Chili Verde Pork Stew (Paleo, Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

Chile Verde Pork Stew - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

So let’s say you over did it during the holidays. And if you DIDN’T over do it on the holidays…your will power astounds me…go eat some chocolate caramel doo dads and quite making the rest of us feel guilty. Gaaaaaaaah.

Whether you want to eat healthier, or spend more time with your family, or just take care of yourself and your family, this stew answers all of those resolutions. I’m serious!

Chile Verde Pork Stew - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

I currently have a massive crush on this Green Chili Verde Pork Stew. It’s dangerous. Dangerous to the point that I find myself preaching about this stew to my friends, my family, my husband, my dog, and then to people who don’t care like my eye doctor (she really should care) or my massage therapist (really, it’s THAT good) or even the kid that just stopped by my house to see if I wanted to have my driveway shoveled of the crap ton of snow that is lingering, but then I become the creepy old lady that says “oh honey it’s so cold out there, maybe you just need this green soup”. Someone help me! Poor kid.

So it’s green (green things are healthy, right) and easy (more time to do other things like stalk pinterest). The pics may not look like much, but I’m telling you that this little stew packs a memorable and heart warming goodness that you will not want to pass up. Tomatillos and hatch chiles gives this stew a tangy and slightly spicy flavor that gets better with every bite.  I used canned chiles and a jar of tomatillo salsa verde. But if you wanted to be even more adventurous, you could use both fresh roasted hatch chiles and fresh roasted tomatillos *cough* (overachiever) *cough*.

Chile Verde Pork Stew - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

I had a 3 pound pork roast from a local farmer that I needed to use. I’m sure you could also use a pork shoulder or boston butt instead. I prepared this in my dutch oven, but I am quite positive that it would also work in the slow cooker. Either way, the slow cooked pork roast is so fork tender and delicious that it will make you want to inhale the whole pot. But wait…and share it with others. Spread the love. I served this amazing stew for Christmas Eve for weary family as they arrived at our house after a long days drive.  It’s the type of meal that can bubble away for hours until you want to serve it. It can also be made ahead of time and reheated when you want to serve it.

Chile Verde Pork Stew - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

Chili Verde Pork Stew

Serves 8 to 10

Adapted from Simply Recipes

Ingredients

  • 3 lb pork roast (or pork shoulder or boston butt), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 4 oz cans of mild green hatch chiles
  • 1 16 oz jar of mild salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch of cilantro leaves, cleaned and chopped (reserve about ¼ cup for topping the stew)
  • 4 cups of chicken stock

Instructions

  1. Season the pork with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Brown the pork chunks by placing small batches of the pork into the heated dutch oven. Allow to brown on all sides. Lift the pork out of the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from dutch oven. Add onion to dutch oven and cook over medium heat until onions become translucent and browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add pork and remaining ingredients to pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a slight simmer. Cook for 2 to 3 hours, or until the pork is fork tender. Remove bay leaves.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve with reserved chopped cilantro.

Notes – I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m quite positive that this also could be prepared in a slow cooker.  Brown the pork before placing it into the crockpot. Add all other ingredients on top of the browned pork. Cook on low for at least 8 hours.

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Grain Free Cranberry Banana Bread Muffins

Cranberry Banana Muffins (Grain Free, Nut Free, Paleo Friendly) - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

Christmas is approaching quickly and I am hosting! Pray for me. I’ve already caught a dishtowel on fire and burned my butcher block.  I will soon have a house filled with kids, love, hugs, ham, chocolate, pie, fudge, nuts, cheeselogs, stockings, egg nog, and so much more. Mmmmmm.

I’m trying to bake a few things ahead of time to prepare for the coming family. I whipped up this batch of muffins this week and have placed them in the freezer ready to be pulled out and rewarmed at a moments notice. Gotta love short cuts.

Cranberry Banana Muffins (Grain Free, Nut Free, Paleo Friendly) - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

AAAAnd, you gotta love bursts of cranberries in these muffins. Well, everyone except my husband…dat’s weeeahd. But’s he’s weird anyways people. I mean, who puts their shoes in the freezer? Anyone? ya…him.

And who’s favorite christmas movie is Die Hard? Him! Well…and likely most dudes.

Ok ok ok…I love Die Hard too, but what about Jingle All the Way? Most people’s fave holiday movies are Home Alone and Christmas Story. But Sinbad and Arnold give the fabulous gift of I-haven’t-bought-anything-for-anyone-yet-so-I-will-buy-a-not-so-meaningful-but-expensive-Christmas-gift-on-Christmas-Eve-style Christmas spirit. Check it out. And don’t you dare go buy Christmas gifts ON Christmas Eve! Learn a lesson from Arnold, people. Or else you will end up driving around town, being robbed by washed up Santa’s, threatening a radio show host, and trying to steal presents from under other people’s trees. But then you end up dressed like a superhero at the end, so I guess it’s all worth it. But I digress….

Cranberry Banana Muffins (Grain Free, Nut Free, Paleo Friendly) - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

If you haven’t gotten gifts at this point in the game, don’t do it. It’s a fart in the wind, friends. Make these muffins instead. Put them in a pretty box, tie some kitchen twine around them, and write a thoughtful note. When you present these to others, they’ll eat them and say “wow, that was so thoughtful and so delicious” in the voice of Ma Brady.

Now, isn’t this so much better than fighting the crowds and buying a crappy import mug with two year old hot cocoa mix and crouton-like marshmallows?

Cranberry Banana Muffins (Grain Free, Nut Free, Paleo Friendly) - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

Back to these awesome muffins that you are making for “the ones that you love”, remember?!?

These muffins come together just using the food processor! It’s easy! No need to dirty multiple bowls. I adapted a recipe from Danielle Walker’s Against All Grains cookbook (best grain-free cookbook around, folks), swapping out the almond flour for tapioca flour for a nut free muffin version. I also added fresh cranberries for a fleck of holiday red and a punch of perfect tartness.

Oh Oh OH…AAAAND, even thought these muffins contain NO oil, they are uber moist. So there…you just made tasty AND healthy holiday treats for people and didn’t have to punch someone in the face at the store on Christmas Eve. You are a good person. Pat yourself on the back and enjoy a muffin. Because, of course you made a double batch so that you could keep some for yourself. We aren’t heathens around here. Sheesh.

I hope you have a happy Christmas and a merry New Year.  Muah!

Paris 2013

Paleo Cranberry Banana Bread Muffins

Adapted from Against All Grains

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sifted coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (such as coconut milk or almond milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin liners and set aside.
  2. Add the cider vinegar to the coconut milk and set aside for at least 5 minutes.
  3. In a food processor or blender, add bananas, eggs, honey and vanilla extract. Process for 1 to 2 minutes until eggs are frothy. Add coconut flour, tapioca flour, baking soda, and salt to the bowl of the food processor with the frothy egg mixture. Blend/process until well combined.  Add the vinegar/coconut milk mixture to the batter and process for an additional 30 seconds until well mixed.
  4. Add the washed fresh cranberries and whole walnuts. Pulse the mixture a few times (do not over process or the cranberries will be too chopped) to distribute the cranberries and walnuts throughout the batter.
  5. Spoon 1/4 cup of muffin batter into prepared muffin liners. This recipe makes 12 muffins.
  6. Place the muffin tin in the preheated oven. Bake the muffins at 325 F for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top of the muffins are light golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from muffin tin and allow to cool further on a wire rack. If freezing, allow to cool completely before placing in a ziplock freeze bag or container. Microwave or reheat in oven to thaw. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers in refrigerator and/or freezer.

Crockpot Curry Beef and Sweet Potato Stew

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Most of you know that my favorite kitchen invention is the Crockpot. I have raved about this domestication blessing before. Once temps jump a little lower, I pull this amazing beauty from beneath my counter and place her in her designated spot, front and center on the counter. BAM. Fall and winter scream for ROASTS and STEWS and CHILI! Nothing is better than coming home from work with dinner ready to go. Thank you my lil’ crockpot friend.

The crockpot is great for those tougher cuts of meat that need to be cooked low and slow. This Curried Beef and Sweet Potato Stew was inspired by a recipe for Crockpot Curried Short Ribs in my favorite new cookbook from Danielle Walker of Against All Grain. If you haven’t gotten her cookbook, go…now…run…fast. It’s awesome and filled with the most lovely food porn you will see, especially for grain free meals! Amazing.

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The original recipe slow cooks short ribs in coconut milk and asian curry spices, which sounded divine. However, because I didn’t have all of the ingredients, the recipe quickly morphed into something new. The beauty of crockpots and imagination means that stew meat, sweet potatoes, coconut milk, and indian curry spices turns out to be one helluva meal! I have made curry stews with beef and sweet potatoes before, but this one was by far the creamiest because of my fabulous friend, the crockpot.

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The house was filled with warming spicy aroma all day. You can increase or decrease the heat based on the quantity of curry powder and optional cayenne powder. We are SPICY people over here, so things get amped up till our knee pits sweat. Because THAT is living, people. Oh, and we served this stew over cauliflower “rice”. Check out this post for preparation methods. Mmmmm.

Crockpot Curried Beef and Sweet Potato Stew (adapted from the Against All Grain Cookbook)

Ingredients

  • 1 to 2 pounds grass-fed beef stew meat (seasoned with salt and pepper)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14 oz can diced organic tomatoes (no salt added)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 6 oz can organic tomato paste
  • 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk (light or full fat)
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons curry powder (such as madras)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Place the seasoned stew meat in the bottom of a slow cooker. Top with onion, garlic, tomatoes, and sweet potato. Stir in cilantro leaves and stems. In a medium bowl, whisk the coconut milk, tomato paste, curry powder, salt and ground pepper until well mixed. Pour the coconut mixture into the slow cooker over the meat and vegetables.
  2. Cook for at least 8 hours on low, stirring the mixture every once and awhile.
  3. Serve over cauliflower “rice” or regular rice and top with additional cilantro leaves.

Rosemary Almond Flour Tart Crust

I’m on a mission to take life slower. Sometimes things move so quickly that I get caught up in trying to get everything done perfectly and on time and I miss the important things that are going on around me. I forget to breathe. I forget the basics. I focus on the wrong things.

This weekend I decided to slow down, to be present, to breathe.

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Hang my clothes out on the line.

Read a book.

Spend meaningful time with dear friends.

Eat butter pecan ice cream and remember my father.

Remember the basics.

Hold my husband’s hand.

Eat simply. And simply eat.

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Bake something wholesome…. like a savory tart, which is where this basic tart crust came into my life this weekend. Everyone should have a basic pie crust and tart crust recipe up their sleeves. And bonus for the gluten and grain free gang, almond flour makes a wonderful flaky and light crust.

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This basic tart crust is based on a fabulous recipe from the Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam. (Which is a great book for those who are breaking into the world of almond flour baking.) This basic tart crust recipes is easily adaptable to go to the savory side or the sweet side. Currently my fave way to serve this tart crust is by adding fresh herbs from the garden and filling it with eggs and heirloom tomatoes. Simple. Done. And leftovers will be breakfast for the upcoming week! Man, I’m liking this simple life.

For other savory fillings, you could use this crust for a quiche crust or as an open pot pie crust! However, if going sweet, eliminate the black pepper and rosemary and add a tablespoon of honey. This would be simply great filled with lemon curd. Mmmm.

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Rosemary Almond Flour Tart Crust (Adapted from Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook)

Makes 1 9-inch tart crust

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour (I use Honeyville)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (or butter), softened
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons cold water

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter or oil a 9-inch tart pan and set aside.
  2. Place the dry ingredients into a medium bowl and combine with a wire whisk.   Add softened coconut oil and mix with a spoon until combined. Add in the ice water, starting with just 1 tablespoon. Combine with your hands until the mixture begins to hold together. If the dough is not holding together, add a second tablespoon of cold water. Press into a ball. If making ahead, you can cover the ball of dough in plastic wrap at this stage and place in the fridge for a few hours until you are ready to bake it.
  3. Place the dough ball into the prepared tart pan. Starting from the center of the dough, press into the tart pan evenly working your way out to the sides. Press the dough up the sides evenly. Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork a few times.
  4. If making a tart crust that will be cooked after it is filled, then you will want to partially bake the crust. However, if you are filling the tart with something that will not bake after it is filled, then you will need to fully bake this crust.  Place the tart crust in a preheated 350 F oven and either partially bake for 15 minutes or fully bake for 30 minutes or until the tart is lightly golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes before filling.

Paleo Zucchini Brownies

I like surprises. Do you like surprises? Good. I have one for you.  Be ready to have your mind space blown.

Zucchini brownies.

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We are gettin’ craaaaazy today. Adding veggies to brownies. Ya, you heard me. I know stuffing a brownie with healthy zucchini might not be your idea of a great surprise, but I promise this brownie won’t disappoint you.

These are cakey-style brownies. So for you fudgey-style brownie lovers (like me) these are not those, buuuuut they are incredibly delicious. Plus, they are stuffed with wholesome nutritious zucchini, almond butter, maple syrup, and raw cacao powder! Ya, these are likely the healthiest brownies out there. They are really close to zucchini bread but with a double chocolate edge that comes from the cacao powder and diced dark chocolate bites. Mmmmmm. Can I get an AMEN?!?

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If you don’t have almond butter, any nut butter would work. For the nonPaleo peeps and those not allergic to peanuts, these would be delish with peanut butter swapped in for the almond butter. But if your nut butter is not all natural (or has salt and added sweetener), be sure to eliminate the salt and reduce the sweetener in the below recipe to account for it.

Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone that you ate these for breakfast.

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Paleo Zucchini Brownies (adapted from Fast Paleo)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup creamy unsalted and unsweetened almond butter (or any nut butter)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons cacao or cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8 X 8 baking dish and set aside.
  2. Shred 1 to 2 zucchini with either a grater or a shredder attachment on a food processor. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine almond butter, egg, maple syrup, and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in baking soda, salt, and cacao powder. After well mixed, stir in shredded zucchini and chopped dark chocolate.
  4. Pour into prepared 8X8 baking dish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in preheated 350 F oven. The brownies are done with the center is set. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

Paleo Banana Ice Cream Cake

It’s already the middle of July and this weekend was the first time that I put a bathing suit on.  Honestly, between you and me…this doesn’t have to happen again.

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Why do bathing suits have to be so UNFLATTERING! Ugh.

I should just wear a T-shirt or a trash bag.

But Oh well….I guess I didn’t get too upset, because after swimming all day, all I wanted was ICE CREAM.  So I promptly made this amazing dairy free and grain free banana ice cream cake to go along with ribs that we smoked.  Maybe this is why my bathing suit is unflattering?  Ice cream cake + ribs?

Naaaaah.

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This cake is amazing. Creamy. Dreamy. Guiltless. It is made with cashews, bananas, dates, hemp seeds, raw cacao powder! Ya…shhhh….it’s good for you.

So I will just serve myself up another slice of cake…banana ice cream cake, that is. And I will eat it in my ugly, weird fitting, old bathing suit. And be happy.

Very happy.

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Paleo Banana Ice Cream Cake (adapted from This Rawsome Vegan Life)

Crust Ingredients

  • 1/2 C raw pecans
  • 1/4 C hemp seeds
  • 2 Tbsp cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 C pitted dates

Caramel Ingredients

  • 1 C pitted dates, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Chocolate Ingredients

  • 1/4 C cacao powder
  • 1/4 C water
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup or agave nectar

Filling Ingredients

  • 2 C frozen bananas (3 to 4)
  • 2 C raw cashews, soaked for 3 to 4 hours (or overnight)
  • 1/2 C water or nondairy milk
  • 1/3 C maple syrup or honey
  • 1/3 C coconut oil
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Crust – In a food processor, place nuts, hemp seeds, raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder), and salt.  Pulse until the ingredients combine to make a flour like consistency. Add dates and process for a few minutes until it forms into a paste.  The mixture should hold together when you pinch a small amount between your fingers.  In a springform pan, place wax paper or syran wrap on the bottom. Press crust evenly into the bottom of the springform pan only slightly coming up the sides. Set in the freezer while preparing the filling.
  2. Caramel Sauce – Clean out food processor. Place soaked dates and 1/4 cup of water in the bowl of the food processor. Process for several minutes until a caramel-like substance is formed.  Add additional liquid as necessary. Add salt. Spoon into a separate bowl. Clean food processor bowl for next step.
  3. Banana Ice Cream Filling – Microwave the coconut oil in a small Pyrex dish for 30 seconds until mostly melted. Place all of the filling ingredients (except the caramel sauce) into the bowl of the food processor and blend on high-speed for several minutes until very smooth.
  4. Chocolate Sauce – In a separate bowl, combine cacao powder and 1 tablespoon of warm water. Stir carefully until a fudgey mixture is formed. Add warm water 1 tablespoon at a time until a drizzleable (is this a word???) fudge sauce is formed.  Stir in melted coconut oil at a tablespoon at a time. Keep mixture warm or it will harden. Pop in microwave if necessary.
  5. Assembly – Remove the crust from the freezer. Pour about two-thirds of the cashew mixture onto the crust and smooth evenly with a rubber spatula. Swirl in half of caramel mixture and alternate with 1/3 of chocolate mixture using a butter knife. Top with remaining filling. And swirl in remaining caramel sauce and another 1/3 of chocolate sauce. Drizzle any remaining chocolate sauce on top. Place in freezer for about 2 hours or until solid.
  6. Serving – To serve, remove from freezer about 30 minutes before serving.  Heat a smooth and sharp knife under hot water and cut the pie into 8 slices. Serve with any additional chocolate sauce. Store any remaining pie in the freezer.

Roasted Salsa Verde (Tomatillo Sauce)

Winter is still trying to hold strong. But despite the lingering cold and the random flurries of snow that we had a few days ago, I am ready for margaritas, lime, tacos, and salsa verde!

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Salsa verde is a simple tangy green sauce made from tomatillos. It is amazing drizzled on nearly anything. Growing up in Oklahoma, I was blessed with access to great mexican food.  It became my staple for preparing easy dinners.  Tacos, enchiladas, carne asada, tostadas…but then you add salsa verde and magic happens. Whoa!

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Just wanted to share this recipe with you! Now if you will excuse me…I have a margarita to attend to. Mmmm.

Roasted Salsa Verde (Tomatillo Sauce)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs tomatillos
  • 1 medium onion, cut into eighths
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 small jalapeño
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of water (depending on desired consistency)

Instructions

  1. Preaheat oven to 400 F. 
  2. Remove husks from tomatillos. Place tomatillos, onion, jalapeño, and garlic on roasting pan. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Add all ingredients to bowl of food processor. Process until smooth. Serve with chips, on roasted chicken, or as a sauce for enchiladas.

Fiesta Time – Brunch Edition

Happy Quatro De Mayo!  This is the day to gather up all of your tasty recipes because tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo. Get started early with a brunch party!  I have collected and included a few of my favorite gluten-free mexican brunch recipes for a recipe roundup.

Make Ahead Mexican Breakfast Casserole

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Black Bean and Chard Breakfast Tacos

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Huevos Rancheros with Black Beans

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And for those egg haters, this Mexican Chicken and Lime Soup is a perfect.

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Or what about Carnitas??? seriously, this is always a winner plus you can cook it all day in the crock pot!

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And how can you not have a salsa bar???  The Rhubarb Salsa is amazing and the Basic Salsa is one of my favorites.

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Spring Pea Pesto with Spaghetti Squash

Are you ready to have your mind blown….with peas?

Go get peas right now. Wait…come back. Go get them after I finish telling you about the magic of pea pesto.  Not a fan of peas? I’m begging you to try them again. This is not the mushy pea goosh of your childhood. This is a dish that captures the fresh flavors of spring…peas, mint, lemon…and puts them together in a creamy pesto. I served my magic pesto on a bed of healthy spaghetti squash “noodles.”

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I heart all things pesto…basil pesto, kale pesto, broccoli pesto, pesto pesto. What’s not to love about throwing a bunch of items in a blender, whirling it around, and getting something that will jazz up just about anything. But my heart has been stolen by pea pesto.  Plus it’s uber green and cute.

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I whipped this dish up rather quickly this past week. It would be perfect for a busy weeknight meal. You can use both fresh or frozen peas for the pesto. Reserve about 1/2 cup of peas for serving with the squash “noodles”.  Make the pesto while the spaghetti squash is cooking in the microwave. I think this dish would be amazing with seared scallops or shrimp.

OK, so I now relinquish you to go get peas. Eat up! Spring is here.

Spring Pea Pesto with Spaghetti Squash

Serves 4

*Note – I used cashews to make the pesto a bit creamier. However, walnuts, almonds, or pine nuts would also work in this pesto.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
  • 1 1/2 cups of fresh or thawed frozen shelled peas
  • 1/3 cup cashews*
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh mint
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

  1. SQUASH NOODLES – Place whole spaghetti squash in microwave for 2 minutes.  Remove from microwave and cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds. In a large microwave-safe glass container, place the two halves cut side down. Pour 1-4/ to 1/2 cup of water into the base of the container (about 1/4 inch deep). Microwave on high for a total of 10 to 12 minutes (depending on the size of your squash). Check on the squash halfway through the cook time. When the squash is soft to the touch, it is done. It will be extremely hot, so allow it to rest for about 10 minutes. Make your pesto during this time. Once it is cooled down, scrape out the insides with a fork to get your squash “noodles.” Set your “noodles” aside.
  2. PESTO – Set aside 1/2 cup of peas for later use. For the pea pesto, place 1 cup of peas, cashews, mint, lemon juice, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Process for 2 to 3 minutes until mixture is well blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With machine running, drizzle in the olive oil.  The pesto can be made ahead of time and frozen or kept in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  3. ASSEMBLY – To construct the “pasta” dish, add the pesto to the cooked spaghetti squash noodles. Stir in the reserved 1/2 cup of peas.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with slivers of mint.  This would also be great with shrimp or seared scallops!

Grain Free Lemon Tart

Are you ready?  Like REEEEEALLY ready? Because this isn’t your standard lemon tart. It is a TART tart.  A creamy tart with pucker power but tempered with sweet agave nectar. It is the princess of tarts that will make you dream of fresh flowers, warm picnics, and lemon trees even when it is still stupid cold outside.

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I have been slightly obsessed with lemon tarts lately.  I made piss poor lemon bars last weekend and was out for vengeance.  I didn’t like the filling and was dead set on making a creamier version that could be placed into a tart crust.  So the hunt began for a lemon tart recipe that satisfied my obsession.  I studied several recipes and finally settled on an amalgamation of Julia Child’s Tarte Au Citron, Cookie and Kate’s Honey-Sweetened Citrus Curd, and Dave Lebovitz’s Lime Meringue Tart.

In the end, the curd recipe was adapted from Kathryn’s recipe.  I swapped agave nectar for the honey because I didn’t have honey on hand.  Kathryn’s curd was a bit sweeter than this lemon curd, which could be due to the sweetener swap. If you prefer a sweeter lemon curd, you might stick with honey which will provide that pronounced honey flavor or you could increase the quantity from 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup.  But I liked using the neutral-flavored agave nectar which allowed the tartness of the lemons to be the leading lady of the lemon curd. I also love tart things over sweet. Give me Sour Patch Kids any day of the week over Smarties. EEW.

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When making the curd, be careful when using the direct heat method to thicken the curd. Use nonreactive saucepan and either a wooden spoon or metal wire whisk. Plastic will make your curd curdle like curdly curdy curd. Hehe.  Just keep your heat on low and STIR constantly with a wire whisk. It’ll be fine.  However, if you get a little bit of cooked egg or lemon pulp in the curd, you can always strain the curd before placing it into the tart crust.  This lemon curd can also be made in advance and refrigerated for several weeks. It’s SO dreamy stirred into greek yogurt.

The almond flour-based tart crust pairs incredibly well with the lemon curd filling.  This grain free tart crust is amazing and can be used as a basic crust for a multitude of fillings.  I adapted the recipe from the Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam.  I used Dave Lebovitz’s method for making a basic french tart crust where he places butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt in a bowl and melts it in a hot oven before adding the flour. The butter begins to brown, giving it a wonderful complex and nutty flavor. So simple!

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I also should note that this is a prebaked tart crust. Because almond flour tends to burn easily, keep the heat slightly lower when prebaking and allow the shell to slightly brown.  After filling it with the prepared lemon curd, bake the filled tart until the filling has set (about 10 minutes).  If the edges of the tart begin to brown too quickly, place aluminum foil around the crust edge to protect it from burning.

You can top the lemon tart with meringue (like me) or fresh seasonal fruit. Once my blueberry and raspberry bushes begin to fruit, you can bet your butt that I will be topping these tarts with a gaggle of berries. But in the mean time, I piped a small amount of meringue around the edge of the tart using 2 reserved egg whites. I made a metric poop-ton (actual measurement) of meringue and was sad to see it go to waste.  I nearly made a second and third tart JUST to give that beautiful meringue a home.

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Grain Free Lemon Tart (adapted from recipes from Cookie and Kate and Dave Lebovitz)

Serves 8

Tart Crust Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted grass-fed butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 2 Tablespoons agave nectar or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lemon Curd Filling Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar (or honey)
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 to 4 large lemons)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • pinch of salt

Meringue Ingredients

  • 2 reserved egg whites 
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 Tablespoons agave nectar or honey

Tart Crust Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. 
  2. Place butter, coconut oil, water, agave nectar, and salt in a Pyrex bowl.
  3. Place bowl in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes.  Allow the butter and coconut oil to begin bubbling. The butter will begin to brown on the edges (a.k.a. browned butter).
  4. Remove the Pyrex bowl from the oven.  Be careful because the bowl will be hot.  Add almond flour, vanilla extract, and baking soda and stir quickly until a ball forms.
  5. Transfer dough ball to a 9-inch tart mold with a removable bottom. Use your fingers to spread dough into the base and up the edges of the tart pan. Prick the bottom all over with the tines of a fork.
  6. Partially bake for 7 to 10 minutes at 350 F.  You don’t want to fully bake or it will get too brown when later baking the filled tart.
  7. Remove the partially baked tart shell from the oven. Set aside and allow to fully cool before filling.

Lemon Curd Instructions:

  1. In a saucepan over low heat, heat butter, lemon juice, zest, and salt until butter is melted, but not boiling.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolks, and agave nectar for 1 to 2 minutes until combined and slightly frothy.
  3. Temper the egg mixture by adding a bit of the heated butter-lemon juice mixture to the eggs and whisking constantly.  This will warm the egg mixture without cooking your eggs.  After the eggs are slightly warmed and tempered, add them slowly to the warm butter-lemon juice mixture, whisking constantly.
  4. Increase the heat and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until the lemon curd mixture begins to thickens with a consistency of jelly. DO NOT LET IT BOIL!!! It is done the whisk is lifted from the curd and the mixture holds its shape when it falls back into the saucepan from the whisk (see picture below).
  5. Remove the curd from heat. Place the prebaked tart shell onto a rimmed baking tray.  (Be careful with the tart shell and the removable bottom!!! I have ruined a few tart crusts by accidentally pushing through the mold.) Scrape the filling into the prebaked tart shell.
  6. Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.  You can either top with marshmallowy meringue (recipe below) or fresh seasonal fruit. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

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Marshmallowy Meringue (makes 3 cups):

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of agave nectar in a microwave safe dish for 30 seconds (watch out because this might boil over).
  2. Add 2 egg whites and a pinch of salt to the bowl of a mixer. Turn on high and whip with whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Gradually drizzle in the heated agave nectar and a few drops of vanilla. The meringue will become shiny and slightly stiff.
  3. Scrape the meringue either into a pastry bag fitted with a fancy tip or (like me) scoop it into a Ziploc bag and cut the end off of the corner. Pipe the meringue in a ring around the tart. Or you can also spread the meringue with a spatula around the tart. (You will have meringue left over which either can be used for a second tart or stored in a mason jar in the refrigerator for 24 hours).
  4. Turn on the broiler in the oven. Place the tart under the broiler, watching VERY carefully because it will brown quickly! After the top begins to brown and darken, remove the tart from the oven and cool completely before slicing.