garlic brined pork chops w/ pipián verde (green pumpkin seed sauce)

Anybody else out there terrified of cooking pork?

I’m good with ground pork and I work just fine with pork shoulder, but (HA!) throw a chop at me and I’ll duck for cover.  Oh, and not like it needs to be said, but I’ll totally say it anyways… I’m completely ok with cooking bacon.  That I can most definitely handle.

 I’ve read a million articles and posts on how not to ruin pork chops, but they haven’t seemed to help much.  They always come out dry and bland. Then, I just don’t want to eat them and every time I see them at the butcher I turn my nose up and curse at those stuck up little pieces of pork.  How dare they not turn out good!

This is what happened every single time, that is, until I tried brining them.  Then, out of nowhere, they turned out incredible! So juicy and tender and juicy (and tender… did I already say that?).  I guess I should have listened to those articles a while back because hey were onto something.  Brining these pork chops was so much easier and so much less intimidating than my complicated brain made it out to be.  No surprise there though. I mayyyyy have a small tendency to over-complicate things…  somewhere, I can feel CJ throwing his head back in a fit of sarcastic laughter. I guess it’s more like a very, very large tendency to over-complicate things.  What can I say, I’m Italian ( not really, not even close. Is this something that Italian’s even do?) You know what’s not very complicated? These pork chops. Eating them is even less complicated. Get to it!

garlic brined pork chops w/ pipian verde - Girl Meets Paleo

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garlic brined pork chops w/ pipian verde - Girl Meets Paleo

garlic brined pork chops w/ pipian verde - Girl Meets Paleo

garlic brined pork chops w/ pipian verde - Girl Meets Paleo

garlic brined pork chops w/ pipian verde - Girl Meets Paleo

Garlic Brined Pork Chops w/ Pipián Verde

4 center cut pork loin chips (bone-in)

2 ½ tbsp kosher salt

4 garlic cloves, smashed

1 lb tomatillos, husked and rinsed

1 serrano pepper

½ onion, peeled and roughly chopped

½ cup cilantro, loosely packed

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

½ chicken stock (can use water)

1 tsp cumin

In a large baking dish, mix one cup boiling water with the 2 ½ tbsp kosher salt, stirring until dissolved.  Stir in two more cups of cold/room temperature water.  Once all the water is cool, add the pork chops and garlic cloves to the baking dish.  Make sure that the pork chops are completely covered! If you need more water, add 1 cup of water and 1 tbsp of salt.  Cover and place in the fridge for at least 3o minutes, but up to 4 hours.

Remove brined chops from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 375.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the pumpkin seeds to the pan, stirring, and toast for about 5 minutes, until the seeds begin to pop and turn a nice toasty brown color.  Remove from heat.  Place the skillet in the oven to preheat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Once boiling, add the tomatillos, serrano, and onion.  Boil for 10 minutes and then remove pot from heat.  To a blender (or food processor), add the pumpkin seeds, strained tomatillos, serrano, and onion, the cilantro, cumin, and the stock.  Blend until smooth, adding salt and pepper to taste.

 Remove the chops from the brine, rinse, and pat dry.  Place the skillet on the stove over high heat.  *You may want to turn on a fan at this point* Rub ghee (or your cooking oil of choice) on each side of the chops, sprinkle with fresh pepper, and sear in the pan for three minutes.  Flip the chops, sear an additional two minutes, and then place the entire skillet into the oven.  Bake for 6-10 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145.

Remove chops from oven and transfer to a plate, tent loosely with foil for 5 minutes.  After they have rested serve with the pipián verde sauce!

curry-spiced sweet potatoes w/ mango mayo

Oh my gosh, these fries.

Last week, CJ and I hit up McMenamin’s East 19t St Cafe, one of our most favorite joints from our campus days.  We used to live dangerously close to this place… like two blocks close.  I can’t guess how many times tater tots were ordered after midnight and ciders were drank on sunny afternoons (why is the past tense of drink soooo weird? I’ve googled it about ten times and still can’t figure out if “drank” is correct.   Apologies to my past English teachers).  Anyways, we had plans to munch a few baskets of happy hour cajun tots when we ventured back down there last week, but then I saw the specials menu.  Two words: Bollywood Fries.  I die! CJ wasn’t too thrilled with the thought of curry-spiced fries and mango mayo, but let’s be honest; his food insecurities have never stopped me from ordering in the past, and they weren’t going to stop me that Saturday night.  I don’t trust people who don’t like sweet and savory foods together (at least not when it comes to deciding what to order).

When the fries arrived, I instantly dipped a finger into the mango mayo (seriously… MANGO MAYO!), closed me eyes, and let that  deliciously sweet sauce take me on quite the tasty ride.  It was heavenly, with or without french fries (but duh, the fries made it better).  CJ was skeptical, but after just one dip he was sold.  We gobbled down those curry fries way too quickly, burning our mouths along the way, and before we knew it the mango sauce was gone.  It’s possible that we spent the next 5 minutes blaming each other for using too much mayo per fry dip.

We ended up ordering tots with out shared meal (they have the best reuben sandwich ever), and though the tots were good we couldn’t stop thinking about how much better they would have been dipped in the mango mayo.  And then the next night we thought about the mayo, and then the next night too.  And the night after that and the night after that.  Basically, it hasn’t left my train of thought in a week.

So, I made some.  It’s about time I got things done again instead of day dreaming about mango mayo all day (btw, I used to HATE mayo.  I’m still a bit shocked that I now, apparently, am obsessed with it). My plan sort of worked.  I did get some things done…. like raiding my fridge and cabinets for every food that might taste good dipped in mango mayo.  Oh, and I ate a lot of sweet potatoes.  It was an exhausting afternoon.

Curry-Spiced Sweet Potatoes w/ Mango Mayo - Girl Meets Paleo

Curry-Spiced Sweet Potatoes w/ Mango Mayo - Girl Meets Paleo

Curry-Spiced Sweet Potatoes w/ Mango Mayo - Girl Meets Paleo

Curry-Spiced Sweet Potatoes w/ Mango Mayo - Girl Meets Paleo

Curry-Spiced Sweet Potatoes w/ Mango Mayo - Girl Meets Paleo

Curry-Spiced Sweet Potatoes w/ Mango Mayo - Girl Meets Paleo

Curry-Spiced Sweet Potatoes w/ Mango Mayo

2 large sweet potatoes (aka garnet yams)

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1 tsp curry powder

salt and pepper

½ cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)

1 ripe mango

½ tsp fresh grated ginger

1-2 tsp honey, depending on the sweetness of your mango

cilantro for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut off the ends.  Cut them into even sized match sticks. In a large bowl, toss the cut sweet potatoes with the melted oil, curry powder, and a sprinkle of salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Place the potatoes on the sheet trays, evenly spaced and not overlapping each other.  Bake in the oven about 30 minutes, flipping the fries half way through.  Depending on your oven, it may take more or less time.  When the fries are golden and cooked all the way through they are done!

While the potatoes cook, peel and dice up the mango.  Place the mango, mayo, ginger, and 1 tsp honey in a blender and blend until smooth.  Taste, and add more honey as needed.

When the potatoes and mayo are done, serve together!

short rib pot pie (grain free)

Anyone else out there a magazine freak?

Grain Free Short Rib Pot Pie- Girl Meets Paleo

Grain Free Short Rib Pot Pie at Girl Meets Paleo

I totally am.  Ever since high school (aka when I had no bills to pay and therefore had an abundance of cash) I have been hooked on the newsstand… newsstand may not be the right word, gossip rack is probably more accurate.  Anyways, since then, and since my bills have grown ten fold (is that a lot? I’m trying to say a lot, a lot) I’ve managed to stay away from the gossip and fashion mags.  That is not to say I have stayed away from magazines.  I LOVE FOOD MAGAZINES.  I live for the day Bon Appetit shows up in the mail, I impatiently await the arrival of Cooking Light, and I get giddy when my momma brings down her old copies of Food & Wine for me to have.

Grain Free Short Rib Pot Pie at Girl Meets Paleo

Grain Free Short Rib Pot Pie- Girl Meets Paleo

Reading about different food topics is nice, and the endless amount of recipe inspiration is wonderful, but really what I love and anticipate more than anything is looking at all the food pictures.  Weird? Maybe, but I just can’t help appreciating a gorgeous photo of some tasty food.  I find myself more and more interested in food photography and food styling. It can truly be so beautiful. Also, drool inducing.

Grain Free Short Rib Pot Pies at Girl Meets Paleo

Last month’s issue of Bon Appetit featured a delicious looking short rib pot pie.  While the title sounds good, the photos threw it over the edge and suddenly, right there and then (10am at my work desk) I HAD to have short rib pot pie.  Obviously, that didn’t happen, but it did happen today. And thank the heavens it did.  This was incredibly rich and comforting and tasty and perfect and… I just love it.  I made some modifications to make it grain free (and because I can’t seem to make a recipe exactly as is). This is tasty and warm and I really think you should make it.

Grain Free Short Rib Pot Pie- Girl Meets Paleo

Short Rib Pot Pie (Grain Free)

adapted from Bon Appetit

½ cup blanched finely ground almond flour

1 cup arrowroot powder, plus more for dusting

2 tbsp coconut flour

½ cup shortening or butter, chilled and diced

2 tbsp very cold water

½ tsp salt

3 lbs boneless short ribs, cut into 2″ pieces

4 carrots, diced

10 oz bag frozen pearl onions

2 tbsp ghee (or cooking oil of choice)

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 cups dry red wine

2 cups beef stock

2 sprigs rosemary

6 sprigs thyme

2 tbsp arrowroot

salt and pepper

1 egg

Crust

Add all the ingredients, except the water, to a food processor and pulse until the butter resembles pebbles. One tbsp at a time, add the water and pulse to combine.  This dough won’t be like a traditional dough.  It will be sticky and not necessarily clump into a ball.  Scrape the dough into a pile on some plastic wrap.  Form into a disc and wrap securely in the plastic wrap.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Filling 

Heat the ghee in a large dutch oven over medium high heat.  Season the meat with salt and pepper.  Working in batches, cook the meat about 2 minutes on each side until evenly browned. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the browned meat and set aside, and repeat until all the meat is browned.  In the same pot, add the pearl onions and carrots and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook about 8 minutes, until the vegetables are nicely browned and slightly softened.  Set aside.

Reduce heat to medium, and the garlic to the pot, and cook about two minutes. Stir to prevent the garlic form burning.  Add the tomato paste, stir, and cook an additional 5 minutes.  If you feel the pot is too dry, add another tbsp or so of ghee.  Add the red wine, rosemary, and thyme (I like to tie the sprigs together with kitchen twine, but this is optional), making sure to scrape up the brown bits.  Bring to a boil and cook about 8 minutes, or until the mixture is reduced by half.  Add the beef stock and 4 cups of water, and bring the whole thing to a boil.  Add the meat back into the pan, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, about 2 ½- 3 hours, until the meat is fall apart tender.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat and herb sprigs from the reduced liquid and set aside.  Whisk in the arrowroot powder and continue simmering for about 5 minutes.  Add the meat, onions, and carrots back into the pan, stirring to combine. Season mixture with salt and pepper.

Assembly

Preheat oven to 375.  Transfer filling to four individual baking dishes.

Divide dough into four pieces.  One at a time, roll out each piece between two pieces of parchment paper, using extra arrowroot powder for dusting.  Each piece should be about ⅛ inch thick, or enough to cover the small baking dishes. Carefully, transfer dough to cover each dish, tucking under the overhanging dough. Cut a small “X” into the top of each pot pie. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with a splash of water. Brush the egg wash onto each pot pie.

Place the pies on a sheet tray and bake 45 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from oven, let cool a bit, and enjoy!!

Grain Free Short Rib Pot Pie- Girl Meets Paleo

roasted jalapeño spaghetti squash cakes (grain free)

Let me tell you a little about the weather right now.

roasted jalapeño spaghetti squash cakes @ Girl Meets Paleo

It sucks. Sure, it’s pretty and sure, it hardly ever snows real snow in Oregon, but I can’t stand it.  It’s really snowing, really reallllllllly snowing.  Like, there are inches of snow outside, I can’t see where the sidewalks end and where the streets start, and I think my car is out there still, but I really can’t be sure because all I see is a giant white blob of snow.  It hasn’t stopped coming down for hours and hours and I feel like it’s getting heavier and heavier sitting round in my house all day.  So I made spaghetti squash cakes because latkes sounded amazing and comforting, but I don’t have potatoes laying around.   *Note to self: next time a snow storm is on its way buy lots and lots of potatoes.  and wine.

roasted jalapeño spaghetti squash cakes @ Girl Meets Paleo

So, these cakes are crispy and crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside.  I’m not sure if that’s how they are supposed to be, but I love them and couldn’t stop eating them so I think that’s a good sign.  Also, I’m big on roasting peppers lately.  Can’t stop.  My fingers are sort of always burning because I’m too lazy to wear gloves, but it’s totally worth it.

roasted jalapeño spaghetti squash cakes @ Girl Meets Paleo

Roasted Jalapeño Spaghetti Squash Cakes

1 good sized spaghetti squash

1 tbsp salt

2 jalapeños

1 egg

½ cup potato flour

1 tsp garlic powder

½ cup fat of choice, plus more as needed (duck fat, ghee, palm shortening, or avocado oil if you don’t mind heating it)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Carefully, cut the squash in half and place it cut side town on a sheet tray lined with foil.  Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until the squash is tender to the touch.  Remove from oven, flip the halves over onto a plate, and let cool.  Keep the oven on for the peppers.  Place the two jalapeños on the sheet tray and roast for about 20-25 minutes, flipping half way through, until the peppers are blackened.  Remove from oven and let cool.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape out the insides with a fork and place into a large fine mesh strainer.  You want about 6 cups of squash, so if you have extra save it for another use. Sprinkle the salt over the squash, mix with your hands, and let sit over a bowl or in the sink for about an hour.  This will allow a lot of the water to drain.

In the meantime, cut the pepper tops off, cut in half, and remove ribs and seeds.  If you want the cakes to be spicy you can leave the seeds in.  Finely mince the roasted peppers.

After about an hour, cut out a large piece of cheese cloth and fold it in half.  Pour the squash onto the cloth, gather the corners, and twist so that liquid starts to gush out.  Really squeeze and twist so that a ton of liquid comes out.  I got almost two cups of water out (this process with reduce the the squash’s volume).  Dump the drained squash into a large bowl (it will end up being about 2 cups), add the whisked egg, chopped jalapeños, garlic powder, and potato flour.  Mix until everything is combined.  This squash mixture will be thick and a bit sticky.

In a cast iron skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Scoop the mixture into balls (I like to use an ice cream scoop, but a ¼ cup measure would work too) and slightly flatten on a flat surface.  You don’t want these cakes too flat! Once the oil is hot enough (you can test this by dropping a small piece of squash into the pan.  It should sizzle), place 3 or 4 cakes into the oil, being careful not to crowd them.  Fry for about 2-3 minutes until they are browned, flip, and cook another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and let drain on a paper towel or on a cooling rack.  Repeat until all the cakes have been cooked, adding more oil as needed.

Eat up!!!

roasted jalapeño spaghetti squash cakes @ Girl Meets Paleo

cravings

A little bit of advice for ya:  don’t ever (ever ever) start a whole30 right before Valentine’s day.  The sweets! Pink sugar coated everything has taken over the web, every other instagram post is a new cookie or brownie recipe, and don’t even get me started on the chocolate.  EVERYTHING IS CHOCOLATE.  I love chocolate. Needless to say I’m a little bitter about all the desserts out there right now.  I’ll be enjoying a valentine’s treat of fresh pineapple.  Oh, joy.

If you’re on the whole30 too (Meg, I’m talking to you) then perhaps some of these very not sweet things will distract you from those intense chocolate cravings that nag at you all day and all night and no matter how much fat or pineapple you eat they just won’t go away so you start to get grumpy and cranky around the ones you love most.  No? Just me then.  Saawwweeeeet.

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Basically, everything in Target right now. Most of the stuff above is from their dollar section.  I should not be allowed to take my wallet into that store.

This desk!! I have been drooling over white desks for a few months now and finally settled on ordering this one. Now, let the chair hunt begin…

Also for the home, I am determined to make this DIY headboard.  LOVE!

OHMYGOD. Warm Brussels Caesar Salad.  Two of my favorites in one. Can I be Jessica’s bff pleaaaase?

Is this even real? Roasted Jalapeño-Lime Tilapia w/ Cilantro-Manchego-Pepita-Pesto Zucchini Pasta.  Pinch me.

This candle smells like lemon and tea and everything London.  I think that’s what they were going for? It makes me want to go back so badly, and then it makes me realize I won’t have the money for that anytime, ohhh, in the next 30 years.  I still love the candle though.

Picfx

Reading!! Sometimes I read a lot and sometimes I read not too much.  And then I remember how much I really do love it and I start again.  Currently, I’m reading this devotional each night, but since that only takes a few minutes I’m also reading The Cuckoo’s Calling.  (I’m also OBSESSED with the notebook in this picture.  Again, I shouldn’t be allowed to take money into Target because I will leave with 93885 notebooks).

What should I read next?!

tequila braised short ribs

Tequila and I have a love-hate relationship

tequila braised short ribs @ Girl Meets Paleo

Pretty much, I hate that I really love it, which is actually funny because I used to hate it.  Like, realllllly hate it (thanks worst hangover of my life).  I don’t know when I started to like it again, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with taco and margarita night at a local joint down the street from my college apartment.

Speaking of tacos… they sounds incredible right about now.  I reallllly, REEEAALLLLLLLY love tacos.  Any and all tacos.  I’m not biased when it comes to tacos. Or margaritas for that matter.

tequila braised short ribs @ Girl Meets Paleo

Whatever the reason, I am super glad that tequila came back into my life.  Many quality girl’s nights have been fueled by tequila (and chips and gossip). I started getting the feeling that CJ was feeling left out of all the fun… by fun I strictly mean tequila.  How can the man not love corn chips and gossip?! It’s almost like we have nothing in common. He does love food though, so I thought that cooking his favorite thing in the boozy stuff would do the trick.  I was right, he had a blast eating this up. And I had a blast licking the pan (kidding… sort of).

tequila braised short ribs @ Girl Meets Paleo

Tequila Braised Short Ribs

3-4 lbs short ribs

½ tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp ghee or coconut oil

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 jalapeños, sliced in half

1 cup + 2 tbsp white tequila, separated

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 cup beef stock (or chicken or pork)

½ tbsp chipotle powder

1 tbsp cumin

2 dates, pits removed

juice of ½ lime

cilantro for garnish

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 325. In a large dutch oven, heat half of the cooking fat over medium high heat.  Rub a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and chili powder all over the short ribs.  In batches,  brown the short ribs on all sides and then set aside.  Add more fat as needed to brown all of the meat.

To the pan, add the chopped onion and cook until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, chipotle powder, and cumin to the pan, stir, and cook just about 1 minute.  Carefully, pour the tequila in and stir to deglaze the bottom of the pot.  Next, stir in the tomato sauce and stock.  Gently wiggle the short ribs back into the pot, along with the jalapeños and dates.  Remove from heat, cover, and transfer to the preheated oven.  Cook for about 3 hours, until the meat is very tender and falls off the bone.  Once done, remove from oven and remove the lid so that the meat can begin to cool.

Carefully, transfer the meat to another dish.  With a slotted spoon scoop out the onion, jalapeños, and any loose bones and discard.  Do your best to skim off as much fat form the remaining liquid as you can.  Pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a pot.  Bring the liquid to a simmer, pour an additional 2 tbsp into the sauce, stir, and let simmer until it’s thickened a bit.

Meanwhile, remove any bones from the meat, along with any excess fat or silver skin.  I prefer to shred the meat so that it can really get covered in the sauce.  Once the sauce has thickened to your liking, serve atop the meat.

Tell me! What’s your favorite way to enjoy tequila? Like I need anymore ideas…