Maple Pecan Protein Pancakes

Most protein pancakes are little too dense and un-pancake-like for my taste. My secret? Add in a little baking powder to lighten up the mixture. Event better? Throw in a few pecans and some maple syrup to make them even more decadent. The hubs tried these and deemed them delicious BEFORE finding out that they were in fact protein pancakes and not a traditional recipe.

If your goal is a healthy breakfast, maybe don't drown them in maple syrup the way I have in the pictures above. Otherwise, have at it and enjoy!

Maple Pecan Protein Pancakes

1 banana

1 scoop protein powder

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 cup roasted, salted pecans, chopped

1 tablespoon maple syrup, more as desired

Mash the banana until a paste is formed. Add the protein powder and egg to the banana and mash and stir until really well combined. Mix in the rest of the ingredients.

Heat a nonstick pan over low heat, then spray with coconut oil cooking spray. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan for each pancake. Cook low and slow until brown, flip and cook briefly on the other side until firm. Serve with additional maple syrup and pecans as desired.

Cauliflower Rice Salad

When your husband goes on the ketogenic (high fat/low carb) diet, you have to come up with carb-friendly recipes and fast.

My husband first went low carb last fall and it worked wonders for him. We're talking 20 pounds in six weeks wonders. I then tried it for two weeks and all I got was dehydrated and lethargic. Go figure. I'm not knocking the diet at all, but I have heard that it works better for men than for women. For now, I'll stick with my veggie and fruit-packed, healthy fat, lean protein way of eating. Tell me one specific food group is off limits and it's all I will want every minute of every day.

Now, back to the husband's diet. The problem with having two people on different diets in one house is that I end up feeling like a short order cook. Almond milk cappuccino for me; bulletproof coffee for him. Protein pancakes for me; Eggs with cheese and bacon for him. Salad for get the idea.

One area where we can agree these days is cauliflower. It's a great replacement for carb-like ingredients (think potatoes and rice) and I can make basically the same dish for both of us and then just add a pile of cheese and butter from grass-fed cows on top of his portion. 

We're both eating a lot of this salad right now. If he's strictly counting carbs, I'll leave out the dried fruit, but otherwise, it's one dish that works well for both of us. 

Cauliflower "Rice" Salad

1/2 head of cauliflower  

1 tsp honey

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/4 cup of almonds

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 bunch of cilantro, leaves only, roughly chopped

1 tbsp almond oil

Sprinkling of smoked paprika 

Break the cauliflower into florets and place in a food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped into rice-size pieces. If you're doubling this recipe only process 1/2 a cauliflower at a time as overcrowding the food processor will keep some of the florets from getting processed.

Transfer the cauliflower to a bowl and stir in the honey, lemon juice and salt. Place the almonds in the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add to the cauliflower mixture along with the raisins and cilantro. 

Divide between two bowls and drizzle with almond oil. Finish with a sprinkling of paprika and more salt.


5 Secrets for Perfectly Seared Salmon

Learning how to properly cook protein is one of the most crucial and beneficial steps to becoming a better cook. Once you master the fundamentals, there are countless ways you can experiment with ingredients and flavor to update a recipe. 

I usually opt for a quick stovetop searing, followed by a few minutes in the oven to cook individual servings of protein. It's the way I was taught in culinary school and the default method we used in the restaurant. However, I like to keep salmon on the rare side so starting and finishing on the stovetop makes sense.

My barometers for a perfectly cooked piece of salmon are a golden, crispy crust, sufficient salt, a rare center and no white albumin on the surface of the salmon. 

Here are my five secrets to achieving that perfectly seared, rare piece of salmon:

1. Use a large pan - when cooking multiple pieces of fish, make sure you're using a large enough pan. If you crowd the fish, they will steam instead of sear and you will never achieve a crust. Also, use stainless steel, not nonstick. 

2. Cooking fat - be sure you're using a fat appropriate for high temperature cooking. For health reasons vegetable oils should be avoided and anything with a low smoke point is out too. I'm currently cooking with ghee from pasture-raised cows. Its high smoke point and nutrition profile make it an ideal option. Please note that regular butter is not an acceptable substitute. The milk solids in butter will burn if the pan gets too hot. 

3. Pan temperature - you want the pan hot enough to create a nonstick surface, but not too hot that the fish cooks too quickly. Have you ever noticed a white chalky substance on your salmon? That's called albumin - it's a protein and when it's overheated and loses its moisture, it gets pushed to the surface. It's harmless, but not the most appetizing and it can be avoided. On my stove, that perfect temperature is right around a medium flame. On yours it may be higher. If the pan starts smoking when you add the cooking fat, it's a sure sign the pan is too hot.

4. Leave the fish alone - remember when I mentioned getting the pan hot enough to create a nonstick surface? If your pan is heated to an appropriate temperature (medium to medium-high) and you have enough fat in the pan, the protein will stick to the pan at first and then release once your beautiful, golden crust has formed. Be patient and resist the temptation to jam your spatula under the fish to force it to release. It's worth the wait.

5. Undercook rather than overcook - the worst atrocities I have witnessed in the kitchen have always included a dried out, overcooked piece of protein. In the restaurant we used to call well-done meat, "why bother?" By cooking the crap out of a tender piece of meat or fish you lose every wonderful nuance. Texture and flavor? Ruined. Unless you're cooking for the elderly, children or someone with a compromised immune system (the times when food safety is a major concern) err on the side of underdone rather than overdone. Remember, there's always a little bit of carryover cooking as food continues to cook even after it's removed from heat. 

Now, take these tips, try the recipe below and let me know how your salmon turns out. 

Perfect Seared Salmon

Serves 6

1 1/2 to 2 pounds center cut salmon filet

1 tbsp pasture-raised ghee, more as needed

Kosher salt

Let the salmon sit on the counter for 30 minutes to come to room temperature. Slice the salmon into six even portions, taking care to make the thinner pieces larger so each portion size is about the same amount of salmon.

Heat a large pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the ghee to the pan, salt the salmon liberally with Kosher salt and place presentation-side (not skin-side) down in the pan. Do not crowd the salmon. If your pan is not large enough, cook the salmon in two batches adding more ghee to the pan as needed.

Don't disturb the salmon until a crust has formed. You will know this has happened when the meat releases from the pan and can be flipped without having to force your spatula between the fish and the pan. Flip the salmon and continue cooking skin-side down until salmon is done, about 4 to 6 minutes more, though it could be longer depending on the thickness to f the salmon piece and pan temperature.

Remove from the pan and let sit for a few minutes before serving. Serve with Pumpkin Seed Pesto and Zucchini Pasta


Chocolate Seed Bars

A pretty constant obsession of mine is figuring out how to make eating massive amounts of chocolate a healthy endeavor. Whenever my husband sees me reaching for the bag of raw cacao, he whispers, "you know, just because you add a whole bunch of healthy stuff to chocolate, it doesn't mean it's healthy."

Well, I beg to differ. First off, by making it myself, I avoid adding in a ton of processed sugar (I usually sweeten with maple syrup and stevia) and there aren't any fillers or soy products thrown in to try and smooth out the chocolate. It's just simple, healthy ingredients and while it may not be considered health food per se, I'm never, ever, ever going to stop eating chocolate so this is my compromise.

These seed bars, are just that, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds (I love adding these little guys to chocolate dishes - the protein in them helps slow the absorption of the carbs) and a few other choice ingredients - coconut shavings, coconut oil, maple syrup and of course, raw cacao.

I made a double batch to fill up the tart pan for the photos, but I usually only make one at a time. I just don't trust myself with a big batch of deliciousness laying around the house.

Chocolate Seed Bars

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup raw cacao powder

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup coconut shavings

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup hemp seeds

8 drops organic liquid stevia

Starting with the pumpkin seeds, place the first five ingredients in a food processor (through maple syrup) and process until combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary. The mixture can be a little chunky, but you want everything to be fully combined. Add in the hemp seeds and stevia and pulse once or twice just to mix them through.

Dump the mixture out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and press it together into a square about a half-inch thick. You can also press the mixture evenly into a square pan. Chill for 30 minutes, then cut into desired serving size. I recommend 1-inch by 4-inch bars about the size of a small granola bar or square bites to keep in the fridge when you need a quick chocolate boost.

Thai Kale Chips

Kale Chips.jpg

The current motto around the Stanbrook kitchen seems to be, "add more fish sauce." We've doused our pizza with it, mixed it into homemade mayo to accompany steak and now we're even putting it on our kale. It may have something to do with our recent trip to Portland, Oregon and specifically our visit to Smallwares - by far our favorite restaurant in a weekend that was filled with some of the best eats the city has to offer. 

Chef Johanna Ware is known for "inauthentic" asian dishes and we could not be more grateful for her inauthenticity. It is what led to our current over-use of fish sauce and the creation of this new take on kale chips. 

While I'm not always proud of it, my ethos in the kitchen seems to center around two main principles - most dishes can be improved with either 1) more salt or 2) more chocolate. While chocolate covered kale chips may never come into being (although come to think of it...), I'm certainly glad I followed my hunch and rubbed a little fish sauce into our last batch. The added punch of salty, briny flavor took the chips from a good, healthy replacement for potato chips, to addictive, make me more, I can't live without a constant supply of these snacks status.

If you're not familiar with nutritional yeast, feel free to leave it out. It adds a cheesy flavor without dairy, but it's by no means necessary.

Thai Kale Chips

1 bunch kale (I used curly purple - works equally well with lacinato or other varieties)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp fish sauce 

2 tsp to 1 tbsp nutritional yeast

Preheat oven to 300

Wash and dry your kale thoroughly. I rinse mine off, remove the thick purple stalks and tear the leaves into smaller pieces before placing them in my salad spinner to remove excess water. Transfer the kale to a bowl, drizzle in the olive oil and massage the oil into the leaves to make sure everything is covered. Repeat with the fish sauce. Sprinkle the nutritional yeast over the leaves and toss gently.

Transfer the kale to two parchment paper-lined baking sheets. You want the kale to lay in a single layer so use as many trays as you need. Two half-sheet pans is usually sufficient. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes (23 seems to be the magic number for our oven). If your oven cooks unevenly, rotate the trays halfway through. Remove the trays from the oven and allow the chips to cool on the baking sheets. 

If you're not going to eat them right away, transfer the cooled kale chips to an airtight container and keep at room temperature. I imagine these would last four or five days at least, but we've never been able to test this theory as they always get eaten in the first two days.



Butter + Coffee = Yes

If you're reading this blog then chances are you have at least a passing interest in healthy eating. If that's the case then you've probably already accepted the fact that fat is not the enemy. If you're still squarely in the nonfat is better camp, then please read this before going further. I'm never going to be able to convince you to put butter in your coffee if you're scared of fat.

Okay, now that we're all on the same page and agree that a reasonable amount of healthy fat is good for you, let's get down to the coffee.

Coffee is truly my first love. It's my first priority when I wake up in the morning and trust me, my husband and everyone else I come into contact with throughout the day want it that way. Me + coffee = better.

Blending butter with coffee has been popularized by the folks over at Bulletproof. Their recipe, and the one I follow, is a cup of coffee blended with 1 - 2 tbsps each of butter from grass-fed cows and their XCT oil (though I use MCT oil - short for medium chain triglyceride oil). MCTs are found in coconut oil and are a very readily accessible form of energy for the human body. Some studies show that they can increase metabolism, but nothing conclusive yet.

I started out making a french press with bulletproof beans each morning and while it was delicious, I just couldn't take the extra time to get that coffee made. So, I went back to our trusty Nespresso machine. Two lungos per person does the trick beautifully. If you're brewing your own coffee, my only word to the wise is, make it strong. The stronger the coffee, the better it will stand up to the rich flavor of butter.

What can you expect when you start your morning with super-charged coffee? I'm sure individual results will vary, but I noticed a buzz of energy and increased productivity my very first day. I also didn't experience that mid-morning or early afternoon crash that used to send me running for the candy jar or looking for some other carb-focused quick fix. More energy and fewer sugar cravings? That's a win-win.

Start off with no more than 1 tbsp of butter and oil (less if you're sensitive) and work your way up. Before long, you'll be dreaming of this coffee as you get into bed at night. It is that good.

Bulletproof Coffee

1 mug of strong coffee

1 tbsp grass-fed butter (I use Kerrygold)

1 tbsp of MCT oil

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and frothy. Enjoy.