Who’s got two thumbs and loves quick and easy comfort foods?
This tired mother!
Although my dear hubby is off to New York on a business trip and I’m smack dab in the middle of another week of night shifts, there’s no excuse not to cook. I’m not saying it’s easy; as I’ve said before, I’m terrible at meal planning. But luckily, I’ve got a new weapon in my kitchen arsenal that helps procrastinators like me get nourishing, flavorful, real-food meals on the table with a minimum of fuss or muss: Julie and Charles Mayfield’s new cookbook, Quick & Easy Paleo Comfort Foods!
After an early review copy of the Mayfields’ cookbook showed up in my mailbox, I immediately whipped out a bunch of sticky-notes and began bookmarking my favorite recipes. But can you blame me?
Since starting this blog, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some really wonderful people from the Interwebs, but Julie and Charles are two of my absolute favorites. Henry and I instantly bonded with this warm and gracious couple back at the inaugural Ancestral Health Symposium over our shared love of good food and belly laughs. Since then, every time we’ve seen Jules and Charles—whether it’s in L.A., Austin, Boston, or their home base in Atlanta—we’ve had more fun than a barrel of monkeys. And now, there’s a third Mayfield to enjoy!
It’s not just that the Mayfields are a lovely family—they’re also foodies of the first order. Longtime readers know that the kiddos and I had a great time cooking through their first cookbook, the wildly popular Paleo Comfort Foods, and their fried chicken remains one of our favorite recipes.
Remember the first time I made their chicken? (I can’t believe it’s been TWO YEARS since we shot this video. Where does the time go?)
What I love about Jules’ and Charles’ follow-up is that its pages are crammed with similarly rib-sticking recipes—but all of ‘em can be prepared from start to finish in a flash.
In the past week alone, I’ve made multiple batches of the Mayfields’ easy and delicious Meat Loaf Muffins (recipe below). This is hearty, portable fare at its simplest, and it’s fantastic for both dinner and as a packed lunch.
In fact, every time we finished eating a batch of Meat Loaf Muffins, Big-O demanded that I make more of ’em because he liked munching on ’em at school.
Another of my favorites from the book? Roasted Butternut Squash Dip. The first time I tasted it was at Julie and Charles’s house in Atlanta last month. After polishing off a plate full of this wonderfully hummus-like dip, I demanded that Julie fork over the recipe…and she politely told me that I could find it in their new book.
This dish isn’t just a breeze to make—its smoky finish will make you crave summer barbecues well into the winter. Just roast some butternut squash in the oven…
…’til it’s fork tender…
…and blitz it in the food processor with tahini, extra virgin olive oil, spices, garlic, and lemon juice.
With butternut squash finally back in season, I’ve already made two batches of this yummy dip this week. I’ve been packing it my lunchbox (along with raw veggies) to take to work…
…and the kiddos have been greedily scooping it up with grain-free pita bread.
Quick & Easy Paleo Comfort Foods doesn’t feature a ton of sweets in it—which meshes perfectly with the way we eat—but those that are in the book are all quick and satisfying. One treat I couldn’t resist making: Nutless Balls. (And not just because the name made my third-grader laugh so hard he had to go lie down.)
The boys have friends with nut allergies, and per school policy, they can’t sit together at lunchtime if their packed meals contain nuts. Thankfully, as their name suggests, Nutless Balls—a variation of the Mayfields’ Homemade “LARABAR” Balls—are nut-free. Plus, it took just 5 minutes and zero cooking to prepare them.
After pitting a few dates…
…I pulverized them with sunflower seeds and coconut flakes in my handy-dandy food processor…
…until a chunky “dough” was formed.
A few scoops later…
…I had 20 nutless balls…
…that I rolled up and tucked in the fridge.
There are still so many dishes I want to cook from this book. At the top of my list are Jalapeno Poppers (stuffed with bacon & shrimp!), Brunswick-ish Stew, Tortilla-Less Soup, Paella, and Creamy Shrimp Fra Diavolo. Every single recipe in the Mayfields’ cookbook is accompanied by tons of encouraging tips and tricks, so I know I’ll be in good hands when it’s time to cook.
My favorite quote from the book sounds like it came straight out of Charles’s mouth: “Remember: Perfect gets in the way of really good.” In other words, don’t stress about whether you have every single item chopped into a perfect uniform cubes or if you happen to be missing a single ingredient—it’ll still taste great if you take the time to cook your own meals. Don’t be stymied by a quest for perfection.
Okay, I know you’re all just waiting for me to shut up and give you the recipe for Julie and Charles’ Meat Loaf Muffins. With the Mayfields’ permission, here it is, along with their description of these meaty delights:
There is an added step to this recipe, which we think makes all the difference. With traditional meat loaf, you adorn the top of the meat with ketchup, but we actually infuse our signature tomato mixture into the meatloaf itself. We think you’ll agree that these “muffins” pack a flavorful punch. And the portability factor of these is nice and convenient. Meat Loaf Muffins are a handy snack for the busy person who’s in a rush to get out the door. They’re also perfect for kids’ lunch boxes.
Makes 10-12 muffins
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for greasing the muffin tin
¾ cup finely diced onion
½ cup finely diced button mushrooms
½ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ pounds ground beef
1 large egg
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup carrot juice
¼ cup water
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the wells of a 12-cup muffin tin with olive oil.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions, mushrooms and peppers for about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the vegetables to cool.
In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, garlic and pepper.
In a large bowl, mix together the beef, the reserved sautéed vegetables, eggs, thyme and garlic powder. Stir in half of the tomato mixture and combine well.
Spoon the meat mixture into the greased muffin tin and bake for 10 minutes.
While the muffins are baking, combine the remaining tomato mixture, carrot juice and warer in a small saucepan. Bring to a quick boil over medium-high heat, and then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the muffins are removed from the oven.
Remove the muffins from the oven and spoon or brush the sauce on each muffin. Place the muffins back in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 160°F.
Allow the muffins to stand for about 5 minutes before eating.
Julie and Charles get it. With a curious (and utterly adorable) baby in tow and busy careers as gym owners and cookbook authors with demanding palates, they know how to get food in you fast. They’ve kept their recipes simple yet packed with flavor so you can fuel yourself without causing kitchen burnout. So go get their book already!7