Hello 2017! Boy, am I happy to see you! Because honestly, 2016 came with its fair share of bumps, twists, and bruises and we are ready to shake off the old and step into the new. Who else is with me? We are ready to start anew and take charge this month!

January is the traditional month of making resolutions like “I am finally going to lose those 15 pounds,” or “I need to drop the holiday weight I put on.” While this month’s recipes fall in line with those goals, this edition of “At Your Table” is more than that – it is a reminder that this body is the only one we’ve got and we need to love it, care for it, and feed it well. This month, and each month forward, we will be offering more recipes that feed the body and soul with food that fits most everyone’s dietary needs (gluten free, vegan, Whole30, etc.). We will focus on natural, body-loving foods that will not only fill your belly, but make you feel good about the food you are eating.

Egg Roll in a Bowl (Crack Slaw)
Most people think we, as private chefs, must eat healthy foods all the time… and sometimes we do. But the reality of cooking food for other people all the time is you have no desire to cook a healthy meal for yourself. So I have been playing with a few recipes that are easy, filling, delicious, and most of all, can be made in advance and enjoyed for more than one meal. We had a couple of clients’ who were following the Whole30 program, where you remove all dairy, gluten, soy, and sugar from your diet. We found it quite a fun challenge to create foods that fit into these guidelines, but were still flavorful enough that you actually craved them. Here are two you will fall in love with. Serves four.

1 lb. ground pork (chicken, beef, turkey or firm tofu would all work as well)
2 tbs. sesame seed oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 14 oz. bag of coleslaw mix or one small head of cabbage shredded and one carrot shredded
1 tbs. Sriracha (I love spice so I add way more, adjust to your liking), plus more for garnish
1 tbs. fresh chopped ginger or 1/2 tsp. dried ground ginger (optional)
1 tsp. white vinegar
3 tbs. coconut aminos (all the yum of soy sauce without the soy. Available at HyVee in the Health Market section); Soy and Tamari sauce work as well, but not Whole30
1/4 tsp. black pepper or three good grinds on a pepper mill
4 green onions, chopped and divided in half
1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet until it starts to shimmer. Add ground pork and break apart. Cook over medium high heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add crushed garlic and stir. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage and carrots and stir until well blended. Cook until cabbage starts to soften, about 6-8 minutes. Add Sriracha, ginger, vinegar, coconut aminos, and half of the green onions. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. To serve, drizzle with Sriracha, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, and try to eat just one serving.

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Butternut Squash and Kale
Cold winter nights deserve body and soul warming stew, slow cooked all day, lofting delightful earthy scents throughout the house. This stew will please the whole family and no one needs to know it’s a healthy meal for them all. Adapted from the Whole30 recipe. Serves two (with leftovers).

1 tbs. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tbs. kosher
salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 lime, juiced
1 1/2 lbs. pork shoulder (boneless)
2 tbs. high heat cooking oil (I use olive or vegetable oil)
1 butternut squash (about 2 1/2 lbs.)
, 1-inch diced or one 10-12 oz. package of diced butternut squash
1/2 bag chopped kale or 1 bunch kale, trimmed from stem and chopped
1 cup diced tomatoes, drained, juice reserved

Mix the cumin, coriander, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and stir. Place pork shoulder on a rimmed baking sheet and coat all sides of the pork with the spice mixture. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

Remove pork from the refrigerator and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. Add oil to large non-stick skillet, and heat over medium high until shimmering. Add pork shoulder and brown all sides until a nice crust is achieved, about 6 to 10 minutes. Once browned on all sides, transfer pork to large crockpot. (If you are pressed for time, you can skip the browning and place the pork directly into the crockpot, but I find the browning adds a depth and texture to the pork.). Add one cup of water and cover tightly with a lid. Set on low and cook for 6 to 8 hours.

After 5 hours, add the butternut squash, the kale, and tomatoes. If liquid seems low, add the reserved tomato juice. Cover and continue to cook another hour or so until squash is tender and pork shreds easily.

With tongs or a slotted spoon, arrange the vegetables on plates, then break the pork apart into generous chunks and place over the vegetables. Spoon the braising liquid from the pan over the pork.

Vegan Lettuce Wraps
3 tbs. hoisin sauce
3 tbs. tamari sauce or coconut aminos
2 tbs. rice vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. canola or coconut oil
1 (12 to 14-oz.) package extra firm tofu (do not use silken)
8 oz. baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, finely chopped
1 (8 oz.) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. ginger, freshly grated
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 green onions, finely sliced, divided
8 large inner leaves romaine or butter lettuce
2 tbs. white sesame seeds (garnish)
2 tbs. carrot, grated (garnish)

Press the tofu between paper towels to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Refresh the paper towels and press again. In a small bowl, stir together the hoisin, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Set aside.

Heat the two teaspoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, crumble in the tofu, breaking it into very small pieces as it cooks, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until any remaining tofu liquid cooks off and the tofu starts to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in the water chestnuts, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, half of the green onions, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds more.

Pour the sauce over the top of the tofu mixture and stir to coat. Cook just until you hear bubbling and the sauce is warmed through, 30 to 60 seconds. Spoon the tofu mixture into individual lettuce leaves. Top with remaining green onions, grated carrots, and additional red pepper flakes as desired. Enjoy immediately. Serves four. Leftovers are wonderful mixed in scrambled eggs.

Pecan Shortbread Cookies
Now for something a little sweet. Because life is really about balance, and even when we are tending to ourselves and trying to eat healthier, we all deserve a sweet treat now and then. What better treat than fresh baked shortbread cookies? We are taking these up a notch by adding pecans, because nuts are good for you, right? Makes 3 dozen.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbs. granulated sugar (I use natural cane sugar from Aldi; I find it adds depth to the flavor)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup pecans, lightly toasted and finely chopped
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 tbs. cold water

Place flour, 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, and salt in bowl. Using a standing or handheld mixer, mix ingredients on low until ingredients are well combined, about a minute or so. With mixer running, add butter pieces a few at a time, mixing until butter is incorporated before adding the next pieces. Mix until it has a sandy texture. Add pecans and vanilla and mix until combined. With motor still running, drizzle in the cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to hold together when pressed.

When dough is ready, lay out a sheet of plastic wrap, approximately 18-20 inches in length, and place dough in center of the plastic wrap. Mold dough into a log shape, about two inches in diameter and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place log into the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the log from the refrigerator and slice into 1/4 inch cookies. Place on a parchment lined or greased baking sheet, leaving a touch of room between the cookies, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Bake 15-17 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then move to cooling rack. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to seven days or frozen for up to three months.

We hope you enjoy these healthy, hearty, soul-loving foods this month. We are excited to share our journey of self-care and self-love with you and can’t wait to share more enticing, healthy, body-loving dishes with you.

Life’s a Feast, bring your appetite.

Angela and Carolyn Linton-Canfield
After 18 years working in the food and beverage industries of Chicago and San Francisco, Angela and Carolyn started a private chef and catering company, Life’s a Feast, in the tri-state area. They embrace their passion of cooking, entertaining, and creating one-of-a-kind experiences for their clients. Carolyn and Angela now share their passion with viewers on their cable show Life’s a Feast, available on Mediacom and their YouTube channel, Life’s a Feast LLC. Both share their expertise on food and wine on our website, their website, as well as their Facebook page. Recipes and photos are the copyrighted and intellectual property of Life’s a Feast, LLC.

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