Friday, July 25, 2014

Eating Clean {Homemade Deli-Style Ham}

I have many food allergies and sensitivities, notably to gluten and dairy products. This rules out many foods, such as the obvious bread and cheese, but also some less obvious foods, such as sandwich meats.

At least here in Belgium, I have yet to find a commercially-sold deli-style meat that is just meat

So, I have to make my own.

This ham tastes delicious, but looks a tad, eh, not so delicious. It's gray on the outside. That's because I don't use saltpeter, which is what gives ham its traditional pink color. Feel free to add saltpeter to the brine mix if color is an issue for you.

Also, I used half Guerande salt {what we commonly call "fleur de sel"} and half Himalaya salt, just because. Feel free to use whatever salt you have on hand. For the spices, I chose 2 cloves of garlic, a couple Juniper berries, one whole clove as well as fresh sprigs of bay, thyme and sage. You could really add any spices you like though, and even no spices as well.

Also, play with the salt levels. I like a fairly salty ham so this is the amount I use. If you prefer a less salty taste, use a bit less, if you like a really salty ham, use a bit more

Homemade Deli-Style Ham
{Brine Cured}

  • 1 ham, about 1 kg or 2 lbs
  • 1 liter water, boiled (more or less to cover the ham)
  • 1/2 cup salt of choice
  • Various spices
  1. Place ham and spices in a dish.
  2. Dissolve the salt in the warm but not boiling water. Allow to cool to about 40°C/100°F, then pour over the ham (the ham must be fully submerged).
  3. Cover the dish and refrigerate for 3 to 5 days {I prefer 5 days}.
  4. Drain water and remove spices. Bake covered for about 45 minutes {150°C/300°F} or until a meat thermometer reads 75°C/160°F.
  5. Refrigerate for 24 hours before slicing.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dining Out, Paleo-Style {Colmar, France - La Musardière & La Sorbetière d'Isabelle}

This was the restaurant we chose for our last restaurant meal while on vacation in France. You can read about the rest of that day's activities here.

The city of Colmar was extremely picturesque, but a tad too touristy for us. We looked around for a restuarant with home-style cooking, but the only one we found had a price range that was just a bit out of reach of our small pocketbooks. We finally settled on La Musardière, not only because the price was right but also because there were several meals I could eat without modification {which is always a plus in this sort of situation}.

We settled into our chairs in the shade and ordered our meal. I wasn't disappointed at all by this meal, I actually found it quite delicious! {It didn't surpass my meal at either Kastelberg or Les Grands Près, but then, nothing does!}

I ordered the pork knuckle with sauerkraut, and I was glad I did! The sauerkraut wasn't the best I had ever eaten, but it was still lots better than anything I'd ever bought in a store. The mustard, on the other hand, was clearly industrial as it was served to us in small packets. The ingredients were listed however, which was nice for me.

The pork though. Oh yum. Still way below the standards set by the fermes-auberges, but tasty nonetheless. It was perfectly crispy on the outside with a deliciously flavorful fatty layer. The meat itself was tender and moist, and had really good flavor. All in all, it was a great deal at only 9,90€ - and the hubster had to help me finish my dish! {He ordered the sauerkraut at 9,50€ with five meats and agreed with me - good, great deal, but doesn't beat the home cooking we experienced in the Vosges.}

Dessert was taken at a little sorbet shop, La Sorbetière d'Isabelle. This little shop boasts numerous different flavors of both sorbets and ice creams, so everyone can find something delicious! The hubster took a scoop of Passion Fruit and another of Thyme Mango. He loved both flavors. I choose the Flavor of the Day {Raspberry Cranberry Hibiscus} and Blueberry. The Flavor of the Day definitely won in my opinion, as I found the Blueberry sorbet at the Hohneck was far superior. {But this one was still über delish!}

All in all, if you find yourself wandering the streets of Colmar, looking for somewhere to eat, this restaurant, La Musardière, is sure to give you a great tasting meal for a bargain price. And if you need a dairy-free and gluten-free dessert option, give La Sorbetière d'Isabelle a try!

This has nothing, yet everything, to do with France {Cauliflower Cheese}

Hayley Ziegler agrees with me: three of the biggest pleasures in life seem to be cheese, wine and chocolate. At least, they are to most people.

Neither of us can have cheese - unless we are willing to sacrifice our tummy comfort {if not something worse!} in order to indulge.

Neither of us can have alcohol - personally, it makes my joints swell up painfully, leaving me with a hangover that lingers for days, if not weeks.

Neither of us can have chocolate - okay, I'm still testing this one to be sure, but a lot of signs are sadly pointing me in that direction.

We don't let this get us down though, of course, as we both know there are many other pleasures in life, food-related or not. One of these pleasures for me is hiking, and the hubster and I recently went on a hiking trip to France {you can read about how I stayed mostly paleo during the trip here}. I loved everything about France - the architecture, the country, the people... and the food.

The food, what little I could eat of it, was absolutely delicious. I truly savored every bite... but still. I was surrounded by cheese and wine. I was in the country of cheese and wine. I did venture one sip of what the hubster deemed to be a "very good" wine {and it was very good} but I didn't care to taste even a bit of cheese because I knew what the consequences would be. I simply watched as others enjoyed their cheese. Plugged my nose as the hubster bought cheese. Pulled my hard boiled eggs out of the cooler from under the cheese. It was hard, but I did it.

On the way home from France, I thought back to this Instagram post:

Then I saw that all the cool kids were doing it, too:

Then it clicked - I could have cheese.

I read through the list of ingredients - I didn't have half of them. Being the seasoned, self-taught chef that I am {read: I really wanted cheese}, I decided to use what I had and see what I could come up with.

What I came up with was cheese. It's kind of hard to describe the texture, but I'd say it falls somewhere between Kraft Singles and goat cheese, as weird as that may sound. The taste is surprisingly neutral, and I really can't wait to make another batch and start playing with the flavors! It doesn't get all melty though, which would have been just amazing, but hey - who cares? I have cheese!

If you want the original, gelatin version {this version melts!}, check out Hayley's IG feed or the Gutsy By Nature blog, where Jaime kindly did up a blog post on the magical stuff. 

If you don't have gelatin or need a gelatin-free version, read on. And have fun adding this dairy free, nut free, seed free, soy free, gluten free, sugar free {really, free from EVERYTHING!} "cheese" to all your dishes! The version below is even vegan - everyone should be happy here!

Cauliflower Cheese
Hayley Ziegler's Zucchini Cheese

  • 7.5 ounces (212 grams) cauliflower, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp agar agar powder
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • Sea salt to taste
  1. Line a baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Dissolve the agar agar powder into the water in a small sauce pan.
  3. Add the cauliflower, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook the cauliflower until soft (all this took me about 6 minutes).
  4. Blend the water and cauliflower together using an immersion blender.
  5. Add the coconut oil, vinegar and salt, blend again.
  6. Pour into the parchment paper lined baking dish and smooth evenly.
  7. Refrigerate for at least an hour before cutting and using.

Eating Paleo on Vacation {The Vosges, France ~ Day 3}

Okay, so the title isn't quite correct for Day 3. Day 1 and Day 2 were spent exploring the French region called Les Vosges, but for Day 3 we ventured into the region referred to as Alsace. But just to keep the trip posts united, we'll keep the title the same. {By the way, you can read about the first part of our trip my clicking on the links above.}

Anyway, back to Day 3. We woke up fairly early and showered {we wanted hot water this time!} then had pretty much the same breakfast as the day before: hard boiled eggs, sliced chorizo and half a peach. I also added my last banana bread bar to the mix {you can get that recipe here}.

Once we had finished, we packed up our room, turned in the key and hopped in the car - we were going to Colmar! Colmar is a historically preserved town well known for its black stork population. Our first stop in this little town was a local market. 

This particular market is open every day, all day. I would really love to see this sort of thing replace our modern-day grocery stores. Every stand was full of ugly, dirty produce - produce that was organically grown in local dirt. There were homemade breads, cookies, treats... galore. There were more types of honey than I could count. There were even ethnic stands, serving homemade Greek, Italian and Asian food. Fresh meat and fish were also available - I even saw a guy buy a "bucket of meat".

The hubster and I settled down for an espresso {he ate both the cookies, though I was tempted to try the Amaretti as "real" ones are paleo-friendly}. We soaked in the ambient noises, enjoying the hubbub of a busting market. I only ended up buying a pack of macaroons, even though I would have gladly taken half the market home with me!

We then strolled the streets of Colmar, enjoying everything we saw! The buildings were typical Medieval-style homes, complete with over-hanging second and third floors and wooden crossbeams in every which direction. The colors were also typical of France - yellows, greens, reds and blues adorned the facades of every building making everything clash yet match at the same time. It was truly like taking a trip back in time.

Even though the sights were so beautiful, the sounds of the multiple tourists starting getting ruining it a bit. Don't get me wrong, we are tourists ourselves, but we tend to prefer the less touristy areas when we visit new places. Though its beauty is worth seeing, Colmar was just invaded by tourists. 

After we had walked around the entire town twice, we decided to find a cafe and sit for a drink before finding a place to eat lunch. We happened to stumble upon a cafe whose name was Brasserie Jupiler - Jupiler being a popular Belgian beer, the hubster needed to have a drink there. We sat down and were both happy upon looking at the menu - he had several Belgian specialty beers to choose from and I had a selection of a few natural juices.

If ever you're in France, or any other country that sells these juices, you need to try them. I ordered the Pear-Rhubarb-Cinnamon drink by Borderline. They boast they're all natural, and the ingredients list is pretty impressive. And the taste. Oh man. I am for sure going to be preparing some sort of dessert using this flavor combo again - it was out of this world!

We had a good time munching on my macaroons {disclaimer: not paleo}, sipping on our drinks, and watching the storks fly by. But then we got hungry and went looking for food. We ended up eating at La Musardière and getting sorbets as dessert at La Sorbetière d'Isabelle. You can read my review of both those places here.

Then began our long drive home. Quick fact: Did you know the man who made and gifted the Statue of Liberty to the United States lived in Colmar? There is a miniature version of Lady Liberty on the outskirts of town, and we happened to drive past her back side on the way home.

Please don't mind the incredibly dirty windshield. I'm a compulsive washer when I drive, the hubster, not so much so. 

That sums up our trip to France, and how I managed to stay {mostly} paleo during it all. The bottom line is, be prepared, look around and don't be afraid to ask questions or modify your meal if need be! Most of all - enjoy your trip!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Carbs & Healthy Fats To-Go! {Banana Bread Bars}

Before going on my trip to France {click to read about Day 1 and Day 2}, I had a couple bananas that needed to be used. I figured they'd be a perfect addition to a sort of energy bar for my hiking trip, so I brainstormed ways to make a nut free energy bar...

I decided to simply try out using just banana and coconut - and it worked! That's right, two ingredients. And these taste just like banana bread!

I decided to add some cacao nibs to go the chocolate chip banana bread route without adding extra sugar, and they were delicious! The little crunchy bits really added to the overall texture, but I'm thinking small pieces of dried fruit would be equally delicious.

So, you have many choices to personalize this to suit your tastes and needs. Add cacao nibs or chocolate chips - or even nuts- if you like. Use dried fruit or leave them plain and these are AIP friendly. These probably fall into the gray area when it comes to Whole30, but if you are okay eating Kind or Epic bars, this should be okay for you as well then {just don't use them for a dessert replacement}. Adding spices such as cinnamon or vanilla would amp up the flavor as well.

And while they are a tad on the delicate side, they held up surprisingly well in our backpack - until the hubster packed them on the bottom... Pack at your own risk!

Banana Bread Bars

  • 2 very ripe bananas, pureed
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • *optional: 2 tbsp add-ins
  1. Mix together the banana and the coconut.
  2. Line a loaf pan with lightly greased parchment paper.
  3. Spread the thick batter evenly in the bottom of the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes at 180°C (350°F).
  4. Allow to cool slightly, then remove from the loaf pan and allow to cool completely in the parchment paper.
  5. Gently remove the parchment paper, cut into 6 bars and wrap individually or store in an airtight container.

Eating Paleo on Vacation {The Vosges, France ~ Day 2}

Today's recap is all about Day 2 of our mini vacation. You can read about Day 1 here if you wish - there's a recipe and a restaurant review to go along with that post as well.

We slept in this morning - we were on vacation, after all! Then we started out the day with our packed breakfast, served on napkins and eaten on the only table in our room. We had the oh-so-glamorous meal of hard boiled eggs dipped in Himalaya salt, sliced chorizo and a nectarine each.

Then we got ready and headed out for our hike - this was my first hike in high altitude, and I must say I was winded faster than usual, but it was a blast! If you're in the area and looking for a quick hike to do, this is a great one. It goes up the Hohneck mountain and then back down again in a perfect loop. I even got the chance to walk through a herd of mountain cows! Cows in most parts of France are pretty much let loose in the wilderness and hiking trails pass through "their" fields all the time. They wear huge cow bells so the farmers can find them easily - and the sound is just magical!


{Please don't mind my sweat soaked tank - it was about 40°C outside and we had just hiked/climbed up a mountain side.}

We stopped about 3/4 of our way up the mountain to eat lunch. The hubster found a shady spot under a tree with a gorgeous view to boot! He had the traditional mountain lunch {baguette with dried sausage} but as that meal would make me terribly ill, I passed and ate the same lunch as yesterday. I ate the other half of my avocado {slightly discolored since I didn't bring lemon}, a can of tuna, the rest of my lettuce leaves and a couple banana bread bars. {You can find the recipe for those here.}

After our meal, we started up again, determined to get to the top! We did, and took a break from the hot sun in the shade at the top of the Hohneck. Since it was so hot, and since I had loved the house-made apple and blueberry juice the day before, I decided to order the house-made sorbets! The hubster got two scoops of mirabelle {also known as cherry plum} while I got one scoop each of blueberry, mirabelle and raspberry! The blueberry definitely won - and the hubster regretted having taken only mirabelle!

We then headed back down the mountain, thoroughly enjoying the sights and sounds as we went. 

Once arrived at the hostel, we showered and had a little pre-dinner snack to refuel after all the effort. I had classic kombucha, sliced apple, sliced chorizo and another banana bread bar. The hubster added a beer and peanuts to his side of the snack table.

Next up was dinner. You guys, this was seriously my favorite meal of the whole trip, and quite possibly one of the best meals I have ever eaten. You can read about the restaurant here - it is a must taste if ever you're in the area!

And, just like the day before, we crashed as soon as our heads hit the pillows! Come back tomorrow to hear about the foodie exploits of Day 3!

Dining Out, Paleo-Style {Plainfaing, France - Ferme-auberge "Les Grands Près"}

This was the spot we chose for our second dinner while on vacation in France. You can read about the rest of that day's activities here.

This was the best choice we had made during that trip. Not only was this my favorite meal in France, but it just may my favorite meal ever.

We showed up at the Ferme-auberge Les Grands Près just before they started the evening service. We installed ourselves at a picnic table in front of the farmhouse and admired the view. We weren't as high up as we had been at the Kastelberg Auberge, but the view was still beautiful - and we had animals all around to admire! Just below us was a herd of sheep, and we could hear the pigs and chickens in the background.

We explained my food allergies to the owner, and while she seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the limitations {considering the local specialties are usually full of cheese and potatoes}, she was also more than willing to adapt the menu to suit my needs.

I started the meal out with a glass of homemade apple juice. My in-laws also make their own apple juice, so I'm a bit of a self-proclaimed apple juice snob, but this was good. I timidly suggested to the hubster that this was even better than his parents' juice. To my surprise, he agreed! {He had a local artisan beer, which he said was very good as well!} 

Next up was my allergen-free Country Salad - just fresh greens, house-smoked bacon and a fried egg. It was utter perfection. The bacon was so perfectly smoked the hubster couldn't help but steal a few bits from my plate! The smell alone was intoxicating! {His starter was a sort of poultry paté and a fresh cabbage salad.} I wanted the starter to continue even after I had licked the plate clean and I told the hubster, "Okay, I'm fully satisfied, we can go home now," as a joke - boy am I ever glad that was just the beginning!

The main dish was even better than the starter! I was treated to more deliciously home-smoked pork meat, served on top of over-roasted zucchinis, onions and tomatoes. I had a side of homemade sauerkraut and a green salad. Once again, the smell of the pork was making the hubster drool, so I kindly gave him a small piece, along with a bit of my veggies. {He had oven roasted lamb with various veggies and white potatoes.}

To put a perfect end to a perfect meal, the owner offered to prepare a cup of local berries. I was treated to raspberries, red currants, black currants and blueberries. It was absolutely divine. {The hubster had some homemade ice cream, strawberry and pine flavors. He was loving it!}

We left this place with fulls stomachs and dreams of going back - they also have rooms! All the food is prepared in their kitchens using what is grown and raised on their own property, or what they buy from surrounding farms. This is the sort of food quality I can get behind - and one I hope to see expanded to other domains!

Be sure to check out the Ferme-auberge Les Grands Près if you ever get the chance - you won't regret it!