Winter Holiday Party (Some Paleo, Some Primal, Some Whole30)

Cake and Hot Cocoa

When I tell you the story of our holiday party, you will forgive the fact that I didn’t have time to pose pictures and take multiple shots of each dish in order to get a decent one.  Just trust me on this one…

For the last two years, we have had JR’s residence life holiday party at our house.  It’s a big ordeal that takes at least a month of planning, a day of shopping, a week of food prep, and a full day of cooking, at minimum.  I have been planning this primal tapas menu since October.  In all honesty, we went through at least four different menus before I finalized this one just hours before we went shopping.  We went out, bought all the food (buying this much stuff takes a very organized shopping list–my list rivals the plans for the Normandy invasion, I’m convinced), and once at home I immediately started with the prepping.  Oh wait, did I mention the prepping schedule?  I have a full sheet of checklists to scribble on.  The list includes every dish on the menu broken down into every step.  After each step, I have a day and time of day that it can be completed.  Everything has to be done via an incredibly specific time frame (obviously I can’t be prepping crab a week before I’m going to cook it) that I spend at least a week working out.

I followed my schedule and had everything under control–just to give you an idea of what kind of undertaking this is…the menu itself is basically an 11-course tasting menu for 10 people.  In a tiny kitchen.  In an apartment.  On a college campus.  Are you getting the idea of how much space we don’t have?  Okay, back to the schedule.  I prepped Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (we even skipped choir practice on Wednesday).  I was able to fully cook a few dishes that would only require reheating on Thursday (the day of the party).

I woke up Thursday morning and the first thing on my list was to make the cake.  I started the water, put chocolate and butter in a double boiler, and turned the oven to 340 to preheat it.  Not an incredibly hot temperature, right?  Apparently it was hot enough to set the coil on fire.  Yes, the coil in our oven was shooting flames.  I turned everything off and called JR.  The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, are you busy?  Our oven is on fire.  You should call maintenance.

JR: Um…are you serious?  Are you okay?

Me: Yes, we’re fine, but you should call maintenance.

JR: Do you need to use the fire extinguisher?  It’s right under the counter there.

Me: I don’t have time to clean up the mess of a fire extinguisher.  Tell maintenance to hurry.

Maintenance came over, pulled the oven away from the wall and unplugged it (apparently it was still shooting sparks and such from the very fact that it was plugged in).  We went through this big ordeal of trying to figure out what to do for an oven.  They said they couldn’t bring a new stove to the apartment until Monday.  That wasn’t going to work.  Another maintenance guy came in, looked at it, and said, “oh, you don’t need a new oven.  We just need to replace the coil.”  Great!  This is something that takes like 10 minutes, right?  Yes…assuming they have a coil with them.  It took four hours to track down a coil, bring it over, and replace ours.

Now it’s 1:30 and the party starts at 6:00.  I hauled a$$ for those 4.5 hours and managed to have 10 of the 11 courses ready for the party.  I was basically cooking and practically throwing plates at JR as he would loop back and forth from the kitchen to the table.  By the time he took pictures, half of the food had been eaten, but whatever.  I have never cooked that much, that quickly in my entire life.

Oh…and they loved the food!

Bacon Wrapped Dates

Blue Cheese-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates

30 dates

1 pound bacon (approximately)

5-8 oz blue cheese

1.- Preheat oven to 400.

2.- Slice dates, lengthwise.  Remove the pits.  Cut bacon in half, making two short pieces from every one slice.

3.- Put a small chunk of blue cheese into each date and press the sides closed.  Wrap with a piece of bacon.

4.- Put dates on a foil-lined, lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake 15-30 minutes, depending on how done you want your bacon.

You can count on each person eating 30 trillion of these, so adjust the recipe accordingly.

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

Serves 4-6

16-20 large white mushrooms (or 12-15 mini portobellos)

1 Tbsp Kerrygold butter

1 small red bell pepper, finely diced

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp thyme

1/8 tsp cayenne

1/4 tsp Old Bay seasoning (optional)

16 oz lump crab meat

3-5 Tbsp cream cheese

oil in a mister

1.- Preheat oven to 400.  Wipe off mushrooms and remove stems.  Dice the stems and set aside.

2.- In medium skillet, melt Kerrygold over medium-high heat.  Add mushroom stems, bell pepper, and green onions.  Saute 3-4 minutes (until tender).  Add garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, thyme, oregano, cayenne, and Old Bay.  Saute another 1-2 minutes.

3.- In large bowl, mix crab and cream cheese.  Add in mushroom mixture and stir until well-combined.

4.- Spray 9×13 glass casserole dish with oil.  Stuff each mushroom cap with crab mixture and place in the dish.  Bake 15-20 minutes.  Serve on paper towel-lined dish to absorb the extra oil.

 

I’ll post more recipes when I get a chance (you’ll love the hot chocolate!)…but until then, have a very happy holiday season!

Party Spread

Spiced Almond Butter Cookies (Paleo) and Mint Cream (Primal)

Spiced Almond Butter Cookies

I talk to my grandma almost every day.  Every day she tells me everything she’s had to eat for the last five days.  There’s a lot of overlap…obviously.  No matter how I explain it, she just doesn’t understand the whole paleo thing.  She’s into the “I eat whatever I want, whenever I want, and I do fine” thing.  I’ve just decided that explaining anything to her about our dietary guidelines is a lost cause, and I’ve just started telling her that I have a mild allergy to the avoided food groups.

Anyway, she has this recipe that she tells me about at least three times a week: flourless peanut butter cookies.  They sound really good…however two of the people in my house actually are allergic to peanuts (like the real kind of allergic…not the kind I tell to Grandma LOL).  I decided to try them out with almond butter, coconut sugar, and a bit of nutmeg.  They actually taste closer to a really mild ginger cookie, but they remain super soft, even once cooled.  The whipped cream can be made with or without the peppermint; however, just a bit of extract really solidifies that “holiday” flavor.

Spiced Almond Butter Cookies (Paleo)

1 C almond butter (I use the no-stir kind)

1/2 – 1 C coconut sugar (start with 1/2 C and work your way up if necessary)

1 egg

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp (slightly heaping) ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp vanilla

 

1.- Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.- In large bowl, mix all ingredients with mixer (remember to start with 1/2 C coconut sugar and work your way up if needed).  Roll batter into small balls and lay out on parchment lined sheet.  Press each dough balls with the tines of a fork to slightly flatten and leave a striped impression in the dough.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Cookies will be very soft when the come out of the oven–they will set up in 10 minutes or so.

 

Mint Cream (Primal)

2 C heavy whipping cream

1 Tbsp maple syrup

2-3 drops of peppermint extract (do not overuse–peppermint extract is incredibly strong)

1.- Pour heavy cream in large bowl.  With whisk attachment on a hand mixer (or a stand mixer), whip cream until soft peaks form.

2.- Add maple syrup and extract if using.  Mix another minute or two (until the cream reaches desired consistency).  Serve on top of cookies.

Citrus Roasted Quail (Paleo) and Cheesy Potato Treasure (Primal)

Citrus Roasted Quail

Don’t just the potato name–the potatoes were named by our 2 1/2 year old son.  We currently have to present everything in some form of pirate terms.  Everything is “treasure,” “gold doubloons,” “adventure,” “treasure hunt,” or something of the like…which is hilarious, because he’s really not that into pirates…he just likes using the terminology.  Anyway, his obsession with pirate language lead him to name this “cheesy potato treasure.”  Now you will know the story if you ever see a recipe posted on here called “Chicken Booty” or “Cauliflower Doubloons.”

I was able to get my hands on some quail a week or so ago, and until a couple days ago, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to cook it.  Quail can lean toward the gamy flavor, so I decided to combine two of my favorite things in hopes of reducing the gamy-ness of the bird: sweet citrus and bacon.  The citrus added a nice sweetness to the meat and the gamy flavor was almost non-existent from the bacon.  Definitely a winner!  As for the potatoes: they’re like crack.  If you want to do sweet potatoes instead, feel free.  I only had russets left….but seriously…CRACK.

 

Citrus Roasted Quail (Paleo) 

2 C pineapple juice

1 can frozen orange juice concentrate

1/2 C raw honey

6 quail

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

6 strips bacon

 

1.- In large container, mix together pineapple juice, orange juice concentrate, and honey.  Whisk until combined.  Add quail to the container and marinate for at least eight hours (I marinated it for a full 24-hours and it worked really well).

2.- Preheat oven to 425.  In a small bowl, mix together garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Remove the quail from the liquid, one at a time, and dust each one with the spice mix.  Wrap each quail with a slice of bacon.

3.- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and wipe the foil with a little shortening, coconut oil, or whatever grease you use.  Place all the quail on the baking sheet and roast in oven for 15-30 minutes (until the internal temperature reaches 165-170).

Cheesy Potato Treasure (Primal)

1.5 pounds potatoes, cleaned and cut into dice-sized cubes

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

8 oz mushrooms, quartered

2 Tbsp Kerrygold butter

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp dried parsley

2 tsp dried chives

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 C + of shredded mild-flavored white cheese

 

1.- Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat.  Add potatoes, mushrooms, and onions to skillet.  Cook until potatoes are tender and onions are soft (10-20 minutes).

2.- Add in all herbs and spices, and toss to incorporate.  Spread shredded cheese over top of potato mixture and let heat for a minute or two.  Toss to mix the cheese throughout and serve immediately.

Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake (Paleo)

Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake Slice

I found this recipe on THE MERRYMAKER SISTERS blog.  If you haven’t been there, they have a LOT of great stuff.  I changed the recipe just slightly (because of what I had on hand, not because I didn’t think I’d like the original)…but the final result was super yummy, no matter what I changed.  The consistency is very similar to a flourless chocolate cake.  In the original recipe they cover the dry cake in raspberries and then drizzle the berries with the ganache.  I thought the cake might turn out a little dry (just because my experience with paleo cake-type desserts is that many of them turn out dry), so I covered the whole cake in the ganache and then set the raspberries on top.  You can use as many raspberries as you want–I used all of them that I had on hand.

So go out, get everything, and get to baking!  Trust me on this one…it doesn’t taste paleo at all.

Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake (Paleo)

Cake

2 C raspberries

1 C coconut sugar

1 C almond flour (or almond meal–but almond meal will give it a slightly grainy texture)

1/3 C cocoa

1/3 C hot water

10 Tbsp butter, cut in cubes

1 tsp vanilla

100 g dark chocolate baking bar (I used a 70% cacao bar)

4 eggs, separated

Ganache

100 g dark chocolate baking bar

1 C coconut cream

 

1.- Preheat oven to 340.  Line an 8″ round cake pan with wax paper (grease pan with shortening, then put down wax paper–cut to size, and then grease over the paper again with shortening).

2.- In a large bowl, mix cocoa powder and hot water until smooth.

3.- In double boiler, melt 100 g chocolate bar and butter together until smooth.  Remove from heat.

4.- Add this to large mixing bowl along with coconut sugar, almond flour, vanilla, and egg yolks.  Stir until well-combined.

5.- Whip egg whites to soft peaks.  Fold into chocolate mixture carefully until mixed through.  Pour into pan and bake 55-65 minutes.  Cool 15 minutes and turn out.

6.- For ganache: combine 100 g chocolate bar and coconut cream in a saucepan on low heat.  Stir until smooth.  Pour ganache over cake, spreading occasionally to evenly cover.  Arrange raspberries on top of cake.

Spinach Artichoke Soup (Primal)

Spinach Artichoke Soup

 

We were at Applebee’s the other night and all I could think about was spinach artichoke dip (full disclosure: we had some…I had forgotten that as far as spinach artichoke dip goes, theirs is pretty much the bottom of the barrel, even under the TGI Fridays dip in the frozen section of your local grocery store).  On our way home, I decided that I was going to make a soup version of the dip.  I know, I know, I make a lot of soup.  But really…I don’t want to just make a primal version of the dip and eat it with a spoon, and dipping vegetables in it is boring.  You would have to cut HUGE sections of vegetable to scoop up the amount of dip that needs to be scooped up with each bite.

So soup it is.  And I shall eat it with a spoon.

It’s not a dead ringer for the dip, but it’s pretty close.  I mean, anything that you turn into a soup takes on a slightly different flavor…but this gets the job done, so try it!

 

Spinach Artichoke Soup (Primal)

Serves 4-6

1.5-2 pounds chicken breasts, cooked and cut into chunks

1 Tbsp Kerrygold butter

1 medium onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced

3 C water

6 oz cream cheese, cut into chunks

1/2 C heavy cream or coconut milk

2-3 C chicken broth

5 oz chopped spinach

1 C Parmesan cheese, grated

salt and pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp Worcestershire

 

1.- Grill, fry, or cook chicken in any manner you would like.  Set aside, let cool, and cut into whatever size chunks you want in your soup.

2.- In a large stock pot, melt Kerrygold over medium-low heat.  When hot, add onions and saute until soft (7-8 minutes).  Add garlic and celery and cook until fragrant (about a minute).  Add potatoes and water.  Bring to a simmer.  Turn heat down and simmer 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

3.- Pull soup off heat and blend until creamy either in regular blender, food processor, or with a stick blender.  Add cream cheese, cream, and chicken broth and put pot back on medium-low heat.  Cook until cream cheese is well-integrated (about 15 minutes), stirring regularly.

4.- Add salt, pepper, cayenne, and Worcestershire.  Stir and taste to adjust seasoning.  Add spinach, Parmesan, and chicken to the soup.  Stir and cook until spinach is soft.

Garnish ideas:

Crumbled bacon (duh)

Green Onions

Sliced sun-dried tomatoes

Parmesan cheese

Sour cream