Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Arroz a la Cubana Re-invented #pff style

Arroz a la Cubana was  one of my favorite dishes growing up as a child in the Philippines.  Like most Filipino dishes, there are many versions and variations to this dish but in my home, ground beef was always the base and it was always served with steamed white rice, fried plantains and topped with a fried egg.  To stay true to my #pff lifestyle and to make whole30 compliant, these are the substitutions I made...

Cauliflower rice in place of regular steamed rice
Grass Fed and organic ground beef for regular beef
Coconut and or avocado oil for frying and sautéing
Organic and free range eggs
I make sure that the tomato paste and the raisins have no added sugar in the ingredients

I've had many requests for my  recipe since posting this on FB.  I don't follow one so here is my best recollection of how I made this (last night). Here it #pff arroz a al Cubana.

2 lbs grass fed and organic ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 large sweet potato, diced
1 Tbsp coconut oil
4 Tbsp no sugar added tomato paste
1/2  cup no sugar added beef broth
1/2 cup no sugar added golden raisins
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add 1 Tbsp coconut oil and swirl to coat pan.  Add the onions, crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt  to the pan and sauté for about 3 min .  Add the garlic and stir for 30 sec until fragrant.

Add the sweet potatoes and red bell pepper, sauté for about 5 min.  Add the tomato paste and stir to combine for about 2 min. 

Crumble the ground beef into the pan with your hands or wooden spoon and saute until the beef and the sweet potatoes are cooked through.   Add the raisins and the beef broth. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated but not dry.  Salt and  pepper to taste.

*If Serving with Fried Plantains:
Peel and slice 2 ripe plantains to 1/8 of an inch thick
Heat a non - stick pan with about 1 cup avocado oil
Fry plantains until golden brown on both sides

*For Cauliflower Rice:
Here are a couple of cauliflower rice recipes to peruse.  You can find many on Goolge.

*Top with a perfectly cooked sunny side up if you desire. 
Enjoy!  It's breakfast meets dinner!

*Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of this recipe.

*I actually added minced celery to this recipe as I had some that needed to be used - it did not take away from the flavor but I typically don't add celery when I make this.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

To Paleo or Not to Paleo....While on Vacation

Wow- I just realized I have not had an entry in more than a month.  We came back from vacation on July 13 and I started another whole30 the next day which will end this Thursday Aug. 14.  So I did my mini experiment of introducing the forbidden 5, including alcohol, slowly at first as suggested by the Hartwig’s in their book “ It Starts with Food” .  Well of course I started with the alcohol as we waited for our flight at the United Club lounge.  I also enjoyed the perks of being in first class by having my glass of champagne (okay, I had 2) before takeoff and wine with dinner.  I skipped the bread basket and dessert during my meals and chose Paleo as best as I could.  So far so good, aside from a little tummy ache, I was able to tolerate the alcohol pretty well.
My first sip of wine after 30 days
Our first stop was London.  We stayed at the lovely Langham Hotel and for 2 days, my husband and I met up with one of my good friends from high school and her husband for an evening of catching up, reminiscing, laughter and cocktails at their club, Annabelle's.  We wandered the Picadilly area where we took in a Musical, The Book of Mormons, in the West End (Check that off my bucket list).   We visited a couple of Pubs to catch some world soccer fever and we got cultured by spending a few hours at the British Museum.   Yes I enjoyed more wine and champagne but pretty much stuck to a Paleo diet for my meals.  It was not until our last night in London during dinner at the fabulous Fat of the Land where I indulged in some cheese and dessert.  Boy did I enjoy and savor every bite, but I have to say, my tummy – not so much. 
Selfie with the dapper doorman at the Langham
On our way to meet some friends for a night out in London
With my good friend Aimee at Annabel's

a smooch from the Jedi Master
Pistachio Tart - Yummy

Our next stop was the lovely and very charming city of Brussels.  Did you know that Belgium produces over 3,400 beers and that Budweiser is not a beer – it is a chemical according to our cab driver.  Well then, time to sample beer, and sample we did!  At this point of our trip, I pretty much let go of Paleo altogether.   I sampled and enjoyed every culinary treat Brussels had to offer including a wide variety of beer.  I ate Belgian chocolates, I devoured Belgian and Brussels waffles – yes there is a difference and I quite prefer the Brussels waffle – lighter like a donut and sprinkled only with powdered sugar = yummy.  While not in season as the locals eat mussels in October, I was not going to be denied my moules et frite or mussels in Brussels with a side of fries.   How did I feel  after a no holds bar introduction of the forbidden 5 into my system which for the past 30 days was only being fed clean – for the most part not too badly.  I did suffer from a few minor headaches, probably from the alcohol.  I did not have any more tummy aches however, without giving TMI – I had to use the public restrooms and pay .50 cent euros each time in Brussels a lot!  I mean a lot!  My body was revolting to the not so healthy stuff I was feeding it and let's leave it at that.

Our first beer tasting in Brussels


Our final stop was the city of Dublin.  Friends have asked, “how was Dublin” and I respond with “It exceeded my expectations in a good way”.  Now my husband thinks, the city looked better at night.  While not as charming and picturesque as Brussels, the city was clean and I so loved the cascading hanging baskets of flowers that adorned the shops, pubs, homes and buildings in the city.  The Irish are just about the friendliest people ever and boy do they know how to party.  Our first morning in Dublin, we stopped in a pub called O'Donoghues, advertising a full Irish breakfast at 9:15 am.  We were told by the owner it was too early to serve breakfast but he would serve us a drink…go figure.  We had some of the most amazing meals here in Dublin. 

The Famous Temple Bar in Dublin

Amazing Risotto Appetizer at The Pig's Ear, Dublin

This was to die for!

While I had every intention to do my very best, I wasn't able to stick to a Paleo diet while on vacation.  I have no regrets eating my way through these cities… I am still a foodie after all.  I enjoyed every bite and every calorie but I also could not wait to get back and start another whole30 as I desperately needed to clean my act after being fueled by chocolate, waffles and beer among other things delicious.   Now that my second round is almost over, I will continue my #pff lifestyle with a sprinkling of whole30’s here and there…and should I find myself in a situation where I might indulge in a glass of fine wine or 2 or even some pasta at our favorite Italian jaunt, IL Pizzico – I will enjoy it without any guilt because I know I’ve fed my body enough good that a little infraction will do my body no harm.

Last Day in Dublin - Looking forward to another Whole30




Thursday, July 3, 2014

After the Whole30…Now What?

As this is also a lifestyle blog as much as an avenue for showing off my culinary skills, I thought I would share my experience with the whole30 and how it has changed my life.

So it officially ends today…what next?  Before I get to that, let me tell you how I feel after 30 days of NO Sugar, Grains, Dairy, Legumes and Alcohol.  In one word - FANTASTIC!

Here is the low-down of how "fannytastic" I feel…

1. My energy level is through the roof!  These days, I find myself awake till about 11 ish - whereas prior, I would be in bed by 9:30 pm.  My hubby would say " pretty soon we will be that couple that went to bed at 8".  Mind you, I get up at 5:30 to workout every morning and despite the late night, I no longer get the "mid afternoon slump"I used to get all the time usually around 2 pm, before this experiment.  Sleeping early would be nice, but hey, I will take having energy over being so doggone tired when I get home from work after at least an hour's commute.

2. My skin feels healthier, brighter and tighter.  Here I am with my beautiful 19 year old daughter, with minimal make up, on our way to dinner.

I am 46 years old so I am all about fighting the inevitable aging process - naturally!

3. What do I do now with the multiple bottles of excedrine I keep everywhere - my office, my purse, the bathroom and my bedside…?  I have not had a migraine or a headache in 30 days and I would like to keep it that way.

4. This is HUGE!!!!  I am beyond thrilled to not have to use my nasal spray or take a claritin every morning from March - October to relieve my allergy symptoms. This happened around week 2

5. I no longer wake up in pain every morning!  I suffer from a degenerative disk in my lower left back that flares up often because of my intense workouts at Foundry Fitness( a little plug for Foundry) I would ice my back every night while watching TV- no more icing beginning mid-week 2.

6.  Now this is pure gravy as losing weight was never a priority for doing this, but I can't say I am not thrilled about it.  I have lost 7 lbs in 30 days without counting calories or food portioning.  I ate when hungry till I felt satiated.  How liberating is that!  I normally wear a size 2-4 but on a recent shopping trip, had to go down to a size zero on a pair of linen pants and a linen blazer - WOOHOO!!!  I have noticed my body getting leaner and more toned in areas that weren't so prior to my whole30.  I may just have to post a picture of my mid section sometime:-)

So there you have it…now what?

I will be doing a mini experiment of incorporating sugar, dairy, grains, legumes and alcohol back into my diet while away on vacation for 10 days.  Perfect timing no?  The Hartwig's, authors of It Starts With Food and proponents of the whole30 program, suggests doing it in stages and not incorporating all at once - say in one meal - which would probably make me ill.  So, I think I will start with the alcohol, after all, we are going to be visiting Belgium and Dublin and nothing beats an ice cold glass of Belgian ale while noshing on moule et frites.

I will be keeping notes on how I feel and will share this on the blog.  I am looking forward to starting round 2 of another whole30 on July 14 with a great group of people for morale and support.  I can't wait, as I am sure I will need another body reset post vacation.  After that, it will be living a Paleo lifestyle all the way with whole30's or whole 7's sprinkled in between, for I can't imagine feeling less than GREAT on any given day...

Take Me to Bora Bora

The recipe I was most excited to try from the Well Fed cookbook was Bora Bora Fireballs.  Let me tell you - they did not disappoint!  With flavors like pineapple, succulent pork and sweet coconut - it made me think of Palm Trees, Tiki Torches and Ocean Breezes - what's not to be excited about!  Juicy, spicy, meaty and sweet - these meatballs are addictive.  I especially love the nice crunch the coconut breading gives you when you first take a bite.  I've made this 3 times now during my whole30 experiment.  I brought some to work and as an appetizer to my gym's summer palooza party recently and now the recipe is being requested.

I concocted my own special dipping sauce to go with this recipe.

1 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tsp plus 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp plus 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup crushed pineapple, no sugar added, packed in its own juice
2 T coconut aminos (I buy these from Amazon to replace soy sauce )
1 1/2 tsp dried ginger
3 cloves garlic minced
3-4 scallions, white and green parts very thinly sliced
1/2 fresh jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, finely minced
2 large eggs lightly beaten
2 pounds vegetarian fed ground pork

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Heat a large non stick skillet over med - high heat, then add the coconut.  Toast, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until golden brown, about 3 min.  Remove from het and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper.

Drain the cup of canned pineapple in a sieve placed over a bowl to catch the juice.  Press the pineapple pulp against the sieve with the back of a spoon to extract the excess moisture.  Place the pineapple in a large mixing bowl and save the juice for later.

To the pineapple, add 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp cayenne, coconut aminos, ginger, garlic, scallions, jalapeño and eggs.  Beat with a wooden spoon until combined.  With your hands, crumble the pork into the bowl and knead until all the ingredients are incorporated.  (at this point I usually will take a small piece and cook it in the microwave to test my seasonings - season according to taste by adding more salt if needed)

*Now comes the fun part

Arrange the bowls of pineapple juice, spiced toasted shredded coconut, and seasoned pork for easy access.  Measure a level tbsp of pork to make a meatball, lightly douse it in the pineapple juice, then roll it in the coconut, pressing the coconut shreds into the meat by rolling the ball between your palms.  Do not overdo it with the breading!  Line up the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart.

Slide the meatballs into the oven and bake for 25-30 min, until sizzling and golden brown.

Serve with my special dipping sauce


Left over crushed pineapple
Juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup left over juice of pineapple
1 Tbsp ghee or clarified butter (To clarify butter, melt unsalted organic butter in a pan until it runs clear and you will see the milk solids separate from the fat - strain the milk solids with a fine sieve and you will be left with clarified butter)

Puree all of the ingredients except for the ghee in a blender or food processor
Heat a small saucepan over med-high heat.  Add 1 tbsp ghee or clarified butter to the pan.  After about 30 sec. add the pureed pineapple.  Stir to combine and add 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper.  Bring to a boil then lower heat and continue to simmer until sauce begins to thicken about 7-10 min.  Mix in 2 tsp of apple cider vinegar.  Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.  Serve with meatballs.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

El Minzah Orange Salad

El Minzah is the famed five star hotel in Tangier  frequented by famous poets, Hollywood actors, dignitaries and politicians since it opened it's doors in 1930.  It is still considered the most prestigious hotel in North Africa and I believe this salad is still being served to this day.  The combination of  sweet orange, cool mint, salty olives, crunchy & slightly sweet fennel feels like a party with Moroccan flavors in your mouth.  It is the perfect summer salad to complement any of your grill-tastic recipes.

So I digress a bit from Melissa Joulwan's recipe by adding a slaw of sweet kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage and radicchio from a pre-made mix I bought at Costco.  You can certainly make your own slaw but I love this particular Sweet Kale Salad mix.  It added a nice bite and crunch along with the fennel.

4 - 5 large seedless oranges
1 cup slaw mix
1 fennel bulb
1/4 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
1 cup large black olives, pitted and cut in half
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 clove garlic minced
salt & black pepper to taste
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Fennel fronds, minced, for garnish


Use a sharp knife to peel oranges, removing all of the bitter white pulp and the membrane on the outside of the orange sections.  with your fingers, separate the sections and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Place in a large bowl

Remove the fronds from the fennel and reserve some for garnish.  Cut the ends off the fennel bulb and slice it very thinly, crosswise or use a mandolin which is what I do.  Add the fennel, onions, olives, slaw mix, and mint to the oranges.  Gently combine with a rubber scraper

In a bowl, whisk together lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, coriander, garlic, salt and pepper.  Add the oil in a slow drizzle, whisking continuously.  Pour the dressing over the oranges and toss gently to blend.  Let the flavors meld for about an hour before serving.  Taste and adjust seasonings, then top with minced fennel fronds

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I Can Have My Cake and Eat it Too! #pff Peach Almond Crisp

Who can relate to one of these scenarios?

  • It's girls night out at your favorite GNO restaurant.  You are with a bunch of your BFF's and when it comes time for dessert, you order one with 6 spoons
  • You are having date night and you split a dessert with your significant other
  • Watching your calories, you forgo dessert altogether
Personally the first 2 scenarios happen a lot because let's face it, just like many, I like to end my meals with something sweet.  

Now it's possible to have your "cake" in this case a fruit crisp or cobbler, and eat it too with this #pff recipe - which I tweaked a bit - from the Well Fed cookbook. 

Are you ready for this?  No Sugar, no Dairy and no Grains!  This peach crisp is everything you expect from a crisp/cobbler - warm, tender, sweet chunks of fruit - crumbly, nutty, cinnamon-scented topping - the very definition of a perfect summer dessert.  

Try this recipe for your next barbeque.   Trust me, you will want seconds and you know what - it is perfectly okay!


6 peaches, cut into 1/2 inch dice (about 6 cups)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 3/4 cup almond flour
12 dried organic, no sugar added,  pitted dates
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1.4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp coconut oil chilled until solid, then diced
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds


Preheat oven to 350 F

In a medium bowl, mix the peaches, lemon zest and lemon juice with a wooden spoon. Allow to rest at room temperature while you prepare the topping.

Place almond flour, dates, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a food processor.  Pulse until combined.  Sprinkle the chilled diced coconut oil over the flour and pulse about 10 times then process on high for 5-10 seconds until there are no lumps.  

Pour the topping into a bowl and use a fork to mix in the slivered almonds.

For an 8 inch square pan or round pie plate, pour the fruit into the pan, pressing it gently into place with the back of a wooden spoon.  Sprinkle the almond topping over the fruit and lightly press into the fruit with the back of a wooden spoon or with your fingers.

For individual ramekins, place 6 ramekins on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Spoon generous 3/4 - 1 cup servings of the fruit into individual ramekins (you may end up with 5 depending on the size of your ramekins) pressing the fruit into the ramekins with your hands.  Place about 3 Tbsp of topping onto each ramekin, gently press down to cover the fruit with your fingers.

Cover the crisp lightly with foil and bake for 30 min.  Remove foil and bake for another 5-10 min until bubbly and browned.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

*This is best enjoyed warm and it is even better the second day warmed up in the microwave for about a min.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Caramelized Coconut Chips is the New Pocorn

Anyone who knows me well knows I LOVE POPCORN especially those supposedly "skinny" ones with only 35 calories per cup that are popping up in grocery stores - Boom Chika Pop, Popcorn Indiana etc…They have become my go-to salty and the kettle corn for the salty/sweet snack.  I mean, who does not love popcorn!  Obviously not on the paleo approved menu, I was certainly missing my favorite "junk food" if you will - until I tried the Caramelized Coconut Chips from the Well Fed cookbook.  Popcorn be damned!  I've now found a whole30 endorsed alternative that more than satisfies my craving for that salty crunch.

No they do not taste like popcorn but these cinnamon-caramelized coconut chips come very close to the experience: the saltiness, the mild sweetness and that ever-so-satisfying crunch.  I can live with that!

1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (I buy mine at whole foods)

Mix the salt and the cinnamon in a small bowl with a fork
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat - about 2 min
Add the coconut flakes and distribute evenly so they form a single layer in the pan
Stir frequently as they begin to brown rather quickly so Pay Attention - about 3 min
When the flakes take on that caramel color, remove pan from heat
Sprinkle the hot coconut flakes with the salty cinnamon and toss until evenly seasoned
Transfer to a plate and allow to cool in a single layer to achieve maximum crunch

Now sit in front of the tele, watch whatever your guilty pleasure is and enjoy this #pff snack!  May be stored at room temperature in an airtight container - if they last that long.

Here's what I will do next time:
For an Indian flair -  add 1/4 tsp of curry
For an Asian flair -   omit the cinnamon and add 1/4 tsp Chinese Five Spice
For Garlicky - omit the cinnamon and add 1/4 tsp granulated garlic powder