Slow Cooker Osso Bucco

Ciao friends! Today I am sharing with you a new recipe that utilizes the Slow Cooker to create a healthy variation of an Italian classic – Slow Cooker Osso Bucco! For those who are not familiar, traditional Osso Bucco usually refers to a specific cut of veal that is braised to fork tenderness in a concoction of wine, broth, vegetables, herbs, and spices, often served with a fresh herb gremolata. I typically do not eat veal because it is sad as hell, but luckily, you can achieve the warming and comforting qualities of Osso Bucco by replacing the veal with lighter, leaner, less sad protein choices like chicken or turkey, or even ¼ heads of cauliflower for a vegan variant. The next tweak to this Italian dish is to braise the protein in the slow cooker rather than on the stove or in the oven. By using the slow cooker, you guarantee tenderness and achieve greater freedom as you are able to allow the slow cooker to do the work all day so you can come home to fully cooked meal!

More or less a stewed dish with earthy herbs like rosemary and thyme and warming spices like cloves, Osso Bucco is a hearty, comforting dish that is perfect for fall and winter nights. I love making this dish with turkey around the holidays as it tastes and feels like a perfect holiday weeknight dinner. I recommend serving with a starch like mashed potatoes/sweet potatoes, risotto, or polenta to help soak up the sauce, and of course, lots of seasonal vegetables. Curl up with this dish and a Christmas movie and you are in for a cozy dinner treat!

Slow Cooker Osso Bucco

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

  • 4-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken or turkey pieces (thighs and breasts)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup broth of choice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken or turkey on both sides with ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and the garlic powder. Sear the chicken on both sides until golden-brown, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the skillet and place at the bottom of the slow cooker.

Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the skillet. Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper. Cook till tender and onions translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and stir 1 minute until it coats the vegetables. Add the wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until evaporated. Pour the contents of the skillet into the slow cooker on top of the chicken.

Add the stock, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and cloves. Mix well and cover. Cook on low for 5 ½ – 6 hours or high for 2 ½ – 3 hours.

Plate the chicken or turkey pieces, spoon over some of the sauce, and if desired, sprinkle with optional gremolata.

Optional Gremolata:

  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Zest of half an orange
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Pinch of salt and peper

Combine all in ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well.

Vancouver

For years I had read and heard that Vancouver was an incredible, unique city in the heart of Canada’s beautiful province, British Columbia. Many have described it as an area that provides an exciting city to explore and quick access to mesmerizing hikes year round, breathtaking sea adventures spring through early fall, and stellar skiing in winter through early spring. I love all of these things and have thus always wanted to make my way to Vancouver. Finally in late October of 2017, I did and it was a spectacular experience.

(scroll down if you are looking for quick Vancouver recommendations)

 Indeed Vancouver is a wonder of a metropolis. It has great architecture, from vintage charming in areas such as hoppin’ and happenin’ Gastown replete with exposed brick walls and cobblestone streets to  modern sleek throughout downtown to cozy arts and craft style neighborhoods. Vancouver offers everything you want out of a populous and metropolitan city; fantastic restaurants and bars, great current and specialty shopping, and fun night life. And though it is crowded as most city hubs are, it still somehow manages to feel like an inviting town more than a city which can be attributed to its connection with nature which runs throughout the city with an abundance of trees and other organic features as well as its resident population of kindly, warm people that call Vancouver home.

Vancouver from the Bay

Again, what makes Vancouver so special is its extremely close proximity to nature. In Vancouver, not only do you have Stanley Park, but you are a stone’s throw away from the mountains, the woods, and the ocean at all times, allowing you to pursue your choice of outdoor activities with great ease. As a lover of the great outdoors myself, this factor made me fall in love with Vancouver that much more. Within just 3 1/2 days in Vancouver, I was able to do great city exploration and all that comes with it, a fairytale of a hike, and an adventure of a whale watching experience out on the water. So much, so close!

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Needless to say, I absolutely loved my stay in Vancouver and would highly recommend that anyone who loves all of the things I have just described above to go visit themselves. I was only there for half a week, but I feel comfortable stating that I think I could live in Vancouver if the opportunity arose.

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With that, I am sure you are eager to learn more, right? Well, keep reading below for a list of recommendations from my Vancouver adventure to consider when planning your own. I have divided them into Vancouver Areas, Activities, and Restaurants.

Continue reading

Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice

Cauliflower Rice has been a thing for a good minute now, and I have been here for it for all of that minute. To me, plain white and brown rice is really just a vessel to soak up sauce or provide body and bite for another dish it is served alongside. In my opinion, neither colors of rice add anything special to any dish of their own accord, instead, they just add carbs. I have found that cauliflower rice provides that same texturized feel as white or brown rice and acts equally well as a supporting act to other dishes it is served with while also keeping the amount of carbs you are eating low (Disclaimer: carbs are great! You need carbs! They are essential to healthy functioning! But I prefer to get my carbs from other, more exciting sources than plain rice).

Furthermore, in my experiences working with cauliflower-rice, I have found that it has the potential to contribute its own something special to a meal or even stand alone. By its very nature, it seems to soak up flavors more readily, allowing it to act as a real stand-out side or even starring base.

This Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice is one of my favorite ways to turn to this crucirferous vegetable into a gourmet tasting dish. The texture is just that of a crunchy yet chewy rice dish, but with a unique zesty and bright flavor profile. This recipe works as a great accompaniment to any sort of Mexican food: tacos, enchiladas, tequila-lime chicken, etc. It also makes a great base for a taco/burrito bowl style meal. It can even be served chilled as an additional base alongside lettuce in a salad.

This dish is incredibly simple to make, only requiring a few in expensive ingredients. By its very nature, it is also an incredibly healthy dish, full of the nutrition and benefits of cauliflower which include providing large amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, cancer fighting properties, immune and digestive system support and much more. This dish is vegan, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly. It has become a staple recipe in my home, and now I am excited to share it with you!

Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups cauliflower rice *See Note*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ medium red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Sautee until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the cauliflower rice, sprinkle with garlic powder, remaining salt, and pepper. Mix together and continue cooking, stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes, until the cauliflower goes from bright white to slightly golden. Turn off the heat, add the lime juice, zest, and cilantro. Mix well and serve.

*Note* You can make your own cauliflower rice by taking cauliflower florets from a large head of cauliflower, cutting away as much stem as possible and in 3 batches, break up the florets into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles couscous. OR you can just buy premade Cauliflower Rice; Trader Joe’s has the best.

 

 

 

Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo

My Slow Cooker, Carlotta, is the best. She makes me all sorts of delicious foods from soups and stews to braises and poaches, she can do it all! One of my favorite dishes that I like to have Carlotta the Slow Cooker whip up is this Chicken Adobo. It is an incredibly simple dish, requiring few ingredients and only minutes of minimal effort to prepare.

It is rich with a flavor profile that is at once lightly spicy and subtly smokey. Additionally, the small shopping list for this recipe makes it quite cost effective.  It is also fit-fam friendly; it is completely gluten and dairy free and low in both fat and sugar. Combine all this with the fact that it is such an absurdly simple recipe to prepare and you will soon find this dish in your regular rotation.

I like to serve my chicken adobo with some zesty Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice and seasonal vegetables or zoodles. You can also shred the slow cooker level tender chicken to incorporate into tacos, enchiladas, or on top of a salad. Once the slow cooker has produced this great main dish for you, the world is yours to do with it as you please!

So whip out your Slow Cooker, name it like me, and get cooking!

Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce *see note*
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • Cilantro for garnish

Directions:

Lay the chicken pieces at the bottom of the slow cooker. Pour over the tomato sauce. Add in the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours. Option to shred chicken with forks or serve in whole pieces.

*Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce Note 1* You can find these peppers in small cans in the ethnic foods isle of your local grocery store. See picture below.

*Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce Note 2* The more peppers, the spicier the recipe. The use of 2 is quite mild, the use of 4 is decently spicy but nothing crazy. You pick your level of spice!

 

 

Choosing Life Over Loans

I recently read a brilliantly written article by Lee Siegel entitled, “Why I Defaulted On My Student Loans”. In summary, Siegel recounts her choice to not pay her student loans back in order to continue living a full life that was not solely based on making money, paying bills, and dying at the end of it all. She calls out how, unfortunately, our society often looks upon one who is in debt for their education, and not doing all they can to pay their loans back as soon as possible, as someone who is irresponsible and displays a lack of good character. She argues, however, that building good character in the eyes of others requires actually living and enjoying life, seeing and experiencing the world, and nurturing relationships with others. The article is very thought provoking, and I agree with much of what she says. Take a read here: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/opinion/sunday/why-i-defaulted-on-my-student-loans.html?referrer&_r=0

You see, I myself have a decent amount of student loans to my name, along with 42% of my generation, and so Siegel’s article speaks to me on many levels. Now, to all my family members and close friends, please do not fret; I have no intention of defaulting on my student loans. Though, I also do not plan to work myself into unhappiness and depression over said loans. Some would argue that the wisest course of action would be to put my head down, work myself to the bone, all the while turning down opportunities for rewarding life experiences, until I have managed to pay back my loans. Maybe then, after I have paid back said loans, can I then decide to begin truly living my life. Personally, I don’t find this a wise course at all. Continue reading

Hydration, Hydration, Hydration

It’s summer and that means the sun stays in the sky longer and the temperature in the air grows warmer. All this extra light and heat gives us more time to spend outside and in the ocean or the pool having fun, but it also means that our bodies will be needing greater amounts of hydration.

Our bodies recognize that we are in summer because of the seasonal shifts that happen around us, and to compensate for the greater exposure to light and heat our bodies release more water in the form of sweat to keep us cool. You might recognize yourself sweating more when you are exercising or merely outside walking; but what you probably don’t notice is that you are also probably subtly sweating more in your sleep and throughout the day in general. This is natural and this is good; your body is doing its job in making sure you do not become over heated. However, it needs your conscious support to keep it hydrated.

Staying hydrated comes with a whole bunch of benefits. Some of those benefits are:

  • Weight Loss & Weight Regulation
  • Higher Amounts of Energy
  • Memory Loss Prevention
  • Fresh & Glowing Skin
  • Stronger Hair & Nails
  • Healthy Digestion
  • Healthy Function of Kidneys
  • Aid of Natural Detoxification Process
  • Good Joint Health

All good things right?! So you see why staying hydrated is so important to your overall health.

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Now, here are some good tips to making sure you stay hydrated throughout your day:

  • Drink a large glass or bottle of water in the morning to replenish your system after the extended period of time in which you aren’t hydrating because of sleep.
  • Drink an 8 ounce or more glass or bottle of water within a 2 hour period, every 2 hours.
  • Drink coconut water when feeling extra dehydrated to also replenish electrolytes. Great for post-workouts!
  • Get hydration from your food!
    • Straight water is not the only way your body can receive the hydration it needs.
    • Your digestive system will extract water from the food you eat, so eat more of the following water rich foods throughout the summer:
      • Watermelon
      • Peaches
      • Grapes
      • Berries
      • Tomatoes
      • Cucumber
      • Carrots
      • Celery
      • Lettuce and Greens
      • Zucchini & Yellow Squash
    • So as you can see, staying hydrated can taste great too!

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Now we all know how important hydration is, how great it can be for us, and how we can all be mindful is staying hydrated.  So drink your water and eat your water rich foods and  go forth, soak up the sun, work up a sweat, and have fun!

A Paella Experience

As many of you may have seen if you follow me on social media, I was recently on holiday in Spain. I embarked on this Spanish adventure to see the beautiful and iconic sites, engage with the vibrant people and culture, and of course, I went to eat and drink A LOT. I enjoyed a truly unfathomable amount of sangria and indulged in Spain’s national dish, paella. Now, I will not recount every single meal I ate nor review every single restaurant that I dined in; if I did that, I would be on my way to publishing a travel guide. I will, however, share a wonderful experience I had; my Paella Cooking Class through Airbnb Experience.

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I highly recommend Barcelona.

If you live under a rock and are unfamiliar with Airbnb, read about it here. For the rest of you who know Airbnb already, you might be surprised and delighted to learn that Airbnb now offers “Experiences” in which locals host an event, tour, or class of some kind that gives participants a taste of their city and community. Airbnb users visiting that city or community sign up and attend to join in the “experience” offered; it could be a hike through scenic hills followed by a picnic, a pub crawl, an art tour, or really anything that a host feels would be a good way to experience their homeland. The concept is unique and fantastic, offering travelers a chance to not only learn something new and/or do something fun under the guide of a local, but also the chance to meet up with other travelers! I think you should check it out.

Anyway, while I was in Barcelona, I noticed that Airbnb Experience was advertising a Paella Cooking Class. Upon further inspection, I learned that for just $30 I could attend this cooking class, instructed by a local cook, hosted in a professional kitchen, and learn to make sangria, paella, and a Catalan cream dessert, which I would then get to eat and enjoy. Sign me up and take my money! I was in.

The class was led by Eladi, a Catalonia-Spain native with a passion for cooking and drive to share traditional Spanish and Catalan cooking techniques with others. He believes in cooking with quality ingredients and infusing the food you cook with love and good energy; my kind of guy!

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The class took place in the kitchen of a bakery which we were allowed to use for our cooking purposes. With it being a professional kitchen, we had plenty of space for our class (and bonus, the bakery happened to be a 1 minute walk from my Airbnb!) And so, under Eladi’s instruction, our group of nine Airbnb travelers gathered around a big center island in the kitchen and set out to learn!

Eladi taught us first to make the traditional, and dearly beloved, Spanish drink that we all know and love, Sangria. He gave us a little background on its origins and then divvied out tasks for a few of us to do: squeezing oranges, cutting apples, etc. I myself had never made Sangria and so I really enjoyed learning the basic measurements and techniques for making it because I would like to make and drink more Sangria on a normal basis (you know, for health reasons). Anyway, we mixed everything in a big pitcher and stored it away in the fridge to emulsify for the next couple of hours, with the promise of our being able to drink the sangria when it and dinner was ready!

See Eladi’s original recipe for traditional Sangria here: Sangria Recipe

Below, I have rewritten the recipe to be in the British-American recipe format and using American measurements.

Sangria

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups red wine
  • 1 large apple, large cubed
  • 1 large orange, sliced
  • 1 large orange, juiced
  • 1 large lemon, sliced
  • 1 large lemon juiced
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 cups soda water
  • Ice

Directions:

Pour the wine in a pitcher. Add the juices of the orange and lemon. Add the cubes of apple, slices of orange and lemon, and the cinnamon sticks. Add the sugar and stir. Allow to chill for minimum 2 hours to maximum 24 hours. To serve, add ice and soda water, serve, and pour.

Pro-Tip: Sangria really should be made with Spanish wine and if you are in the States, Trader Joe’s has this good, inexpensive choice! See below!

Spanish Paella

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Next, we moved onto making the Catalan Cream for dessert, a very popular and traditional dessert in Spain’s region of Catalonia. It is essentially a custard made from milk, sugar, egg yolks, cinnamon, and lemon which is chilled in individual dishes, topped with sugar, then torched to create a sugar-glass crust. Think of a cross between flan and crème Brule, flavored with lemon and cinnamon; that’s Catalan Cream. Similarly, Eladi asked for volunteers to execute tasks like beating egg yolks and sugar together and so on. I am not a huge dessert eater or creator, so I really enjoyed adding this dish to my repertoire!

See the original recipe here: Catalan Cream Recipe

Again, below I have rewritten the recipe to be in the British-American recipe format with American measurements.

Catalan Cream

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Peel of 1 whole lemon
  • 1 ½ tablespoons corn starch
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions:

Place 3 cups of the milk, the cinnamon sticks, and the lemon peel in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boil is reached, turn off the heat and allow flavors to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Discard the cinnamon sticks and lemon peel after this time.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup of milk, egg yolks, sugar, and starch until well mixed.

Add the egg mix to the sauce pan with the milk. Bring back to a boil over medium heat, continuing to whisk until the mixture starts to thicken, about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk 1 more minute.

Pour the mix into individual clay pots or ramekins and chill for 2-24 hours. When ready to serve, top each surface with an even layer of sugar, about a tablespoon, and using a blow torch, burn the sugar until a crust is formed. Serve and enjoy!

Paella 2

Finally, we embarked on cooking the main course, the highlight; traditional Spanish Paella! Here again, even with how big of a cook I am, I had never tried to cook paella, though I’d always wanted to. In this setting with Eladi as my guide, I was able to not only learn the techniques and basic measurements for paella, but also the culture around it. Here were some of the takeaways pertaining to paella:

  1. Paella is not always made with shellfish or seafood – Contrary to what you see online or television, Spanish families use whatever protein is available for when they would like a pan of paella, and that does not always involve expensive seafood. Similarly, paella can be made with different types of vegetables depending on the season, and paella can be completely vegetable based as well if you would prefer not to have animal protein. We had a chicken-only paella.
  2. Paella is a dish that is built in stages from the center out – Oil is heated at the center of the pan. Salt and garlic are added to the oil to season said oil which will in turn season and flavor the rest of the dish. Proteins are added and cooked at the center, then they are pushed out in a circle and vegetables are added to the center. This process continues until all the larger ingredients are cooked, after which the rice is added and cooked for a short time before it is drowned in broth and the remaining herbs and spices are added, at which point the paella is pretty much left alone until the rice absorbs the liquids.
  3. Paella is a communal dish – This was the most important takeaway I found. Paella is not traditionally something that the main cook in the family makes in private then serves to everyone else in the family when it is ready. Rather, the act of cooking paella is a group effort. Spanish families make an afternoon of paella, gathering in the kitchen, each person fulfilling a role in the cooking process. Much like in our cooking class, steps are divided out; someone cuts vegetables, someone grates tomatoes, someone prepares the herbs, someone mans the pan, etc. Everyone is involved in the preparation of this traditional dish and when it is finished cooking, everyone enjoys it all together, usually out of the same pan!

 

We each did our part in the cooking as we learned, we chatted and laughed, and after about an hour of all of this, the paella was finally ready. We poured ourselves glasses of our previously concocted sangria which was incredibly, beautifully smooth, and we were then ready to eat.

Eladi placed the giant paella pan in the middle of the kitchen island and handed out big wooden spoons that paella is commonly enjoyed with in Spanish households. Then, as is traditional, he drew lines in the paella to create pizza slice-like sections. We all chose our own section and dove in. Truly, that first bite of our communally cooked paella was divine. The flavor salty, slightly smoky, and very savory, the texture delightful to the tongue, the chicken juicy and rich. I had had paella a couple of other times while in Spain at this point, but this homemade paella definitely won out as the best paella I had on my entire Spanish adventure.

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Furthermore, our group indulgence in this dish that we had all played a part in creating, our sharing in the dish all out of the same pan, made our eating more than just eating; it made it a special and memorable experience, as well as a delicious one.

See the recipe for Eladi’s Paella here: Paella Recipe

Once again, I have rewritten this recipe in a British-American recipe format with American measurements.

(You can take this recipe and get creative with your meats and veggies, as long as you have the basic measurements and techniques down.)

Paella

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Big pinch of salt
  • 4-6 garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ pounds chicken (whatever pieces you like, cut up)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups green beans, cut in half
  • 2 large tomatoes, grated
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • Rice
  • 12 strands saffron, soaked in 3 tablespoons of warm water
  • 2 bunches rosemary
  • 2 ½ cups Bomba Rice
  • 6 cups chicken stock, warmed

Directions:

With the paella pan over low heat add the salt over the whole surface. Pour in the oil and allow to heat a minute. Add the garlic to the center of the pan and cook 1 minute. Add the chicken to the center and cook until browned, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Move the chicken away from the center. Add the green beans to the center and cook 2 minutes. Move the green beans away from the center. Add the grated tomato to the center and stir 1 minute. Add the paprika and mix everything in the pan together.

Add the rice all over the surface and stir with all the other ingredients for 1 minute. Add the hot chicken broth. Move the meat and vegetables to be arranged evenly throughout the pan. Distribute the saffron threads evenly throughout the broth. Add the rosemary bunches.

Raise the heat to medium-high until the broth boils. Then lower to the lowest possible heat while still continuing the boil, usually a medium-low. Watch the paella and when rice grains appear on the surface of the liquid, lower the heat to low. Cook until the rice is firm, but tender, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover with lid, and let stand 5 minutes.

Serve right out of the pan with wooden spoons!

Notes:

It is important to choose a quality paella pan and make sure that the pan can be placed somewhere where heat can be distributed evenly.

Needless to say, I greatly enjoyed our Paella Cooking Class through Airbnb Experience. It offered a chance for my friend Kayleigh and I to make new friends in our fellow travelers and also in Eladi. It allowed us to learn new dishes we had always been interested in cooking. And of course, it gave us a space to have fun and to have a delicious meal. Now home from Spain, I am very much inspired to purchase a Paella pan and have a “Paella Party” with all my friends, giving us all a chance to enjoy the communal and tasteful experience that the Spanish have created around Paella.

If you are traveling to Barcelona and are interested in taking this class with Eladi, please visit the following to see when and how you can join!

http://paella.experientz.com/

https://www.airbnb.es/experiences/51311

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187497-d12246113-Reviews-Paella_Experientz_Barcelona-Barcelona_Catalonia.html

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