Juicy, Cuban Pulled Pork {slow-cooker option}

by Amanda Paa on August 30, 2015

Juicy, Cuban Pulled Pork {paleo, gluten-free}Take-out dinners are rare in our house, but we do love Chipotle bowls for a quick and healthy meal when life gets in the way. In fact, the servings are so big that we often are able to order once, eat twice. I order carnitas, Brian the {dry} chicken, and inevitably he takes a bite of mine and kicks himself.

I knew last week was going to be busy, so I thought I’d make lentils, rice and roasted vegetables, then see if I could buy a couple pounds of braised pork from Chipotle to make our own bowls as needed. A quick call was met with a voice that said, “No miss, we don’t sell any of our meats separately”.

Juicy, Citrus Shredded Pork {ingredients for the rub}I took that as a sign — it was time for me to learn how to my own juicy, tender, pulled pork.

A little internet scouring on techniques, cut of meat, and marinade versus rub helped me create a plan, but in the end, I owe my success to the farmer once again.

Many of the recipes I researched used a pork shoulder roast, so I turned to the folks from Green Machine Farm at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market. They take so much pride in pasture-raising all of their animals (chickens, cows, and pork), a very important quality to me when buying meat products.

Juicy, Cuban Pulled Pork {made using an uncured ham steak or pork shoulder}As I reached into the cooler to grab the pork shoulder I sheepishly asked, “This is the best cut for shredded pork, right? The kind so good, the juices spill out when you bite into tacos made with it?”

And at that moment I was given a lesson in the slow-braised, juicy wonder that comes from using what butchers refer to as uncured, fresh ham steak, fresh picnic ham or a leg steak (as if all the names aren’t confusing enough).

Juicy, Citrus Shredded Pork, slow-cooker option {paleo, gluten-free}

[click to continue…]

12 comments   • • •   as featured in:   AIP (Autoimmune Protocol), Fall, Main Dish, Spring, Summer, Winter

Crispy {Baked} Tortilla Chip Crusted Zucchini

by Amanda Paa on August 20, 2015

Tortilla Chip Crusted Zucchini Fries {gluten-free}I’m so glad zucchini is getting its day in the spotlight thanks to the spiralizing trend. People who swore off this vegetable for years are now putting “zoodles” on their plate, a win for health and variety. I love them too, but truth be told, I fell in love with this humble vegetable quite some time ago. Dedicating half of the recipes in my cookbook, to zucchini and other varieties of slender summer squash, its versatility and blank canvas quality lends itself to many delicious dishes.

The beauty of such a chameleon is that new ideas for it never tire. And despite creating nearly 4o recipes for the book, these crispy, dip-happy Tortilla Chip Crusted Zucchini wedges are new to the show.

Tortilla Chip Crusted Zucchini Fries {baked, not fried}You’ve probably heard the term “root to stem” cooking, a way of eating the entire vegetable before throwing it away. These gorgeous rainbow chard stems into pickles or using carrot tops to make pesto are some of my favorite examples.

And then there’s “bottom of the bag” cooking, or at least that’s what I’m calling it. Definition: finding ways to capitalize on the crunchy, salty potential of tortilla chips.

When I got my hands on some of Jackson’s Honest new, coconut oil fried organic tortilla chips (YAY!), throwing any speck of them away was not an option. They’re the first of their kind, and I have to say, they taste different in the best of ways, almost buttery and super crisp. In talking with my partners there, these chips were a labor of love and development. Just 3 ingredients – organic non-GMO yellow Corn, organic non-GMO coconut oil, and sea salt.

Tortilla Chip Crusted Zucchini Fries {gluten-free}In essence, you’re looking at real food from the garden meeting real food from the field. There was some crushing, dipping, rolling, and baking. An easy process, and quite fun to photograph, and definitely delicious.

Tortilla Chip Crusted Zucchini Fries {gluten-free}When I made the breading with just tortilla chips, it wouldn’t quite stick. The addition of almond flour/meal was just the solution, helping the crushed corn stick to the egg wash. And because nuts naturally turn brown as they roast, they give the zucchini even more of a golden brown finish.

Tortilla Crusted Zucchini Fries 8Crispy {Baked} Tortilla Chip Crusted Zucchini {gluten-free}I hesitate calling them fries, but they have the sturdiness to dunk….. right into some Green Goddess Cashew Sauce. It’s nearly good enough to drink, and yes, it’s delicious on zucchini noodles too!

Crispy {Baked} Tortilla Chip Crusted Zucchini {gluten-free} with Garlic Cashew Sauce {vegan}
Crispy {Baked} Tortilla Chip Crusted Zucchini {gluten-free} with Garlic Cashew Sauce {vegan}Such a tasty way to feast on a summertime veggie, especially if you’re in that “what else can I do with zucchini” stage. These wedges are naturally gluten-free, and the dipping sauce is vegan. They’re crisp on the outside, with a soft pillowy bite. They’d make the perfect side dish to this Sticky Apricot Basil Chicken, that is if they aren’t all eaten hot off the pan.

Hope you’re taking time this weekend to soak up summer, and enjoy the bounty of your garden and the farmer’s market. I’m off to Chicago early next week, but I’ll be back just in time for the start of the Minnesota State Fair. Ferris wheel and pork chop on a stick, I’m coming for ya. xo

Crispy {Baked} Tortilla Chip Crusted Zucchini with Green Goddess Cashew Sauce

Serves 3-4

1 pound zucchini (about 3 medium sized), long and slender in shape
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 cup finely crushed Jackson’s Honest organic tortilla chips (Even though my chips were quite crushed at the bottom of the bag already, I gave them a spin in the food processor to get them very fine. This is important because they will stick better to the zucchini this way – too large and they fall off. If you don’t have a food processor, put your chips into a ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to finely crush them.)
1/2 cup almond flour/meal
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (depending on how garlicky you like things)
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, then cut each half in half horizontally. This will give you 4 pieces. Now cut each of the 4 pieces in half vertically to make spears, so that they look like pickle spears. (If your zucchini is larger, thus making your spears quite wide, you can cut them in half vertically once more at this point so that they are thinner.)

Toss the spears with 1/4 teaspoon salt and let sit in a colander while the oven preheats (about 15-20 minutes). Mix the tortilla chips, almond flour, garlic powder, and remaining 1/4 teaspoons salt in a shallow pan or bowl. Set aside.

Pat the zucchini dry, then dip in egg yolk to completely dunk, then remove with a fork and let excess drip off. Roll in the chip mixture, and press lightly with your hands around the zucchini to help it stick.

Lay each zucchini on baking sheet, without touching. Then bake for 18 minutes, until zucchini is beginning to brown. Turn oven to broil, and let broil for 2-3 minutes to brown the crust a little bit more. Remove from oven and serve hot.

Green Goddess Cashew Sauce (adapted from My New Roots)
½ cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
Scant ½ cup water (plus additional water for soaking)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chives
½ teaspoon sea salt

Cover cashews with water and soak for at least 4 hours. Drain and rinse well. Add cashews to a food processor or blender. Add other ingredients and ¼ cup of water. Blend on high and add the remaining water in increments until the desired consistency is reached – not too thick, not too runny. Season to taste. Will last for 4 days in refrigerator.

Tortilla Chip Crusted Zucchini Fries with Green Goddess Cashew Dip

Many thanks to Jackson’s Honest for sponsoring this post, a company I regularly use in my kitchen and am so happy to partner with. And thank you for understanding that I carefully choose the brands I work with that help make this site possible. All opinions are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links, which I make a small amount of money from should you purchase something.

25 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Appetizer, Seasonal, Spring, Summer, Vegetarian

Travel Scenes: Raleigh and Chapel Hill

by Amanda Paa on August 17, 2015

What to See & Where to Eat in Raleigh & Chapel Hill I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all sworn we’ve told our partners something, then realize with the shock in their eyes that we missed the mark – like mine when Brian announced amongst friends that he was headed to North Carolina to put his other house on the market. Men’s brains……

There was the “how could you forget to tell me that?” conversation, an ounce of frustration, but then spontaneity. Admittedly I was a little hurt at first, but I knew it was not on purpose. A sincere apology was followed by some flight arranging and soon my ticket to Raleigh was booked. Five days later my bag was packed with travel essentials. Homemade savory nuts, bison Epic Bars, coconut chips, paleo ginnybakes bars, and their mini gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, which may or may not have even made it to the airport.

Paleo Travel SnacksBut before I get to my week in North Carolina, can I just tell you how good it felt to be spontaneous? Jumping into something brings a sense of living life, excitement, and happiness. Being in a better state of physical and mental health, I was able to see the opportunity in the miscommunication, not negativity or anxiety. We often go to that place first, but I’ve been practicing “opposite action”, and it seems to be working.

Laotian Food at Bida Manda restaurant ~ Raleigh, NCWhile I was at the airport I made dinner reservations for our first night at a little Greek place downtown. On our way there, we couldn’t help but notice the good vibes coming out of Bida Manda, a Laotian restaurant I had read about, but trying to get a table without a reservation wasn’t recommended. I ran in to check it out anyways, and surprisingly we could be seated in a half hour – done and done.

Funky music and purple flowers in mason jars, sturdy tables made of salvaged church doors, and exposed brick with vintage paintings and beautiful tapestries set the scene.

We shared fresh spring rolls and their house shrimp chips, light & crisp like pork rinds, but made from crushed dried shrimp, tapioca starch and garlic. Goodness, they were amazing, as was the Beef Larb and Spicy Pad Thai. We even saved room for dessert, a black rice pudding with coconut cream custard.

black and white. The next few days we concentrated on getting the house cleaned and fixed up. Repainting, carpet stretching, deck washing, scrubbing every inch of the place….. and finding a stray black cat that looked just like Grace.

I fell in love quickly when she moseyed up to the front steps and rubbed against my leg. Of course I let her in so she could have a break from always having to be on alert. Soon I was calling her Blacky, and making a trip to the store to buy food and a bed. To say it was hard to leave her is an understatement.

Veggie & Egg Muffin Cups, like mini frittatasOne of the reasons I was quick to take the trip is because now that I’m a full-time freelancer, I can work from anywhere that has an internet connection and a kitchen. I was assigned a job on short notice from one of my main clients while we were there, and was able to recipe test, then find a few styling props at Goodwill for photography. And when work doubles as mini vegetable frittatas for breakfast, there are no complaints.

Leather BagAlso, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee was my morning ritual. You’re most likely laughing if you live anywhere besides Minnesota because they’re a dime a dozen in most places, but we don’t have a single in one in the Minneapolis area! Yes, I like fancy coffee, but what is it that makes this stuff so good? (My thrifted bag has quickly become a travel favorite too, well worth the $12 I spent on it.)

Air B&B rental ~ in the heart of Chapel HillWith everything ready for the realtor, Brian decided we deserved a little fun and rest. He found this sweet cottage in the heart of Chapel Hill through Air B&B, and we made plans to meet up with friends who were going to come down from Baltimore. Such a good idea.

Even though we were only there for 2 days, I made sure we found good eats and drinks. It definitely wasn’t hard, as Chapel Hill was named the Foodiest Small Town by Bon Appetit a few years ago.

Best Mediterranean Food ever. ~ at Mediterranean Deli & Catering, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Bulk Beans at Mediterranean Deli & Catering ~ Chapel Hill. A must visit place.

my chapel hill favorites:

1. Mediterranean Deli & Catering: It’s a complete sensory experience. So much to see, taste, smell and hear. Whether it’s the smell of freshly baked pita (which they even have a gluten-free version), the 25-foot display case showcasing over 40 authentic Middle Eastern dishes, or the busy sounds of visitors and the kitchen crew, it’s a must visit. Almost everything is gluten-free (and even paleo), and I swear you could visit dozens of times and never eat the same thing twice. I ordered (shown above) the chicken schwarma on rice, then added the turkish roasted beets, a lentil kofta, homemade pickles, tzatzki, and lebanese garlic sauce. I would rank it as one of the top 10 meals in my life.

You can also go next door to their market and find some amazing imported ingredients, like the dried beans you see above. A great addition to any pantry.

2. Al’s Burger Shack: imagine a road side stand making juicy burgers from pasture-raised beef, and using the best local cheese, dairy and vegetables for all the classics. They serve the burgers in 3, 6 or 9 ounce patties, so I got the 6 ounce Classic wrapped in lettuce and shared the crinkle cut fries with Brian. Top notch. He ordered the Chili Cheeseburger and said it was life-changing. They also serve beer and wine, making it the perfect casual Friday night out.

3. The Baxter Arcade: imagine all your favorite 80’s video games & pinball machines – inside a BAR. It was unlike anything I’ve ever been to. A total nerd-chic atmosphere and a serious way to have fun. And just for the record, I crushed everyone in Punch Out.

4. Kipo’s Greek Tavern: Beautiful restaurant, beautiful food. A great place to go with a group and share a bunch of plates. Everything was priced so reasonable, and a boatload of gluten-free options. We ordered a few of the mezze spreads, dolmas, keftedes (meatballs), grilled octopus, spanakoryzo, soulvaki chicken, and wood-fired lamb. And true to their roots, a belly dancer made her way throughout the restaurant with elegance.

5. TRU Wine Bar: Deli by day, wine bar by night, this place is cozy and comfortable. A cool vibe with refurbished wood furniture and an outdoor lounge, it was the perfect night cap.

6. The Beer Study: Brian is quite the beer geek so it was obvious this brew shop was on our list to check out. Not only do the have a plethora of knowledge and unique offerings to purchase, you can also enjoy a pint there, as well as wine on tap. A his and her win. And we didn’t know it at the time, but you can actually bring your own food in and have a nice little cheese plate with your beverages.

7. Root Cellar: If you’re looking for a stellar farm to table breakfast or lunch, this place is a dream. They make and bake everything from scratch and have a wonderful market if you’re wanting something to take along on a picnic. They also started doing paleo dinners, a plan where you can order 5 made-from-scratch meals & heat up at home. Genius.

After that little getaway, we made the trek back to Minnesota. Fingers crossed that the house sells, but if it doesn’t, I wouldn’t mind spending a few winter months there either. If you have any favorites in the Raleigh area that I missed, be sure to leave them in the comments below! xo

14 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Favorite Things

Ghee Braised Radishes & Thyme

by Amanda Paa on August 11, 2015

Ghee Braised Radishes & Thyme {heartbeet kitchen blog}Never would I have imagined the joy that flowed through my hands as I picked these tiny radishes and fresh herbs from my vertical garden. Even though it may have been a small harvest, the fact that I grew my own food was extremely satisfying.

I’ve been watching over them as if they were children since planting them about a month and a half ago. The radish leaves shot through the soil in a week, seemingly magic. And at 20 days, their green arms hung over the edge, mustering strength and stability for the fruit below.

Ghee Braised Radishes & Thyme {via heartbeet kitchen}Coffee cup in one hand, watering can in the other, we sipped our morning beverage together. And although I’ve pulled these babes from their home, I continue to do the same for the flowers, lettuce (getting closer to harvest), and herbs that are still flourishing.

Ghee Braised Radishes & Thyme {gluten-free}After washing the dirt off their bottoms, I ate a few of them raw, dusted with flaky sea salt. They were perfectly tender, and their pastel pink color quite stunning.

From there I knew I wanted to to create a simple dish with just a few ingredients so let them shine, exactly what these Ghee Braised Radishes & Thyme yielded. If you’re radish-averse because you’ve bitten into a few that were hot and peppery, you’ll find these to be juicy and mellow, sure to challenge that opinion.

Ghee Braised Radishes & Thyme {paleo}We often think of braising as a technique just for meat, but it works wonders for vegetables too, transforming them into flavorful, soul-warming dishes. It requires little more than cooking ingredients gently with a little bit of liquid (I used vegetable stock) in a covered pan.

Ghee Braised Radishes {via heartbeet kitchen}So ghee….. are you familiar? It has quickly become one of my favorite fats to cook with. It’s made by simmering unsalted butter for a long time and removing the milk solids (making it dairy-free) that have separated from the butterfat. The result? Golden, pure fat with a high smoke point. Since it has more contact with the browning milk solids compared to clarified butter, a different flavor profile emerges. It is unexplainably rich, reminiscent of nutty, brown butter.

Braised Radishes & Thyme {4 ingredient recipe}The decadence of the ghee soaks into the radishes as they braise alongside earthy thyme and salt. Simply put, it’s a delicious infusion. And because they’re tiny and tender, they’re ready in about 20 minutes, much quicker than a meat braise.

Ghee Braised Radishes & Thyme {paleo}As I sit on my patio and savor this homegrown dish, I’m truly grateful for my partnership with Burpee Home Gardens. I doubt I would have tried gardening again after many failed attempts. I certainly haven’t become a master, but I think my once brown thumb has turned a shade of green.

With all the joy and solitude that my tiny garden has brought me, there’s no doubt I’ll continue this practice regardless of where I’m living. I encourage you to do the same, for the power of plants is more than just food.

Ghee Braised Radishes & Fresh Herbs

Ghee Braised Radishes & Thyme {paleo}

1 small bunch of radishes, leaves removed and trimmed, than sliced in half vertically
1/4 cup vegetable broth (water will work in a pinch, but you’ll need to add a little more salt)
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons ghee (depending on how big your radishes are)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 sprigs of fresh thyme

In a small saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer, then whisk in the ghee. Add radishes, salt and thyme, then stir to coat. Cover the pan, then cook so that there are  bubbles barely around the edges, for 20 minutes.

Then remove cover and raise heat to medium-high and cook for 3 minutes to reduce the liquid just a bit. Serve warm.

Thank you for allowing me to work with sponsors, like Burpee Home Gardens, that I value in order to make Heartbeet Kitchen possible! This blog is also supported through the use of affiliate links, which means that I will earn a small commission if you make a purchase through one of these links.

21 comments   • • •   as featured in:   AIP (Autoimmune Protocol), Appetizer, Fall, Recipe Box, Seasonal, Spring, Summer, Vegetarian

Blistered Green Beans with Crushed Almonds

by Amanda Paa on July 30, 2015

Blistered Green Beans with Crushed Almonds {paleo, vegan}Although I named this post after a simple recipe, it could very well be “How I Came to Love the Humble Green Bean.” Something about their texture just wasn’t for me. I’d made them many ways – steamed, sautéed, grilled… but I couldn’t get past their waxy squeakiness. You know what I’m talking about, right? They almost make a noise when you bite into them.

A recent trip to the farmer’s market, my favorite summer adventure, led me to give them one more chance. I find that making my way to different markets always lends a unique experience. Different growers, different specialities, different vibes.

Bushels of the green “snakes” were waiting to be preserved into spicy dilly beans, but I’ve never had much luck with that. Instead I took some home with the recommendation of the young man behind the table who said, “Blister them – not on the stovetop but in a really hot oven. They’ll transform from cold and tough to charred and crisp.”

Blistered Dill Green Beans with Crushed Almonds {5 ingredients, paleo} I’ve found that more often than not, the hands that grow what we eat know best. The thermometer rose higher and higher throughout the day, but I trusted the young man. Soon I was cranking up the oven to let the magic happen.

As I could hear them sizzling and sputtering, I thought about the power of in-person connections, and how they will never be replaced by online/social interaction. Ever.

5 Ingredient Blistered Green Beans with Crushed Almonds {gluten-free, vegan}Hot and crispy, I popped them into my mouth, straight off the pan…….. And silently thanked the young gentlemen for convincing me that green beans could find a way to my heart.

[click to continue…]

19 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Fall, Recipe Box, Seasonal, Spring, Summer, Vegetarian, Winter