Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spaghetti Squash

Hello, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We roasted a duck and it was delicious. I used the leftovers to make a duck stock, and used that to make cassoulet. Not at all primal, but still delicious and a great holiday splurge.

Anyway, I still have some back-logged recipes to blog about. Another of my recent vegetable discoveries is spaghetti squash. I've never been a huge pasta fan, but I do really like some pasta sauces. Luckily this squash is a perfect vehicle for delicious sauce. I also wanted to write about this meal because I used leftover sauce and the rest of the sausage I bought for my mozzarella stuffed meatballs. I know meal planning is a challenge for a lot of people, especially two person households, because it's hard to think of ways to reuse the leftover ingredients so nothing goes to waste. This worked out to be a perfect way to use up what I had hanging out in my fridge.

Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce
1 medium spaghetti squash
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 C of carrots, chopped
1 link of hot Italian sausage
1/2 lb of ground beef
Red pepper flake, salt, pepper to taste
Left over tomato sauce (or 1 can of crushed tomatoes)
2 sprigs fresh oregano
Fresh basil and parmesan cheese to garnish

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Bake the squash for about 40 minutes. When it is done use a fork to separate the squash into strands that look like spaghetti. I did this part the night before because I knew I would be a little short on time the night I planned to eat this.

For the sauce, saute the garlic and carrots in olive oil over medium heat. Remove the sausage from the casing and add it in, along with the ground beef. Brown the meat and add the salt, pepper, and red pepper flake. Next add the leftover sauce (or crushed tomatoes) and let the sauce simmer for about 15-20 minutes. After the sauce is done just add the squash, mix it all together, and serve with parmesan cheese and basil.

The texture is different than spaghetti, but it is still delicious. I also find that the leftovers keep pretty well and make a delicious lunch the next day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Shopping

This weekend I went to the farmer's market with the goal of getting as much as possible of what I needed to cook Thanksgiving dinner later this week. It's just me and my husband this year, but we still plan on making plenty of food. So far here's our menu:

Butternut squash soup
Duck with pan sauce
Green Beans
Sweet potato casserole
Corn bread dressing (for my husband, I'm not a dressing fan)
Roasted potatoes
Pumpkin pie

I was able to get the squash, green beans, both kinds of potatoes, an onion for the dressing, and a sugar pumpkin pie at the farmer's market.
I also got some more delicious honey crisp apples, cauliflower to make a cauliflower puree for my husband's office Thanksgiving potluck, and some huge parsnips. This was the first time I've seen parsnips there and I was so excited, I love parsnips so much. So far there has still been a pretty good variety at the market, I hope in continues through winter. I've never tried this seasonal eating thing before and I'm afraid I'll get tired of the same old stuff by about the end of January. Hopefully it won't be a problem though.

Eggplant Enchiladas

I've been a bit lax about blogging recently, but I don't have to work this week so hopefully I'll have a chance to catch up.

As I've said before, after going primal I've missed Mexican food. I've looked for substitutes for tortillas before so I could make enchiladas again, but all the recipes I found used egg crepes instead of tortillas. I don't really like eggs, so that didn't work for me. I've always been a fan of eggplant parmesan and one day it occurred to me that if eggplant could work in place of pasta, why not in place of tortillas? So I tried it out and as far as I'm concerned, the eggplant works great.

Eggplant Enchiladas:
1 large eggplant, sliced
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups chicken stock
2 TBS tomato paste
1 TSP each cumin, coriander, paprika, chili powder, cayenne
2 TBS chopped cilantro
1 14oz can tomato sauce
1 clove of garlic, chopped
dash of cinnamon
2 cups of shredded cheddar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the eggplant into disks, lay them on foiled cookie sheets, drizzle both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. They should look like this:

Bake the eggplant for about 15 minutes until it's browned and soft enough to be pliable. When it's done it should look like this:

While the eggplant is in the oven cook the chicken and the sauce. Put the thighs in a pot with the stock and simmer at medium heat until the chicken is cooked through (around 15 minutes). When it's done shred the meat with two forks and mix in a bowl with the tomato paste, cilantro, and spices. Add a little of the cooking liquid to keep the chicken moist.

For the sauce sautee the garlic in a pan with a little olive oil. When it's browned add the tomato sauce and season with salt, pepper, and the cinnamon. Simmer until everything else is done and you're ready to assemble the enchiladas.

To make the enchiladas first spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish to keep everything from sticking. Then take a slice of eggplant and place 1-2 tablespoons of chicken in the center, roll the eggplant and place it in the pan seam side down. Keep lining up the enchiladas until the pan is full. Here is my dish about halfway full:

When the pan is full pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas. Top the sauce with the shredded cheese. Put it all back in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

I was so excited about eating I forgot to take a picture before I served myself.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I love jambalaya and a box of Zataran's used to be dinner on nights I didn't feel like doing much. I loved pretty much all of the boxed rice mix type things. Turns out those aren't very good for you, too processed and so much rice. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with rice, I just don't want to eat so many carbohydrates in one sitting. So, like the fried rice I posted about before, I substitute shredded cauliflower for rice in this recipe. It is really delicious and it's easy to feel good about eating it because it is almost all vegetable.

Cauliflower Jambalaya
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces
2 (about a pound) links of smoked sausage (I used kielbasa, but this would be great with andouille) cut into  bite sized pieces
1 small green pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
4 springs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 head of cauliflower, grated in the food processor
Half a bottle of beer
2 C of chicken stock

First, dice the pepper and garlic and saute in some olive oil (if you want to add onions or celery you should do so now). After they have softened and become aromatic, add the chicken and sausage and let them brown for about 5 minutes. Next add the tomatoes, bay leaf, cayenne, thyme, and salt and pepper. Let that come to a simmer and add the shredded cauliflower. Put in the beer and chicken stock. The liquid should come to just the top of the cauliflower. After it all comes to a simmer just put a lid on it and wait for about 10-15 minutes and then it's ready. Overall, this is much quicker than normal jambalaya because the cauliflower cooks much more quickly than rice. It ends up a little more soupy, but it's still delicious.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Food for You-Know-Who

I woke up early on Saturday to run to the farmer's market. I didn't get anything too exciting, mostly the same old stuff since that's what's in season. I did find some really beautiful purple lettuce though so I bought that instead of the standard green. This was partially because it was so pretty, but also because usually the more colorful food is the better it is for you. Anyway, I went home, put everything away, and started to clean the lettuce. As I was in the kitchen doing this my husband woke up and got out of bed. His first words to me were:

Robbie: Looking at the lettuce: "That looks like something Voldemort would eat."

Me: "I've never known Voldemort to eat anything besides unicorn blood. I don't really think he's a salad kind of guy."

Robbie: "Well if he did eat salad he would use that lettuce."

Well, good morning to you too. I think this might be his way of telling me he prefers the normal green lettuce.

Voldemort's Salad
Anyway, I also bought broccoli, green beans, white sweet potatoes, eggs, cauliflower, and some really cute tiny Brussels sprouts. Oh, and some apples. I used to eat a lot of apples, but cut back since they're pretty high in sugar. I started eating berries instead. Well, I really can't pretend berries are in season anymore so I'm back to apples. These are honey crisp and they are delicious. 

In addition, I think I might be getting into the whole red wine thing. We've had a few bottles of Cote du Rhone that I've really enjoyed. I have no idea if that's a good red wine, or like the white zin of the red wine world, but I guess I don't really care.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mozzarella Stuffed Sausage Meatballs

This meal is another one inspired by a Rachael Ray recipe. I know a lot of people find her annoying, but I really like a lot of her food. She is creative in a "I might actually be able to pull that off" kind of way, as opposed to a Michelin star kind of way.

Anyway, this meal has three components. The meatballs, the sauce, and the broccolini.

For the meatballs you need fresh sausage and bocconcini (bite-sized) sized fresh mozzarella. You can use whatever kind of sausage you like, I used the hot Italian pork sausage I picked up at the market last Saturday. To make the meatballs I just take 3 links and remove them from their casings. I split each link into three parts and put a bocconcino in the middle then molded the meat around it to form a meatball. I browned the meatballs in a pan with some olive oil then put them into a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes to cook through.

For the sauce I just saute and clove of chopped garlic in a little olive oil, then add a can of crushed tomatoes. I season it with salt pepper, red pepper flake, and fresh oregano and let it simmer until the rest of the food is done. It's the easiest tomato sauce ever. I had sauce leftover and I just put it in the fridge, I'll have to find a way to use it next week.

If anyone hasn't tried broccolini, I hightly recommend it. The taste is kind of a cross between broccoli and asparagus and it's very easy to cook. I heated up some fat in a pan (about one tablespoon each of bacon fat and butter) then added a clove of chopped garlic and the broccolini with the ends trimmed off. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and red pepper flake, turned the stalks around to make sure they were all coated with fat, and then put them in the oven with the meatballs. When everything was plated I finished it with a bit of fresh basil.

Look at that cheesy goodness.
Overall it was a delicious and satisfying meal. You don't need spaghetti to enjoy some meatballs!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Primal Mexican

I love me some Mexican food (or Tex Mex or whatever they try to pass of as Mexican here) but it's hard to find many primal friendly options. Too many corn chips, flour tortillas, beans and rice! Not to mention my favorite fast Mexican place, Chipotle, cooks everything in soybean oil. No thanks.

So instead of making tacos, I've started to make lettuce wraps with all my normal taco fillings. This isn't exactly a revolutionary idea, but it's something I've enjoyed more than I thought I would. On Sunday night we had some yummy chicken lettuce wraps.
I know this picture is terrible. 
I poached some chicken thighs in chicken stock then shredded them with two forks. I think mixed in some spices (salt, pepper, cayenne, cumin, paprika, chili powder) to make the taco meat. I also halved some cherry tomatoes and mixed them with diced avocado, cilantro, grated garlic and lemon juice to make a kind of guacamole salad. The only other thing I added was a shredded Mexican cheese blend. I served my wraps with regular green leaf lettuce, but butter lettuce works better. I just used what I had though. Overall, I don't miss the tortilla much. The fillings are the best part of tacos anyway, especially any fillings that involve avocado.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Food Therapy

I had a bad week last week. I just felt weird and sad for really no good reason. I usually don't mind my job but for some reason going to work everyday was just painful. I usually like to cook but I just couldn't find the energy to do it for some reason. As a result I ate terribly. I was too lazy to make myself a salad in the morning so I even bought chicken fingers from the office cafeteria twice in one week. I was eating poorly because I felt bad but eating bad just made me feel worse, physically and mentally. I felt bad for my lack of "will power" and because I was eating so much industrially produced food that I knew was bad for me and the environment. I just kept on the downward spiral.

Until I finally actually cooked something on Saturday night. It was just a simple dinner of pork chops with carrots and green beans, but it made me feel so much better. It made me feel a little bit more in control and it reminded me why I like to cook in the first place. I enjoyed the meal, both preparing it and eating it. I think it helped me get out of this short little bout of apathy, which is wonderful. Being apathetic is no fun at all.

I think I also feel better because I spent some time outside this weekend. It's easy to forget just how important it is to get out in the sun for a few minutes everyday. Since the time changed this weekend I don't think I'll be in my office pretty much all hours of daylight, but I'm considering buying a sun lamp to help get me through this winter. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Farmer's Market Haul

Yesterday morning I had a chance to go to the market again so I went back to the one in my neighborhood. It was a bit chilly (in the 30s brrr) but the market was still going strong. I got broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, a green pepper, eggs, and hot Italian sausage from Smith Meadows Farm.

I'm very happy they still have tomatoes at the market. I might cry when the day comes where I can't get fresh tomatoes anymore.

Also, I got my husband to watch Food Inc. with me yesterday and I think he's starting to understand why I don't just want to buy all our groceries at the Giant store down the street. I really think that everyone should have to watch this movie at some point.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Here is an interesting article

about local food and the current state of agriculture in the United States. I have to say, I agree with pretty much everything the author has to say.

Local Food: No Elitist Plot

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More cauliflower magic

I still had half a head of cauliflower left over from the farmer's market a week ago so I decided to make a cauliflower mash to go along with a Spanish inspired chicken and sausage stew. This meal was inspired by this Spanish Chicken Stew with Manchego Polenta by Rachael Ray. I used to make it with polenta before I quit corn, and needed something delicious and creamy to serve the stew on. Enter: mashed cheesy cauliflower. Overall I'm really pleased with the way it turned out. I also used chicken thighs this time, I usually use breasts or tenderloins. I've always been kind of afraid of dark meat but I figured it was time to get over it. If I want to start buying pastured chickens I need to figure out how to eat all the different parts of the bird, not just the familiar white meat. The thigh meat was good. Really, it just tasted like chicken. I don't know what I was so afraid of.

Anyway, here is my version of the recipe:
For the stew:
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 smoked sausage (I used kielbasa, this would be much better with chorizo though)
1/2 C shredded or chopped carrots
3 cloves garlic
Salt, pepper, cilantro, chili powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, and red pepper flake to taste
1/4 C red wine
1 can of diced tomatoes (the fire-roasted kind would work well if you have them

For the cauliflower:
1/2 head of cauliflower
1/4 C heavy cream
2 TBS Butter
1/2 C shredded cheese
Salt and pepper

First I put the cauliflower in a pot with water to steam. Then I brown cut the sausage and chicken into bite size pieces and brown them in some olive oil. When they are sufficiently browned I season them with all the spices and then add the garlic (diced) and the carrots. After the garlic and carrots have had a chance to cook down a little, about 5 minutes, I add the wine to deglaze the pan. Next I add the tomatoes then leave the stew to simmer by itself for a while.

While the stew is simmering I drain the cauliflower and put it into the food processor with the butter. After pulsing a few times, I added the cream and seasonings and pulsed again until it was smooth. I then added the cheese and pulsed a few more times to get it all mixed in. I seriously love my food processor, all of this was so easy.

I served the stew over top of the cauliflower and ate it all mixed together.

It wasn't beautiful, but it was delicious. It would have been better with some cilantro on top, but the cilantro in my garden isn't ready yet. Hopefully it will be next time.