoy!
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Cod & Basil Thai Curry

This dish is perfect for the busy woman who needs a quick dinner, or who needs a one-pot wonder for the week’s meal prep, or for a busy mom who is craving thai food but does not need to spend the money to feed the whole family.

I got the idea for this dish from my visit to Thai Dishes in Los Angeles. I fell in love with this fried catfish in curry plate but I wanted to make it more “healthy” of course. The ingredients listed here cost about $20 in total. So however you are dividing it up, it comes out to about $4 per delicious serving! Enjoy!photo

Ingredients

  • TJ’s thai Yellow Curry Sauce
  • TJ’s Light Coconut Milk
  • 1 package TJ’s Frozen Cod pieces
  • 1 package raw peas
  • 1 package baby carrots
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp sesame/vegetable oil
  • 1-3 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 to 1 package of TJ’s fresh basil
Process
Add cooking oil into large pot and bring to medium heat. Add garlic and full basil leaves. Stir leaves until they start to soften. Add full can of light coconut milk and yellow curry sauce bottle. Add red pepper flakes and fish sauce. Stir until you get to a medium simmer. Once the curry starts simmering, add the pieces of cod pieces using tongs to decrease the amount of extra fluid into the pot. Carefully lay the pieces on top of the curry and then cover the pot with the lid. You are going to let it cook with the hot curry and the steam. Leave the lid close for about 3 minutes or until the fish pieces have cooked thoroughly white and flakey. Next, add the carrots and leave the lid on for another 3 minutes. Then add the peas and leave in for another 5 minutes with the lid on. Stir occasionally. Serve with rice and serve it immediately for the perfect hearty seafood supper!

Bison Bombs with Cheddar Cheese, Jalapeños and Bell Peppers

This is such a dude’s recipe…

When I started making this recipe, I had this image of dainty and cute cheese-stuffed meatballs in my mind.  After about the sous vide part of the experiment I realized that I created a monster. These meatballs are generously sized. I can eat about 2-3 and feel full.

Sous vide technique is so new and exciting to me thanks to Nomiku! I’m enjoying the discovery of the kitchen water bath. For this recipe, I can see how it elevated the texture of the bison.  If one were to simply bake the meatballs or attempt to pan sear them, you would get tough meatballs. Bison is a little bit more lean than most red meat so that is exactly what you DON’T want – super dry bites of meat.  After trying the two-bite wonder, I realized that the water bath kept the balls juicy (twss) and flavorful.

Ingredients for 10 bison bombs

1 lb ground bison (I got my package from Trader Joe’s)
Raw Milk Cheddar Cheese (From Trader Joe’s as well)
1 tbsp Flavor God Spicy Everything seasoning (
1 large Jalapeño (use serrano or habanero for a twist)
1 tbsp ghee
1 egg
1/2 c almond flour or tapioca flour

1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1/4 onion
BBQ Sauce

Appliances and tools

Nomiku immersion circulator. Preheating your water at 67C.
Digital kitchen scale
Plastic wrap
Large gallon-sized freezer bags

Process

Preparing the bison meat. Take the ground bison and add it into a mixing bowl. Add almond flour, egg and Flavorgod seasoning and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.

Preparing the cheddar cubes. Cut the cheddar block into 1cm cubes. When I measured out the block it turned out to be .30g of cheese. Set aside.

 

Rolling the Bombs. Measure out 60g of the bison meat. Take the .30g block of cheddar and insert it into the palmful of bison meat. Start forming the bison around the cheddar cube with your fingers (like you’re 5 and playing with play-doh) and be meticulous about any “cracks”. These cracks will be the Achilles heel to your bombs during the cooking portion if you don’t get them in the beginning. Set aside on a plate.

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Once you have rolled all your bombs, take some plastic wrap and wrap each bison ball into individual balls. This part is probably the most tedious but it keeps the shape of the bombs together. I don’t have a plastic bag sealer so this method worked for me. After you wrap each ball individually, you can place them in the gallon freezer bag and then immerse the bag in the water bath while its unzipped. As the bag is immersed, pressure will squeeze out the remaining air, so don’t worry about sucking or pushing the out before dipping it into the warm bath.

Sous vide for 40 minutes. You’ll notice the bombs will start to lighten in color.

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After they are done with the water bath, take the bags out and unwrap the bison bombs. Set aside on a paper towel to dab off extra moisture. Feel free to do a taste test here.

Take ghee and add it to a frying pan. Once the ghee is ready, pan sear the meatballs until their edge has a slight crust. The goal here is to add a bit of texture and flavor.  Serve immediately with the Jalapeño & Pepper BBQ Salsa. When you’re prepping this for a party, you want to serve this right away or keep it in a warm oven if making in batches.

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Making the Jalapeño & Pepper BBQ salsa

Chop your peppers and onion into small pieces. Slice your jalapeño in half the long way and scoop the seeds out. Chop into small bits as well. Mix about 3-4 tablespoons of your favorite paleo-friendly, or gluten free BBQ sauce. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated.

Presentation and More

Serve with a dollop of sour creme, a shake of Tabasco and add the BBQ Salsa. Serve with a fork and napkin. It is sooo good! Enjoy!

RECIPE – Stuffed Persimmons

“It’s like Thanksgiving blew up in my mouth.”

I really have no words for an intro here.  It is one of those “you have got to try it to believe it”. If you do, you’ll find yourself enjoying the flavor BOMB of fall goodies. Trust me on this one, guys!

 

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Ingredients (Makes 5 stuffed persimmons)
  • 5 medium persimmons ripe but firm
  • 1 raw turkey breast
  • 1 twig of rosemary
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tbsp Flavorgod Everything Seasoning
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup Trader Joe’s Omega Trek Mix (I took the majority of the cranberries out for flavor balance)
  • 1-2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
Process
  1. Prepare the turkey. Chop turkey breast into small half-bite size (a little larger than 1cm cubed). Add 1 tbsp OMGHEE ghee, 1 tbsp Flavorgod Everything seasoning. Of course, you can be liberal about the amount of seasoning and ghee. Mix until pieces are evenly coated which takes about ten turns of the spoon. Set aside

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  2. Using a pearing knife, carefully make a cut into the top 1/3 of the persimmon at a 45 degree angle as you are trying to core the persimmon from the top. After you cut the “top off” you can then cut a circle cut around the inner edge of the persimmon. The goal is to loosen the inside of the persimmon. Use a spoon to start spooning out the insides. If your persimmon is just perfectly ripened this process will be easy. If it is still firm, feel free to use the knife to help cut through. Set the cored persimmon cups aside

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  3. On your preheated medium pan, melt another 1 tbsp ghee. Add the turkey bits and stir until all pieces have turned white. You don’t want to over-cook the turkey as the meat hardens as it overcooks.
  4. Add the Omega Trek Mix and two spoonfuls of the persimmon “guts” into the pan. Stir until all ingredients are well incorporated into another. Add more salt, rosemary, and black pepper to your desire. The goal is to have a savory, sweet, salty, and peppery rosemary combo that reminds you of Thanksgiving. If pilgrims start showing up at your door, you know you’re doing the right thing. Once the turkey pieces are fully cooked, sprinkle your toasted pine nuts into the turkey mix. Set aside.
  5. Using a spoon, carefully spoon mounds of the turkey nut mix into the hollow persimmon cups. Plate as desired.

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Tips and More
I realized that this recipe, once I tasted it, could double as a great turkey stuffing. Just triple the ingredients, and add 2-3 cups of breadcrumbs or bread cubes, drizzle with melted ghee or olive oil and bake for 15 minutes.
You can also bake the stuffed persimmons for 15 minutes under 350 degrees for a softer and warmer finish. Slap on the turkey gravy when you have it.
Enjoy!

PORTLANDIA DAY 1

PORTLAND DAY 1

We booked our flights about 2 months ago knowing that we would visit Portland strictly for the intake of deliciously legendary food. I don’t know about you and your girlfriends but I know my girls are the forever type because we can all strangely agree on traveling primarily to grub. I mean, we could have said “We want to get away” but no, we wanted to EAT. The news of Portland’s mystical food joints only increased as we would see features of them on Food Network and hear about it from people who have visited in the past. Oh Pok Pok chicken? Foie at Le Pigeon? I want that. In my mouf. Like, yesterday. We all knew that we would come into this trip with a hunger of a woman in her second trimester, and leave with happy hearts. Hearts as in fat bellies. Ah. Portland. Cheers to your lush green land and happy people. Cheers to your fresh air and fresh culinary ideas. A weekend in Portland was not enough but the memories will last forever. Gals, this post is for you – for the forever kind.

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DAY 1 FRIDAY

Lardo

I arrived in PDX about noon from a smooth flight with Southwest Airlines (Thank you, Southwest!) and my girls Stephanie and Christanne (Stanne) were already in front of the arrivals section of the airport. They had enjoyed breakfast and some quick touring around the city as they arrived in the early morning. First stop together was Lardo.  Lardo is known for their flavorful sandwiches, burgers and dirty fries. As planned, each girl would order one dish from the menu and we would just take a bite out of each dish. I ordered the Porchetta sandwich, Steph the Bahn Mi, and Stanne the Dirty Fries. Out of all the dishes I think my sandwich was the winner in flavor. Everything about the Porchetta sandwich was delicious – the fresh bread, the fatty porchetta, and (my favorite) the caper mayo. It added a pesto-like taste to the sandwich that I couldn’t quite get in the beginning but it was just delicious! The flavor was so unique and robust I still remember it until today.

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Nong’s and Food Pods

Portland on that Friday afternoon was, dare I say, eerily quiet. I don’t know why it crossed my mind and I kept saying it to my girls how you can SEE the bustle but you couldn’t HEAR the bustle. Pedestrians walking, pigeons flying, skateboarders at the park. I can see it all but it seemed so quiet. No firetrucks or airplanes or cars honking. And to know that it was a Friday afternoon, I was expecting MORE. Nonetheless, it was a pleasantly different and peaceful environment to enjoy my second dish out at a park: Nong’s (Khao Man Gai). Within 1 hour of consuming Lardo, mind you. We bumped into Nong’s food station because our car was parked right outside. We decided to explore the perimeter of the food pod. The recognition was quick as I heard of Nong’s from Food Network and she was there in the front serving her chicken and rice. She was very humble in her red beanie, dressed in a tank which flashed her tattoo sleeve, and spoke very softly during our quick transaction. I said hello, paid a compliment, bought her chicken and rice dish and swiped my card all under 3 minutes. The chicken and rice dish was double-wrapped in a paper parcel. You’re supposed to eat it with the spicy paste, ginger sauce and ginger soup while holding the paper parcel in your hand. If you’re lucky, which is what we were, you would be able to eat at the park across the way with your friends so that way you can each take turns eating while the other girl shoos away the inquisitive pigeons. It was good. It reminded me of home and it was a pleasant welcome during the cool afternoon in PDX. In fact it tastes just like the filipino dish Tinola. I would go back again but this time order double chicken skin. Mmm.

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One characteristic about Portland is its food pods. Pods are groups of food trucks or vendors located on a street block or corner. They are everywhere in Portland. Downtown has a couple of food pods while the surrounding neighborhoods have smaller pods that are nestled in between houses. They are the charms of Portland and the center for foodies and hungries. I like food pods because they are never pretentious in any way. I’ll talk more about these pods through out these posts.

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Oneonta Gorge and How to Reach the Trailhead

So for this trip the girls all agreed to pick their number 1 spot they want to visit in Portland. This was Stanne’s. She’s been to PDX before but wasn’t able to explore the greener parts. We hit Oneonta Gorge which was about a 30 minute drive east of downtown in the middle of the afternoon. We were afraid it was going to rain or get dark early so we were in a rush to fit this hike into our schedule. When we arrived, we were able to park our cars on the street. There is a railroad track on the outer side of the street and you need to walk through a short tunnel to be right on the bridge where the trailhead is. When you see the bridge, you’re already at the start of the trailhead. You’ll see the beginnings of a creek underneath the bridge. Walk to the right side of the bridge and you’ll see concrete steps leading you down under the bridge. Once you’re down, you’ll see a stream of water, rocks, and logs. Just follow where the water is coming from – at least, that’s what I told myself. The only other hint was there were sounds of people ahead of us. We followed other traces we could follow: footsteps in the mud, treaded pathway, and a fallen tree. As we walked through the bushes, we saw that people were headed in the direction upstream. Then we saw the entrance: a log jam and a narrow entry way which looked like the picture of a gorge I had seen through Google-ing Oneonta Gorge. This was IT. As we walked closer to the jam, we saw hikers walking back to the bridge with water marks lined all the way up to their chest. We already knew without asking that we would get a little wet on this trip. Also, as we reached the front of the massive log jam, we felt a sense of retreat. The log jam was huge. It looked like a 20 feet puzzle we had to walk over. It was wet, slippery and dangerous. It was like the fourth and last challenge before reaching the Grail (Some Indiana Jones for ya. heh.) It was massive and intimidating but we knew we had to overcome it to get to the goods: the Gorge.

 

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One by one we climbed the massive logs. We crept up the cracks and planks that made the challenge of the jam. There was one part of the jam that led us to the tallest peak. We hesitated to proceed by climbing over the logs but instead we climbed underneath. Here are some hints: Use the “stay low” method, the “tripod” method, and don’t pretend like you’re Spiderman because the fall will lead you to sharp logs on the bottom. Dangerous. Once you’ve past the log jam, it’s nothing but beauty from here on out. Your feet will get wet as the first steps are already in water through rocks. You’ll see hues of all sorts of the green spectrum from the flora on the stone walls of the gorge. As you keep walking, you’ll hit parts where the water will reach your ankle or parts that will hit your knees. Be prepared and most importantly, just enjoy it. As we got closer to the source of the stream, the water level became higher as some parts hit our thigh. The last wet challenge is a dip where the water reaches your chest. You can pass this part one of two ways: swim through the deep water with your carry-on held above your head. Or you can carefully climb the wall of rocks on the right side. The latter option will eventually lead you into the water anyway. And this is where I stopped. Stephanie was the only one who reached the waterfall at the end. According to her description and her videos the waterfall was tall and beautiful. If I could do it over again I would bring a packed lunch and have a quick sandwich there. The hike was short and challenging but truly a unique experience of Oregon. It was a perfect piece of Oregon that I will never forget. Magical!

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The Legendary Pok Pok and Salt & Straw

So after our beautiful hike and after we burned off half of our meal at Lardo, we were ready to carb-load again. We decided to cross off my number one place of Portland: Pok Pok. When we got to Pok Pok it was about 7pm and we were greeted with a frank “It’ll be a 2 hour wait.” by the pretty hostess. Drats. Well, luckily we had called the restaurant 30 minutes before to order their legendary Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings to-go. Booya! Thinking ahead here. I just wanted to try the wings and since eating was the reason of our trip, the girls were always down to sit at a quiet spot and eat picnic-style. And that we did. The wings were BOMB. Large in size, these were actual chicken wings and not drummettes from your typical BWW. There were 6 pieces total so we each had two massive wings to dirty our faces with. We ate at a planter in front of Salt and Straw (next destination on our hit list) with no shame. The night was cool and it was slightly drizzling from the residual rain cloud of the day before. People were at the planter with us that night but we, however, were straight grubbing on the sticky, salty, and spicy wings. Gangsta! The wings were just how I described it with a robust flavor of garlic, spice, and sugar. The skin was crispy and sticky. The sticky stuck the spice on your tastebuds so that way you can engage the memory into longterm. Get me? I swear, it was the best. Steph started a debate on whether these wings were better than San Francisco’s San Tung Wings. And as we ended the slightly biased conversation (lol), we all agreed – like a bunch of amateur food critics – that Pok Pok was in a division of its own.

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Salt & Straw was whole ‘nother animal, though. Salt and Straw is the best ice cream I have ever enjoyed. EVER. and I say this with the pride of a Portlandian. I’ve tried OC’s nitro-induced Creamistry. I’ve tried LA’s Milk and Sweet Creamery. I’ve tried San Francisco’s BiRite and Smitten’s and Salt and Straw wins by a large margin. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Flavors: The flavors at Salt&Straw were fearless. It’s as if they rolled dice with ingredients as the numbers and decided the flavor combinations by what was facing up. If you’re going to even say “But do they have salted caramel?”, you need to get the fuck out. You’re officially obsolete. Your taste palette is uncool. Anyway, When you reach the front of the ice cream assembly line you are greeted by a happy worker with the loaded question “Would you like to sample any of our ice creams?” This is the part when you say “HECK YES! I WANT TO TRY EVERYTHING!” … but only in your mind. At this point I was in such awe and borderline confusion of all the combinations. The most interesting combinations tasted served as the best and most unforgettable. I had – don’t judge – these samples: pear and blue cheese, fresh oregon peaches and walnuts, Stumpton Coffee and bourbon, Honey and Lavender, Chocolate and Almond brittle, and a root beer float. The winner for night 1: Pear and Bleu Cheese. It was divine. Who came up with this? Nobel Peace Prize pronto.
  • Cone: I’m a cone judge. I’m the type that would push for double cone instead of double scoops. The cone at Salt and Straw was perfect because it wasn’t too sweet. Cones in LA from Milk and Sweet Creamery are too sweet, totally eclipsing the fresh flavors of the ice cream. The cone at S&S was just perfect. Thick and fresh in crunchiness. And the smell of freshly ironed cones hits you and lures you from a block away and, alas, you find yourself at the end of a 30-person line. Its like Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland but this time its for real and organic.

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TAKE AWAYS

  1. Grub at food pods are just as amazing as restaurant food.
  2. Oregon is so beautiful with its lush greenery. Get lost and take advantage.
  3. Salt&Straw is king.
LINKS
Salt and Straw – http://saltandstraw.com

RECIPE – CAPPELLOS Fettuccine pasta with pancetta, scallops, romanesco, and white cream sauce

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RECIPE – CAPPELLOS Fettuccine Pasta with Pancetta, Scallops, Romanesco, and White Cream Sauce

I rarely make pasta (What is wrong with you, woman?!) but when I do, its gonna be loaded, special, and specifically designed to put you to sleep. This is a recipe inspired by the simple carbonara pasta and the fun and unique vegetable romanesco. Although this is a multi-step recipe, if you decide to stray from the directions, you’ll still end up with an amazing flavor explosion in your mouth.
Chef tip: Start off with boiling your pot of water for the fettuccine and have that ready while you are cooking the rest of the ingredients. You want to be able to integrate the ingredients while they are all fresh and warm.
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INGREDIENTS FOR 4 SERVINGS
  • One package of Cappellos gluten free, grain free, soy free fettuccine pasta
  • One pound of pork pancetta (or bacon) chopped into small bits
  • Eight to twelve pieces of fresh scallops
  • One head of beautiful green romanesco broccoli chopped into the small spirals
  • Ghee or Kerrygold butter
  • 2 cups heavy cream**
  • 1 tbsp diced garlic
  • 3 tbsp diced parsley
  • salt and white pepper
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese*
*exclude for strict paleo
** use coconut cream as substitute
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PREPPING THE ROMANESCO
With a knife, you’re going to want to chop the romanesco branches off one medium spiral at a time. Of course, this is all for presentation purposes, if you want to practice your judo chop skills through the head of a romanesco – GO FOR IT. Set aside the pretty little spirals until later. In this recipe, I kept it raw for added nutrients and for an extra crunch. You may steam them or toss them in the frying pan with the collected pancetta oils for 6 minutes (See below).
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COOKING THE PANCETTA
Heat a frying pan to about medium, medium high. Add the pancetta bits and stir. You want to render the fat out of the bits to crisp the bits. This usually takes 5 to 8 minutes. Save the fat on the pan, collect the crispy bits with a spoon and set aside on a plate.
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COOKING THE SCALLOPS
Add the butter or ghee to the pan of pancetta fat and let it melt over medium heat. Once the ghee is melted, season your scallops with a light sprinkle of salt. Don’t worry about seasoning the scallops as the pancetta fat will add another level of flavor to it. Add 4 pieces of scallops to the frying pan and let it cook for about 2-3 minutes or until you start to see the pan side of the scallop start to turn white. You want to be careful not to over-cook scallops, as they turn really gummy. You want to look for that buttery texture when biting into them.
Flip the scallops to the other side. When you do so, you want to see that the first side has a dark brown edge. Continue to cook the scallops for another 2 to 3 minutes by tossing the grease and oils over it with a spoon.
PREPARING THE WHITE SAUCE
Once the pancetta and scallops have been cooked, you can use this fat to make a white cream sauce. You don’t want to waste any part of the dish! Add the garlic, parsley and cook in the pan for about 2 minutes letting the aroma release into your already fragrant kitchen. Next, add the white wine and stir for another 3 minutes. After, using a whisk, add the cream and cheese and whisk over heat for about 5 minutes. You are looking for a creamy consistency. Turn the flame off when you have seen all of the ingredients incorporate. Taste and season to your liking.
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PREPARING THE FETTUCCINE
You would follow the directions on the box of Cappellos pasta. Basically you want to have your water up to a boil and add the pasta in batches. Cook as directed and quickly collect the strands with a pasta ladle.
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PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
In a large bowl, add your cooked pasta. Then, while using a spoon to mix, slowly pour your white sauce over the bowl of pasta strands. Make sure you coat each an every strand. Plate into 4 separate dinner plates. Next add 2 to 3 pieces of scallops to your plate of pasta. Add romanesco and then top it with a sprinkle of pancetta bits.
Another way to serve it is to add the romanesco, pancetta, and pasta in the large bowl and pour the sauce all over all the ingredients. Add the scallops on top last. Which ever way you chose, it will all go down the same way! You’ll love the flavors of this dish and the crunch of the romanesco will please the palette as well as please the eye of the eater. After all, you eat with your eyes first! ENJOY!
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PHOTOGRAPHY
All photos on this recipe was shot by Randy Tran of @rtranphotog. Please visit his instagram instagram.com/rtranphoto

RECIPE – Spicy Flavorgod Kale Chips

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PROCESS
Don’t worry if you don’t have a dehydrator – I don’t have one too but you can still make these healthy kale chips at home! This is kind of a messy dish. But this is why its perfect to make with your family. The younger members will love being hands on with their new favorite snack!
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INGREDIENTS
1 cup cashews
1/3 cup ground golden flaxseed
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
2 tablespoons of softened butter or ghee or olive oil
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon italian parsley
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 tsp white pepper
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes. Its spicy, after all.
Bottle of FLAVOR GOD’s SPICY Seasoning
PREP WORK
Preheat oven to lowest setting. My lowest is 180 F. Or if you have a handy dehydrator,
Apply parchment paper on to baking sheets.
SOAKING CASHEWS
Take your cashews and flaxseed and soak them in water overnight. If you’re in a rush, you may give them a press or two in a food processor and then soak for 4 hours. You’re waiting for a soft consistency.
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PREPPING KALE
The kale I used for this recipe is the regular kale. As in, NOT the Lacinato ones. However, you may use whichever kale species you favor but keep in mind, the regular kale leaves have a million nooks and crannies that zig zag through the leaf. This will help contain the yummy flavors of the coating. Just you see! You can substitute the Lacinato but I would substitute the actual Kale leaf for a different vegetable. Kale is perfect for chips because they are fibrous and thick enough to hold shape when they bake.
After you have washed and dried the kale chips completely, start tearing the kale into mouth-sized pieces. I say TEAR and I mean it. The reason behind this is because the kale will be able to be stored for a longer time. If you use a knife, the knife will cut through the plant cells. If you tear through, the cut line will be formed around the microscopic plant cells and will therefore preserve its hold for moisture and water. Theres a tidbit of science for you here – Thanks ALTON BROWN!
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MAKING THE PIZZA COATING
In a blender or food processor, you’re going to incorporate the softened cashew and flaxseed mix in with the rest of the ingredients. Process it for about 2-5 seconds as you are looking for a creamy texture mixed with a little bit of clumps from the cashews and the tomatoes. Taste as you go. If you want it more spicy, add some red pepper flakes. If you want it more textured, add more flax or bits of cashews. Once its processed to desired consistency, set aside in a mixing bowl.
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RUBBING IT DOWN
Now, with your hands, take a bit of the cashew cream pizza coating mix with middle 3 fingers and then rub it into the nooks of a piece of kale. You want to be able to coat the ends of the kale with chunks of coating while making sure the entire surface of the kale piece has a bit of grease on it. This will help crisp the kale chip. This part takes the longest but its the best part when you have helping hands! It will get messy!
Season with FLAVOR GOD’s SPICY SEASONING. This is another reason why I love Flavor God. You can add heat and flavor to your chips without having to use salt. Very healthy! Very spicy!
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LAYING IT OUT
When you’re finished coating a chip, lay on your baking sheet and make sure that the kale pieces are not overlapping each other. However, it can be side-by-side. No need to have any space in between.
Now Bake or dehydrate until the kale chips have crisped. It takes a while depending on your oven.
Enjoy and have fun with your food!