Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Paleo Lasagna!

I have never been a really big fan of lasagna.  Don't get me wrong, lasagna has a lot of really yummy flavors, but I honestly don't think I've ever ordered it at a restaurant.  I wanted to experiment though to see if I could make a primal version of lasagna... As I was walking through the store, I saw some ricotta made from grass fed cow milk, so I picked that up... I also had some leftover goat's milk mozzarella that I wanted to use up, so I decided that now was as good a time as ever to use it, so here goes nothin!

Paleo Lasagna

* 3 zucchinis
* 2 cans diced tomatoes
* 1 onion, diced
* 6 cloves garlic
* 3 portobella mushroom caps
* 1 lb ground beef
* 1 lb spicy Italian sausage
* 1 cup shredded mozzarella (optional)
* 8 oz ricotta cheese
* 1 tbs dried oregano
* 1/2 tbs dried basil
* 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

First, I browned up the beef and the sausage in a pan with some olive oil. It didn't take long to cook through, but I just wanted it browned and in nice little crumbles. In the meantime, I diced up the onion.  After the meat was cooked, I removed it to a plate. 

I threw the onions in the pan and let them soften up... heaven forbid there are crunchy onions in Curt's food!
I let the onions cook while I chopped up the portobello mushrooms.  Typically, I wouldn't chop them up so small, however, Curt doesn't like mushrooms... soooooo... I just chopped them up really really small so that the chances of him finding them were slim to none.

I tossed the mushrooms in the pan and let them soften up too.

While the mushrooms and onions were cooking, I set to cutting up the zucchini.  I decided to use zucchini instead of pasta noodles because 1) grains are terrible for you and 2) I happen to love zucchini.  This would have been easier if I had a mandolin slicer, but I haven't gotten around to buying one yet.  Instead, I just took a long time to really slice the zucchini thinly.

This took a while, but it was definitely a good replacement for noodles!  Here, you can see how thin the strips were.

Once the mushrooms and onions were cooked nicely, I added the meat back into the pan and let it all warm through.  Then, I added in both cans of tomatoes and the dried herbs.  I stirred everything together and let it all simmer until it smelled like a delicious meaty pasta sauce!

While the meat sauce was heating through, I took some time shredding the cheese.  If you don't do dairy, then you can always leave this part out and I'm sure it would still be delicious.  I had some leftover cheese that I wanted to use up, though, so I shredded it up and added it in.  I'm not a milk girl, but I do occasionally like cheese (with wine!!!) and I always use half and half in my coffee... but back to the food!
I mixed the shredded mozzarella with the ricotta and also (even though I didn't write it in the ingredients) I added in a few shakes of dried parsley.  I mixed it all together and set it aside.

Once the meat sauce was cooked and once the cheese mixture was mixed and once the zucchini "noodles" were sliced, I was ready to assemble!

First, I put a layer of the meat sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Then, I set layered on the zucchini. Then topped it with the ricotta cheese mixture.  Then, another layer of the zucchini.

Then some more of the meat mixture.  I just kept this up until I was out of ingredients.

I had saved a bit of the shredded mozzarella so I topped the lasagna with the cheese and popped it in the oven at 350 for 1 hour.  About half way through, I put a bit of aluminum foil on top so that the mozzarella wouldn't burn.

Here's the final product!  I thought it was absolutely delicious!  The lasagna "noodles" were yummy and they held up well through the cooking process.  I figured the dish would be pretty good, but I was really surprised to see how great it really did taste! Curt really liked it too.  We went through 1 pan in just a few days!  Curt really liked it a lot and I only saw him pick out one tiny little bit of mushroom.

I would assume that you could do this same dish and just leave out the cheese.  It'd probably still be really good!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Red Wine Sirloin Tips

Here in Virginia, things have been COLD!!!  I was totally surprised last Wednesday when I woke up and found out that the schools were closed and I had a snow day!  There wasn't even snow on the ground at that point.  By late afternoon, however, winter showed her true colors.  Sleet, freezing rain, and dun dun dun... Thunder Snow (what the heck is that anyway?) wreaked havoc all over the Northern Virginia area leaving many people stranded in their cars for hours, stuck in the house, and shivering in the dark and cold without power.  My parents were one of the hundreds without power, so after 1 frigid night, they called and asked to stay with us until the power came back on. 

I had bought some sirloin tips from Holy Cow Delivery, but had no idea what to do with them.  With my parents on their way over for dinner, I decided that I better find something yummy to make!  I raided the fridge and here's what I put together:

Red Wine Sirloin Tips

* 2 lbs sirloin tips
* 1 large onion, thinly sliced
* 1 package of sliced mushrooms
* 2 tbs tomato paste
* 1 1/2 cups red wine **
* 3 cloves garlic
* 2 1/2 cups beef broth **
* 1 tbs dried oregano
* 1 tbs dried basil

** I have no idea if red wine is paleo, but I drink it still :)  If you prefer not to use the red wine, just omit it and up the beef broth so you are using a whole quart**

First, I sprinkled some salt and pepper over the beef tips.  I wanted to brown the meat, so I used some leftover duck fat that I had from making the Cassoulet a few weeks ago.  I thought that I might as well use this to brown the meat, so I did. :)  You could also use oil, butter, etc... whatever you think.

I browned the meat in batches because you don't want to crowd the meat. If you put too much in there, the meat won't have enough room to "breathe" and it will end up steaming rather than cooking. Once I had browned the meat, I set it aside on a plate while I finished the browning process.

Once all of the meat was browned, I had a nice brown crust on the bottom of the pot.  It looks like it's burned, but it's not!  I poured the red wine and beef broth in the pan and scraped up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. When all of the browned bits are dissolved, I let the liquid reduce a bit.  I think this helps to thicken it, as well as concentrate the flavors a bit.  Once it was thickened, I poured the liquid into a separate bowl and let it sit while I took care of the veggies.

Next, I added in the sliced onions and let them cook a bit with some bacon fat I had.  I've really started liking onions recently, but I like them when they're cooked down a bit, it seems to take a lot of the zip out of them and just allow the flavor and the sweetness to really come through.

Next, I added in the sliced mushrooms.  I LOVE mushrooms, but Curt isn't a fan of the texture, so I have to slice them pretty big so he can easily pick them out.  Anyway, I sauteed the onions and mushrooms until everything was starting to cook nicely and soften up.

Then... I added the wine/broth mixture back into the pot and let everything simmer for about 10 minutes.  I just wanted to give the flavors a chance to blend together.

Next, I added in the tomato paste and stirred everything so that the paste was evenly distributed.  Then, I added in the beef tips.  I put the cover on and threw it in the oven which I had preheated to 350.

It didn't take long for the beef tips to cook through. So technically, I could have eaten the meal after about 20 minutes, however, I wanted to let everything get really tender, so I let everything cook for about an hour. 


By the time I took it out of the oven, the house was smelling delicious!  I ladled a nice big portion onto a few plates and served it with some roasted asparagus. 


The dish fed me, Curt, and my parents and there was also a good amount left over for future meals.  I feel like this is one of those meals that just tastes better the longer it has to sit.  Everything was nice and tender with lots of flavor.  I'm definitely going to have to make it again.  The meat was tender and it tasted great!  It was really easy and fulfilling.  Totally paleo too!