A quick, delicious banana protein shake

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When I’m working out heavily, especially lifting weights, I try to eat at least 100 grams of protein a day. As a point of reference, one four ounce filet of high-protein, low-fat fish like tilapia has around twenty grams of protein. That’s a lot of fish to reach 100 grams! The general rule (and I agree) is that whole, unprocessed foods are always better. But if you have to run out the door in the morning or just don’t have the stomach for a big breakfast of eggs and sausage, protein powder, in my opinion, has a place. It can be beneficial as an easily digestible protein right after a workout. Especially if you find one with few added ingredients and sugars. I like the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey listed in the ingredients here because there’s little icky aftertaste. Lately my breakfast of choice has been a quick protein shake. It gives me nearly 50 grams of protein in one go and I can sip it throughout the morning.ย 

One approach to making blender shakes is to use fruits (berries, apple, banana) as a mask for spinach or other greens, or any veggie lurking in the fridge. And it will often come out tasting all right. But I do like how simple this breakfast shake is – it really does taste like a banana milkshake. I feel like I’ve had a treat to start the day, and it makes me mindful to eat lots of vegetables and reach my protein goal the rest of the day. And there’s some evidence that having something sweet with breakfast helps you stay on track with healthy eating throughout the day.

Finding healthy patterns you can stick to is highly individualistic – this may not be the perfect example of whole-foods-based virtue, but it’s working for me. Give it a try post-workout if not for breakfast, and enjoy!

Ingredients for Banana Protein Shake
-1.5 cups unsweetened almond coconut milk
-Two packets Truvia or other stevia-based sweetener
-One medium banana

Two scoops Optimum Nutrition vanilla whey protein powder (or protein powder of choice)
-Four ice cubes

Blend ingredients together until smooth.

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Pork in raspberry sauce and jerk mahi – Yum!

 

**See at the end of the post for a more concise write-up of the recipes.

Jerk anything

So, this post will introduce you to the lazy side of me. A bag of jerk seasoning powder I brought back from Jamaica. I would love, in theory, to make my own jerk seasoning someday, and will get to trying it. But when my mission is to make a 6 oz. fish fillet taste amazing with minimal effort and few calories, and something from a bag with ingredients I can pronounce does the trick – I’m in.

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Jars and pouches of sauces and spices, chosen well, are a wonderful travel souvenir. Barbecue sauce from a great restaurant in the South, curry from India, salsa or chiles from Mexico, jerk from Jamaica. If you actually use it for cooking, not just pantry decoration, you’ll have a treat that evokes a memory.

Here’s how I used mine:

Frozen wild-caught Mahi fillet, 6 oz., defrosted. Melted one pat of pasture butter in a pan, placed the mahi in, sprinkled with salt, then shook the jerk powder over both sides of the fish as the pan warmed, lightly coating it. Then with my (freshly washed!) fingers I rubbed the seasoning into the mahi. That really helps get the flavor into the fish. A squeeze of lemon over both sides of the fish, cooked the fish on medium heat, flipping every couple minutes. The jerk powder forms a nice brown crust and the lemon juice adds that citrus kick that’s so good with fish. Yum!

I have also made pork chops the same way, minus the lemon juice, baked in the oven. Also delicious.

Jerk powder has cane sugar in it but you use so little there’s a negligible carb or calorie dent in your day. My bag of jerk powder lists zero calories – I doubt that’s true, but it goes on my list of “worth it” ingredients for the flavor. Earthy, sweet with a spicy kick all at once. Nothing to real Jamaican jerk chicken or lobster eaten fresh at a roadside stand on the island – but evocative of the memory.

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Paleo Boy and I went to Jamaica over Christmas of 2011 and drove around the whole island after a few glorious days at a resort. We stopped for lunch at this jerk stand south of Mandeville. The curried conch with rice dish we ate (and the day I try to recreate it!) will be a whole different story. I ate jerk lobster on that trip and just loved it. Jerk chicken, goat, etc. is the best known but the seasoning is a smash with seafood.

Pork in raspberry sauce

The inspiration for this dish was having frozen pork and frozen organic raspberries in the freezer!

-I used 2 bone in pork loins, .6 lb. total weight, seasoned with salt and pepper
-Rub the pork loins with 4 cloves of crushed garlic and a tablespoon of dried sage
-Place the pork loins in a baking pan sprayed with olive or coconut oil
-Pour about half a cup of white wine over the pork loins; leave the excess wine in the pan bottom
-Bake at 350′ F for twenty minutes or until cooked, covered in foil. I let the pork loins cook for an extra ten minutes at 275′ F uncovered to be sure they were done and let them brown a little.
-Ladle the pan liquid around the pork loins back over them before adding the raspberry sauce.

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In the meantime, mix in a saucepan:
-1 cup frozen or fresh raspberries
-1 tablespoon pasture butter (coconut oil would also work!)
-1/2 a teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
-1/4 teaspoon dried basil
-1/4 teaspoon chili powder
-1 squeeze of lemon
-About 5-6 twists or shakes of black pepper ๐Ÿ™‚ (I’m learning to be more precise!)
-1/2 cup water
– 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
-Stir ingredients to simmering on low heat, blend with an immersion blender until smooth. If you can’t blend, just let simmer until the berries are very soft and mash well. Once simmering, reduce and stir occasionally on low heat for 15 minute or so.
-I recommend that you grab a clean spoon, taste, and correct the seasonings as you cook this sauce. Add more lemon/herbs/water/fruit to taste. You could also put in sugar or honey. My sauce came out not at all sweet, more savory with a hint of acidity, which made it taste surprising, and it was very good. But not what your taste buds expect when you say “raspberry sauce.”

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-Serve by ladling a few spoonfuls of the sauce over the pork loins. I had plenty of leftover sauce for a future meal – hubby gobbled up all the pork!
This is one where I’ll keep experimenting with ingredients. But it was tasty for now.

I ate my fish with stir fry veggies sprinkled with truffle salt. Hubby had simple green salad.

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JERK MAHI

Frozen wild-caught Mahi fillet, 6 oz., defrosted
Salt to taste.
1-2 tbspns. jerk powder of choice
Pat (1/3″ X 1″) pasture butter
1/2 a lemon

Defrost the fish, melt pasture butter in a pan on low heat. Place fish in pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt if desired. Coat both sides of the fish in jerk powder by evenly shaking it out of a spoon or the packet. Rub the seasoning vigorously into the fish with clean fingers or the back of a spoon. You can do this while the filet warms in the pan, flipping it over. When jerk sauce is rubbed into the fish, squeeze the lemon half over each side of the fish – about two teaspoons of juice on each side. Cook on medium heat until fish is cooked through, flipping every couple minutes (about 15 minutes). Serves 1.

PORK IN RASPBERRY SAUCE
2 bone in pork loins, about .6 lbs. total weight.
Salt and pepper to tasteTablespoon dried sage
Olive or coconut oil
Half a cup white wine.

Place pork loins in baking dish sprayed or rubbed with olive or coconut oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the dried sage over both sides of the pork loin and rub the salt, pepper and sage into the pork with clean fingertips or the back of a spoon. Pour half a cup white wine over the pork loins. Cover in foil and bake for twenty minutes at 350 F. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes at 275 until done. Serve with pan liquid and raspberry sauce poured over.

Raspberry sauce:

-1 cup frozen or fresh raspberries
-1 tablespoon pasture butter (coconut oil would also work!)
-1/2 a teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
-1/4 teaspoon dried basil
-1/4 teaspoon chili powder
-1 squeeze of lemon
-About 5-6 twists or shakes of black pepper ๐Ÿ™‚ (Roughly 1/4 a teaspoon)
-1/2 cup water
– 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Blend ingredients together in a saucepan using an immersion blender (or blend in regular blender then pour into saucepan). Let simmer for 15 minutes to blend flavors.

A quick Pesca Paleo weeknight dinner

** See the end of the post for a concise recipe for lemon coconut chicken

 

Tonight I wanted to make a healthy, satisfying paleo dinner for my husband, get some green veggies into my system, eat up some leftover Indian food, and not be in the kitchen for more than a half hour.

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Even for a quick weeknight dinner, there’s no rule against candle light!

Here was the menu:

For him – Cubed (organic) chicken breast in a light coconut garlic sauce; balsamic asparagus; and a baked sweet potato.

For her – Malai kofta (Indian veggie balls in a heavy sauce) and balsamic asparagus.

Here’s how to make the chicken:

Crush two to four cloves of garlic (about two per chicken breast, or to taste). Spray a large frying pan with olive oil (or preparation of your choice). Warm the pan, then toss in the crushed garlic and let it brown on medium-low heat, moving around the pan as needed.

While the garlic browns, cube one to two chicken breasts into 1″ pieces. Works best with a big, sharp knife in one hand and a fork in the other.

Turn the pan up to medium heat; place the chicken breast in the pan and stir/toss so that the crushed garlic coats it. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and generous freshly ground pepper (regular works fine too).

Pour a quarter cup or to taste of full fat coconut milk into the pan and stir so that it coats the chicken.

Cook the chicken for about twenty minutes on medium low heat or until done. You can pour off the excess coconut milk (and save it later for a soup or to season veggies!) to cut the fat.

The asparagus:

While the chicken simmers with occasional stirring, wash and prep a big fistful of asparagus. I chop the stalky last inch or so of the spears off. On a wide, flat pan, heated to medium heat and sprayed with olive oil, place the spears so that most of them are in contact with the cooking surface. Drizzle the spears in balsamic vinegar (I douse, because I love balsamic). Turn the spears so that they cook evenly until softened but still crisp, about ten minutes.
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As the asparagus and chicken cooked, I poked a sweet potato with a fork and baked it in the microwave, cut it open, added half a tablespoon of pasture butter and drizzle of cinnamon. I reheated my Indian food leftovers and ate them with the asparagus.

Malai kofta balls come bursting with vegetables, Indian cheese (paneer) and nuts, so they pack a decent punch of protein as a vegetarian option along with flavor. I might just have to try a recipe one of these days.

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A few thoughts: This chicken dish is not rich in flavor by itself and makes an excellent base – you could cook a big batch at the beginning of the week and dress it up with curry sauce one night and a squeeze of lemon juice the next.

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When one decides to eat paleo (or any other “clean” eating regime), it helps a lot to punch up the flavor. Balsamic vinegar is a burst of acidity and sweetness; coconut milk (an ingredient in both the chicken and the Indian food) is fatty with a hint of sweetness. Cinnamon on a sweet potato is earthy and associated with sweet things. Parmesan cheese, which I sprinkled on my asparagus, tastes sharp and rich at the same time, and adds a little zing of protein with the flavor. You have to be careful with calories in coconut milk, cheese and other fatty ingrediens, but many things (garlic, lemon, black pepper, cinnamon, balsamic vinegar to name just a few) are practically calorie-free.

I’m not a health expert so won’t speculate about how seriously to take concerns about sodium, but if you ARE eating clean – staying away from packaged foods, takeout, etc. that are sky high in the stuff – you can be a little less stingy with the salt shaker. Andย  the perfect combination of just a couple ingredients – any mix of garlic, lemon, black pepper, for example – with a little salt to bring out the flavors can taste amazing. You’ll see those ingredients show up a lot!

LEMON COCONUT CHICKEN:
Organic chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (about 1/4 a teaspoon pepper per chicken breast)
Full fat coconut milk (quarter cup per chicken breast)
Fresh lemon juice (the juice of 1/4 a lemon per chicken breast)
Garlic cloves, minced or pressed (1-2 per chicken breast)
Cooking spray or oil

Brown the garlic on medium low heat in a pan with just enough cooking spray or oil to prevent sticking. Cube the chicken breasts into 1″ pieces. Toss with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Place chicken in pan and turn up to medium heat. Pour coconut milk around the chicken. Squeeze in the lemon juice. Cook for about twenty minutes on medium low heat or until chicken is cooked through. Pour off the excess coconut milk liquid before serving to cut calories if desired (but save it as a broth for vegetables the next day!).