Browsing Category: Paleo-esque

Paleo Meatballs

On request of my ‘roommate,’ I tried this recipe from Easy Peasy, for paleo meatballs. It’s almost identical to the ones I usually make (which, by the way, get rave reviews by same roommate -beef, not turkey per the URL), except without breadcrumbs, a few more spices (oregano, basil), and added spinach. Never parsley. Boo parsley. It is only better than cilantro, which is the worst. Funny that anyone needs a paleo version of meatballs.. I followed the second option for directions that Angela mentioned: fry, then bake.

mince, mix, meld into balls, mmmmheat, and mmserve!
mince, mix, meld into balls, mmmmheat, and mmserve!

Paleo Meatballs

Ingredients:
1lb. grass fed ground beef
1 egg
1tsp garlic powder
1tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2tsp salt and 1/4tsp pepper)
1/2 small onion, minced (I used minced red onion here)
1Tbsp spinach (optional)
1Tbsp fresh parsley (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, scramble egg and combine remaining ingredients, mix.
3. Using a spoon, shape into meatballs. I tried for small ones, a little bigger than the diameter of a quarter. That’s the way I like my food portioned –meatballs, or cookies, or whatever.
4. The original recipe said that for a little crunch if you’re up for an extra step, heat a pan with about 1 Tbsp olive oil and brown on both sides, then bake 10-15 minutes until thoroughly cooked. This pan fry step made the house smell really tasty, plus, it led to..
5. Extra credit: sauté/ wilt some fresh vegetables in the remaining meaty-oil mix on the pan. I did this with spinach and a little minced garlic.

I served this with a side of barbecue sauce, a spring mix salad, garlic sautéed spinach, atop some leftover garlickified quinoa (see: fry up lots of minced garlic, add leftover cooked quinoa until warm), and atop some red rice I found in the back of the pantry. Of course, you could also eat it with pasta, or zucchini pasta, or just baked in barbecue sauce..

meatballs: not vegetarian.
meatballs: not vegetarian.

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 2 of 5 stars
I may have never tried this exact rendition, but it sure did feel familiar.
Likelihood of Repeat: 40%
The other eater seemed to like them. It seems in the past that any time I make meatballs, no matter how much I tried to make extra, we didn’t end up with much left, so that’s a good sign. However, I still believe that the ones with breadcrumbs taste better, so I’ll probably only make these ones on specific request, or for my gluten-liberated friends. It might be worth trying without the spinach next time.

New standard review note!
Lesson Learned: Shaping meatballs always takes a little more time than you imagine, and don’t plan for leftovers.

Quinoa, for breakfast?!
Coconut Quinoa Breakfast Blend

An old classmate of mine has been keeping a blog too, Monica’s Cheddar Cheese Popcorn, which includes plenty of food talk. It seems she’s on a new year health kick and has been trying some different food habits. Below is my rendition of the idea I got from her. It plays right into my urge to reinvent my breakfast routine, since the old irish-oats-in-rice-cooker-overnight-plus-toppings drill has started to feel stale.

Coconut_Quinoa_Collage
The viscosity of the coconut milk threw me for a loop: the top looked like whipped cream! Yum! Also: made a total mess of the pot since I kept turning up the heat and letting it boil over. Oops.

I haven’t specified the portions of the toppings below, as I’m sure every one has their own preference for ratios.

Coconut Quinoa Breakfast Blend

Day 1: with pear, et. al.
Day 1: with pear, et. al.
Day 2: with apple, &c.
Day 2: with apple, &c.
Day 3: before heating and adding toppings, transported via mason jar.
Day 3: before heating and adding toppings, transported via mason jar.

Ingredients:
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup quinoa
Toppings: take ’em or leave ’em
cinnamon, to taste (~a dash)
salt, to taste (very little)
sliced almonds
pecans
dried pineapple
dried cranberries
granola (for crunch)
honey
flax seed
chia seeds
pear, sliced

Steps
1. Boil coconut milk and water on high until almost boiling, add quinoa and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20-30 minutes.
2. While cooking quinoa, lightly toast almonds and pecans, grind flax seed with mortar and pestle (to release the nutritional oils), and slice the pear.
3. Scoop out some quinoa, top with your choice of toppings, and enjoy! Toppings could certainly be simpler, I just got carried away on a day off. I think it might even be good with a little jam on top.

Note: chia seeds are hella expensive. I scavenged some from my house, since it turns out my “roommate” bought a bag a long time ago. I think it’s safe to say that more than a teaspoon of either flax or chia seeds may be too much. I have read that said chia seeds have magical ‘make-you-feel-full’ properties. Beh. I also panicked a little after 20 minutes when the whole mix still looked watery, but after I’d eaten a small bowl (straining out some liquid), I found that the rest of the quinoa left on the stovetop had absorbed the water, so it worked out fine.

Interestingly, my first bowl of this I found I needed to drizzle honey on top, but by the next day, some sliced apples were enough sweetness for me. I packed a little mason jar of this for breakfast at work, and found it turned out to be too filling! How surprising. I tampered with the portioning to half the amount I would normally eat for oatmeal, which means I ended up eating it for breakfast for four straight days, but, no complaints, once I got the portions right (a little quinoa, lots more fruit and nuts).  [Insert lecture here extolling the virtues of quinoa as a healthful false grain, vs. a regular ‘evil’ carb. Then insert lecture on the economic issues of quinoa, driving up the prices so that those who natively ate it as a staple in the Andes switch to more fattening staples. That leaves me, the overthinker, sort of leaving it at a wash for now..]

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
5 of 5 stars The endless possibility of topping variations is quite appealing. I’m interested to find out how much fat I just added to my breakfast routine..
Likelihood of Repeat: 100% Yum! I’m definitely going to try and make oatmeal in coconut milk too, especially since I’ve got some coconut milk left over in the fridge. This combination inches me closer to the USDA MyPlate guidelines.
New standard review note!
Lesson Learned: oy! Don’t let the [coconut] milk boil over! Related lesson: I am really bad at cooking staple grains on stovetop. That’s what my robot butler, a.k.a. rice cooker, is for.

What do you do for breakfast? How do you keep it interesting?

Day 4: with berries and bananas. Still tasty, and very filling. The chia seeds started looking scary fuzzy, but no ill effects so far..
Day 4: with berries and bananas. Still tasty, and very filling. The chia seeds started looking scary fuzzy, but no ill effects.

Maple Lemon Seared Salmon

Around when I first started working where I do now, there was a year when there were funds for healthy incentives in the workplace, and my office spent part of it on a subscription to Cooking Light. This recipe is from one of those issues, the April edition of Cooking Light, 2009. Every time I make this, I wonder that I don’t make it more often, as it cooks up so darn fast, you need to have your salad and starch staple ready before you even start pan searing it. It’s in the “Less than 30 Minutes” folder, and it’s even good for you!

Salmon with Maple-Lemon Glaze

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I am often lazy and use bottled lemon juice..)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray (I usually skip this one since my skillet is pre-conditioned)

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add fish to bag; seal. Refrigerate 10 minutes, turning bag once.
3. Remove fish from bag, reserving marinade. Place marinade in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute.
4. Heat a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. I use a cast iron skillet. Sprinkle fish evenly with salt and pepper. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish to pan, skin side up, cook 3 minutes. Turn fish over. Brush marinade evenly over fish. Broil 3 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

*I use the same amount of marinade whether I’m making one little fillet, or a larger, hulking one. The king salmon last night was not as flavorful as the sockeye I think we usually get, so keep in mind that the type does matter for the taste.

Note: Careful not to overcook! I originally misread this recipe to indicate cooking both sides for 3 minutes, then broiling, when in fact it meant for you to put the salmon in the oven to broil directly after the first side is on the pan 3 minutes. Well, maybe everyone else is smart enough to have that figured out the first time.. Anyway, it was a relatively simple but delicious dinner atop the usual spring mix salad with craisins and walnuts, with a small side of quinoa. It also goes well with a fresh side of those charred green beans I posted about in December. Don’t degrade it with some lame defrosted peas like in that Cooking Light link’s photo! Boooo.

There were so few steps, I only had one collage for you!
There were so few steps, I only had one collage for you!

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
1 of 5 stars
I’ve made this plenty of times since 2009, it’s in the regular rotation. However, I haven’t consistently gotten just the right crunchy glaze on combined with extra fresh fish, so that part is always a delightful novelty to eat.
Likelihood of Repeat: 100% See above. Out here in Seattle, there’s no shortage of salmon to buy -although much of it seems to come from Alaska- but I still have yet to try another recipe that’s trumped this one. Let me know if you find one. I pretty much stock cider vinegar in my house solely for this recipe, and the maple syrup is probably used more for this than the rare waffle. I guess part of the reason I don’t make it more is that when you have so much fresh fish out here, it’s blasphemy not to get fresh fish, which means a store visit and cooking the day of, and I’m not so willing to do that. On the other hand, the cast iron pan often spits little bits of oil at me, and I say it’s totally worth the occasional burn for some tasty caramelized fish.

Method Break: Poached Egg by Microwave

In case you’ve not heard, you can poach an egg in the microwave! It took me a few tries but I finally got it about right for my particular microwave.

In vintage (a.k.a. janky) microwave:
1. Add 1/2 c water to a small bowl, carefully crack egg in, cover loosely.
2. Heat 50 seconds at power level 8.
Voila!

You may need to fiddle a few different ways to figure out the right amount of time and power for your microwave, and it’s not exactly the same as an over easy fried egg fresh from the pan since it cooks more evenly, but I found it quite satisfying to be able to have a soft, yolky egg to top whatever leftovers I had, be it rice, squash, ramen, or even salad.

20131205-131831.jpg

Meatless Moping: Chickpeas with Chard & Pan-Roasted Tomatoes

I like making meals my spouse isn’t a big fan of when he’s out of town, which usually means no meat, and more carbs. Today’s recipe is one from Real Simple Magazine shortly after a honeymoon to New Zealand, where for breakfast we had thick-cut bacon, a fried egg and a succulently delicious sautéed tomato half almost every morning we were there. Surprisingly, I found the tomatoes the tastiest feature of the dish, despite my love of bacon, and missed it when we got home (along with the warm friendliness of the kiwis on our travels). So of course, this is a reminder of that nostalgic deliciousness, even though roma tomatoes out of season from the stores here don’t taste nearly as good as in New Zealand on honeymoon. It’s a quick fixup, goes good with your staple grain/false grain of choice, with a side of Mindy Project and silent moping about.

the finished product
the finished product

Chickpeas With Chard and Pan-Roasted Tomatoes
Original Real Simple recipe here, version below is minorly altered. Time adjusted to match a gas stovetop, you may need a minute or so longer for an electric range.

Serves 4
Hands-on Time: 20m
Total Time: 50m

Ingredients
* optional: serve with brown rice, spaghetti squash, or quinoa
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 4 small roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
* 1 small bunch Swiss chard, thick stems and ribs removed and leaves torn (about 8 cups)
* 1/3 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries
* 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
* kosher salt and black pepper
* 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice

rainbow chard, roma tomatoes, dried cranberries, sliced garlic, chickpeas, lemon juice and salt.
the ingredients

Directions

1. Cook your grain/squash/fake grain of choice accordingly.

2. Twenty minutes before the grain is done, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, cut-side down, and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until browned and starting to soften 2-3 minutes; turn and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add the chard, raisins/cranberries, garlic, 2 tablespoons water, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the skillet. Cook, tossing, until the chard wilts, 2 minutes.

4. Return the tomatoes to the skillet, add the chickpeas and lemon juice, and toss until heated through, 1 minutes. Serve over the rice/squash/quinoa.

Notes:
I don’t ever have golden raisins on hand, and regular raisins don’t look too appetizing in this dish, so the dried cranberries usually in my pantry work fine to add a little sweetness on top of the tomato flavor. I tried this with heirloom tomatoes once too, and I don’t recommend it. Their complex flavor was lost when they turned too mushy in the pan too fast. For this post, I only made a half portion, as I had other methods to try for the rest of that chard.

ChickpeasChardTomato_Collage

Today’s Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Made it before, but I mostly only make it when my “roommate’s” out of town, so it’s still a little rare..
Likelihood of Repeat: 75%
It’s too fast to NOT do!

Sweet & Spicy Almonds

Cookies Part 3 of 4. This one whips up fast, and it’s even vegan!

sweet & spicy almonds: roast, melt the slurry, coat, add dry mix, cool. easy!
sweet & spicy almonds: roast, melt the slurry, coat, cool. easy!

(originally from All Recipes, HQ’d in Seattle! ..one adjustment here)
Makes: 2 1/2 cups almonds
Total processing time: less than 30 minutes

Ingredients
1/4 cup raw sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 1/2 cups whole almonds
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon olive oil

Directions
1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet, and toast until the nuts start to turn golden brown and become fragrant, about 10 minutes. Watch the nuts carefully as they bake: they burn quickly.
2. Stir together the sugar, salt, and cayenne pepper in a mixing bowl; set aside.
3. Stir together the water, honey, and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the mixture begins to bubble, stir in the toasted almonds until evenly moistened. Pour the almonds into the sugar and spice mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread onto baking sheets in a single layer, and cool to room temperature.

Notes: don’t breathe in too deeply when you’re mixing the dry ingredients, or you will end up coughing. I keep reading this note and still doing it. :p Also: you could use agave syrup instead of honey, it won’t stick as well and will feel a little more oily.

Today’s “Cookie” Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 1 of 5 stars
Likelihood of Repeat: 85%
Since these are marginally better for you than cookies, I make them year-round, so they are very familiar. I also like that they don’t require egg whites, another recipe I tried used egg whites and things turned out funny.

Spaghetti Squash 2 Ways

There are some days when I miss spaghetti, as my household doesn’t eat much pasta at home any more (well, even if I made it, the other half would likely abstain). If it happens to be a chilly Fall day when I’m plotting a meal to make, my mind goes to spaghetti squash. I was only introduced to this intriguing squash variety a couple years ago, when to help while away a lengthy chemo session, a steadfast childhood friend stopped by with some, miraculously procuring something that appeared both vegetable and pasta-like! How novel! I could feel my brain stretching as I ate it…

That brings us to today’s recipe, an amalgam of internet advice and my squash baking experiences. Note: I’ve starred a couple options that I consider more fattening (and therefore tasty).

(1) Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Zucchini Sausage Saute: looks like spaghetti, still tastes like healthy..

spaghetti squash as pasta dish
spaghetti squash as pasta dish

Ingredients:
1/2 spaghetti squash (you can bake the whole thing, but the rest of this only needs half the squash)
1/2 sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
1.5 zucchini squash, sliced and halved
chicken apple sausage, sliced and halved (or polska kielbasa sausage*)
butter* or olive oil (for squash baking)
saffola oil (for frying)
salt & pepper (to taste)
thyme (to taste)
parmesan, grated or thinly sliced (your choice)
cheat ingredient: bottled pasta sauce

makes: 4 servings

The Squash:

    1. Preheat oven to 350
    2. Cut spaghetti squash in halve lengthwise, de-seed (shortcut option: poke squash with a fork and microwave for a few minutes to presoften before you fight the rind to cut it, this may result in a mushier end product, though)
    3. Oil or butter (I was feeling decadent so I used butter this time) the flat surface of the squash and lay, cut sides down, on a baking sheet.
    4. Bake spaghetti squash in oven about 30 minutes (check after 20 if you microwaved before cutting), until barely tender when poked with a fork.
    5. While you wait, you can work on sauteing the other stuff per directions below, or go do a little yoga (I did the latter this time, since then the saute wouldn’t cool too much while I was scraping out the squash).
    6. Remove squash from oven, let cool to a temperature to handle, then scrape the squash flesh out with a fork. As you scrape, it will come apart into spaghetti-like shapes. For most squash sizes I’ve seen, if you scrape out only half the squash, that will be enough for this recipe to serve 4, so the other half can be scraped out and put aside for a recipe another day, or frozen.

The Other Stuff:

    1. In a large frying pan on medium, saute onions 2 minutes in saffola oil.
    2. Add garlic, stir a bit.
    3. Add zucchini and sausage, saute 7 minutes or until at desired tender-crispness of zucchini and browning of sausage.

Combine:

  1. Add the squash to the pan, fold ingredients together, sprinkle with thyme, salt, and pepper to taste.
  2. Pour the pasta sauce and mix until warmed through.
  3. Serve with parmesan on top. You can also try it with goat cheese.
spaghetti squash as pasta recipe.
spaghetti squash as pasta recipe.

This week’s trial recipe #1 rating:
Novelty Rating:
2 of 5 stars
I’ve made this before. I get so excited when it’s plated like spaghetti, but the texture and flavor really aren’t anywhere close, it’s pretty crunchy. In retrospect I may have undercooked it, for fear of overcooking it into mush. Booooo.
Likelihood of Repeat: 35%
I’ve made this a few times, and my spouse’s reaction when he hears I’m making it is always, “that seems like a lot of effort for small gain.” So I think the spaghetti squash + pasta sauce combination is on its way out. Since I’m not on the Paleo or Atkins diets, why make spaghetti squash when you miss spaghetti?
Also, why did I make squash (spaghetti) with squash (zucchini)? C-razzy.
I think I need to find another spaghetti squash recipe that just treats it like spaghetti, and stick with Nom Nom Paleo’s Zucchini Spaghetti on those days when I can’t bring myself to cook actual pasta, but have time to julienne zucchinis. You got any?

In general, I am big proponent of eating things for the sake of their own taste, something I like to mention to my vegetarian friends when I agree on the tastiness of tofu, fried gluten, or quorn. Unfortunately, this seems to be an instance where I forgot about that in my enthusiasm for (a)my love of pasta and (b)the novelty of a weird squash that yields fun.

..so a few days later I figured I’d need to do something with that other half of the spaghetti squash (since I didn’t have an army sitting around to feed), something that treats it like squash rather than pasta. I adjusted this recipe from Cookin’ Canuck for Spaghetti Squash with Gorgonzola with Dried Cherries & Pecans for what I had and packed it up for lunch. Sorry, no pictures this time, ate it too soon during work to catch one.

(2) Spaghetti Squash Salad

Ingredients:
1/2 a spaghetti squash
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (more lactose-intolerant friendly)
1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped and toasted (was out of pecans)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 green onions (white & green parts), thinly sliced

Steps:

  1. Roast spaghetti squash per steps 1-4, and 6 in other recipe above.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together, olive oil, vinegar and salt.
  3. Pour vinaigrette into the spaghetti squash and toss. Add cheese, pecans, cherries, and most of green onions, stir well, and serve cold.

This week’s trial recipe #2 rating:
Novelty Rating:
4 of 5 stars
May have baked one too many spaghetti squash this season for it to feel novel..
Likelihood of Repeat: 90%
I still have some left over in the freezer and I plan to defrost and use it as a salad later. The slight tartness of the balsamic vinegar makes me less expectant that it should be heavy and filling, and therefore I found it more satisfying to eat. My friend I shared it with also gave positive reviews.