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Whole30 Sirloin Steak with Caramelized Onions and Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Puree

by Wednesday, September 19, 2018
1 small-medium* butternut squash, halved and seeded
1 large sweet potato
Olive oil
2 tablespoons ghee
1 large onion, sliced into strips (sweet onion is best)
2 servings of sirloin steak (our serving sizes are 4-5oz in our house)
salt and pepper

Instructions:

Sweet Potato + Squash Puree
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap sweet potato in foil. Place the split halves of squash face up on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and break up bits of the ghee over the squash halves. Put the sweet potato right on the rack, and squash on the baking sheet in oven and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork. Scrape the inside of the squash into the bowl of a food processor/blender, peel sweet potato and cut into a few smaller chunks, and pulse until it is a smooth consistency.

Note: I recommend getting a nice large butternut squash and baking two sweet potatoes, making more than you need for this recipe. Then you can use the leftovers for other meals or soups.

You can make the puree ahead of time, if you like. It can refrigerate for a couple days, or freeze it in portions. Warm in a saucepan over medium heat before serving.

Caramelized Onions
Add 2 tbsp of olive oil and the onions to a large saute pan. Toss the onions to coat with oil. Cook the onions over medium-low heat for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so to allow the onions to brown, but not burn. You can add ghee  and some salt to this as well if you like.  For another layer of flavors, add a dash of basalmic vinegar to the onions in the last 5 minute of cooking. Remove onions from heat when they are dark brown and sweet.

Sirloin Steak (Alton Brown Method)
Prep the sirloin by setting on the counter at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Coat all sides generously with kosher salt and let sit another 5 minutes. Rinse off salt with cold tap water.

Once you take the sweet potato and squash out of the oven, while the onions are finishing carmelizing, continue to prepare the sirloin. Set oven on broiler setting. Make foil 'snake' out of aluminum foil to use to keep oven door slightly ajar so that broiler won't turn off if it gets too hot.

Brush steak with oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Place a piece of foil on the bottom rack as a drip pan. Place another rack in the position above this and put the steak directly on this rack. Cook steak in this position for 5 minutes.  Flip steak and cook for another 5 minutes. Move rack with steak to top position in oven, keeping rack with foil and drippings just underneath, and cook for 3 minutes. Flip 1 last time and cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer steak to wire rack and rest for 3 to 5 minutes. (These times are for medium doneness. Adjust cooking times up or down as desired.)

Once rested, cut steak against the grain in 1/4" slices.

Plating
Scoop a generous mound of sweet potato-butternut squash puree in a line down the center of the plate. Lay sliced steak on top of puree, and top all with a mound of caramelized onions. Tucking some celery leaf or basil leaf into the end of the golden puree tops this plate off colorfully and beautifully.

Shay's Simple Whole30 Chia Pudding

by Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Photo credit Sunkissed Kitchen
There are a million and one chia pudding recipes out there. Many are Whole30 compliant, though not all are. I am a babe in the woods on this one, as I have always dismissed chia seeds as "that tree-hugger bird food". Never had occasion to eat them, never sought them out, end of story. But then this recipe kept popping up in my search for breakfast options, so I thought "What the heck" and gave it a try, and I am so glad I did! Bonus? Chia sees are high in fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Like...those are THINGS you guys. THINGS that are GOOD for you. What?!

This is a hybrid recipe of my own making, blending a few different recipe suggestions into one, keeping it Whole30 compliant. The end result is like a tapioca pudding, but with a little crunch to it which I like. But I read you can blend the seeds up instead and get a smoother texture, so that's an option. Also, you can mix in so many things to this--fruit, drizzle with nut butters or sprinkle with chopped or sliced nuts--the options are kinda endless.

And yes, Whole30 has a policy against SWYPO (Sex With Your Pants On); meaning no substituting, say, almond flour pancakes for regular pancakes, because the point is to not have pancakes in the first place. For me, I don't normally eat breakfast at all. So finding breakfast options that are enticing, compliant, and have beneficial nutrients IS an improvement. And I am not eating a damn arugula salad for breakfast. So here ya go:

RECIPE

  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 can unsweetened light coconut milk
  • 3-4 pitted dates, (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • fruit, nuts, and whatever you like


DIRECTIONS

  1. In a blender/food processor/Ninja mixer, put coconut milk and dates and blend until as smooth as possible. You may need to fish around to get the dates from sticking to the blades, as I did.
  2. Add cinnamon and chia seeds and pulse just enough to blend together. 
  3. Place in container in fridge to soak at least 1 hour to overnight (a few hours is best if you want it "now", IMO).
  4. Divide into four portions, serve with fresh fruit and/or your favorite raw nuts or nut butters.
I put mine in four small canning jars, which filled them 1/2-3/4 of the way up. This is just enough room to throw some sliced fruit on top of and enjoy along with a soft boiled egg on the side for a little more protein. You may wish to enjoy one with your damn arugula salad for breakfast.

ALTERNATIVES:
Use a full-fat coconut milk and thin slightly with water OR with a fruit juice of choice for still more fruity flavor--orange juice, pineapple juice, etc?

"It looks weird."

My results:
Husband asked, "What's that stuff...in the jars...in the fridge?"
"Chia seed pudding."
"It looks weird."
"I made it with black chia seeds so it looks a little strange. But it tastes really good! Like tapioca pudding, but with a little crunch from the seeds."
"That sounds weird."
"Yes, it looks weird, but it's delish."
"Hmph."

I make him sound like a real neanderthal here, which is so far from who this man is. But it was like talking to a kid who just saw his first Brussels sprout. And I wasn't even asking him to eat it. Maybe he'll come around, but if not...more for me!

Here are some other recipes I want to try in the future, and thought you might want to check out:

http://www.parsnipsandpastries.com/easy-whole30-chia-pudding/
I like the idea of a vanilla bean pod to flavor the recipe a bit more. And pumpkin spice in the winter? Oh yeah!

https://sunkissedkitchen.com/chia-breakfast-pudding-whole30/
This one blends up cashews in the mix as well, which I imagine makes for a different texture all around. Not sure what the hemp seeds add, but given my recent foray into chia seeds, I adit I am curious...

Strawberry Coconut Breakfast Bake - Recipe Review

by Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Okay so I just finished baking up the Strawberry Coconut Breakfast Bake from Wholesomelicious (awkward name alert), and it's...okay.

Photo Credit Wholesomelicious Blog
The main issue I have is that, like many paleo recipes, they include non-compliant ingredients that are often kinda important to the outcome and then say, "Just leave it out for Whole30!" It's like giving a recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich and saying, "Just leave off the cheese! and the bread! and the butter!" Okay, this wasn't THAT bad, but, when you are making a baked good that calls for baking powder, and you flippantly add, "Just leave that out!" I am already on alert to shenanigans. Baking powder is kinda important in some baked goods, to get it to fluff up and have the proper body and texture.

But I forged ahead, because I didn't want to make any tweaks right off the bat, and just trust. Foolish? Let's see...

Ingredients: Easy to source, compliant (without the baking powder)
Preparation: Easy, Fast
Cook time: Meh. 45 minutes for a breakfast prep isn't my favorite.
Finished result: Okay, but would try again.

The finished result was an unappealing flat, wet, brownish casserole. Semi-soggy, really. I had to scoop it out with a spatula, as it wouldn't hold its form like a little square cake, as shown in the original recipe photos (see above). It needs something more to beef it up to hold its form better.
Not super appetizing. Photo credit: Me

For flavor, it works for me. I like my sweet things to not be too sweet, and this hits that spot well. If I were drinking sweetened tea with it, I think this would not be the case, but with black tea or coffee in the mornings, this pairs well. The banana in the wet ingredients along with the pop of green sweetness in the strawberries is satisfying for me. The crunch of coconut gave the otherwise overly-soft texture a little boost.

What I would do differently: Many websites recommend substituting baking soda for baking powder. I like this recipe enough to want to try it again, so will finish up this batch over the course of this week and maybe try again next week with a fresh batch.

Eureka! Home-made mayonnaise success: two tips I wish I had known!

by Monday, September 10, 2018
I have tried to make home-made mayonnaise before, and the results were fine, but not great. I felt like I was missing something. Turns out, I was! The basics, I knew: emulsify egg with a portion of oil, salt and lemon juice to taste. What I was missing is that the oil you choose makes a HUGE difference, and...MUSTARD POWDER! Like wow. All the difference in the world.

So I used EVOO the first time. And that ended up being the source of my major complaint, in fact! It is just tooo heavy. And the mayo felt...oily. I wanted the lightly whipped mouthfeel of mayo and I got something a little more thick mousse like. I assumed that was just a side-effect of home-made mayo, but turns out if you use a high-oleic oil, like safflower or sunflower oil, it lightens the whole thing up.

The other was the mustard powder. I see now that some recipes call for dijon in the mayo, and I can't remember if I tried that on my last one. But I can say in this batch, the subtle effect of the mustard powder really balanced the mayo, and made it taste more like my favorite store-bought brand! A 1/2 tsp of salt and the juice of half a lemon and I have mayo I am thrilled to eat!

Now if I can figure out how to make it less messy. I use my emulsion blender and getting the mayo out of it and off of it is blech. And then the container it was blended in wasn't the one I was storing it in, so then I had a messy spatula and a messy blending cup, too, with a lot of wasted mayo in the process. Gotta get a wide mouth jar to do it in next time (all mine are in use right now), and plan to store it in what I make it in.

Anyhoot, that was a revelation, and now sharing the recipe here so I can refer to it later:

1 egg, room temp (place in hot water for 3-4 minutes)
1 cup safflower oil
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
juice of 1/2 lemon, room temp

Put egg, 1/4 cup of the oil, mustard powder, and salt in jar.
Using emulsion blender, begin to blend. Drizzle in oil gradually for best results*.
When all is blended, add lemon juice and stir gently with a spoon**.
Close lid, refrigerate to let it all blend and cool.

Note you can do this in a blender, simply drizzling in the oil as you go. I don't have a blender, but this seems like a easy way to go.

*A faster way, which can backfire, is to put egg, mustard, and salt in jar, then pour all the oil over the top. Keep the blender low to the bottom of the container and pulse it a few times until you see it start to whiten and fluff up. Gently lift and plunge the blender, allowing a little bit of oil to blend in, keep gently lifting and blending, not allowing too much of the oil to get underneath at a time. If too much oil tries to blend at once, sometimes you get a looser, less-thick result, so take your time.

**Some recipes call for adding the lemon right after the egg at the beginning of the process, claiming it will help break down the egg proteins so it emulsifies better. I would like to try this next time to see how it goes. I know that in another recipe I tried, they used vinegar instead of lemon juice, and put it in at the beginning, so I am guessing that is how it functioned in that recipe...

Gaming Tables on Kickstarter in 2018

by Monday, September 10, 2018


Two board game tables launched on Kickstarter today alone, and yet another one launched a couple weeks ago. All are already fully funded, and are on offer for 25-30 more days as of this writing. For my geeky friends, here are some links and details:



Board Game Table's second KS is The Jasper. We bought their first table, the Duchess, which we play on all the time. Chad's a stand up guy and this table addresses the issues with the first KS and makes improvements on the table design itself, including smaller leaves (HALLELUJAH!). Also MADE IN THE USA.

This one is about $900 with the topper, $600 without (but the topper is part of the entire the point so...?). Downside: the only accessories are cup holders, which have fixed attachment points rather than a flexible rail system...and they cost extra, too. So all-in on this one is table, topper, and 6 cup holders is about $980:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1296268806/the-jasper-a-board-gaming-table



Newest to the space, Seattle's own Wooded Realms is making the 2nd Breakfast table. They are trying to disrupt the market with the most affordable gaming table yet (outside of making your own). When they first launched there was only one table size, and it was too small, IMO. Since they funded in 3 days, they decided to add another table size and this one has the standard 3X5 play surface.

Features include a wider ledger space than the Duchess/Jasper, slide-out tables and a full rail system with cup holders and small tables included in the price, flippable vault surface with wood one side and speedcloth/fabric (TBD) on the other, AND a clear acrylic sheet for campaign maps. But the real kicker is that at this super low price, they also have LED lighting in the interior controllable by a Bluetooth phone app (can be set to sound reactive, music, or pre-sets), and 8 USB and 2 AC outlets built into the table.

I saw these tables in person at PAX West and they are sturdy, solid tables. They had a whole room where they let people play on them all weekend and they looked as good at the end of the weekend as they did at the beginning with a LOT of use.

Only downside I can see is a) unproven manufacturer with still some question marks on the project and b) made in China. (of course it would be at this price, but if it matters to you, make a note of it...)

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/woodedrealms/2nd-breakfast-an-affordable-quality-board-game-tab



Finally is the Table of Ultimate Gaming's new entry to the space, "The Game Changer". Their most unique offering is a modular topper which goes on your existing table, with several sizes on offer including a coffee table size option. They can grow and shrink the topper as you wish with a leaves/extension system. They also have a full table option in similar design, utilizing the same modular accessory options. And this goes to 11: they have up to 4X6 play space sizes. Aesthetically, their table designs leave me unimpressed. For some, though, they make up for it in modularity and functionality. The ability to extend it, or take it apart and put it away is a really great upside to the topper concept, particularly for more casual gamers who only want to bring it out once in a while for play sessions with friends/at parties, and/or people who have a dining table they love and don't want to replace.

The only downside I see of the game topper concept is that it raises your table edges up by 4 inches in order to have a recessed vault. For shorter players like me, part of the appeal of a vaulted table is I put my elbows on the edge and can look down over the game play area more fully. To raise up the edge by 4 inches isn't ideal, and just puts the height of the game essentially at the same height as if I was on my normal dining table. Not a complete deal-breaker, but it does remove some of the functional upsides of a vaulted game table.

A 3X5' topper starts at $300, with a full comparable sized table coming in at $400, with no bells or whistles (no dining table covers either). Bundles include various combinations of add-on accessories include the dining table covers, play mats, sets of 4 cup holders, and matching chairs. All in on a 3.5X5' play area table (+dining table top, play mat, cup holders) is around $600, the larger 4X6' play area is $700.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/972632882/gamechanger-game-tables-and-table-toppers

So that's what's up on KS right now in board game table world. What a time to be alive! While I still lament the loss of Geek Chic, and still dream of one day having a Wyrmwood Prophecy (swoon), these are some solid new entries in this market. In the meantime, I am happy with my Duchess and watch the market grow and change before us all as the joy of board gaming continues to expand into more homes. If you get one, I'd love to hear about it!

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