Cashew and Poppy Seed Chicken Curry

I’ve started exploring a neglected tome on my cookbook shelf: 1,000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra, with the belief that there may be nothing better than spicy, fragrant Indian food in the depths of winter. Everything I’ve tried from it is layered with wonderfully complex flavors and spices from across India’s varied regions that I never dreamed I’d be able to reproduce in my own kitchen. Most of the recipes are paleo-friendly (especially if you include dairy from happy, grass-fed cows in your diet) and many offer new ways to prepare veggies beyond my standby method of roasting everything under the sun with some sea salt, so that’s promising!

I suggest getting to an Indian market for some of the ingredients listed below – they might be tough to find otherwise and are often inexpensive there.

Cashew and Poppy Seed Chicken Curry, adapted from the original recipe in 1,000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped raw cashew nuts
  • 2 teaspoons white poppy seeds (you can substitute black poppy seeds if that’s all you can find)
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • Seeds from 10 green cardamom pods (crack open the pods with the flat side of a knife)
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 6 quarter-size slices peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, including soft stems
  • 1 to 2 fresh green chili peppers, such as serrano, stemmed
  • 1 cup plain yogurt, whisked until smooth (I used Maple Hill Creamery full-fat yogurt from my local Whole Foods because it’s from grass-fed cows. You can use coconut milk here if you’re avoiding dairy.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground fenugreek seeds or methi powder (finely ground fenugreek seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 pounds chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or water
  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted cashew nuts (roast raw cashews on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees until they’re golden brown)

Optional side to mop up that sauce: Paleo naan with cilantro and garlic

Instructions:

Soak the cashews and poppy seeds in hot water for about 1 hour. (If you’re short on time, use boiling water and soak for 30 minutes.) Transfer to a blender (or use a large bowl and immersion blender), add the cardamom seeds, garlic, ginger, scallions, cilantro, green chili peppers, and yogurt/coconut milk, and blend to make as smooth as possible, about 1 minute.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the cumin, fenugreek, and black pepper. They should sizzle upon contact with the hot oil. Quickly add the coriander, garam masala, salt, and chicken. Cook, stirring, until the chicken is golden, about 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl.

To the same pan, add the cashew-yogurt mixture and cook over high heat, stirring as needed, until most of the juices evaporate and the mixture becomes highly fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken to the pan, reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan, and cook about 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Adjust salt, if you wish. Add the cream (or water) and boil a few minutes. Garnish with the roasted cashew halves, and serve.

Prep!

Prep!

Naan fried up in ghee, sprinkled with sea salt. Mmm.

Naan fried up in ghee, sprinkled with sea salt. Mmm.

Finished curry = green and spicaaay

Finished curry = green and spicaaay

Better-Than-Takeout Orange Chicken

IMG_2746If you are sneakily picking up the phone to order Chinese takeout, PUT.IT.DOWN. I finally made this Orange Chicken recipe from Health-Bent the other night and pretty much squealed with excitement when I tasted it. I am pumped to share it and stop you from succumbing to a craving for deep fried, gloppy-sauced Chinese food. The sauce is sweet, spicy, savory, and EASY, without that loathsome additive MSG or paleo cheats like honey. You can add more chili garlic sauce to up the heat, if you’d like. Next time I might just bust out some chopsticks so I slow down…

Paleo Orange Chicken, from Health-Bent

Note: I suggest doubling this recipe (it makes about 5 3-block protein servings if you’re doing the Zone diet, and in my house it went pretty quickly!).

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cut into bite-size pieces)
  • 3 T fat (coconut oil works well here)
  • juice of 2 oranges*
  • zest from 1 orange
  • 1 t minced fresh ginger
  • 3 T coconut aminos or wheat-free soy sauce
  • 1 t chili garlic sauce or sriracha (you can find both in the Asian aisle of the grocery store — most have sugar but it’s a tiny amount, so I don’t worry about it when using such a small quantity)
  • 3 green onions, chopped

Instructions

In a medium-size sauce pot, add the orange juice, zest, ginger, coconut aminos, and chili garlic sauce or sriracha. Set over medium heat and let simmer to reduce and thicken while the chicken cooks.

In a saute pan or cast iron skillet, heat 3 T of the fat of your choice over medium-high heat. Add the chopped chicken thighs and cook until a nice brown crust has developed on the chicken pieces, about 6 minutes.

Add the chicken to the sauce pot and stir to coat with the orange sauce. Serve topped with sliced green onions. This goes well with cauliflower rice or steamed veggies (carrots or broccoli would be great!).

*Taste your oranges. If they don’t taste orange-y, then neither will this dish. Use tangerines if you gotta or add a teaspoon of sweetener until you’re satisfied with the flavor.

Artichoke Lemon Pesto Chicken “Pasta”

Photo from PaleOMG -- way prettier than mine turned out! As usual!

Photo from PaleOMG — way prettier than mine turned out! As usual!

My friends Corey, John and I made this recipe from PaleOMG and none of us knew before trying it that artichokes, when sautéed and blended up in a food processor, taste luxuriously creamy and when garlic and herbs are added in there, it forms what I can only describe as the lovechild of alfredo sauce and pesto. So yeah…wrap your Paleo-lovin’ head around that and get ready for the satisfaction of a creamy pasta dish without the ensuing bellyache. This also comes together pretty quickly so it’s a good weeknight option!

Artichoke Lemon Pesto Chicken Pasta, from the awesome Juli Bauer at PaleOMG

Ingredients

  • 1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed (or chicken thighs if you prefer)
  • 1 large spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise (get a BIG one)
  • 12-15 artichoke hearts, cut in half (I used jarred artichokes that were in olive oil for more flavor)
  • ⅓ cup walnuts
  • 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-5 tablespoons vegetable broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup fresh parsley
  • ½ cup fresh basil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3-5 cups of spinach (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 405 degrees.
  2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, place cut side down on a baking sheet, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until squash gives when you poke the outside of it.
  3. While the squash is baking, make the pesto and chicken.
  4. Place a large pan over medium-high heat, add a splash of fat and 1 minced garlic clove. As soon as the garlic becomes fragrant, add the halved artichokes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and let cook until slightly browned and tender on all sides.
  5. Once artichokes are browned, add them to a food processor along with the walnuts, olive oil, vegetable broth, and second garlic clove. Puree until smooth.
  6. Then add the parsley, basil, lemon, and salt and pepper. Puree once more until smooth. Taste and add more lemon and salt and pepper to your preference.
  7. Once pesto is done pureeing, add the chicken to the same pan that you sautéed the artichokes in.
  8. Cook chicken over medium-high heat until browned on all sides. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.
  9. Once chicken is cooked through, add in about ¼ of a cup of the pesto to the chicken along with the spinach, in the pan and mix well to coat. Cover and let cook for 2-4 minutes or until spinach is wilted.
  10. When your squash is done, use a spoon to remove the excess seeds, then a fork to thread the strings from the squash and make your “spaghetti.”
  11. Then add the threads of spaghetti squash to the pan (or a large mixing bowl if you need more room). Mix spaghetti squash, pesto, and chicken all together.
  12. Serve with some fresh basil on top.

Shredded Enchilada Chicken

One of my favorite recipes to cook up before I started eating mostly paleo was the Lighter Chicken Enchiladas recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. I’d tell you all about it but then I’d just leave you wanting enchiladas, which is not the point of this blog!

I’m happy to report that since the sauce was pretty much paleo as-written, the best part of the dish (the chicken! Duh!) is still something I can cook up and enjoy without feeling gross from the corn tortillas, cheese, and sugar (2 teaspoons) in the original. It’s spicy and flavorful on its own, but also delicious atop some salad greens or half an avocado for a light lunch. I promise to post a photo next time I make it!

Shredded Enchilada Chicken, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Lighter Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil or fat of choice
  • Salt
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (4-ounce) can pickled jalapenos, drained and chopped
  • 3/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves (add more if you love cilantro)
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges (for serving)

Instructions

  1. Combine the onion, oil, and ½ teaspoon salt in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onion has softened, eight to ten minutes.
  2. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly, about five minutes.
  3. Nestle the chicken into the sauce. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and the thickest part registers 160 degrees on the instant read thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool. Strain the sauce through a mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing on the cooked onions to release their juice (you could skip this step if you want the onions in your sauce). Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite sized pieces. Toss together the shredded chicken, 1 cup of the enchilada sauce, jalapenos, and cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with avocado, lime wedges, and hot sauce. This is tasty on its own, on a halved avocado, or over salad greens. (I’ve also turned it into enchilada nachos, but that’s not exactly—ok, remotely—paleo! Maybe you could try it with homemade sweet potato or plantain chips?)

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup

photo (1)Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup, from MarthaStewart.com

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and diced medium
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced medium
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh cilantro (optional but recommended!)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss together chicken, squash, onion, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and roast until squash and chicken are cooked through, about 30 minutes.
  2. Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool. Transfer squash and onions to a medium pot and add broth, cumin, and coriander. Bring to a simmer over medium-high. With a potato masher or back of a wooden spoon, mash some vegetables until soup is thick and chunky. Discard skin and bones from chicken; cut meat into small pieces and add to soup. Stir in lemon juice; season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, top with fresh cilantro, if desired.

Chipotle Meatballs

If you’re looking for a main course that cooks up in 20 minutes, get excited! These meatballs from Health-Bent pack a spicy, smoky punch and are easily prepped and out of the oven in 20 minutes tops. I’ve served them up with guacamole and sautéed peppers and onions, spinach sautéed with bacon, and roasted acorn squash – they pair nicely with pretty much any veggie or just on their own as a quick protein. You could also make smaller meatballs and serve them to even non-paleo guests as an appetizer.

meatballsChipotle Meatballs, from Health-Bent

Ingredients

Meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground meat (I used beef)
  • 1/4 c almond flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T chipotle adobo sauce  (just buy a small can of “chipotle peppers in adobo” in the Mexican section of your grocery store)
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 t onion powder
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • salt

Sauce:

  • 1 c chicken stock
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce OR fire-roasted diced tomatoes (my preference)
  • 1-2 finely diced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 2 t onion powder
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • salt

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, almond flour, and herbs/spices. Add the ground meat and mix with your hands until combined. Form the mixture into balls and place in an oven safe dish. Bake until browned, about 15 minutes.

For the sauce:

While the meatballs are browning, add the tomato sauce ingredients to a sauce pot (if you’re using the fire-roasted tomatoes, just puree them in a food processor or blender first. I like the texture they add to the sauce.). Let it simmer until the meatballs are done.

Best Fajita Marinade. Ever.

I’ve used this fajita marinade on chicken and flank steak, and I’m sure it would be equally gobble-worthy on pork, fish, or shrimp, too. I know it’s not really grilling season, per se (since it’s snowing as I type this), but the flavors in this tropical marinade will at least remind you of summer for a hot minute. So bust out that grill pan and get to work!

Tyler’s Ultimate Fajitas, from Tyler Florence on Tyler’s Ultimate

Note: This tastes best when meat is marinated all day or overnight, but 2-4 hours still flavors the meat nicely. I’ve adapted the instructions to just leave out the tortillas.

Ingredients

Marinade:

  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3 chipotle chiles, in adobo sauce
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves (I throw in a good 1/3 cup, so if you love cilantro, go for it)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Plus:

  • 2 pounds skirt or flank steak, trimmed of fat, cut into thirds or 8-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • Lime juice, olive oil, optional
  • Guacamole
  • Good quality store bought salsa

Instructions

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine all the marinade ingredients and puree the marinade until smooth. Transfer to a re-sealable plastic bag and add the steak, seal and shake to coat. Refrigerate the beef for 2 to 4 hours to tenderize and flavor the beef.
  2. Preheat a ridged grill pan on high heat.
  3. Drain the marinade from the beef. Lightly oil the grill or grill pan. Season steak liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill the steak over medium-high heat and cook for 4 minutes on each side (or until desired level of doneness) and then transfer to a cutting board and let rest. Depending on the size of your grill pan you may need to cook in batches.
  4. Once the beef is off the grill pan and resting, add the bell peppers and onions tossed with lime juice and olive oil, if using. Grill the mixture for 7 to 8 minutes until the vegetables are just barely limp.
  5. Thinly slice the steak against the grain on a diagonal and serve with peppers, onions, guacamole, salsa, and extra lime wedges and cilantro.