Semi-Homemade Paleo Spaghetti And Meatballs

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Tonight’s quick faux spaghetti and meatballs utilized some high quality prepared items that made cooking dinner a breeze. In a sense, it’s a semi-homemade recipe a la Sandra Lee.

I hate to even type that because Sandra Lee chaps my hide: her recipes are terrible, her tablescapes are retarded vomit-inducing, and she’s too damn perky for me. However, I do like the premise of her show – using shortcuts to get a tasty meal on the table fast. In fact, some might argue that’s kind of the idea of this here blog but I’m too much of a cranky mofo to be mistaken for a Paleo Sandra Lee.

Here’s what I gathered to feed 4 people:

  • A tablespoon or two of ghee
  • A pound of uncooked Italian sausage made from the trim of my Full of Life Farm  ½ hog

  • 1/2 a jar of my favorite spaghetti sauce

Here’s what I did:

I took the sausage out of the casing and rolled them into little meatballs.

Ingenious, right? I can’t take credit for it though ‘cause I was inspired by this recipe from the cool folks at White On Rice Couple.

I melted a tablespoon of ghee in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. When the pan was hot, I fried the mini meatballs in a single layer in the pan until they were browned on all sides.

I added about ½ a jar of Rao’s marinara sauce and brought the sauce to a boil.

Then, I covered the pan and simmered the sauce on low for about 5 minutes.

I rinsed off the kelp noodles in a colander and added them to the meatballs and sauce.

I covered the pan and simmered the sauce and noodles for a few minutes until the noodles were tender.

The softened noodles resemble  Asian bean thread noodles so don’t expect them to have the taste and texture of Italian pasta. Hell, you can leave out the kelp noodles and still have a quick and yummy meal.

Cauliflower & Carrot Puree

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If you haven’t noticed, I’m obsessed with making veggie purees this week. Tonight I made another one with cauliflower, carrots, onions, and garlic. I love the original recipe for garlic cauliflower mashed potatoes but with this recipe you get a healthy dose of beta carotene AND clean-up is a breeze — just one pot and the immersion blender. I’m all about the shortcuts.

Here’s what I gathered to feed 6 adults:

  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut up into florets
  • 3 large carrots, cut into small chunks
  • ½ medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup organic chicken broth
  • ¼ cup water
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Splash of heavy cream (optional)

Here’s how I made it:

I chopped up my veggies…

… and melted 3 tablespoons of butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. 

Then, I dropped the veggies, broth, and water into the bubbling fat. 

When the liquid started boiling, I covered the pot, turned down the heat to low, and let everything simmer until softened (25-30 minutes). Make sure your pot doesn’t dry out!

I added another tablespoon of butter, heavy cream, salt, and pepper and blitzed everything with my immersion blender

…until smooth.

I think I just like the texture of baby food…

Cauliflower, Carrot, and Parsnip Puree

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Tonight, I decided to fiddle with my carrot and parsnip puree recipe and toss in some cauliflower. Why mess with a good thing? Well, I picked up some cute baby cauliflower heads at the Mountain View Farmers’ Market…

…and I was feeling wild and crazy.  I could’ve ended up with a pot of grossness but, luckily, my tinkering led to another yummy mashed potato substitute.

Here’s what I gathered to make enough mash for 6 people:

  • 3 tablespoons butter or ghee, plus 1 tablespoon of butter or ghee
  • 3/4 lb parsnips (or about 5 medium parsnips), coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 lb carrots (or about 2 large carrots), coarsely chopped (slightly smaller than parsnips)
  • 1 1/2 lb cauliflower florets (or about 1 small head of cauliflower), coarsely chopped
  • 4 green garlic stalks, thinly sliced or 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup organic chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Here’s how I made it:

Basically, I followed the same steps as I did with the carrot and parsnip puree recipe. If you’re too lazy to click on the link, here are the steps again.

I melted three tablespoons of butter in a large stock pot over medium heat and chopped up my veggies…

…and alliums.

I dumped the veggies, broth, and water into the pot and waited until it came to a boil.

I lowered the heat and simmered the covered pot for 25-30 minutes until the vegetables were mushy.

I added salt, pepper, and the last tablespoon of butter and I pureed everything with my immersion blender.

This puree is pretty tasty. It’s a good compromise for peeps who find the carrot and parsnip puree a little too sweet and the cauliflower puree too bland.

Carrot & Parsnip Puree

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Looking for a substitute for mashed potatoes but you’re tired of eating cauliflower or winter squash puree? Make some carrot and parsnip puree!

Yesterday, my vegetable CSA box came with some big ass Chantenay carrots and parsnips. After googling the interwebs to figure out what to make with them, I came across this recipe for carrot and parsnip puree from Miss Martha Stewart. I changed the proportions and ingredients a wee bit and the resulting orange-colored mash was delicious.

Here’s what I gathered to make 6 servings:

  • 2/3 lb parsnips, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped (slightly smaller than the parsnips)
  • 2 stalks of green garlic, thinly sliced (or 2 garlic cloves)
  • 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup organic chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Here’s how I made it:

I did my best Martin Yan impression and quickly chopped up all my veggies.

I melted 3 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter was liquefied, I dumped in the veggies, broth, and water.

I brought the liquid to a boil, turned down the heat to low, and simmered the covered pot for 25-30 minutes. Once the vegetables were soft and tender, I used my immersion blender to puree everything.

Then, I added another pat of butter along with some salt and pepper to taste.

After one last pass through with the stick blender, the puree was ready to eat.

I do miss mashed potatoes but having tasty technicolor substitutes helps with the cravings. I guess it’s like methadone for spud addicts.

Sous Vide Grass Fed Flank Steak

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I’m always hesitant to cook new cuts of grass fed beef in my SousVide Supreme because my results have been hit-or-miss. When I mess up, I end up with a ton of powdery, overly-tender leftovers that I have to force myself to choke down. (It’s too damn expensive to toss, people.)

After perusing the interwebs and consulting my Douglas Baldwin sous vide bible, I decided to cook my grass fed flank steak at 130 F — medium rare — for 24 hours (his book recommends 24-48 hours cooking time). Most references indicate that you can actually cut the cooking time for grass fed beef by half, but I’m leery of taking the meat out too soon. I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m too lazy to vacuum seal it again if it’s underdone. 

*Update on 8/1/11: I’ve gotten great results when I’ve left the steaks in for about 36 hours. Sometimes, they’re still too chewy at 24 hours.

I seasoned the flank steak with just salt and pepper; I’ve found that with prolonged cooking (more than 6 hours), spice blends tend to overpower the meat or impart some off flavors. That being said, you should season the steak liberally with salt and pepper before sealing it. 

I seasoned and vacuum sealed my steak but I let it marinate in the fridge for several hours before I dunked it in my 130 F water oven.

I removed the flank steak which had been submerged for 23 hours…

…dried it off with paper towels…

…and blasted it with my kitchen torch.

The blowtorch is pretty awesome. I’m still getting the hang of it, but I love that I can char the whole piece of meat evenly. Whenever I’d sear a piece of sous vided meat in a pan, there would always be parts that wouldn’t brown properly because the cooked meat wasn’t flat.

After 24 hours and a quick char, the flank steak turned out tender and juicy.

Yay!

Roasted Turnips

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Turnips, similar to celery root, used to wallow at the bottom of my crisper whenever they’d show up in my veggie CSA box. Not anymore. I’ve discovered that they’re fantastic roasted in the oven. EVERY veggie is better roasted. 

Here’s what I gathered to serve 4 peeps:

  • 2 pounds of turnips, peeled (make sure you peel at least a layer past the skin because they can be fiber-y) and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons of melted ghee (or your preferred fat)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Here’s what I did:

I preheated my oven to 425 F and I tossed my cut turnip cubes with melted ghee, salt, and pepper. Don’t worry if the ghee clumps up on your cold turnip cubes. It’s annoying but they’ll still roast nicely. I placed the cubes in a single layer on a foil-lined baking tray…

…and put them in the oven for 20-25 minutes, flipping the cubes halfway through. The finished turnips should be nicely browned and tender. 

Another yummy replacement for roasted potatoes.

Red Cabbage Slaw with Tangy Carrot Ginger Dressing

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I was inspired to make this cabbage slaw after reading the awesome ode to cabbage on CaveGirl Eats. She’s one smart and sassy cavegirl.

I love me some cabbage but I don’t always have 2.5 hours to make my favorite braised cabbage recipe. Sometimes I just wanna chop up a raw cabbage, throw on some dressing and be done with it. So that’s what I did tonight.

Here’s what I gathered to make enough slaw for 3 hungry adults:

  • ½ a red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ½ avocado, diced
  • handful of toasted slivered almonds (optional)
  • 2-4 tablespoons of tangy carrot ginger dressing (recipe below)

Here’s how I made it:

I threw everything except for the avocados in a bowl and mixed it together.

You can let the slaw sit in the fridge for a few hours until you’re ready to eat it.

Right before I served the slaw, I tossed on the diced avocados so they wouldn’t get all brown and icky looking. Toasted almond slivers are another great addition to the slaw but don’t add them early because they’ll get soggy.

Here’s what I gathered to make about a cup of tangy carrot-ginger dressing:

  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 large carrots, chopped  
  • 1-inch knob of ginger
  • 2 scallions, whites only
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup Paleo mayonnaise
  • Salt and Pepper

I dumped the vinegar, carrots, ginger, scallions, and mustard into my Vitamix and blitzed everything until it was liquefied. Then, I added the mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste and blitzed on low until everything was combined.

I’m not gonna lie — the dressing is pretty tangy but the acidity is cut really well with the raw cabbage. 

Sous Vide Lamb Burgers

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I’ve been trying to branch out and soak new proteins in my SousVide Supreme. Today, I experimented with making lamb burgers in my water oven. Why? Well, my go-to guy for all things sous vide, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt over at Serious Eats’ Food Lab, has some compelling reasons why you should sous vide your burgers. What really sold me was his drool-worthy description of sous vide burgers:

We’re talking burgers that oozed juices for nearly a minute after biting into them. Burgers that were thick, juicy, and perfectly medium rare from edge to edge with crisp brown crusts. We’re talking nearly perfect burgers here.

Sheeeit! I want to eat one!

Here’s what I gathered to make four ¼-pound lamb burgers:

  • 1 pound of ground lamb
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of Tabil seasoning

Here’s how I made them:

I preheated my SousVide Supreme to 137 F (J. Kenji suggests 130 F for medium rare, 140 F for medium) and generously seasoned the ground lamb with salt and pepper. Then, I added the Tabil seasoning and gently mixed the meat to distribute the seasoning.

I divided the meat into 4 patties…

…and then froze them for two hours so my sucky-ass FoodSaver wouldn’t squash the patties too much when it was time to vacuum seal them.

After the patties solidified, I vacuum sealed them, two per bag.

I dunked them in the SousVide Supreme for about 2 hours (you can keep them submerged for 45 minutes up to 12 hours). Then, I took the patties out and dried them with paper towels.

After arranging the patties on a baking rack on top of a foil-lined tray, I busted out my kitchen torch.

According to Douglas Baldwin, you should aim your torch 4-6 inches away from your target and make small circular motions with your flame until you get a nice even char. I think I just like setting things on fire.

Voila!

The burgers were pretty tasty, but not quite “perfect” because I like them closer to medium rare. Looks like I now have an excuse to try this again!

Next time, I’m gonna use a temp closer to 130 F and char the bleep out of them.

Sous Vide Soft-Boiled Eggs (First Attempt)

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I’ve always wanted to cook eggs in my SousVide Supreme but I’ve never made them until tonight. There’ve been lots of aborted attempts because by the time I want to make them I’m too dang hungry, tired, or impatient to wait an hour for the eggs to cook. Yes, you read that right. It takes at least 45 minutes to an hour to sous vide an egg.

Why the hell would you wait that long to cook an egg when you can fry one up in a couple minutes? Well, a perfectly cooked soft boiled egg is delicious and the only “cooking” you have to do is just drop an egg into the water oven and wait an hour. It can’t get any simpler than that!

Cooking soft-boiled eggs properly the conventional way is super tricky — 30 seconds can make the difference between a nice runny yolk and a hard yolk. Plus, with kids, I just don’t have the time to be as vigilant about my cooking as I used to be. Er, yeah, it’s the kids’ fault…

What is the “perfect” temperature to sous vide an egg? That’s hard to say because it’s so subjective – some people like runnier yolks while others like them more custardy. After searching my cookbook library and the interwebs, I came up with three “perfect” temperatures that I’ll experiment with other the next few week:

Tonight, arbitrarily, I tried out 142 F.

Here’s what I did:

I filled and heated my Sous Vide Supreme to 142 F. When it was at the correct temperature, I carefully dropped in my eggs with a slotted spoon and left the eggs in the bath for an hour.

( J. Kenji Lopez Alt recommends a minimum of 45 minutes and up to 4 hours cooking time.)

I carefully removed an eggs from the bath with a slotted spoon…

…cracked it softly on the counter, and carefully removed part of the shell to reveal a hole of about 1 inch in diameter.

I carefully poured out the egg through the hole into a bowl…

…and gingerly transferred the fragile egg onto a bed of stir-fried kale and bacon. I seasoned the egg with salt and pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

What’s my verdict? The eggs were a tad underdone for my taste because I like the whites more coagulated. Still, they were pretty tasty and so damned easy to make.

Next up, 144.5 F!

Sous Vide Pork Loin Roast

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I’ve made sous vide pork chops with great sucess numerous times but tonight was my first attempt at sous viding a whole pork loin roast in the water oven. The roast turned out fantastic and it only took me about 10 minutes of actual hands-on work. Wanna see how I did it?

Here’s what I gathered to feed 6 adults:

Here’s how I made it:

I dried off my roast with paper towels and liberally seasoned it with salt and pepper from up high.

Then, I generously sprinkled on the dry rub and massaged it in.

I vacuum sealed the roast with the help of my enthusiastic assistant who exclaimed…

“Mommy, we’re going to vacuum clean it!”

I filled and preheated my SousVide Supreme to 137 F. I used to set my machine to 140 F to cook pork but I like my pork a little bit pinker.  Next, I dumped in the packet for a minimum of 4-5 hours.

When I took out the cooked roast, I dried it with paper towels…

…and blasted it with my kitchen torch.

I sliced up the roast and every piece was moist and cooked perfectly all the way through.

I can’t imagine cooking pork any other way.