Monthly Archives: February 2011

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

My mom told me that to get your house to smell like you’ve been cooking all day saute some garlic and onions in olive oil. This smell still brings to mind home. I have an Italian grandmother that I think may be the root of all my cooking desires who passed down cooking to my mom than me. This recipe for spaghetti squash and meatballs tastes just like home cooked comfort food.

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs
1 spaghetti squash cut lengthwise and seeded
1-2 pounds of ground beef
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste
1/2 yellow onion diced
1 red/orange bell pepper diced
3-4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 tbsp of Italian seasoning
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp of thyme
1/2 tsp of rosemary
1 tsp of garlic powder
1tsp of black pepper
salt to taste

Place the squash cut side down on a baking pan with some coconut oil. Bake at 350 while you prep everything else.
In a pot open all cans of tomatoes and paste and heat over medium heat.
Add all seasonings.
Form golf ball sized balls of ground beef. I added salt and pepper, plus a little more Italian seasoning, and some almond meal to make these have the right consistency and taste.

In a large frying pan brown the meat balls. Then remove and set to the side (They won’t be cooked through yet but don’t worry.)

While the tomato mixture heats dice the veggies and saute them in the same pan you just cooked the meatballs in. (Here is where your house starts to smell amazing)

When the onions are beginning to get soft and translucent add them to your tomatoes.

Heat the sauce mixture until bubbling. Let it bubble for about 5 minutes. With a lid over it. (unless your a glutton for punishment and like cleaning tomato splatter)
Remove the sauce from the heat and place in a food processor.
Blend it a few times in the processor. (If you prefer chunky sauce only blend half of your tomato mixture)
Return the blended sauce to the pot and add the meatballs back in. Cook the meatballs in the sauce for about 10 minutes.

By now your squash should be soft.

Remove the squash from the oven and let it cool a bit before you attempt to scrape it out.
When you scrape it out of the shell it comes out in strands that resemble spaghetti. Hence the name.
Add the squash straight to the sauce.

This tasted just like my mom used to make (love you).

Vegetable How To

So you just bought a houseful of vegetables. Now what? Vegetables can go bad quickly if you don’t store them the right way. I also find that having my vegetables ready to go for when I need them is a huge time saver. I eat more of them if I don’t have to wash and cut veggies each time I want some. These are a few tips on how to store your foods so that they last longer or are ready for when you want them.

Lettuce, fresh herbs, and green onions– lettuce can go bad very quickly because of moisture. When I buy a head of lettuce I separate and wash all the leaves. I let them dry a bit in my dish rack. Then in a large plastic container I lay down a few paper towels. Lay all the leaves on top then one more paper towel on that. You can keep all of these veggies together in the same container to help save space.

You can buy larger containers or recycle the ones you get with pre-made salad mixes. Don’t chop up your leaves unless you plan on using them in a day. They will get slimy faster if they are cut.

If you have a lot of lettuce like I did in this trip only wash what you will use in a couple of days. the rest wrap in a paper towel and put back into the plastic bag you took it home in. All these paper towels keep the lettuce from staying too moist and rotting. When your lettuce is finished use them to wipe up the counter after dinner. They are only wet and there is no reason to waste them.
Fruit and squash – can be kept out of the fridge for up to 2-3 weeks. (thicker skinned only). We keep ours in a basket so that it can get proper air flow around it. Do not leave your fruit or squash in a plastic bag. The moisture they give off will collect and rot them pretty quick.

Onions, garlic, and ginger (potatoes if you eat them)-These need to be stored in a cool, dark, dry, place. This is my dark basket in my cabinet. I keep ginger, garlic, and onions here until I’m ready to use them. The ginger can go right back here after you break a piece off. I always keep one onion in the fridge. The reason being that the chemical in the onion that makes you cry is less potent cold.

Celery, asparagus, and other long stemmed vegetable or herbs– All vegetables are, are plants. Treat them like you would a bouquet of flowers. Cut off the bottom inch (or more to make it fit in your fridge) and place them in a cup of water. Wilted celery and asparagus can be revived very quickly this way.
Any other vegetable I may have missed usually just need to be kept cool and dry. Mold happens in warm and wet places. Make sure to allow enough room for the air to circulate around your produce.

I also recommend taking the time after a shopping trip to pre-cut things like celery, carrots, and cucumbers. These things, once cut, make for easy snacks. If it is cut up and ready to go you are more likely to eat it.

Do you have any Produce tips on storing or making it easier to grab?

Ginger Garlic Steak

T had a birthday recently. One of his favorite meals is steak. So of course he will get a steak for his day. A steak smothered in caramelized onions and bacon, a large gorgeous salad, and roasted asparagus. Hungry?

I marinated the steak in fresh ginger, garlic, and balsamic vinegar. I finely diced about 2 tablespoons of each and poured enough vinegar to cover the bottom of a baking dish. The steaks marinated while I chopped and cooked everything else.

Chop 2 medium onions and half a package of bacon. In a frying pan on medium high heat cook the onions and bacon until the onions begin to soften about 5-7 minutes. Then bring the heat down to med low heat. Let the onions cook for 20 minutes so they are nice and caramelized. When you finish the steaks the onions go right on top. Delicious!

Roasting asparagus, or any vegetable, is one of my favorite ways to cook them. They come out tasting so much better than steaming them. Just chop off the bottom inch of the asparagus. drizzle a baking sheet in olive oil lay the asparagus on top drizzle some more olive oil and dash a little salt and pepper. Place in an oven heated to 350 for 20 minutes.

This salad picture is just to be gratuitous. It was so pretty I had to include it. Red pepper, mixed greens, avocado, tomato, and cucumber with more balsamic and olive oil.

Chicken Stock

Do not throw away chicken carcasses!

Any time you eat a whole chicken keep the skin and bones.

Last night we had two roasted chickens. I kept the seasoning simple just rosemary from the yard, garlic, salt, and pepper. When we were done eating dinner we picked the bones free of the meat. Tossed all the bones in a large pot. I don’t like to eat the super fatty skin pieces, they are too squishy for me, so in the pot they went too. Fill the pot with water and two bay leaves. Simmer on low for 12-18 hours. If I have leftover celery tops or carrot pieces I’ll toss them in towards the last few hours but they are not necessary.

Strain out the solids and let cool. I freeze all but one jar (if it’s glass freeze it without a lid) and use it wherever chicken stock is called for. The long cooking time yields a super tasty soup base. The longer you cook it the thicker the liquid becomes. If it appears gelatinous when cooled don’t fret. Just heat and add water. Think of it like goodness concentrated.

See the fat on top?

Many people tell you to skim the fat and throw it away. That’s just silly! If there is a fat layer on top use it to cook your veggies in or in place of butter. Chicken fat has an amazing taste.

The only warning in using homemade chicken stock is to watch the salt. You salted the original chicken so your stock will have some salt in it. If you use the stock in a recipe test the saltiness of the dish before adding any more.

Lots of jars.

This is so easy and only requires minimal preparation time. One pot made all these jars. excuse the hodgepodge of jars. I keep everything that I can use again.

CrossFit Champs

T and I went to Houston this weekend so that he could get level one certified for crossfit. These guys worked really hard for this. They learned a lot about nutrition and training. I’m in awe of the work they put in for two intense days. Ya’ll rock!

Guacamole Chicken Salad

What do you do with leftover chicken? Make chicken salad. I saw a way to make chicken salad without using mayonnaise and avocados instead. Since I now need to make up for lost time not eating avocados I felt it necessary to make it. I was inspired by this recipe here made by Food in My Beard. He is one of my favorite food bloggers and has some awesome stuff on his site. I changed it up a little using chicken and peppers and omitting the mayo and some veggies.

Guacamole Chicken Salad
2 cooked chicken breasts chopped
2 avocados
3tbs of finely diced onion
5 campari tomatoes roughly chopped (smaller spherical tomatoes)
1 red jalapeno pepper finely diced

In a large bowl smash avocados and tomatoes together.
Add onion, chicken, and pepper and stir together.
Add a dash of salt and pepper.

Let sit covered in a refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavors to mix up. Avocados do brown when exposed to air but the taste will not change. this recipe is perfect for those avocados you forgot about in the fridge that are a little soft.

The avocados act like the creamy mayonnaise but add extra flavor. We eat it over a bed of spinach or mixed greens to boost the veggie power.

My Paleo Life

I’m trying to eat more vegetables in each meal. The best way I know to do this is with a salad. T asked how I would do this for breakfast. Breakfast salad of course! I’ve had fried eggs on a salad for dinner before but I’ve never eaten salad for breakfast.

First I tried it cooked because a cold breakfast makes me a little sad. This, however, makes me think that I’m losing some of the valuable nutrients that I should be ingesting. So this morning I went more raw. This is a really quick way to change up a normal salad for breakfast or dinner.

I cooked two pieces of bacon till crispy and chopped them up small. Then I fried an egg in some leftover bacon grease with a dash of ‘Slap Ya Mama’. In a bowl put a handful of spinach and some diced tomatoes. Sprinkle the bacon on top and then slide the egg over it. If you keep the yolk runny you don’t even need dressing for this.

On a related note I’ve been trying to keep more paleo this year. I’ve lost weight consistently each week. About 1-2 pounds each week. If you know me personally I’m not a big exerciser. I like to take walks with the dogs or play a few wii games. But, as far as running or jumping? ich! T loves to exercise and has lost a ton of weight and looks amazing with the same diet. (since I do most of the cooking he eats what I do just in larger portions) I feel healthier and happier than I have in a long time. On cheat days I go carb crazy and end up feeling sad, bloated, and my heart would race. To me this is enough of a testament to the paleo way. I know this is not for everyone. I’m not here to try and convince you to change your lifestyles. All I want to do is share with you my successes with only one little change.

I’ve eaten this way on and off for about a year. Not very faithfully. As a teacher we get all kinds of carb heavy treats at work from the staff or kids. It’s so easy to say I’m just going to have a little right now. A New Years resolution I made is eating a lot more strictly. I still love my chocolate but I try to keep it down to once a day and dark chocolate only. I’ve noticed that not only do I feel healthier but my cravings have changed.

I don’t crave sweets and bread like I used to. I still love bread. I think I always will. What I crave now are dark leafy greens. Hence, salad for breakfast. Or red meat, or berries. I attribute this to what my body needs at that moment not, what my brain wants.

I’m far from the model paleo diet. I still eat sweets. I have my off days where stress gets the better of me and I eat a package of cheezits. But, I’m getting better. And, even with these cheats here and there I’m still losing weight by not doing anything. I’m not hungry, I’m not hitting the gym and I’m not eating some crazy diet that is hard and expensive to follow, I’m not counting every calorie and tracking every item I eat.

I’m eating vegetables, meat, some fruit.
I’m not eating grains, high sugar foods, or legumes.

I think so.