Paleo Pork “Katsu” Over Noodles with Gingered Bok Choy

We rarely ate-out when I was growing up. Going to McDonald’s was a BIG deal. And when we did, we always got the food “to go” and ate it at home. We already had drinks at home, my father reasoned. I remember asking for a milkshake during one trip to the golden arches, and my father turning me down, reminding me that he had already paid for the 2-liter of soda at home.

“I’ll pay the 42 cents for the milkshake,” I offered (aging myself with that price!)

“You’re missing the point,” my father replied.  And home we went, sans beverages provided by Ronald, the Hamburglar, Grimace and the rest.

It took me years to appreciate this practice of deliberation over dollars spent. Short-term refraining leading to long-term gaining. We were the family that stood-out as buying clothes from Sears during the era of The Official Preppy Handbook when the little alligator and the polo player were just everything. We kids learned to “drive stick” in our 1966 VW bug that my parents owned for 23 years.  This, while living in a neighborhood where Porsches, BMWs and Mercedes were commonplace. There was even a red Ferrari!

We used items until they broke or wore out. Our wardrobes were comprised of the same clothes for years, regardless of fashion-trends. As I dressed this morning, I was thinking about the purchase of my pants over five years ago from my favorite San Francisco store. That I still make decisions based on practicality and durability — my trusty black trousers … versatile, for dressy outings *and* more casual settings.  In fact, I frequently make the joke that my primary motivation for trying to maintain my weight has nothing to do with vanity — mine is financial.  If I put-on weight, I’d have to spend money on new clothes!

Mr. Batch and I are currently tightening our purse-strings as I redesign myself into a freelance grant writer, working pro bono at this point. We are deeply grateful to be able to survive on one income for the time-being, as I “trim the fat” in our budget. I’m making homemade yogurt, vanilla extract and apple cider vinegar. Cooking dried beans versus buying canned legumes.  Turning down the heat and putting on layers + holding a hot water bottle. I reflect on how fortunate we’ve been to have a period where we didn’t need to save those few cents. And how grateful I am to my parents for raising me in an environment of budgeting and careful evaluation of pennies spent. Returning to my roots.

And …. appreciating delicious recipes that taste as good as if we had eaten out, when in fact, they are easy to make at home. Here’s how I made restaurant-quality Paleo Pork “Katsu” Over Noodles with Gingered Bok Choy:

Yield: 4 portions

To stretch our food dollar even farther, I bought half a pig from local McDonald Farm last Fall. The price per pound was $4.40 for this organic, pasture-raised, humanely treated pork — which is far from the $18/pound for just  a pork tenderloin from them.  Thus far, I’ve been very pleased with the decision to have a freezer full of various cuts of pork to thaw and cook-up. For this recipe, I stretched our food-expense even farther by slicing 2 thick-cut pork chops in half, resulting in four portions (better for my waistline, too!)

Then, I put the thick pork chops between two sheets of plastic-wrap and used my rolling pin to pound them thin.

I cracked an egg into a bowl, added 1 Tablespoon of Brita-filtered water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and whisked with a fork until it was foamy.

In a separate bowl, I mixed 1 cup of almond meal (I buy this at Trader Joe’s) with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and several grinds of freshly cracked pepper. *If you are not following the Paleo diet, you could season some all-purpose flour or use Japanese panko breadcrumbs.

Then, I melted a small spoon-full of coconut oil in a non-stick saute pan.

Using one hand, I dipped a pork chop into the egg wash and then transferred it into the bowl of seasoned almond-meal. Then, using the other hand, I dredged the pork chop on all sides through the seasoned almond meal and then placed the pork chop in the hot oil in the pan. Using alternate hands keeps your finger-tips from getting clumped with egg-wash-dredging.

My pork chops were thin-enough to be able to cook entirely on the stovetop, but if yours are a bit thicker, you could finish cooking them in a hot oven.

 

Meanwhile, in my big ol’ wok, I made a batch of Steamed Baby Bok Choy. I modified this just slightly to add some minced fresh ginger, as well as about 1/4 cup of coconut aminos to the aromatic bath in which I steamed the baby bok choy. You could substitute soy sauce for the coconut aminos if you don’t follow the Paleo diet, or aren’t avoiding gluten.

 

And on a separate burner on the stove, I boiled a bag of Sweet Potato Glass Noodles in salted water. I found these in the Asian section of our local grocer for 99-cents/bag! The only ingredient is sweet potato starch, which makes them Paleo in my book!  Mr. Batch and I have loved discovering these for their flavor,  chewy texture, and price! Once these were done, I tossed them in about 2 teaspoons of sesame oil.

 

To serve: I had some sautéed mushrooms on-hand, so I added some of the Sweet Potato Glass Noodles to a bowl, topped them with sautéed mushrooms and cut-up Gingered Baby Bok Choy, and then poured some of the saved cooking liquid from the bok choy over the noodles.

I added another splash or two of coconut aminos, and then the sliced Pork “Katsu.”  DELISH!  Light, yet very filling.

As the Tagline says: Make a lot! Freeze some! Now go play! As this applies to the recipe above, the “breaded” and pan-fried pork chops could be made in many batches, and frozen, then thawed & reheated another time. Will they be as crispy?  No, but when you’re tired or in a hurry, you’ll be grateful to have them at the ready, and they could be “re-crisped” in a hot saute pan with just a smidge of oil after thawing.  🙂

I have no pictures of what Mr. Batch and I have been up to when we’ve recently played! He is teaching this semester, which means there isn’t a ton of time for playing. We have been going to see the Oscar-nominated movies on Friday evenings: La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester By the Sea, Hidden Figures, the Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts, and we’re hoping to see Lion this weekend!  Do you have a favorite?

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Chipotle Restaurant at home

One of many reasons I adore Mr. Batch is that he pushes himself to learn new things, and shares with me some of the things he learns. He has recently started watching  The School of Life videos which are “… devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture.” One of my favorites is called The Weakness of Strength and it’s a 4-minute video that I think you’ll enjoy watching.

The theory of The Weakness of Strength “dictates that we should strive to see people’s weaknesses as the inevitable downside to certain merits that first drew us to them. What we’re seeing are not people’s faults, but the ‘shadow-side’ of things that are genuinely good about them.”

You’ve probably guessed that this is the topic of today’s blog because I have been experiencing MY weakness of strength this week. My years of being a chef developed my skills in planning, which were further honed in my years as a tradeshow coordinator, conference planner, and then as an Executive Assistant. I thrive in a proactive role, forecasting what is needed, and anticipating things that might go wrong and planning accordingly. My weakness is in reacting — especially to anything I didn’t anticipate.

Incidentally, Mr. Batch accidentally (and innocently!) disrupts my plans so frequently, that he now suggests, “Just call me Monkey Wrech!”

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I am redesigning myself into a freelance grant writer, to leverage my love of writing and story-telling into helping non-profit organizations tell their stories to funding agencies.  I have been reading library books and skads of materials  online — all in preparation for a 3-week grant-writing class that was supposed to start on Monday. The instructor asked that we have proposals to work on, with her looking over our shoulders, so that at the conclusion we would have fairly good drafts ready to submit.  So I dutifully lined-up 5 organizations I am doing pro bono work for.

And THE CLASS GOT CANCELED. 🙁  🙁  🙁   Too few people registered! I found out when I showed up for the first session!  Somehow I fell through the cracks with their notification!

As I stood at the registration desk, eyes wide and mouth agape, I felt my lungs constrict with anxiety. My plans were unraveling.  I had really looked forward to having a *guide* … and to being spoon-fed the “how to.”  Not so much the how to write.  But the “how to” find funders!  And approach them.

On the drive home to Mr. Batch, to have a pity-party and boo hoo hoo on his shoulder of my plans gone amuck, I was reminded of an inspirational quote I’ve seen — that when your plans get wrecked, it might be because your plans were going to wreck you!  I’ve been around the sun enough times to know that sometimes when you’re lucky, there’s a silver lining.

I haven’t found that silver lining yet, but in the era of Google and You Tube, I AM making progress. Lots of comfort food eating … and lamas breathing … and sleeves pushed up … and sleuthing cap on, to try to figure all of this out on my own. Join me, won’t you, in sending a wish out to the grant-writing gods to watch over me?  🙂

Speaking of comfort food, we REALLY miss the amazing tacquerias of San Francisco. What we would give for some of those fish tacos, burritos, chips & salsa! In the absence of finding “our” place here in ROC City, we stop periodically at Chipotle®. To save a few pesos and be able to eat this comforting goodness in quantity, I made our favorites at home — Sofritas (below) and Carnitas (scroll to bottom):

Sofritas — heavily inspired by Yup It’s Vegan‘s Copycat Chipotle Sofritas

Yield: 8 servings

  • Two 16 oz. packages of firm tofu (the original recipe called for extra-firm, which is what I used, but it doesn’t shred easily. So I recommend just firm tofu — but not silken.)

Cut tofu into thick slabs and press between clean cloth towels, to squeeze-out excess moisture. Brush each side with olive or grape seed oil and bake on parchment-lined sheet pans at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes, flipping the slices half-way through.  Once cool, chop into small pieces.

  • 2 poblano peppers

Simultaneously, roast poblano peppers in a baking pan while tofu slices bake.

  • 2-1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

While tofu is baking and poblano peppers are roasting, in a dry heavy-bottomed pot, toast the cumin, coriander and peppercorns. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes and remove from pan once fragrant.  Add to spice grinder or mortar & pestle and grind.

  • 1 Tablespoon oregano

Add to cumin-coriander-peppercorn mixture and grind. Set aside ground spice-mixture.

  • 1 large onion, small-diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon olive or grape seed oil

Heat olive oil in same heavy-bottomed pot you toasted spices in, and sauté onion and garlic with salt on medium-low heat, stirring periodically.

  • 4 Tablespoons canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons additional sauce from can
  • 2 roasted poblano peppers from above, skinned and de-seeded
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut aminos (or soy sauce, if you are not avoiding gluten)
  • 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 cup filtered water or vegetable stock
  • Ground cumin-coriander-peppercorn-oregano spice-mixture from above

Add to sauteed onion-garlic mixture and stir to combine. Simmer for 10 minutes. Puree with immersion blender or in food-processor or blender.  Taste and adjust salt and other seasonings as you like, including adding more water/veg stock and tomato paste to make it saucy like Chipotle’s®.

Add pureed sauce back to pot and add chopped tofu. Allow to gently simmer on low another 10-15 minutes.

I made a batch of white rice and added chopped cilantro & olive oil to it, to try to truly emulate the Chipotle® experience. I served the Sofritas with cilantro rice, Guacamole and steamed broccolini.

***I kept four servings of the Sofritas in the refrigerator, and froze the rest in individual servings. Because this is meant to be saucy and shredded, the thawed Sofritas is OK … not too spongey from being frozen.***

Carnitas  — this is taken entirely from David Lebovitz’s Carnitas

Yield: 8 servings

The only thing I changed was not to do Step 9. For my taste, I would not add an entire cinnamon stick in the future — perhaps just 1/4 of a cinnamon stick for me.

  • 4-5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 5-inch chunks, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola or neutral vegetable oil
  • water
  • 1  cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 2  bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly-sliced
1. Rub the pieces of pork shoulder all over with salt. Refrigerate for 1 to 3 days. (You can skip this step if you want. Just be sure to salt the pork before searing the meat in the next step.)
2. Heat the oil in a roasting pan set on the stovetop. Cook the pieces of pork shoulder in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around. If your cooking vessel is too small to cook them in a single-layer, cook them in two batches.
3. Once all the pork is browned, remove them from the pot and blot away any excess fat with a paper towel, then pour in about a cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged utensil to release all the tasty brown bits.
4. Heat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.
5. Add the pork back to the pan and add enough water so the pork pieces are 2/3rd’s submerged in liquid. Add the cinnamon stick and stir in the chile powders, bay leaves, cumin and garlic.
7. Braise in the oven uncovered for 3½ hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.
8. Once the pork pieces are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized pieces, about 2-inches (7 cm), discarding any obvious big chunks of fat if you wish.
9. Return the pork pieces back to the roasting pan and cook in the oven, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized. It will depend on how much liquid the pork gave off, and how crackly you want them.

I served this, like I do the Nom Nom Paleo Kalua Pig — with slices of avocado, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and steamed borccolini. I kept three servings in the refrigerator, and froze the rest of the carnitas in individual portions:

 

As the tagline says: Make a lot!  Freeze some! Now go play!  This week, I volunteered with an organization called Loop Ministries, to help provide a meal and a bag of groceries for 60 people in need of emergency food. Loop collaborates with people with disabilities and cerebral palsy to set-up the tables, make the centerpieces, and serve the food. Their motto is “Renew. Restore.Rebuild.”  Wonderfully empowering for all involved:

And Mr. Batch and I went out with our close friends Lynne and Allen to celebrate all of the Winter birthdays in our little group. We tried a new-to-us restaurant called Atlas Eats that was featuring a prix fixe Turkish menu. Oh, my!  ROC City peeps, if you haven’t tried it yet, GO!  Hover over the images to reveal the captions.

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Pork Chile Verde, Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, Sage-Rosemary Baked Chicken

This week’s cooking included batches of:

I started by marinating some pork shoulder with a spice-mixture, to make Pork Chile Verde:

Simultaneously, I also marinated some chicken legs in fresh herbs and lemon zest to make Sage-Rosemary Baked Chicken Legs:

While both of those hung-out and got more flavorful, I filled my big ol’ wok with boiling salted water and briefly cooked some sugar snap peas that I portioned for our Veggie Snacks this week, and then used that same water to boil some fingerling potatoes. In the oven, I roasted some sweet potatoes:

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Thai Coconut-Lime Dressing over Rice Salad Two Ways; Crispy Baked Tofu; Scotch Eggs; Baked Chicken Thighs; Bleu Cheese Shortbread with Rosemary

This week’s cooking included batches of:

If you make nothing else from this post, make the Thai Coconut-Lime Dressing and put it on something!  As the original recipe claims, it is so good you could drink it straight!!!

I started by prepping a batch of Crispy Baked Tofu.  First step — freezing the slices of tofu:

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Prepping a batch of Crispy Baked Tofu

While those froze, I loaded-up the oven with some Baked Chicken Thighs and a butternut squash to roast:

And then I worked on blanching (very briefly cooking and then cooling) some sugar snap peas, and using the same salted water to cook some Italian flat beans from my friend Lisa’s garden, and then — still using the same salted water! — some broccoli (photo on left). I finished with that same at that point now-uber-salty water by cooking some edamame (perfect, since uber-salty water is needed to penetrate that thick pod to flavor the beans inside!) while I cooked some Boiled Eggs (photo on right):

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Roasted Beets & Delicata Squash, Kalua Pig, Wilted Greens & Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Baked Salmon

My apologies for the delay in getting this week’s post published — my 9-5 has been keeping me busy past the hours of 9-5!  This week’s cooking included batches of:

I began by roasting some golden and red beets. I scrubbed the beets, snipped-off their greens and saved those for later (below), pierced the skin a few times, and popped them into a 400-degree F oven for about an hour (until a knife inserted easily):

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Simultaneously, I roasted some delicata squash. These squash are usually only available briefly because of their delicate skins, which is one reason why I love them — the skins are so delicate (hence, the name) that you can eat them!  I scrubbed the squashes, sliced them in half and removed the seeds, and then brushed them with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled with salt & pepper, and baked them on a sheet pan at 400-degrees F for approximately 35 – 45 minutes (flipping them over, half-way through the roasting):

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Black Bean “Gazpacho” Salad; Greek Salad with Roasted Pork Tenderloin; Tomato & Garlic Cauliflower Rice with Lemon; Almond Nectarine Upside Down Cake; NY State Fair

This week’s cooking included batches of:

I started this week’s cooking session by roasting a pork tenderloin with Penzys Greek Seasoning. The pork was from Aberdeen Hill Farm — no one has better tasting pork than Aberdeen Hill!  I used the same technique as described in this Roasted Pork Tenderloin recipe: roast in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes; rotate the pan 180-degrees (in case there are hot spots in the oven) and roast for another 10 minutes; then remove from oven and insulate in foil and pile kitchen towels on top of the foil-wrapped tenderloin for 10 minutes; then cool and slice. Once sliced, I kept 2 portions refrigerated, and then froze the rest.

While that roasted, I also baked one potato (not pictured). Once that was done baking and had cooled a bit, I sliced it into chunks and added it to my “Frittata” which I made with the other half of the spinach-mushroom-and-onion mix from the week before, which I had frozen and then thawed (also not pictured).  While I worked on all of that, I simultaneously wilted some chard from Lisa’s garden on the stove-top:

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Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Oven-Roasted Eggplant, Roasted Chicken, Fruit Crisp Topping

Apologies for the delay in this week’s post!  Hope you enjoyed my recent Reflection titled It Always Came Back to the Plate! about careers, changes, and the friends/family who encourage along the way!

This week’s cooking included:

I began on Saturday evening, with roasting a fresh chicken (never frozen) for our dinner, that I bought from one of my favorite local farms, McDonald Farm. What a difference the fresh/never frozen makes!!! Toward the end of its roasting time, I added several ears of corn to the oven to roast, still in their husks.  Oven roasted corn, still in the husk, is one of my favorite kitchen smells. While the chicken and corn cooled a bit, I used some of the juices and veggies from the Roasted Chicken, to help wilt some collard greens from my friend Lisa’s garden.  At the very bottom of this post, you can check of a gleeful-but-rain-soaked moi who harvested chard, collard greens and basil of paleolithic proportions from Lisa’s garden!  🙂

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Roasted Chicken Over Vegetables; oven roasted corn, still in the husks; collard greens to be wilted

Once the chicken was out of the oven, I put in a batch of Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, to slowly do their magic over the rest of the evening. These are incredibly easy, and super delicious!  Make these now!

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Pork Tenderloin Salad with Beets, Hazelnuts & Feta; Mixed Grains with Pesto; Blueberry Crumb Bars

This week’s cooking included batches of:

I began the cooking session with a pan of Roasted Summer Veggies:

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A pan of Roasted Summer Veggies

While those roasted, I simultaneously roasted some beets and some cauliflower florets (raw cauliflower florets not pictured — scroll down to see wonderfully browned, delicious roasted cauli):

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Getting ready to roast some beets, and sauté the beet greens and stems

Once the first pan of Roasted Summer Veggies was out of the oven, there was space to roast my pork tenderloin. This pork tenderloin came from Aberdeen Hill Farm — humanely treated pigs, allowed to graze on pastures free from chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. WHAT a difference in the flavor of the meat versus factory-raised! Directions for roasting the beets and pork tenderloin are within the recipe for Pork Tenderloin Salad with Beets, Hazelnuts & Feta.

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Pork tenderloin from Aberdeen Hill Farm, ready to be roasted

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Chicken with Spaghetti Squash, “Quesa-diendas” with Tomato Soup, Slow Cooker Pork with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Shirazi Salad, Sunshine Cake

In case you missed it, I posted a new “Reflection” this week called “Door as Metaphor.” Clickable link in the tab above called “Reflections.”

For this week’s cooking, I made:

 

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Marinating Nom Nom Paleo’s Damn Fine Chicken

I began this week’s batch cooking by marinating some of Nom Nom Paleo’s Damn Fine Chicken.

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Bone Broth, Butternut Squash Soup, Baked Chicken, Lentil-Quinoa Loaf, Rosemary-Orange Pork

 

This week’s cooking was divided among Saturday and Sunday to make:

 

I started on Saturday with a batch of Bone Broth, created in my slow cooker.

Beef broth using marrow bones
Bone broth using beef marrow bones

While that cooked, I roasted some butternut squash with curry powder, as the beginnings of a batch of Curried Butternut Squash Soup.

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Roasted Curried Butternut Squash

While the squash roasted, I made a batch of brine from Well-Fed’s “Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat” and brined some chicken breasts overnight in the fridge.

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Prepping the brine from Well-Fed’s “Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat”

 

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Brining chicken breasts using the brine recipe from Well-Fed’s “Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat”

Last, I found a pretty bottle in which to infuse some apple cider vinegar with herbs that needed to be used up: rosemary, thyme & basil, a few peppercorns, and a garlic clove or two.

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Herb- & garlic-infused apple cider vinegar

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