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Monday, January 30, 2012

Super Rosemary Citrus Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

It's almost Super Bowl time again. The Super Bowl means many things to me:

1) Gathering with some of my close friends at my sister's house. These gatherings have changed quite a bit over the past few years with the addition of my two nephews. They provide the majority of our entertainment now, as opposed to actually watching the game. Less beer, more toddlers.

2) Wishing I still had cable so I could watch The Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet.

3) Lots of yummy food! We all bring a dish or two over to my sister's for the party. This will be our first Paleo Super Bowl so I spent some time this week thinking of what we could bring that would fit into our diet and also please our non-Paleo friends. 

I landed on these twice baked sweet potatoes. They are delicious, healthy and not too far off from some of the traditional Super Bowl party foods (potato skins, etc). I think they will be a hit!

Rosemary Citrus Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
Serves 6-12 (depends on how hungry everyone is)!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

-6 medium sweet potatoes
-2 tbsp ghee, grass fed butter or coconut oil (room temperature)
-1/2 cup coconut milk
-Zest of 1 orange
-1/4 cup orange juice
-2 tbsp fresh or dried rosemary
-1/2 tsp thyme
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper

-Preheat oven to 375 F.
-Wash and pat dry sweet potatoes.
-Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and bake until soft, about 1 hour.
-Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle.
-Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides into a large mixing bowl. Place the skins back on the baking sheet.
-Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl with the sweet potatoes and mix well with a fork.
-Add an equal amount of the filling back to each of the sweet potato skins. If you are feeling really fancy, you can use a piping bag (or the poor man's piping bag, a freezer ziploc bag with a hole cut in the bottom corner).
-Bake for 10 minutes. Place the oven on a low broil and continue cooking until a nice, brown crust forms on the sweet potatoes (2-3 minutes).
-Remove from the oven and serve warm. Touchdown! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup with Swirly Basil Oil

I promised another soup recipe for National Soup Month so, as a girl who tries to deliver on my promises, here it is. This soup is so thick and chunky, almost like a sauce. And topped with the basil oil...irresistible. Seriously, how could you be looking at this picture right now and not thinking "I need to make this immediately"?

Soups are fun to experiment with because you can try any combination of vegetables and it will most likely be tasty and it will definitely be healthy. I am partial to this roasted red pepper and sun dried tomato combination, though, and I highly suggest you try it!

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup with Swirly Basil Oil
Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes


-2 tbsp olive oil
-1 large white onion, diced
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 12oz jar roasted red peppers
-8 oz sun dried tomatoes, drained (if packed in oil)
-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
-1 tsp dried thyme
-1 tsp dried oregano

For the oil - 
-1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
-1/2 cup olive oil
-1 clove garlic
-Dash of pepper


-Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
-Saute onion until soft and translucent, 3-4 minutes.
-Add the minced garlic and saute for an additional 1 minute.
-Add tomatoes, peppers, spices and stock to the pot.
-Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-While soup is simmering, add basil, 1 garlic clove, and pepper to a food processor. Add 1/2 cup of olive oil slowly and mix until smooth. Set aside.
-Transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth.
-Divide soup evenly into serving bowls.
-Drizzle basil oil over top of soup (you will probably have extra oil. This oil can be used on meat, soup, eggs, etc).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Paleo Taco Soup

Meet our cast of characters

Did you know January is National Soup Month? Neither did I until recently, but I think soup deserves to be celebrated. Soup warms us up during those cold winter months and most soups are relatively easy to prepare. In order to help you celebrate National Soup Month with all of the pomp and circumstance it deserves, I am going to post a couple of my favorite soup recipes this week.

The first is a Paleo version of Taco Soup. This is literally the easiest soup I have ever made. Just chop up some veggies, brown the ground beef, throw it all into the crock pot with some spices and the heat of that little magic cooking machine does the rest for you.

Most of my recipes are super flexible to accommodate what you have available in your kitchen. In this recipe, for example, you can use any type of salsa you have on hand (or, even better, homemade) or incorporate different vegetables into the soup. This is already chock full of veggies, but you could add some celery, jalapeno peppers, or even some olives into the mix.

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Taco Soup
Serves: 4-6

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6-8 hours

-1 lb ground beef
-1 red onion, chopped
-4 garlic cloves, minced
-1 tbsp. chili powder
-1/4 tsp. each of garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and dried oregano
-1/2 tsp. paprika
-1 tsp. ground cumin
-dash of salt and pepper
-4 cups chicken stock
-1 4oz can of fire roasted green chiles
-4 medium tomatoes, diced
-1 cup salsa

-Heat a large pan over medium heat
-When pan is hot, add the ground beef and brown
-Using a colander, drain the fat from the meat and add it to the crock pot
-Place all other ingredients into the crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours
-Garnish soup with chopped fresh cilantro or sliced avocado

Sunday, January 22, 2012

TEDx Comes to Louisville - Part 3

The last speaker of the day (for us anyway) was Dr. Urvashi Rangan. She leads and directs the Consumer Safety and Sustainbility Group for Consumer Reports. She helped clear up the VERY confusing topic of food labels. Most food labels are just marketing gobbledygook, and that is not a word I throw around lightly. Seriously, though, there is a lot of misinformation out there about food labeling. I am going to break down for you what I took away from Dr. Rangan's presentation.

* Natural - The "Natural" label is in no way regulated. It can mean whatever the company selling the product wants it to mean. And, unfortunately, it is often confused with or mistaken for the "Organic" label, which, while not perfect, is regulated. To be considered "Organic", products do have to meet certain standards.

* Fresh - This is another label that really doesn't mean anything. It is just used to make you think that what you are purchasing is somehow better for you than the other items on the shelf without the "Fresh" label.

* Free-Range - This is one that surprised me. I thought "Free-Range" meant the animals were ranging. Freely. Roaming through the fields, chatting with their friends. Turns out, not so much. "Free Range" only means that the animals have the option to go outside

* Grass Fed - This is one you can trust. To use the American Grassfed Association's seal of approval, the animals must be fed a lifetime diet of 100% forage, pasture raised and never treated with hormones or antibiotics.

Labels that SHOULD be required, but aren't...

* Genetically Engineered - Sadly, many of our foods contain genetically modified ingredients. These foods are not required to tell you that they contain these ingredients. Nor do you have to be made aware that any fruits or vegetables that you purchase have been genetically modified. Other countries have adopted mandatory labeling for GMO's and hopefully we will follow suit.

* Mad Cow Tested - This is another one that might be comforting to know, but the USDA won't allow it. Creekstone Farms in Kansas performed Mad Cow testing on their animals, but the USDA had the court block their testing. The reason they wanted to begin this testing in the first place is because Japan and other overseas countries would no longer accept beef from the U.S. for fear of it being tainted by Mad Cow. Instead of being granted the right to provide this potentially life-saving information to the public, the USDA (in my opinion) was influenced by the big, powerful cattle industry to stop this testing. Knowing that the meat you feed your family is safe could cause it to go up a few cents per pound because of the costs of testing and I think the cattle industry didn't want that to happen.

* Carbon Monoxide Added - Did you know that some case-ready ground meat is treated with carbon monoxide to help it retain its red color? I didn't. I also didn't know that even when the meat begins to spoil, the carbon monoxide allows it to stay red, which does not allow YOU to know that the meat has gone bad.

* No Nitrates/Nitrites - This was another that surprised me. And it is a bit confusing. We only buy bacon that is labeled as "Uncured" and "Nitrate Free". Turns out that what we buy is cured using only natural ingredients, but they are required by law to label their products as "Uncured" and "Nitrate Free". Confusing enough for you? I still feel better knowing only natural ingredients were used, but it is misleading.

I think the biggest thing to take from all of this is to be informed, ask questions, and fight for what you believe is right (whatever that is). We as consumers have the power to change the food industry, but we have to use our voices and our dollars to make our opinions heard. This year's talks haven't been posted yet, but if you want to hear more from the TEDx speakers, keep checking this link.

TEDx Comes to Louisville - Part 2

Dr. Wallinga's speech tied in closely with the second speaker of the day, Wenonah Hauter. Wenonah is the Executive Director of Food and Water Watch. She spoke more about the issue of factory farming from the farmer's point of view. I had already seen Food Inc. and felt too familiar with the subject we were covering.

Without going into too much detail, the two major poultry producers, Tyson and Pilgrim's Pride, pretty much get people to sign their lives away when they agree to work with them. Farmers sign contracts to work with the big producers. The chickens are then delivered to the farmers where they raise them in huge barns for the mere 5 weeks it takes to raise them to full maturity. An average delivery can be up to 35,000 chickens! 35,000 chickens living (and sometimes dying) on top of each other among the tons of waste they will produce during those 5 weeks. Never seeing the sunshine. No room to move. Eating antibiotic laced feed. When the chickens are mature, the producers come back to the farm and clear out all of the chickens that managed to survive.

Here is where it gets really crazy. The farmers are charged with building the barns and making any upgrades the producers deem necessary. They must also pay all utility fees incurred by their operation. If they don't comply, the producers will void their contracts. 71% of these farmers live under the poverty line. After all of the upgrades and bills, their average net annual income is $12,000 to $15,000. But they are stuck in an endless cycle with the producers.

Image via Voltphoto

How can you fight back against these atrocities? Glad you asked. There are a number of ways, really...

-When you go out, eat at restaurants that source local meats and produce

-Do some research and find farmers or farmers markets in your city that sell happy, pasture raised animals

-Many grocery stores even stock meat from local producers. You just have to get out there and find them. Don't just accept what is on display in the freezer section of the big box stores. Ask questions. Most Americans should be within a reasonable distance of farmers who are doing things in a way that is healthy for you and humane for their animals.

TEDx Comes to Louisville - Part 1

Yesterday, Mr. What I Gather and I had the pleasure of attending the local viewing party for the TEDx event, Changing the Way We Eat. Straight from the TEDx website, "TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x=independently organized TED event." I am going to break my recap up into a few posts so it isn't too overwhelming, but I apologize in advance for the long posts. This information is definitely worth sharing.

Fight for me!
(image via Gareth Weeks)
Louisville's SOLD OUT viewing party was held at the Main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library. Unfortunately, we were not able to stay for all three sessions (running and grocery shopping got in the way), but you didn't have to be there long at all to feel inspired to change the way you eat or continue to support local, ethical, responsible farmers.

Growing, cooking and eating food is so much more than just soil and shovels or pots and pans. Food is community. It is family. Most Americans are so far removed from where their food originated, we don't think about the chicken that provided those delicious, plump (usually oversized) chicken breasts for us. We don't think about where those tomatoes came from and how they are able to be produced during the frigid winter months.

We should be thinking about these things. This is not one of those cases where ignorance is bliss. This is scary stuff people and we, as consumers, have the ability to spark change in the food industry.

The first speaker we heard from via webcast was Dr. David Wallinga. He spoke about the antibiotic resistant bacteria that is lurking in most conventionally raised animals. We learned that, based on a 2009 study, 80% of all antibiotics sold in the US are used in conventionally raised farm animals and their feed. That is 29 million pounds of antibiotics, most of it totally unnecessary. The bacteria in these animals are growing more and more resistant to those antibiotics, which means if the bacteria is passed on to us, it is even tougher to get rid of (salmonella, anyone?).

The reason these practices are allowed by the FDA is because of the horrific conditions these animals are raised in. Just search for "factory farm chickens" on Google and you will see what I am talking about. Because these animals are raised in such close quarters and basically live in their own waste and among other sick or dead chickens, they are pumped full of antibiotics or given antibiotics through their feed to keep them healthy until they are slaughtered. It has been shown that the majority of conventionally raised meat has some form of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love chicken. I love beef. I love pork. But I love it a lot more knowing that it was raised humanely and without antibiotics. Mr. What I Gather and I are very lucky to have access to local, pasture raised, antibiotic free, grass fed animals through Grass Corp and Foxhollow Farm. We try to get all of our meat and eggs through these two sources, though we sometimes use other local sources, as well. And what we can't buy local, we at least try to find the most natural option possible. We know we can't always be perfect. We just do what we can. And that is something we can all do.

If you want to learn more about antibiotics in animal feed and other critical food system issues, visit Dr. Wallinga's site, Healthy Food Action. You can sign up to receive information about how you can help limit the amount of antibiotics used in food animal production and other opportunities to help change the food system in America.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Harvest Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Glazed Walnuts

I have recently developed a small obsession with brussels sprouts. I never went near them until late last year when my sister made them for our weekly family dinner night. I promised to try at least one so I ate one and then another and then another until I had cleaned my plate. Now, I buy brussels sprouts every week and Mr. What I Gather and I have experimented with some different ways to prepare them. This has been one of our favorites. This would be a great dish to take along to a holiday party. It will probably make you the most popular guest at the party. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Harvest Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Glazed Walnuts
Serves 8

-3 tbsp olive oil
-2 lbs brussels sprouts, quartered
-2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
-2 medium apples, finely chopped (we used gala, but any variety will work)
-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
-salt and pepper to taste

For the walnuts -
-1/4 cup chopped walnuts
-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
-1 tsp dried rosemary
-1 tsp dried sage
-1 tsp dried parsley

-Preheat oven to 400 F
-Add olive oil, brussels sprouts, onions, apples, vinegar, salt and pepper to a bowl and stir well
-Pour mixture into a glass baking dish
-Bake at 400 for 25 minutes
-While brussels are roasting, mix walnuts, vinegar and herbs in a small bowl
-Remove brussels from oven  and add walnuts to baking dish. Stir well
-Return to oven for an additional 15 to 20 minutes (I like some of that burnt crispiness so I usually leave them in for at least 20 minutes)
-Serve and become wildly popular with your friends and family

Friday, January 20, 2012

Chipotle Chili

I submitted this recipe to Robb Wolf's Holiday Recipe Contest in December. I didn't win, but it was a lot of fun and there were tons of good recipes. Someone even made my chili and commented on how delicious it was. That made me feel like a winner. I'm just happy to provide people with delicious, healthy recipes, but I would have liked to win that Le Creuset cast iron French oven!

I never ate chili growing up because I disliked beans. Paleo chili is made without beans so I am now a chili convert. I love any meal that can be made in the crock pot because you can throw it in there in the morning and when you walk in the door from work in the evening, your house smells delicious and your dinner is ready to eat!

Chipotle Chili
Serves 8

-2 lb ground beef
-1 lb spicy italian sausage (if you can't find ground, use the sausage links and remove the sausage from the casings before browning)
-2 tbsp chili powder
-1 tbsp ground cumin
-1 tsp ground coriander
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1 large yellow onion, diced
-4 large tomatoes, diced
-2 tbsp chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp ground black pepper
-1/2 cup water or chicken broth

-Heat a large pot over medium-high heat
-Once hot, add the ground beef and sausage and brown
-When the meat has browned, add the chili powder, cumin and coriander. Mix well with the browned meat and cook for about 1 minute
-Stir in the garlic and onion. Cook until the onion is translucent (4 or 5 minutes).
-Add the diced tomatoes and chipotle peppers, salt and pepper and stir well. Bring to a simmer, then transfer to the crock pot with water or chicken broth. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours
-Garnish with cilantro, avocado or toasted pumpkin seeds (or all three)!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Quick and Easy Zucchini Breakfast

My weekday mornings usually start one of two ways. I either get up at 5:00am and go to the gym or I groggily look at the clock, convince myself I will exercise after work, and go back to sleep. Either way, it doesn't leave much time to cook breakfast. You can throw this together pretty quickly, even if you have severely limited time in the morning as I often do (Who doesn't? I want to meet this person and learn their secret).

Quick and Easy Zucchini Breakfast
Serves 4

-2 tbsp coconut oil
-1 yellow onion, chopped
-4 zucchinis, shredded
-1 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
-2 cups spinach
-2 chicken sausage links, sliced

-Heat oil in a pan over medium heat
-Add chicken sausage and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes
-Add onion, garlic, zucchini and tomatoes and cook until zucchini just starts to brown (about 5 minutes)
-Add spinach and cook until wilted, about one minute
-Optional: Top with crumbled bacon or serve with a side of scrambled eggs (or both, like me!)

Note about shredding zucchini - I cover a plate with a paper towel and shred the zucchini over the plate. When I am finished, I gather up the shredded zucchini in the paper towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. 

Another note - If you don't have sausage links, don't fret! This meal would be great with ground sausage or even ground beef. I would throw in about half a pound and brown it up before throwing in the veggies. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Here I Am

Allow me to introduce myself. :)

My name is Tarah.

I am 30 years old.

I live in Indiana.

I have one husband and two dogs.

I like to eat.

I love to cook.

I am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

I have been toying with the idea of sharing some of my culinary adventures (and misadventures) for a while now. After discovering the Paleo way of living earlier this year I began to feel a stronger push to share what I was learning with others. I wish I had realized sooner how simple and delicious it could be to fill my body with nutritious, wholesome foods.

I believe that healthy living is a journey-there is always more to learn and more tasty adventures to embark upon. What I Gather is about sharing what I have gathered with you and hopefully gathering even more yummy ideas and helpful health knowledge from you! I want this to be a community where we can all learn, share and grow together. Okay, enough hippie stuff. I'll try to keep that under control. Stay tuned...