Game Day Nibbles: Paleo-Friendly Slider Meatballs

As I said last week, I know nothing about football, but I sure do like snacks. So when the Superbowl rolled around, I was more than happy to stay home eating “man food”.

The paleo nachos I posted last weekend were fabulous, but my DH was lamenting the bread hiatus in this house come game time (two of his favorite game snacks are on a bun: sliders and my mom’s ham & cheese sammitches), so I tried my hand at making that same great slider taste; just in a more paleo-friendly format. I think I did pretty well. The meatballs were very tasty – I had mine with some of my favorite tomato jam*; he had his with some store-bought pub cheese.

*If you’re going strict paleo and want to make this jam, substitute maple syrup for the sugar (I’d use about half the amount). You could probably also swap out the apple cider vinegar for some extra citrus juice, but I love the taste too much to do without. As always, check your labels for gluten if you’re intolerant.


Paleo-Friendly Slider Meatballs

1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 lb. ground beef (grass fed)
2 Tbsp. onion powder
2 Tbsp. granulated garlic powder
1 Tbsp. umami paste (or Worcestershire)
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. coconut aminos
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper

Add all ingredients but the coconut oil to a medium sized bowl.

In a large pan over medium heat, warm the coconut oil.

While the coconut oil warms, combine the bowl ingredients (I used my hands). When the oil is ready, form the beef into ping pong sized balls, placing into the pan as you go. I got about 13 out of my beef.

Brown on both sides and serve with everything you’d serve a slider with – pickles, cheese if you’re partaking, ketchup (or tomato relish), mustard … the toppings are endless.

Game Day Nibbles: Paleo Nachos

I know nothing about sports, despite growing up in not 1, but 2 households full of baseball watching, baseball listening to, baseball game visiting, and even softball playing sport people (my mother was also very into college basketball, but not until after I left for college and my cousin started attending Duke University). Also, I come from a big football state. And I spent an awful lot of my formative years in a college basketball obsessed state. Pig ball I know not. (I do however, enjoy the occasional baseball game – even though I only know the very basic rules. And hockey. No idea what’s happening, but I like the drama)

Needless to say, I couldn’t give two rats’ asses about the Superbowl. It happened last weekend, and all I remember about the game was Beyonce, some amount of complaining about a blackout, and that we were ostensibly rooting for the Ravens due to a: their proximity, and b: someone on the other team recently coming under fire for homophobic remarks.

But snacks, snacks I like; and any excuse to make “man snacks” is a-okay in my book. This year, I made a variation of one of my staples (sliders) and what has become a new favorite – paleo nachos. During the game, I managed to finish planning our spring vacation (go me!) and design a few cards for upcoming holidays.

The nacho recipe is below. Sliders to come soon.


Paleo Nachos

1 lb. ground beef (grass fed)
2 tsp. coconut oil
4 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. chipotle powder
2 Tbsp. granulated garlic powder
2 Tbsp. onion powder
2 tsp. sea salt
Black pepper
TJ Guacamole (recipe follows)
Salsa (optional)
2 scallions
Sweet potato chips (I used store bought because I failed at home made)

In a large pan, warm the coconut oil over medium – medium-high heat. Add the beef and break up with a spoon. Add the spices, salt & pepper and cook until deeply browned. Drain.

While this is cooking, make your guacamole and slice the scallions into thin medallions.

When the beef is browned and drained, assemble your nachos. 1st layer chips, 2nd layer beef, top with guacamole, scallions and salsa (if using). Enjoy.

Serves 4-6 easily. We took down a bag of chips and still had enough leftover meat and guac that we could both have another big plate.

TJ Guacamole

This guacamole is straight from Trader Joe’s guacamole kit. I originally added 3 strips of applewood smoked bacon to mine, but couldn’t taste it in the final product at all. If you want some porky goodness, try upping the quotient to 5 strips of bacon.

2 ripe avocados
1 Roma tomato, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 tiny onion, diced
Juice of 1 lime
Big pinch salt

Mash all ingredients together with a potato masher (or fork, if you want a workout).

Restrictive But Delicious – ‘Paleo’ Tortillas

I struggled in naming this recipe. This is a straight-up paleo recipe – restrictive, delicious – but so much more. I’m trying to steer clear of the ‘paleo’ label, but I find much of what I’ve been making lately falling firmly in that category. The hubbs and I are trying something different this fall – gone are the whole grain and lentil-heavy dishes of previous seasons; in are the veg and meat-laden dishes prescribed by the followers of paleo-style diets. We’ve decided to limit our intake of dairy to good-quality butter, to forego glutinous starches, to limit our intake of non-gluten substantive substances like lentils, beans and legumes (except for the occasional quinoa and near-weekly sushi nights). We shall see how this goes long-term, but so far we’re kind of liking it. Finding the right fat-to-everythingelse ratio has been challenging (for the hubbs at least, who was making some kind of crazy-ass bulletproof coffee drink with butter and coconut oil and who seems to need more than a salad & exercise goo as fuel for a long run). I seem to be faring better in the switch – other than not being able to cuddle with chickpeas and lentils lashed with greek yogurt, not a huge change (except for upping my meat intake, which isn’t the easiest thing when meal planning – I love me some vegetarian dishes).

For those of you that enjoy my mostly vegetarian dishes, never fear – I’m not abandoning those at all. I will most likely be posting more side dishes that can easily be bumped up to become vegetarian mains. Like this one. These ‘tortillas’ are really, really good. Tortillas isn’t quite the right term, here – they’re more like a crepe – but whatever the taxonomy, they work just fine as a taco wrapper. They taste a little coconutty, a little spicy, and a lot good. I could easily see this basic blueprint morphing into a sandwich wrapper or a pancake with very little trouble. Come to think of it, these would kick ass in place of a crepe in one of those huge cone-shaped sandwiches. Some grilled veggies, something in place of the hummus I’d naturally gravitate toward, a little balsamic, a little garlic… that sounds like sandwich heaven. Ham and cheese also comes to mind, for the non lactose-averse.

Enough with the daydreaming; I’m making myself hungry. I was first introduced to these tasty babies through PaleOMG’s recipe for Pork Avocado Cream Enchiladas. I’m a sucker for avocado crema. Love, love, love it. I could eat it on anything – and have, actually (as a pasta sauce, burger topper, by the spoonful, in ice cream, etc.). I’m also a huge lover of all things tacos, so this was a no-brainer. The entire dish was fabulous – so fabulous, I made the tortillas again for lunch the next day with the tweaks I’d envisioned the night before and polished off every last bit of the leftovers taco-style in a single sitting. Yum. So without further ado: tortilla-y crepes.


Restrictive But Delicious Paleo Tortillas

6 egg whites
3 Tbsp. coconut flour
6-8 Tbsp. coconut milk
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Big pinch salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried, ground chipotle
1-2 Tbsp. coconut oil

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. If your batter is too stiff, add a little more coconut milk or some water until it thins out to the consistency you want – somewhere between what you woud use for a thick pancake and a crepe – not too watery, and you’ll have a huge mess; not too pasty, or you’ll have a hard time spreading into a thin layer and you will end up with a pancake.

In your largest skillet, heat 1-2 Tbsp. coconut oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add a ladelfull of your batter and circle with your spoon to spread into a thin layer (newspaper thin is ideal).

When you can see the edges are browning and just beginning to turn up on the sides (everything will be smelling really nutty at this point), very carefully reach your thinnest most flexible spatula under and flip. Be gentle; these babies want to tear if they’re not quite ready to go. Brown on side 2; transfer to a plate to await filling. This week was all about shredded pork; next week I’m playing with an eggless version for ground beef tacos.

Serves 2-3, depending upon how hungry you are and how carried away you get with the batter on the first few. I ended up making 3 large tortillas and 1 baby tortilla because I’ve only made pancakes like twice in my life and had zero idea of portion size. If you’re a pancake maker, think silver dollar pancake size servings and you will be fine.

Eggplant Sauce

This all-purpose sauce is a great addition to any fall dish and a good way to sneak eggplant past finicky eaters. Try it as a pasta sauce with some fresh ricotta or goat cheese, over a protein with a side of potatoes or greens, nestled in a bowl of polenta, or spread on a sandwich.

I’ve been putting a couple big spoonfuls in pretty much anything I think needs a little comfort food love – including into lunchtime tuna salad. Unexpectedly yum.

*Wtf is umami paste? Umami paste is one of those wing-ding ingredients that while not entirely necessary, lends a little extra something to a dish. Think of it like fish sauce. Fish sauce adds depth to dishes, and so does this stuff. I had half a mind to just add fish sauce instead but grabbed the tube of umami at the last minute. If you have fish sauce (or the original recipe’s tomato paste), by all means use them instead.


Eggplant Sauce

Based on Yotam Ottolenghi’s Eggplant Sauce

Enough vegetable or other neutral oil to coat the bottom of the pan

2c. diced eggplant – 1/4 to 1/2 inch. cubes

2 tsp. umami paste*

1/4 c. white wine

1 can diced tomatoes with juice

big pinch salt

big pinch brown sugar

1 tsp. dried oregano

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sautee the eggplant for about 15 minutes, or until well wilted and starting to brown in spots.

Add the umami paste to the pan, stir, and cook about 2 more minutes. Add the wine, cook an additional minute. Add the tomatoes, juice, salt, sugar and oregano and cook an additional 5 minutes. Turn the heat off the burner and let cool slightly.

Dump into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until your desired consistency is reached. This step is optional, but makes things more palatable for people with aversions to eggplant consistency.

Serves 2-4, depending upon how much you use and in what application.


This fiery little African/Middle Eastern condiment can be dressed up and used a thousand different ways. Use as the base for a dipping sauce for meats, cheeses, etc., on sandwiches, tucked into green beans or other veggies, as a pasta sauce, or anywhere else you want some spicy seasoning with a splash of smoke.



1 red pepper

1 long red chile

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. coriander

1/4 tsp. cumin

Squirt fish sauce

Blacken red pepper. When it cools enough to handle, de-stem and de-seed. Place into a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients. Pulse to forme a paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Season with salt & pepper.

Serves 2-8, depending upon how you use it.

Strawberry Chipotle Jam

This low-in-sugar jam has a slightly smoky, slightly tangy taste in the background (don’t worry – it’s not enough to overpower the berry taste) and makes a great add-in for freezer pops, ice creams, etc.

Strawberry Chipotle Jam

1 lb. strawberries, washed and de-stemmed
2 Tbsp. sugar

In a large skillet over medium heat, mash the strawberries and sugar with a potato masher until the berries are broken up and well on their way to being somewhat smooth. The sugar should disappear.


1 Tbsp. adobo sauce from a can of chipotles
2 Tbsp. Jack Daniel’s Honey

Bring up to a low boil, drop the heat and simmer (slow tiny bubbles every once in awhile) about 20 minutes or until thickened and sludgy. When you drag a wooden spoon through the mixture, you should have clear tracks left.

Pour into sterilized glass canning jars (making sure to leave some head room) and screw on the lid.

Boil the jars a good 5 minutes to seal.

Makes 2 8 ounce jars.

Party Dumplings 3 Ways

These are the closest approximations I can come to for a dumpling spread I made to celebrate a good friend’s graduate school graduation. These suckers all went lighting quick – especially the beef version – and were generally raved about by the crowd. I also made a dipping sauce, and kind of just threw everything that looked Asian-y in the pantry & fridge together and added mayo for thickness (olive oil mayo, fish sauce, soy sauce, key lime juice, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, rice wine, and ketjap manis). I have no idea on the quantities involved. I just squirted, shook, and tasted as I went. Next time I might add yogurt as a base – I had wanted something thick (hence the mayo), but it didn’t really work out like that.


– I know, the picture is just riveting. I completely spaced on taking a picture either before or during the party. Luckily, for some unknown reason, I snapped a shot of the dumpling assembly line aftermath.

Basil Beef Dumplings

Inspired by the Thai Basil Beef Balls from Health-Bent

1 lb. ground beef (I went lean here)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
2 1/2 Tbsp jarred red pepper spread from Trader Joe’s
2 Tbsp. soy sauce (or coconut aminos for paleo)
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. chili garlic sauce
1 tsp. lime juice
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
Big pinch sesame seeds
2 green onions, minced
1 handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
Breadcrumbs (leave out if making paleo)
Wonton wrappers (leave out if making paleo)

Mix all ingredients (minus the breadcrumbs and wonton wrappers) together in a bowl. I mix by hand just like I’m making meatballs. Combine well. Add bread crumbs until the mixture becomes less gooey and more like a cohesive meatball. I added by shakes of the container – maybe about a half cup to a cup?

Line your wonton wrappers out assembly-line style. I did 30 at a time, and that worked just fine. Put a small dish of water within reach.

Start filling your wontons by placing a small ball (mini meatball or nickel to quarter-sized) slightly off center on each wrapper. You might want to just start with one and fold it to make sure you have the ball size right.

Dip your finger in the water and dampen 3 corners of the wonton. Fold the dry corner over the meatball, forming a triangle. Pick up and pinch everything together so the air comes out and you have a triangle with a meat lump.

dampen one of the long pointy sides, fold over the triangle and join with the dry long pointy sides. Pinch together. You should now have something resembling a little hat.

If that isn’t working for you, just dampen 3 sides of the wonton and fold over to form a rectangle. It will still be fabulous.

After all your wontons are ready to go, heat a thin layer of canola or other high smoke point oil in your largest frying pan with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the wontons carefully spaced out enough so they aren’t right up against each other and fry until deeply browned (but not burnt) on the bottom.

With your lid held as a splatter shield, add a big splash of water, lower the lid quickly, and steam 5 minutes.

Serve whenever – I put all my wontons on foil overnight in the fridge and pulled them out 3 hours before the party. They were all served room temperature.

Makes about 30-40 dumplings.

These beef dumplings were the first to run out and were wildly popular with the party crowd.

Asian Chicken Dumplings

Inspired by the Asian Pork Meatballs with Dipping Sauce from Health-Bent

1 lb. ground poultry
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp. sesame seeds
2 tsp. to a Tablespoon fish sauce
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 green onions, diced
1 tsp. ginger, minced
1 Tbsp. chili garlic sauce
Handful parsley, chopped
1 tsp. sesame oil
Bread crumbs (leave out if making paleo)
Wontons (leave out if making paleo)

Pretty much follow the same exact directions as those for the Beef Basil Dumplings. I varied the way I folded these dumplings so they wouldn’t get mixed up when serving.

To fold: put your meatball in the center and dampen all the edges. Pick up, make a circle with your thumb and forefinger, and tuck the ball into the hole. Pinch the edges up and together until you have a little purse. Pinch and stick. Again, if that isn’t working for you, go the easy route. People will still be impressed and they will still taste awesome.

Cooking directions are exactly the same, as are the portions.

On to dumpling 3, because I’m not an overachiever and was worried about vegetarians.

Pea Dumplings

This is a riff on Heidi Swanson’s Plump Pea Dumplings on her blog 101 Cookbooks. I make these dumplings every single time we have potsticker night, and my DH said that this is my best batch ever. They were pretty frickin good.

1 bag frozen peas, thawed
1 c. ricotta (I will update if I find a good paleo sub here – I’m thinking some sort of cashew based cream would work nicely for thickness)
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
1/4 to a half tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
Big pinch or 2 citrus salt
1/4 tsp or so white pepper
A glug of extra virgin olive oil
Wontons (leave out if making paleo)

Add all ingredients to a food processor and let go until smooth (or mostly smooth). While the peas are working, toss in a glug or 2 of olive oil if things aren’t moving fast enough. Taste. Adjust seasoning as needed. I ended up adding more salt at the end and maybe a dash more pepper. You want this filling to pop and sing on its own before you stuff it into a dumpling. If you want to eat the whole bowl standing over the sink – screw the party – then you’ve got it right.

I folded these the lazy way. I plopped a teaspoon or so down the middle, dampened 3 sides of the wonton and folded over until I had a rectangle. Some squirted out the edges on each, but that is okay.

Cooking and portions are the same as the rest. I ended up having extra of each type of filling and have been using it in dinner recipes since. Last night was pea risotto with chicken meatballs. Recipe coming soon, that one was good (though the meatballs were slightly out of balance with the peas…).

Coconut Curry with Naan

I never promised it was pretty. This pic was taken right before plunging into after-dinner snack bowl full #2.

A nice light Thai-style coconut green curry that’s perfect over noodles or simply scooped up by naan bread. Mixed with a little Greek yogurt, I could see this becoming a go-to dip.

Coconut Curry with Naan
Based on Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Rice Noodles from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Curry paste
1 inch piece of ginger, peeped and roughly chopped
2 green chiles, seeded and roughly chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, outer layer and tough ends removed and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
zest and juice of 2 limes
2 Tbsp canola oil

1 red onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp sugar
Big pinch salt
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1 can (15 oz) light coconut milk

To make the curry paste: Combine all the ingredients in a small spice grinder, food processor or mortar & pestle. Grind/blend to a paste. If your mixture is too dry and isn’t paste-ing, add a little more lime juice or oil and move things around in the bowl. Your paste won’t be smooth, but it will come together and the lemongrass fibers will break up. It’s not the prettiest thing in town, but it gets the job done.

To make the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil until it begins to sputter. Add the onion and sautee, stirring to avoid burning, 3 minutes or until softened, translucent and beginning to brown around the edges. Add curry paste and continue to sautee, stirring frequently, 3 minutes more. At this point, everything should be looking rather toasty in the pan and the smell should be incredible. Add salt, sugar, lime zest and coconut milk. Stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring up to a boil, knock the heat back to a simmer and let go 7 minutes.

At this point you have a very lovely coconut green curry sauce. You can serve this over rice noodles and broccolini like the original recipe calls for (which is great), or you can spoon some leftover curry sauce into a small bowl and scoop it up with naan bread. This makes an addicting after-dinner (or any time) snack. So addicting I managed to eat 2 small bowls worth right after dinner and i wish I had more.

I would imagine this sauce would keep in the fridge for a few days, but since I decided playing garbage disposal by myself last night was a good idea, we have no leftovers. Which is a total shame, I would eat this again today and in mass quantities.

Note: This is a very, very mild curry. Not hot in the slightest. If you want more heat, I would suggest leaving the seeds in the chiles or adding a bit of heat at the end.

Serves 2 if I’m one of the 2, 4 if I’m not. Really, there is enough curry to happily sauce a family of four’s dinner.

Ketchup for Grownups

Mmmm….. Nope, no purple squeeze-bottle ketchup here

This sweet/tart/savory condiment is the LBD of condiments, pairing equally well dressed-down on top of a burger, dressed-up as the star in a quick weeknight sauce or dressed to the nines as the main performer on a toasted baguette. You’ll want to keep plenty on hand. This recipe makes enough to fill 3 pint jars: two for you, and one to give away to your nearest and dearest.

Ketchup for Grownups
Adapted from Sweet & Savory Tomato Jam from In Jennie’s Kitchen

3 1/2 lb. Roma tomatoes (or whatever looks the best that day), chopped roughly
1 onion, diced, about 1/2 c.
1/2 c. dark brown sugar (a slack half cup)
1/2 c. white sugar (a slack half cup)
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. coriander, ground
1 1/2 tsp. cumin, ground
1 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds, whole
1 1/2 tsp. hot paprika
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. Granny Smith apple, diced
1 c. water

Add all ingredients to a large pot over high heat. Bring up to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thick and jam-like, about 3 hours. Transfer to sterilized jars and stash in the fridge for up to two weeks, or break out your favorite canning rig and can, making sure to boil for 15 minutes.

Serve slathered on a burger; with simple ricotta, burrata or goat cheese on a toasted baguette; as a topper for chicken; mixed into a nice big bowl of grains or pasta; with grits, greens & smoky bacon; or on crackers with cream cheese for a late night snack.

Makes 3 pint jars.

Slow Dance, With Tomatoes

Tomato Jam, waiting for the crush

This is the kind of recipe that is not a recipe. More of a guideline. Serve slow-cooked tomatoes: crushed as a jam slathered on a burger or crostini; as-is as a finger food (my favorite!); chopped in a salad; tossed in with grains; or with a shot of good-quality olive oil as a pasta dressing.

Slow-Cooked Tomato Jam

Roma Tomatoes (as many as you have – I only happened to have 3 on this day)
3-5 cloves thick-sliced garlic
a sprinkling of ground cinnamon
a sprinkling of caraway seeds
Big pinch salt
Big pinch fresh cracked black pepper
Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F. Quarter the tomatoes lengthwise and arrange cut sides up in a single layer on a foil-wrapped baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon, caraway, salt & pepper (or other herbs and/or spices if you are so inclined).

Roast for 2 hours until tomatoes collapse a little and are browning in spots. Flip over (skin side up) and roast an additional hour and a half until the skins are puckered and the tomatoes are falling apart.

If any should make it to a bowl, mash with a fork or potato masher to make jam or slice for salads and pasta.

If you’re like me, they may not make it that far.

Variations: You can make this jam with any tomato you have on hand–I have made with slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, etc., though my favorite is the Roma tomato for this particular application. You can also add brown sugar to the mix, swap the cinnamon for nutmeg, etc. This can really be dressed a thousand different ways depending on what you happen to have on hand when you notice your tomatoes are almost past their shelf life.

Slow Dance, With Tomatoes on Punk Domestics