Sunday Snaps, 10-12-2014

Sunday again? I can’t believe it- the weeks seems to go so fast, especially these past few. I not only had one whole week off from work during the first week of October, but I also went to go visit my friend Dani and her fiancé in Vegas. I originally decided that I was just going to take this fall break and chillax at home with the 6 books I am currently reading, but then the temptation of $15 cocktails and hungover Tuesday mornings got the best of me. Just kidding! I really went to go see Dani, who is not only in the midst of wedding planning, but has her own blog, Care to Pair, which she is slowly, but diligently, building up.

Dani and I made a dinner one night, where she taught me all about the basics of pairing. I’ll be posting about it…eventually. I would like to say soon, but seeing as I’m behind on fall recipe posting, and have 15 recipes with pictures but no accompanying blog posts….I’ll get to this one eventually. In the meantime, here’s a picture of our meal:

In addition to doing all the typical Vegas touristy things, Dani and I went to Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and Red Rock. Ahhh-mazing. I am in constant awe of things like dams, bridges, and really really tall skyscrapers; its truly amazing what we as people are able to build.


This fall display at the Bellagio was amazing. 

This fall display at the Bellagio was amazing. 


NYNY

NYNY


Succulents on a car? Count me in. 

Succulents on a car? Count me in. 


Always in love with the Venetian. 

Always in love with the Venetian. 

Oh, and red rock? I can’t believe I have never heard of it before. Not only was it gorgeous, but it sufficiently inspired me to sing the Flinstones theme song in my head for most of our time there. I highly suggest checking it out if you’re in the Las Vegas area. #nerdalert

To my surprise, Vegas was much drier than southern New Mexico. Now that I’ve been here a few months, I am starting to see the nuances between different desert climates, and I can even notice tiny changes in humidity. So could my skin, which is why the face oil from Fat Face Skincare was a lifesaver.

Obsessed. In other news, I never though I would be the girl putting beef-tallow on her face to stop breakouts and help with moisturizing. Weeeiiir-dooo.

As colder weather is starting to seep in, I’ve fallen back in love with stock making, soups, really hot coffee, and fancy warm drinks. My new favorite? S’more’s lattes. Definitely not paleo, by any mean, but there’s a place, Becks, not too far from my house that uses a crème brulee torch over a homemade (whaaat?) marshmallow to give the latte a really rustic, campfire feel and taste. Its incredible. I want one right now. Except its 10pm as I’m writing this and I would be up all night.

Since posting these Sweet n’ Spicy Bacon Wrapped Dates, I’ve made them 3 times. We just can’t keep them in the house because they’re so good. I tried them with turkey bacon once as well, and they just weren’t good- so don’t do that. Stick to the real deal, folks. I’ll likely be making another two batches this week.

Some other updates? I dyed my hair, the first ever time in my life. I decided that after 26 years, it was time for a change. I ended up deciding on a reverse ombre, which I am so incredibly happy with. My stylist, Vanessa, is the best, and I even got to partake in a hair-modeling photo shoot with her a few days later. (Complete with a set, cameras, lights, and 3 hours worth of hair and makeup.) Hopefully I’ll be able to share some the professional pictures with you later. Until then, here are some fabulous hair selfies:

I’ve been so happy to see more and more primal and paleo friendly products hitting the shelves at local grocery stores. Of course, they will never replace fresh vegetables and high quality fats, but a little bit of a break in constantly preparing fresh meals is undeniably awesome. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed a post or two about these paleo cookies from Honey & Soul. They’re incredible, and no, I am not getting paid to say these things. I highly suggest checking them out. Also, make sure to subscribe South of Vanilla via email to stay updated because I’ll be giving a way a box of these goodies next week. <3 Don’t miss it!



DSC_0157.JPG

 

Happy Sunday, and have a great rest of the week!




I guess I missed the memo...

Ok, so its October. I know this because despite my 24/7 access to virtual calendars on my iBook, my work computer, my ipad AND my iPhone (Whhhyyyyy?) I woke up on October 1st with a flood of emails to my inbox bombarding me with recipes for pumpkin flavored everything. EVERYTHING. Not only the typical pumpkin bread and pumpkin cupcakes, but pumpkin pasta, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin waffles. Pump. Kin. Everything. I guess I missed the mandatory pumpkin email I was supposed to send to you guys on Octobereve. Whoops, sorry guys. I’ll work on it for next year.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of pumpkin. Pumpkin season seems to epitomize fall, just as mint chocolate and candy canes summarize the Christmas season. However, as I am in my second fall of following a primal diet, pumpkin spiced foods just don’t have the same allure as they once had. Although delicious, I’ve found that lots of the store bought bases for pumpkin spice either have a lot of added sugars, or, in the liquid form, high fructose corn syrup. Thanks, but no thanks, pumpkin season.

For all of my fellow pumpkin-loving fans, I’ve decided to post the basics of any pumpkin recipe: pumpkin spice. In stores this is usually called “pumpkin pie spice”, but you can easily make it on your own for a fraction of the cost and an unbelievably higher quality.

It is my opinion that, just like buying shoes, the quality of spices is paramount to the integrity and overall product of the dish. (You know how those $400 Frye boots makes your $20 jeans look more expensive and tailored? The same concept applies here.) Just like there is a huge difference between the taste of fresh garlic and garlic powder, the difference between high quality spices and low quality spices has a vast difference in your meal, not to mention a lower probability that your dried spices contain things like mold and insect parts. Seriously.

There are a lot of really great spice stores out there, but one of my favorites, from as far back as the late 90s when I was learning how to cook in the kitchen with my dad, is The Spice House in Old Town, Chicago. Not in the Chicago area? No worries, they ship from their website. 

Another one of my favorites is the Spice and Tea Exchange in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Not only are the spices fantastic smelling, but their teas are excellent, and after you buy something from them, you can head straight to a walk on the beach. It’s a win-win.

Of course, high quality everything is the best for making this pumpkin spice blend, but if you had to choose, its best to go with high quality cinnamon and allspice. Cinnamon because it is the bulk of this blend, and allspice because it has a lot of dynamic flavors; I think these flavors of this ground berry that are lost within the cheaper varieties of the spice. (Bet you didn’t know that allspice was a berry, huh?) Anyway, once you have all your fabulous spices, this pumpkin spice blend is easy to put together. It will take under 5 minutes, will last a good while, and takes any plain pumpkin dish to a pumpkin spiced dish. You. Are. Welcome.


Primal-Friendly Pumpkin Spice Blend

  •  2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp. ground ginger
  • ¾ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¾ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¾ tsp. ground allspice
  1. Combine all spices into a glass container or old, clean spice jar and shake. Spices should be well mixed.
  2. Store in in a cool, dry, place.


Bet you didn't know this paleo dessert existed

Remember how I said last week that it didn’t feel at all like fall yet since the temperature wasn’t dropping? Well, just after that, the highs of 101 dropped to 85, then to 80. Just like that. But then, the highs crept right back up to 100 and 101. Essentially, still no fall boots for me.

In the short of it, I realize that most people are begrudgingly transitioning into fall (P.S. I talked to Emily- she’s already wearing her fall boots), but here in the southwest, I am enjoying an extended summer.  So much so, that the other day, Christopher and I bought a whole watermelon because it was on super sale; the end of summer is the season for extra large melons. (Heh, heh, heh…) Someone once told me that the best way to choose a melon is to knock on it, like you’re knocking on someone’s front door, and listen for a hollow sound. If its hollow that means the fruit is ripe. Well, without Google verifying this, Christopher and I dug headfirst into the watermelon box, knocking all the melons. Every. Single. One.  We spent probably 20 minutes in this box of Watermelons, and it almost reminded me of one of those ball pits in Chuckie Cheese, but with far more bruising at the end. After deadlifting 30-pound fruit for 20 minutes, we really decided that we needed to get back into Crossfit or some sort of weight-lifting regimen. In the end, we got the hollow-est sounding watermelon of the bunch.

So there we were, now at home with a gigantic watermelon. Here’s the kicker: I don’t even like watermelon that much. (Or melons in general, really.) In college, the cafeteria filled their fruit quota as much as possible from honeydew and cantaloupe. (I’m guessing because it’s the cheapest to buy in bulk.) I ate so many melons those years, that I haven’t enjoyed them much since. Another fun fact? Cantaloupe is called Muskmelon in Iowa and the Dakotas. Muskmelon! What a funny word.

In short, I set out experimenting with watermelon to figure out a way to enjoy the fruit since I was now in possession of approximately 30 pounds of it.  I eventually decided to try creating a reduction with both blueberries and balsamic as a watermelon topping, since balsamic reductions really bring out wonderful flavors in fruit, and blueberries are also in their peak at the end of summer. I had made both berry reductions and balsamic reductions independently before, so this time, I mapped out what I thought would be a good combination of the two. The end result was a blueberry-lime balsamic reduction that pairs exceptionally well with watermelon: the tartness of blueberries balances out the sweetness of ripe watermelon, and the lime adds a little zest. Everything ties together nicely. The balsamic reduction can be used as a dip for watermelon, but my favorite way to enjoy it was as a drizzle over a watermelon round, cut into eighths to resemble a “fruit pizza”.

When making the reduction, it is important to note that the concoction needs to be watched closely and stirred frequently, as it can stick and burn easily. If you doubt your ability to correctly make a reduction, do not fret! You can take the process slower by simmering on a lower heat to ensure that there is a lesser risk for burning. Just know this this significantly increases the time to complete the task.


Paleo Blueberry-Lime Balsamic Reduction

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or can be frozen for later use

  • 2 cups of fresh blueberries, washed with stems removed
  • 1 cup balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1/3 cup raw honey*
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lime
  1. In a saucepan, melt honey on low heat, and be careful not to burn.
  2. Add balsamic and blueberries, increase to medium heat to bring mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low, add limejuice and vanilla, and then stir.
  4. Let reduce on medium low heat for approximately 30 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning or scalding. Reduction will be done when mixture is syrupy and has reduced in volume by about half.
  5. Let cool completely before handling.

*This reduction is tart, so if you prefer something sweeter, up the honey to ½ cup, or potentially even ¾ cup. (Although ¾ of a cup might be very sweet. I haven’t tried this yet, so if you do, let me know how it turns out.)


Paleo Fruit Pizza

Serves 2-5 (Varies greatly on your watermelon size)

  • ¼ cup Paleo Blueberry-Lime Balsamic Reduction
  • 1 round of watermelon, about 12 inches across
  • Berries, lime quarters, or lime peels for garnish (optional)
  1. Create a round of watermelon by cutting your watermelon first in half through the center, then cutting another piece from the half about 3 inches thick. Cutting a round directly from the center ensures the biggest diameter, however, you may choose to cut from the end to serve a smaller pizza. Note that if you slice a round with a smaller diameter, do not use as much of the reduction. If you don’t adjust this, your pizza will be much too tart.
  2. Place the watermelon round (Should just be one big watermelon circle) on your serving platter, tray, or board. Drizzle the blueberry balsamic reduction over the watermelon. For better presentation, you may choose to drizzle some reduction on your serving piece. (See below.)
  3. Using a pizza cutter, slice watermelon into pieces, like you would do to a pizza. You of course can do quarters or sixths, but I prefer eighths.
  4. Garnish with berries, lime peels, or lime quarters. (Optional)




Oops, I ate too much bad food….

Hello, my name is Kristina, and I am addicted to bone marrow.

Eww, that sounds gross when I saw it like that. A year ago, if someone would have told me that I would intentionally be seeking out bones to dig out the marrow, I would have called them crazy, and knowing myself and my OCD-like organizational skills, I would have set up a future Google alert to ensure that I reminded myself to check into the crazy house for some rehab. Now, I truly think that if there can be a spiritual connection to food, bone marrow has got to be on the top of that list. (See, I’m not crazy at all….  :/ )

But seriously, bone marrow is so good. The Paleo/primal movement advocates consuming things like organ meats and bone marrow because these animal items are packed with nutrients. I haven’t quite gotten the handle on animal organs yet, but I am a true bone marrow convert. I might sound a little odd in saying this, but whenever I eat some straight marrow, I feel a little tingle- almost like my body is humming from the inside out. I compare it to how I feel after I eat some intensely dark chocolate, oysters, or get a really good neck massage. If I eat enough of it, it almost feels like a slight runner’s high. This feeling is so hard to put into words, but I promise within 10 minutes of eating bone marrow, you will feel amazing.

I first sought bone marrow after reading up on all the insanely crazy health claims that follow marrow. Bone marrow is so packed with vitamins and healthy fats that it fuels your body to fight infection. (After all, white blood cells are made from the stuff inside your bones- there’s a reason why homemade chicken noodle soup is supposed to cure illness.) Whenever I feel a twinge of a cold coming on, I have some bone marrow, and I am right back to normal within a day. I have only been sick once since starting Paleo, and I attribute it to the food and lifestyle changes that came along with this choice. The one time I did become sick in the past year, I had strep throat and a sinus infection. I was so sick, and I wasn’t getting better after being on heavy antibiotics for 3 days. While still on meds, my fever had come back, and knew that I was on the cusp of having to go back to the doctor to get even more antibiotics. My boyfriend had the brilliant idea to try eating some bone marrow. We ate it straight, then bought marrowbones to make broth for soup. Within 6 hours, my fever was gone, within 24 I was able to leave my apartment, and in 36 I was back at work. Bone Marrow: the primal miracle.

Bone Marrow now is starting to make a comeback- in restaurants they charge a ridiculous amount for a few bites, and its considered an exquisite menu item. I had a friend visit D.C. last month, who incidentally loves bone marrow too, and I taught her how to make it. She didn’t realize how easy it was, and it was a perfect weekend preparation. You see, Dani had come to visit D.C., but we impulsively decided to go visit Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware. Dani has a pretty cool job in the wine/beverage industry, so when we were both invited to go take a VIP brewery tour, we jumped on it:

dfht.jpg
dfh9.jpg
dfh2.jpg


dfh4.jpg
dfh7.jpg

Since we were also so close to the coast, we decided to go visit the Atlantic, which was not the best idea in the middle of a cold spell:

beach1.jpg


Needless to say, we were feeling the effects of *sampling* every brew on tap (Beer is definitely not Paleo, for so many reasons), so we decided to stop at Union Market in D.C. on our way back to pick up some bones from my favorite butcher, Harvey’s. This little shop in Union Market is awesome: it has everything from beef tongue to oxtail to the best thick cut, uncured, hickory smoked bacon a girl could ever ask for. All his meat is from grass-fed, antibiotic free, all-natural cows, and everything is so reasonably priced. (His current marrow bone prices are $2.99/lb.…..$5/lb. cheaper than the nearest butcher!) He also has no problem cutting the bones lengthwise for me- whenever I’m there he always tells me that he identifies the people who just eat the bone marrow straight because of how they ask the bones to be sliced. Super nice guy- I can’t rave enough about that place (and Union Market), the quality of the products, or the kindness of the employees:


I could go on and on about bone marrow, but to make a long story short, Dani and I felt back to our normal selves that night, and she vowed to take this recipe home to impress her boyfriend. (And there are only 5 easy steps!) Hope you all love it!


Bone Marrow

Serves 2

bm13.jpg


  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. group tricolor peppercorns
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 lb. high quality beef marrow bones, sliced lengthwise so marrow is exposed
  • 1 tsp. chopped basil
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Mix all ingredients well in small bowl. Make sure fresh parsley and basil are covered thoroughly with oil-herb mixture. 
  3. Pour evenly over marrowbones, place bones on foil in baking dish. 
  4. Bake in oven at 400 F for 25 minutes
  5. Eat your heart out
bm6.jpg
bm8.jpg