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Thick Chops Roasted with Pesto Balsamic Marinade and Tomatoes

Pesto Balsamic Chops

Pesto Balsamic Chops

I just posted about making my annual pesto for the freezer, so that I can carry a bit of late summer with me in the kitchen all year long! Here is a recipe that I made with the pesto, just to show you how versatile it is as a seasoning. This is a very simple marinade because most of the work is already done by using the pesto, which contains basil, garlic, olive oil, nuts and Parmesan cheese. It’s also great on chicken or as a marinade for grilled meats and seafood (awesome on grilled shrimp!)

Thick Chops Roasted with
Pesto Balsamic Marinade and Tomatoes

  • Chops and tomatoes, ready for the oven.

    Chops and tomatoes, ready for the oven.

    3 large boneless pork loin chops
    (these were about 1 1/4″ thick or slightly more)

  • 1/2C fresh pesto (or frozen, thawed or jarred)
  • 1/4C balsamic vinegar
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes, roughly diced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spread the tomatoes in a casserole dish and set aside.
  3. Combine pesto and balsamic vinegar; spread evenly over both sides of chops as well as the sides.
  4. Roast for 35-40 minutes or until meat reaches 165-170 using a meat thermometer (or to desired doneness.) Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes prior to serving. (Also great on the grill.) Serve topped with the roasted tomatoes.

I served this with a side of sauteed veggies including broccoli, purple cabbage and brussel sprouts. I’m sorry for not getting a better photo of this all plated up, but it was eaten too quickly! Very juicy and tender, and incredibly easy. Great for a busy weeknight when you don’t have a lot of time to spend on preparation!

Tender and delicious, Pesto Balsamic Roasted Chops

Tender and delicious, Pesto Balsamic Roasted Chops

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Pizza: Cheese-Crusted, Gluten-free, Grain-free!

Now, if you are not a low-carber, you may want to avert your eyes…

No really, do it now. I’ll wait.

If you are still reading, I am going to assume that a pizza crust made with 3 kinds of cheese, eggs, and no flour is RIGHT up your alley! I will admit that while I am 99% grain free (other than an occasional delectable sushi roll, oops) even I was feeling a little guilty with this cheesy indulgence, but it sure was good!

Many of you have either found me through my posts on the Wheat Belly blog or Facebook page, and even if you found me through the wonderful world of food and health blogging, you likely know how enthusiastic I am about the wheat free lifestyle! One of the cool things about being part of a thriving Wheat Belly (WB) community online is that everyone is more than happy to share their experiences, advice and recipe tips! In a recent post, after I suggested the Socca Pizza crust with Garbanzo flour, a fellow WB’er shared her favorite gluten-free pizza crust recipe (which is veryyyy low carb), and I gave it a whirl… YUMMO!

So, since one good turn deserves another, I am sharing the link to the original page HERE, at Gluten Free Easily, with pictures of a very classic-looking pepperoni pizza. I will definitely have to make this version when I have pepperoni on hand, but since I didn’t, I improvised with what I did have.

Here you see the crust ingredients spread into a parchment-lined pan.

Cooked up and ready to be decked out!

Sauteed crimini mushrooms

Wilted spinach and garlic.

Our Pizza toppings included: spinach sauteed with minced garlic, sauteed crimini mushrooms, left-over pork chop, thinly diced and crisped in a pan, and some crumbled feta cheese, along with the Organicville spaghetti sauce and some shredded mozzarella cheese mixed with chopped fresh basil.

Our first cheese crust pizza! Mushrooms on one half only 😉

 

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Burger Salad and Sweet Potato Fries

Burger Salad with Sweet Potato Fries is a great warm weather indulgence!

It’s been one of those weeks, where finding time to sit at the computer has been a challenge, and even more so because we’ve been having broadband issues, which I THINK (after 3 service calls) are finally cleared up! With Spring being here in full swing, it’s been a lot more tempting to work in the yard and garden than do housework, or even cook… so the meals this past week have been incredibly simple and focused mainly on veggies. I didn’t want to bore everyone with images of all the steamed baby broccoli, zucchini, bok choy and sliced oranges I’ve been eating, so I waited until I had something a little more interesting or useful to post. So here it is….

Burger Salad and Sweet Potato Fries

Being beautiful outside leads to grilling, and grilling can lead to burgers, MMMM! As someone who doesn’t eat gluten, when preparing something like a burger, you have two main choices: bake or buy gluten free buns, or skip the bun entirely and rely on other things to make dinner delicious. Since we are striving for lower-carb, I skipped the buns this time and opted for a “burger salad”, and indulged in sweet potato fries as a side instead.YUM!

Why Sweet Potatoes? Some people only think of sweet potatoes at the holidays, but they are truly a nutritional gold mine and can be incorporated more often. The glycemic load is 17 (lower is better), while a red potato is 26. Sweet potatoes are also known to be strongly anti-inflammatory, and choosing anti-inflammatory foods helps ease or prevent joint and muscle pain as well as ease digestive issues caused by internal inflammation. While it is definitely a carbohydrate, it is a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, B6, Vitamin A&C, and manganese.

The Fries: If you haven’t made sweet potato fries before, I can assure you, it’s very easy and tasty too. They are versatile as well. You can choose to cut them thick or thin, in rounds or sticks, and peeled or unpeeled. I choose unpeeled, medium thin sticks.You basically just bake them at 425 degrees for around 15 minutes, loosening them from the pan and turning them every 5 minutes or so. Be sure to coat them in olive oil, and I used garlic salt, onion powder, fresh ground pepper, and a dash of cinnamon to season these. Of course you can spice it up even more if you like, using cumin, cayenne or even chili powder, depending on your tastes. Super simple! If you want them ever crispier, you may choose to coat them with corn starch before baking, but I didn’t do that for carb reasons.

The Burger salad: Is essentially a burger laid on a bed of salad that is made up of things that usually top the burger. In this case, after grilling (or baking, or pan searing) the super lean burgers were topped with a little blue cheese, sauteed onions and mushrooms, and covered with a slice of Swiss which I melted under the broiler for a couple minutes. The “salad” was shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced avocados, and typical burger dressing of light mayo and mustard. The guys loved it and never even complained about not having a bun! This was a heavier meal than what we’ve been eating most of the week, but every once in awhile, a little indulgence is good.

 

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Crunchy Hot Wings and Blue Cheese

OK, first things first… if you are a chicken purist, and think that parboiling is akin to software pirating, please discontinue reading and forget you were ever here!

On the other hand, if you don’t mind some kitchen short-cuts to yummy, crunchy wings, that aren’t deep fried, you are in luck! This is the wings method I have been using for several years, though I don’t recall quite where the idea came from. I vary the sauce depending on what we are craving, and what’s in the fridge, but this is a pretty basic mild hot-wings style I have going here. It’s reassuring that one of our faves does NOT have to be altered to be gluten-free! I am watching the carbs though, so I stayed away from the sweet sauce this time around.

First, the Blue Cheese Dressing: Again, I admit that I really don’t measure things that I make frequently. To make a small batch of dressing, I would use about 4oz softened cream cheese, 1/4C mayo (regular or light), a few tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese or Gorgonzola, freshly ground black pepper, and maybe a pinch of rice wine vinegar. Combine well, and refrigerate for an hour or so to let the flavors come together. Simple! If it is too thick when you remove it from the fridge, just add a little milk.

To make the Wings: Thaw chicken wing sections (if frozen) and cover with water in a stock pot. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Next, line a cookie sheet with foil to make clean-up easier, and arrange wings. Broil on medium heat for 8-10 minutes, turn over and finish broiling another 8-10 minutes until wings are crispy and cooked through.

Sauce: Meanwhile, whip up a sauce of your choosing to coat the wings. I used about 1/4 cup of Frank’s RedHot sauce, a few tablespoons of butter and a dash of Ken’s Steakhouse Lite Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing, heated in the microwave about 90 seconds, until the butter melts. (I have also used Asian marinades, BBQ sauce, minced garlic, fresh ginger, dried ginger, sesame oil, soy, hot pepper flakes, pretty much anything you enjoy.) Place the wings in a large bowl and pour the sauce over the top; toss to coat.

Kitchen Tip: I usually serve with celery and sometimes carrot sticks. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I get just as excited about celery leaves as I do about the celery stalks! I always save the leaves and dry them so that I can add them to soups. I just put the leaves on a paper plate and rearrange them every so often to help them dry over the course of a couple days. I think I may be one of the only people who choose their celery by how many leaves they have!

 

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Orange Stir Fry Veggies and Quinoa (keen-wa)… no msg or gluten in sight

Use any mixture of veggies and meat that you prefer!

Tonight was one of those nights that I didn’t really feel like cooking (yes, it happens), but wanted more than just a salad. I decided to gather up a bunch of veggies and do a GF version of my typical stir fry. The changes that I’ve made are mostly to use gluten-free Tamari instead of soy sauce, and to substitute for the higher carb rice with healthy quinoa.

I will admit that quinoa is a grain that I knew virtually nothing about until deleting the wheat from my diet a few weeks ago. I knew it existed (although in my head I was pronouncing it wrong!), but that was about the extent of it. It was a sacred seed in the ancient Inca civilization, and it turns out that quinoa is a gem in any diet, not just for those going without gluten. It is a complete protein, and a good source of Magnesium, Manganese and Phosphorus. It has a glycemic load of only 18, and is not inflammatory. Low in cholesterol, it is an important source of plant-derived calcium, and it has a pleasing nutty flavor to boot!

Kept in the freezer, fresh ginger root is easy to grate as needed for recipes.

Kitchen Tip: In this recipe, I also use fresh grated ginger. I have a trick for ginger that I learned from my Mom; I keep the whole root in the freezer in a ziploc, and just pull it out and grate it when I want to add it to a dish. If you are like me, even though you use ginger, you may not get through the whole root before it molds, and keeping it in the freezer is a great way to store it, and it is even easier to grate when it’s frozen.

Here you see my handy zesting tool, but you can also use a sharp knife.

 

The orange zest adds a little extra flavor boost as well, and I use a zesting tool that I picked up in a kitchen shop to do this task. In general I am not a gadgety person, mostly preferring sharp knives, but this is a nice inexpensive tool that I bought back when I was doing lots of zesting for holiday biscottis and baked goods. I will definitely be changing my holiday routine this season, and exploring new treats!

 

Orange Stir Fry Veggies and Quinoa:

  •  2 C cooked Quinoa 
  • 1.5 lbs boneless chicken breast, cut into 1″ chunks (beef, pork or shrimp works too)
  • 2-3 Tb Olive oil

Veggies: (feel free to use my mix, or whatever you happen to have on hand)Veggies for stir fry

  • 3 Tb Olive oil
  • 1 C chopped Napa cabbage
  • 1 C chopped Broccoli rabe (or regular broccoli)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 Sweet onion, slivered
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/2 C Crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 of an orange Bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 C slivered Almonds
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • 1/4 C frozen or fresh peas, thawed

Sauce:

  • 3 Tb Olive oil
  • Juice of one orange (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 C Tamari GF Soy sauce
  • 2 tsp honey
  • dash of Cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tb fresh grated ginger
  • dash of Red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tb Apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 C coconut milk mixed with 1 Tb arrowroot powder (for thickening)

Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl, except coconut milk and arrowroot. Set aside. Using a large heavy skillet (or wok if you prefer), heat 2-3 Tb olive oil and stir fry the chicken until just cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside. Heat remaining olive oil and add all “Veggies” except peas. Stir fry about 5-8 minutes or until veggies are tender. Add cooked chicken, peas and sauce ingredients, heat through. Add the coconut milk and arrowroot, stir to thicken. Dish over warm quinoa and serve.  Makes about 4 servings.

 

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SIMPLE Cilantro Salmon and Almond Feta Green Beans

Ooops we were hungry and I forgot to take a picture once it was cooked!

One of my favorite easy, healthy recipes is baked salmon (Omega-3’s baby!), or really any kind of fish. I think a lot of people assume that fish is tough to prepare well, due to numerous restaurant experiences of dried out, deflated, tough, tasteless and otherwise ill-prepared salmon, tuna or whitefish (and the list goes on), that probably cost you between $12 and $20! I cringe every time a plate of ruined fish is brought out, and I have become much less shy about sending it back. Why is it so rare to get a tender, moist and delicious piece of salmon at a restaurant? I have no idea other than maybe a tendency to overcook, or preparation by someone who doesn’t care for fish themselves. My husband and I split the filet you see here, which I bought on sale for under $5.

Fish is very easy to prepare, and baking it is a great way to skip the breading (carbs) and make use of fresh herbs and lovely oils. As a rule of thumb, for a thick piece of fish like salmon, I roast in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. That’s it. No flipping, turning, fussing, just bake it and check it. If it is still a little translucent in the middle, give it a few more min, but generally not more than 20 minutes total. If the variety of fish you use is thinner, start with a shorter cook time. Prep time is under 5 minutes 😉

SIMPLE Cilantro Salmon

  • Salmon filet (I used Atlantic salmon because of the rich flavor)
  • 1-2 TB fresh lemon juice (or lime)
  • 1 TB Olive oil (butter, coconut or walnut oil work well too)
  • 1/4 C finely chopped fresh cilantro (try fresh fresh dill )
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Spread the olive oil in a baking dish, or in this case, I lined the dish with parchment to make clean-up easier. Rub the salmon face-down in the oil, then turn face-up and rub the skin side around to distribute oil and place in center of pan leaving skin side down. Cover in lemon juice, salt and pepper and cilantro. Bake for about 15 minutes or until desired doneness. Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before dividing and serving.

I use this method as a base and change around the seasonings as the mood strikes or depending on what I have on hand. Try minced garlic, thinly sliced sweet onion, lemon zest, fresh dill or parsley, cumin, cayenne pepper… the list is only limited by what you enjoy, so experiment!

Almond Feta Green Beans

Another favorite at our house is green beans, in just about any form, we all love them! Add the crunch of slivered almonds and the tang of feta and lemon, and you have a flavorful and versatile side dish.

Almond Feta Green Beans

  • 1 lb fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 C slivered almonds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 C crumbled feta

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine first 5 ingredients on baking sheet or dish and bake for about 15 minutes, turning beans with a spatula half-way through. Add crumbled feta and cook for 2-3 minutes more until cheese begins to soften. Remove and serve. About 2-3 servings.

I am sure you can tell by the temp and the cook times that I was able to cook the salmon and beans at the same time, and whip up a healthy and delicious dinner in about 30 minutes. It tastes first-rate, looks pretty, and is of course, gluten-free!!

 

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Southwest Style Chicken Veggie Soup (GF of course)

So last night for dinner, we grilled a whole chicken with some smoker chunks thrown in, and afterward made a homemade chicken stock (kitchen tip to follow). Tonight I wanted to take advantage of the fresh stock and make some kind of chicken-based soup. I have already admitted that I don’t use recipes to cook most of the time, especially when it comes to food that I am comfortable with, but tonight I did make note of the ingredients that I used (just for you!) This has a nice Southwest flavor without the carbs from tortillas.

GF Southwest Style Chicken Veggie Soup

  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • 4 leaves napa cabbage, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red sweet pepper, finely diced
  • 3 quarts homemade chicken stock (or GF canned broth, or GF chicken base and water)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 TB chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tsp arrowroot powder dissolved in a couple TB water (optional for body)
  • 1 C diced cooked chicken breast
  • 1 can cannelini or black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes and peppers
  • Cumin, paprika and oregano to taste
  • Sour cream and fresh cilantro as garnish (optional)

To make the soup: Heat olive oil in stock pot and add next 6 ingredients (fresh veggies). Feel free to add or omit anything that you choose, however if you add a tender vegetable like zucchini, you’ll want to wait until later in the cooking process so that it does not dissolve completely. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until vegetables are tender. Slowly add chicken stock, followed by lime juice and cilantro, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are as tender as you wish them to be. We prefer them a little al dente’, so I use the shorter cooking time. Slowly stir in the arrowroot and water if you choose to use it. Add chicken, beans, Rotel and spices to taste, heat through. Serve as is, or garnish with a dollop of sour cream and cilantro.

I have always had a tendency to favor fresh ingredients and clean flavors, which has translated well to a gluten-free diet so far. If you are vegetarian, simply substitute vegetable broth and skip the chicken. Likewise, if you are avoiding legumes, skip the beans. I feel that every recipe is merely a source of ideas, and encourage everyone to get comfortable with their ingredients and experiment freely.

Homemade Chicken Stock: No need to be intimidated by this task, it is very simple. Also, I tend to be frugal in the kitchen and like to make complete use of every ingredient. I can’t imagine just tossing the chicken carcass into the garbage, when I know how delish real stock is! This works just as well whether you have cooked your own whole chicken (or turkey), or if you have picked up a rotisserie chicken at the market for the sake of convenience.

To make the stock, simply collect all the bones, skin, and waste pieces from the chicken and throw them into a stock pot. Cover with water. Add a couple roughly chopped onions and cloves of garlic if you wish. Bring to a boil and cook at a medium heat (low boil), stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by at least half. I usually add more water at this point and continue cooking to reduce again, to get as much flavor as possible. Place a colander into a large bowl or pot and strain stock. This can be used immediately, or refrigerated or even frozen for later use. If you would like to remove the fat, simply refrigerate until the fat rises and becomes firm, then remove it with a spoon. Homemade stock takes a little time, but the effort is truly minimal, and you will be rewarded with a richness that you can’t get from a can or powder!

 
 

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