Maple, Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage

Maple Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage

Through the doorway and to the left of the fridge, my grandpa would cook breakfast sausage on an electric griddle. It's frozen like a photograph, just like that in my mind.

My view is from the a brown vinyl chair that's pulled up to my grandparent's kitchen table. Across the table there's a small TV, it's 10-inch screen grey and lifeless, and a stack of envelopes. Light comes in through a window behind my grandfather as he uses a spatula to serve sausage patties on a plate. 

I can almost taste them now, twenty-odd years later, crispy on the outside and rich with maple flavor. My tastebuds have forgotten everything else on the plate, but for some reason that sausage sticks with me. 

Maple Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage
Maple Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage

Breakfast sausage is still one of my favorite things to eat in the morning, but I hadn't made my own from scratch until working on this recipe. It's a combination of my favorite breakfast sausages: sweet, from the addition of maple syrup and apple, a sprinkling of fennel and nutmeg, and fresh sage. You can use whatever ground pork you prefer, though for a more transitional sausage you'll want something high in fat-- 20% or even 30% fat. If you prefer a leaner end result, go ahead and use a 10% fat ground pork (the end result will just be a bit drier). 

Maple Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage
Maple Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage

Maple, Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage

Paleo, Primal, Grain-Free    |       |    Print This Recipe

Ground pork is mixed with maple, apple, and herbs & spices for a savory-sweet breakfast sausage.

Serves: 4   |    Total Time:



Ingredients:

  • 1/2 apple
  • 1 pound ground pork (I prefer ground pork that has more fat for this recipe, such as a 80/20 ground pork, but you can use what ever you like. The leaner the meat, the drier the end result will be)
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Core the half apple and dice into very small pieces— no bigger than a 1/4 of a centimeter. Place in mixing bowl.
  2. Add pork, salt, pepper, nutmeg, minced sage, fennel, and maple syrup to the mixing bowl. Use your hands to mix all ingredients until full incorporated.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil to the skillet.
  4. Form pork mixture into small patties, 1-2 inches in diameter, and place in skillet when oil is hot. Cook for 5 minutes on the first side, until the bottom turns a golden brown color. Flip to second side, cooking for 5 more minutes or until cooked through. Serve hot.

Maple Roasted Carrot Salad

Maple Roasted Carrot Salad

The sunset glimmers for a few minutes as I drive home. I stayed late at work, but the days are getting longer, so I get to catch this brilliant pink and indigo show anyways. By the time I make it home, the moon is full and the rest of the sky dark. You can tell this means spring is coming, but here the ground is still frozen and hard. 

I am just starting to think about what we will put into our garden and carrots are one of the first crops that comes to mind. They are one of the first crops we'll be able to plant--leafier greens will need to wait until after our frost date, which is in May. Because that's still a long ways off, I try to reel in my thoughts and expectations. 

Maple Roasted Carrot Salad
Maple Roasted Carrot Salad

Still these spring thoughts put me in a springy mood, so when I get to the kitchen the meal that ensues is bright and fresh. Carrots are the cornerstone, roasted in avocado oil so that even though they are off-season, their sweetness is bold. 

The rest is simple: baby spinach (more spring vibes there), the biggest, juiciest dried cranberries I've ever had (they're from Made in Nature), and toasted walnuts. 

Maple Roasted Carrot Salad

Maple Roasted Carrot Salad

Paleo, Primal, Grain-Free    |       |    Print This Recipe

Carrots are roasted with avocado oil and maple syrup, which brings out their natural sweetness.

Serves: 4   |    Total Time:



Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger, grated on microplane
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large carrots
  • 6 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts

  • For the dressing:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Cut carrots into equally sized sticks, about 3 inches long and 1 centimeter thick. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, avocado oil, orange zest, ginger, and salt. Place carrots in bowl and toss to coat. Then, spread carrots out on sheet pan in even layer and place in oven.
  3. Bake carrots for 20 minutes, until they are softened through and starting to brown on the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  4. Whisk together ingredients for dressing. Fill salad bowl with spinach, and top with carrots, cranberries, and walnuts. Pour dressing over salad when ready to serve, and toss.

Maple Roasted Carrot Salad

Zoodle Chicken Chow Mein

Zoodle Chicken Chow Mein

I was having a really bad case of writers block for this post. I love the recipe, but wasn't sure how to put words to it. The post that follows is only slightly connected (Chow mein, Chinese food, Beijing... you'll get it in a few more sentences. I hope. 😬), but once I started writing it the words flowed. Despite being almost unrelated to Chow Mein, I hope you'll like it! And the recipe is below, of course. 

The Beijing Olympics opened the fall of my Senior year of high school. I was in the thick of my gymnastics obsession, and could name every competitor that was going to compete in the event on the women's side. Honestly I probably knew their age, floor music, and home town at the time too. 

My entire high school gymnastics team crowded into a single living room to watch the all-around event. As I remember it, the competition was no easy win--the Chinese team had a load of talented athletes. My own team, piled on the couch, yelled at the TV as if the athletes in China could hear us. "Stick it!!!!!" and we'd cross our fingers as if we had as much riding on this competition as the athletes themselves.

Zoodle Chicken Chow Mein

Even though I don't keep track of the US National team anymore, I cherish those memories because they mark a time in my life where I had truly found my passion. It wasn't until I started gymnastics that I had any desire to participate in sports at all, so when I think back on the sport I see it as transformative. 

I had no interest in athletics at a younger age--I remember my dad lecturing me in fourth grade that I had to do something. But I disliked most of the sports that were available, and found that when I ran track in gym class I usually wound up coughing until my lungs bled. Soccer and running were the two big sports at my school, and I didn't want a slice of either of them, not even in gym class. 

When I took up gymnastics (late for a gymnast--at the age of 9 or 10), I don't think I even thought of it as a sport. It felt like play time. Being upside down became my favorite thing in the world. Our living room became my jungle gym, much to my mother's chagrin. I was sold. 

Zoodle Chicken Chow Mein

The 2008 Olympics felt especially important because they happened to take place during my last year as a competitive gymnast. I had no plans to go on to NCAA. While I wasn't in the Games (or even close to them,) it felt like this was it. And what a competition it was! Team USA took Silver (women's) and my favorite two athletes went 1 and 2 in the all-around (Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin). 

When I stopped competing, I found that gymnastics had given me a launching point (a trampoline, if you will 😉) to actual enjoy other sports. I took up running--something I had despised previously, and eventually trained for a marathon. I was never going to be an Olympic athlete but that's not what I was meant to get out of gymnastics. Instead I learned that if you simply do the things you enjoy, exercise doesn't feel like a chore. Sometimes I hear people refer to it like this, and I hope that they will just find the one thing they are passionate about, because that is life changing. Do what you love

Zoodle Chicken Chow Mein

Three years after the Beijing Olympics, watching gymnastics competitions was far from my mind. I had shoved it in a corner, along with other things I "used to do." Some how the headline made it to me--perhaps on Facebook, or maybe a magazine: Nastia Liukin announces retirement. I think I broke out into tears. While I did very little gymnastics any more, this was a sort of final page on the gymnastics chapter in my life. It was silly. The emotional piece of it is almost impossible to explain. It felt like good bye, but a good bye I couldn't articulate. I started reading gymnastics articles again for a short stint, and then I remembered: just do what you love. 

Following that passion led me to Acro Yoga, climbing, and biking--while I probably wouldn't have loved them years ago, gymnastics had taught me how to make exercise feel like playtime. And that's still how I think of it. 

Zoodle Chicken Chow Mein

P.S., I just learned that crossing chop sticks and leaving chopsticks in a bowl are both big no-nos. Of course I would learn this after shooting these images 🙄 Will have to remember for next time! 

Zoodle Chicken Chow Mein

Paleo, Primal, Grain-Free    |       |    Print This Recipe

Chicken and veggies are sautéd with a savory sauce and tossed with zucchini noodles for a lighter, more nutritious take on the classic take out dish. And while this recipe does call for chicken, you could mix things up by swapping in shrimp or pork instead.

Serves: 2   |    Total Time:



Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken cutlets (about a 1/2 pound), chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 cups zucchini noodles (I use this Spiralizer)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup green beans, stems removed
  • 1/4 head napa cabbage, sliced thin
  • For serving: Sliced green onions, Sriracha or red pepper flakes

  • For the Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tapioca starch (or corn starch)

Directions:

  1. Heat coconut oil in a skillet or wok over medium heat until it glistens. Add diced chicken to skillet, and brown on each side.
  2. Add onion, garlic, mushrooms, and green beans to the skillet. Sauté until the onions are translucent and the green beans are bright green. Add cabbage, and stir.
  3. Make the sauce: in a small bowl, whisk all of the sauce ingredients together. Pour sauce into pan, and toss with vegetables to coat. Allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add zucchini noodles last, cooking just until tender.
  5. Serve in bowls and top with slices green onion and Sriracha or red pepper flakes as desired.