Thursday, December 30, 2010

Greek Turkey Meatballs

Last Monday, my school had our Winter Social Potluck. Each grade level team was assigned to bring something - salads, desserts, chips, etc... The Kindergarten team decided to bring meatballs! Each of the 5 kindergarten rooms brought 1 type of meatball. We had Nantucket Meatballs (with a bbq cranberry sauce), Cranberry Chili meatballs, and Italian meatballs. I wanted to make something a little bit different, so I made Greek Turkey Meatballs.

Traditionally, meatballs have some sort of meat, seasonings, breadcrumbs, and egg. Breadcrumbs, of course, are not Paleo, so I set out to experiment and here's what I came up with:

Paleo Greek Turkey Meatballs

* 3 lbs ground turkey
* 1 cup feta (optional)
* 1 head of garlic
* 1 package of frozen chopped spinach
* 1/2 cup shredded dried coconut
* 2 tbs dried oregano
* 3 eggs

This was a pretty easy recipe  To get everything ready, I minced all of the garlic.  I use organic garlic, so the cloves are sometimes smaller than conventional, so I minced the whole head of it.  I also thawed out and then drained the chopped spinach. Then, you just put all of the ingredients in a large metal or glass mixing bowl and start mixing with your hands.  You could use a spoon, I suppose, but it's not as fun as using your hands to really make sure everything is well mixed. 

You may be asking about the coconut. Who the heck puts coconut in meatballs? Well, I have a confession. I didn't mean to put coconut in it. I had originally mixed all of the ingredients (minus the coconut). However, when everything was mixed, the mixture was a little sticky and wet. Typically, you add breadcrumbs to meatballs to keep them moist when cooking, but it also helps to dry out the meat mixture so it's easier to roll. I know that I'm trying not to eat grains, but I figured that these meatballs were going to be eaten by other teachers who don't know about paleo and don't care about eating grains. Soooo, I threw in a handful of what I thought were panko bread crumbs.

I have these pretty glass storage containers on my counter and I thought one of them was filled with panko bread crumbs. I had given away most of my grains (brown rice, bread crumbs, etc...) but I figured that I had forgotten about the panko. Well, as it turns out, I had put in shredded coconut! I didn't figure that out until I tasted one after they were cooked! I could tell the texture was a bit different, then realized that I hadn't put in panko at all, I had put in coconut. It was a pleasant and paleo surprise! :)

Anyway, back to the cooking process... once everything was mixed well, I spread a little bit of olive oil on a baking sheet.  You want to use one with a lip because as these cook, the meatballs will give up some liquid.  You want to bake them on something that will catch the liquid so it doesn't spill all over the oven and make a big old mess.  

I rolled the meatballs into small, bite sized pieces, perfect for nibbling. You could form this into a meatloaf, or giant meatballs if you wanted, or even into little hamburger patties!  Since these were for sharing, I thought smaller was better. I then placed them on the baking sheet and popped them in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes. 

You could also cook these in a pan with a little bit of olive oil, but when making this crazy amount of meatballs, that would have taken forever, so I decided to bake them.

Sinc they were smaller, they didn't take long to cook.  After 10 minutes, I opened the oven door and stirred the little meatballs a bit so that they would cook evenly on all sides.  

Since these were for a potluck, I didn't cook them too long because I was going to threw them in the crockpot for a few hours to stay warm throughout the day and didn't want them to dry out. 

So here we have Paleo Greek Turkey Meatballs. If you want to make it true paleo, just take the feta out.  There are still plenty of Greek spices in them.  I just happen to love the taste of feta, so I wanted to keep it in. 

These meatballs got rave reviews!  I was asked for the recipe by several different people, which, to me, proves that eating paleo is not only healthy, but yummy!

  You can serve these plain, or you can heat them in a nice marinara sauce.  You could serve them over some baked spaghetti squash or even in a bowl with a bunch of roasted veggies like mushrooms and carrots and zucchini!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

An All American Meal

Almost every week, I roast a chicken.  They are soooo easy! You just put a little bit of seasoning on them and pop them in the oven and let them cook..... then, you can have roasted chicken, or shredded chicken for a salad or soup, or you can chop up the chicken and use it in a stir fry.  With the bones, I make my own chicken stock too, so I have some fresh stock handy that doesn't have a bunch of additives or salt in it!  Here's my idea for a hearty meal on a nice cold night.

Roasted chicken with mashed rutabagas, green beans, and pan gravy

* 1 whole chicken
* 2 carrots
* 3 stalks of celery
* 1/2 red pepper
* 1 onion
* 3 cloves garlic
* 4 tbs butter
* 2 tsp sage
* 1 tbs olive oil
* 1 tbs tapioca flour
* 2 cups chicken stock
I like buying local, so I went to a farmers market and found an Amish guy who sells poultry, dairy, fresh eggs and a bunch of other stuff.  I bought a whole chicken from him, which was a pretty good deal.  Inside, the chicken was a bag of little organs - ugh haha.  Raw meat doesn't bother me, but a baggie of random organs does scare me a bit.  I know that a lot of people eat organ meat, but I'm not one of them!  I ended up boiling them (not sure exactly what parts of the chicken they were) and then I chopped it up and fed it to the pup... why waste it, right?

random organs... a bit scary huh?

Anyway, I had a bunch of random veggies in the fridge that I wanted to use: a few stalks of celery, the leftovers of a bag of baby carrots, an apple that I had dropped on the floor and bruised, and half a red pepper left over from another yummy meal.  I chopped everything up into pieces that were about 3/4 of an inch thick and threw them into the bottom of a roasting pan.  I also preheated the oven to 375.

I poured some olive oil on top of the veggies and swished it all together.

I had an apple in the fridge and I'm an apple snob... I don't like to eat them if they have huge bruises on them, so I halved it and stuffed it inside the chicken.  I remember my mom doing this sometimes when roasting a turkey, so I figured it would be good in a chicken too.  I think the juice of the apple helps to keep the chicken moist when roasting, but I don't know if that's a real thing or just my imagination. :)

Next, I put the roasting rack in the pan and set the chicken on top.  Then, I took paper towels and dried off the bird.  You have to dry it, or else the butter won't stick to the chicken and you'll have a gloopy mess and not much flavor. 

In a small bowl, I added the butter (which I also bought from the Amish dude- so it's from organic, grass fed cows!).  I chopped up some of the garlic and added in the sage and a little bit of salt and pepper.  

Then, with my fingers, I mushed it all together.  The messier the better... I suppose that you could use a fork, but where's the fun in that?  Also, I just feel like I can get a better idea of when everything is really evenly mixed when I use my fingers.

Then, again with my fingers, I spread the seasoned butter all over the chicken... on the skin, under the skin... everywhere.  You basically give the poor little bird a butter massage.  If you don't do dairy, you can just mix the seasonings with olive oil and brush that all over the bird.  Then, I popped it in the oven and let it bake!  I let it bake for maybe an hour and a half?  I really don't remember haha... But I did take a meat thermometer and make sure the temperature was right about 180. While I was waiting for the chicken to cook, I worked on the sides.

Here's the beautiful roasted chicken when it finished.  I took the roasting rack out with the chicken on it and set it over a plate to catch any juices.  Now, it's time to make the gravy!  I left the veggies in the roasting pan and set it over 2 burners on the stove and turned the heat to medium. 

Typically when you make gravy, you need a thickening agent, like flour.  Since flour isn't paleo, I used some tapioca flour.  It's basically cassava (a root vegetable) that's been dried up and ground into a fine powder.  I added the tapioca flour and mixed it up so the roasted veggies had a nice coating of the tapioca flour.

Then I added in the chicken stock and continued stirring and stirring and stirring until the whole thing thickened up.  Soon, I had a yummy gravy with huge chunks of veggies in it.  You can leave the veggies in and make it a thick gravy of sorts, or you can strain them out.

I chose to strain them out because I didn't peel the carrots or onions or anything.  I just put a seive over a bowl and poured the whole thing into it.  Because it was thick, it took a while to actually strain through, but I stirred it around with a spoon to speed up the process a bit.

Then you have a nice yummy paleo gravy!  For the sides, you typically have some sort of mashed potato and veggie, but I made a paleo twist!

Mashed Rutabagas

* 4 small rutabagas
* 4 tbs butter
* 1 ham hock

I'm not really sure what a rutabaga is... it's a root vegetable, but I'm still not clear on if it's a turnip or if it's something different.  Anyway, I thought this would be a nice substitute for mashed potatoes!  I peeled the rutabagas with a veggie peeler and cut them into small pieces.  While I was doing this, I had started some water boiling.

 I threw the ham hock in the boiling water.  Like the rutabaga, I'm not 100% sure what a ham hock is.... I think it has something to do with the ankle of the pig or something like that, but I know that they add a lot of flavor. Anyway, once the rutabagas were chopped, I added them to the boiling water and let them cook  through.  I boiled them until I could stick a fork in them without much resistance.

Once the rutabagas were cooked, drained them and removed the ham hock.  Then I added in the butter, some salt and pepper and mashed them up.  They were a bit harder than regular potatoes, and I was running out of time because the chicken was almost done, so I used a hand mixer and mashed everything up.

I also wanted a bit of green, so I just thawed out some frozen organic green beans.  I added some of the meat from the ham hock and cooked the green beans so they would have some nice flavor. 

So there you have it!  A nice, hearty, all American meal that's totally paleo and delicious!  It's also pretty darn easy. 

Do you see just how yummy everything looks?!  It's totally healthy, totally easy, and totally yummy!  The chicken was tender and had a lot of flavor.  The mashed rutabagas had a good flavor and added that kinda mushy consistency that's perfect to dunk your chicken in.  And the green beans just really rounds out the meal well.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

On Sunday, Curt and I had dinner with our friends Billy and Monika.  Monika made a DELICIOUS dinner of salmon, mashed cauliflower, and asparagus!  I couldn't let her make everything, so I attempted a pretty much paleo dessert.  I read the blog Health Bent on an almost daily basis.  I actually posted one of their recipes before : Rosemary Cashews.  Anyway, one of the recipes that I'd been wanting to try was for carrot cupcakes.  I decided to give it a go, but with my own little twists.

Pretty Much Paleo Carrot Cake

* 1 c almond butter
* 1/2 can full fat coconut milk
* 2 eggs
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 cup raisins
* 1/2 cup crushed pineapple
* 1/2 cup shredded coconut
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 3 carrots, shredded
* 1 Tbs vanilla extract
* 2 Tbs cinnamon
* 1 tsp nutmeg
* 1 tsp ginger
* 1/4 tsp ground cloves
* pinch salt
* 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

This is a pretty easy cake to make.  I didn't have whole carrots, but I did have a bunch of baby carrots, so I shredded those in my food processor and let them sit.  In a large bowl, I mixed pretty much all of the ingredients, except the carrots.  I mixed everything together with just a wire whisk.  It was pretty easy to make sure that everything was mixed well.  I love lots of "stuff" in my carrot cakes, so I added some coconut and pineapple to the original recipe.  Since the cake doesn't call for much sugar at all, I thought that adding the pineapple would give the cake a bit of moisture as well as some natural sweetness

Once the batter was mixed, I added in the shredded carrot and mixed again.  By this time, my arm was getting a pretty good workout!  I've never made a cake without flour before, so I wasn't sure how/if the cake would rise or if it would even taste good without much sugar.  Many people put more sugar into their coffee than I put into the entire cake!

Next, I greased 2 8-inch cake pans and split the batter between the two pans.  I wanted to make a 2 layer cake since this was for a nice dinner with friends.  Curt could eat a cake that didn't look like it came from a bakery, but I like my sweets looking really pretty!  So... 2 frosted layers it was!  I stuck the pans in the oven at 350 and waited.  It took about 30 minutes for the cakes to bake all the way through.  I did the traditional "toothpick test" to make sure the cakes were completely cooked.  The toothpick came out clean, so I pulled the cakes out to let them cool on wire racks.  

While the cakes cooled, I whipped up a quick cream cheese frosting.  I mixed a package of cream cheese, 3 tbs butter, 3 tbs sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, and a teeny pinch of salt.  I would have used powdered sugar in the frosting, except my fat little beagle got into the sideboard a few weekends ago and ate half the bag of powdered sugar, along with a stick of crisco.  (Nope, she didn't get sick at all- she's got a stomach of steel).  Anyway... I played with the proportions of ingredients until I got a nice fluffy frosting.  For this, I did use my hand mixer... my arm muscles had gotten enough of a workout for the night!

Once the cakes were completely cooled, I set one layer on my pretty snowman plate.  I then took some of the frosting and put it on top.  

Then, because I had extra, and because I wanted to add a little pizzaz, I spread some crushed pineapple on top.  Then, I set the next layer on top and frosted the whole dang thing. 

It looked really pretty to me.  I didn't have any fancy marzipan carrots or anything, but I thought it looked pretty cute.  I did add some shredded coconut on top, just to make give it a little something extra.

So the big question is: "How did it taste?!"  Well, it may have been the few glasses of wine, but, I think that the cake was a success!  Everyone had a nice sized slice after dinner and I got some good reviews.  (They could have been lying to make me feel better though haha).  But I thought it tasted yummy!  I tend to have a sweet tooth and love sweets, but this is a nice alternative!  Just because it's pretty much paleo doesn't mean that I can eat them all day every day for my meals.  However, it's just like a regular dessert.  It's good for a treat every once in a while, but it's a heck of a lot better for you than most carrot cakes!

I even brought the leftovers to school the next day (I'm a teacher) and the teachers I work with all ate some and said it was good.  I was even asked for a copy of the recipe! 

So the verdit on Paleo carrot cake?  The recipe's definitely a keeper!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Paleo Crabcakes Benedict

For this month's Daring Cook's challenge, we are supposed to poach an egg.  I just recently warmed up to the idea of having a poached egg.  I was never particularly a fan of egg yolks, but in the last few years, I've started really like them :)  I decided to make one of my favorite types of dishes, crabcakes benedict.  Basically, it's your typical eggs benedict with a Maryland twist.  You have an english muffin, then instead of Canadian bacon, you use a crabcake.  Then, you add a bit of Old Bay to the hollandaise sauce.  Since an English muffin isn't exactly paleo and I'm trying to be good, I just served my own rendition:

Crabcakes Benedict

* 1/2 lb of crabmeat (lump crabmeat is the best)
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 tbs Old Bay
* 3 egg yolks
*1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1 tablespoon lemon juice
*1/2 cup butter

I've made hollandaise sauce before... wait, let me revise that... I've attempted to make hollandaise sauce before.  This time, just like last time, it's turned out less than ideal, but I think it's because I don't really have the patience to have it turn out well.  The other part to that is the fact that I never really read the directions well enough to follow them.  I think that next time I attempt to make this, I'll really follow the directions the right way because hollandaise sauce is delicious!


Basically, I melted butter in a double boiler.  Then, I think I was supposed to add in the egg yolks and stir until they are cooked (will turn a light yellow color).  Then you add in the lemon juice and then Old Bay for flavoring.  However, I think I added in the lemon juice first and when I added in the egg, it didn't turn out as smoothly as it should.   Anyway, it was edible and actually kinda tasty, it just had little chunks of egg yolks that didn't really incorporate into the sauce, but oh well!

Next, I added a bit of butter to a pan and added in the minced garlic.  Once the garlic started to soften, I added in the crabmeat.  I generously seasoned the crab with Old Bay.  Hey, I'm from Northern Va and I LOVE Old Bay on anything, so the more the merrier!  I let everything cook up and get nice and tasty.  If I had more time, I would have actually attempted to make a crabcake, like it is traditionally served, but seasoned and cooked crab works just as well for me!


While the crab was cooking, I heated up some water in a pot.  You are supposed to add some vinegar to the water to help keep the egg together (I think).  I made this when we were in Myrtle beach and I didn't feel like running to the store to buy an entire bottle of vinegar for a few poached eggs.  I decided to chance it and just use regular water. 

I cracked the eggs, one at a time into a small bowl.  If you do this, you can pour the egg into the boiling water more gently, which is the goal, because you don't want to break the egg up  too much.  Slowly, I poured the whole egg into the simmering water.

 It dropped in and immediately, the egg white spread out making it look kinda like a ghost or something.  I started to get nervous because I thought that it might not stick together and just turn into a semi solid eggish mess.

Fortunately, the egg just kept gently rolling around in circles in the water and I think that helped to get the egg white to stick together again.  After a few minutes, I gently scooped it out with a slotted spoon and rested it on the crab mixture.  They looked surprisingly like poached eggs!

I then drizzled a little bit of my hollandaisy sauce on top of it, sprinkled some more Old Bay on it (for good measure) and served it with a few strips of bacon. 

This turned out to be an AMAZING breakfast!  I loved it!  The crab was seasoned well and had a lot of flavor.  The eggs were cooked perfectly.  When I cut into them, the yolk ran all over the crab and gave it a nice rich flavor.  The hollandaise sauce could stand for some improvement, but we've talked about that before...


I'm definitely going to have to try this again at some point.  I think I'm going to try making it with sauteed spinach and maybe some regular bacon, as I'm not a huge fan of Canadian bacon.  The combination just sounds really yummy to me. 

Overall, I'm really glad that I was able to complete this challenge.  I'd always thought that it would be really tough to poach an egg, but I've been pleasantly surprised!