Lemon Ginger Thai Meatballs (paleo)

I’m glad I kept those aging stalks of lemongrass in the crisper drawer. They’ve been there, silent, like an accusation, for weeks. I finally found a vehicle for their tender lemony brightness – meatballs. Specifically, Thai inspired meatballs. The lemon works well here, balancing the fish sauce and providing a nice bridge for ginger’s blustery heat. If you do not have access to lemongrass, a bit of zest would work; just don’t go crazy with it. A teaspoon or so should do.

My attempt to 'sex up' meatballs. My attempt to ‘sex up’ meatballs.

Lemon Ginger Thai Meatballs
1 Tbsp. chili garlic sauce
1.5 Tbsp. fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. cilantro
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 lb. grass fed ground beef
2 stalks lemongrass
2 Tbsp. coconut aminos
Fat of Choice (if you make this salad as a side, bacon fat is a fantastic fat to use)

Mince your ginger and cilantro. Add to a bowl with the beef, chili garlic sauce, fish sauce, and coconut aminos. Bash the lemongrass with the back of your knife to get the goodness out – chop and add to the bowl.

Form little ping pong sized balls and fry in fat of choice over medium heat until browned. Flip and brown.

Makes about 14 balls, enough to serve 2 for dinner + 1 for lunch.

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.

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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.

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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).

Paleo Chili with Root Vegetables

Mmmmm…. chili. Is there another food that is as synonymous with colder months (perhaps pot roast)? Chili is one of those ridiculously easy to make dishes that is a great thing to always have in your back pocket in case life throws you a cold, rainy day. This version foregoes the beans in favor of more paleo-friendly parsnip and carrot chunks. Hearty, filling, and warming to the core; this dinner serves as a long-form weeknight dinner and perfect back of the fridge/freezer lurker.

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Paleo Chili with Root Vegetables

Adapted from Bison Chili from The Paleo Plan

1 1/4 lb. ground grass fed beef (or bison if you can find it)
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 parsnips, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 palms full ground cumin
4 palms full chili powder
1/2 palm dried oregano
2 palms full granulated garlic
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes – fire roasted or regular
1 (7 ounce) can green chiles
Sea salt to taste

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the coconut oil.

Add the onions and celery and sautee until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add the beef and spices and sautee until browned.

Add the parsnips, carrots, tomatoes, chiles, 2 big pinches salt and 3/4 of a can of water and stir.

Bring up to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and let simmer an hour.

Taste and re-salt if needed.

Serves 2 for dinner + 2 for lunch

Sundried Tomato Basil Meatballs with Walnut Pesto and Broccolini

This is a great little weeknight dinner and this pesto is something you will want to have on hand. It’s great here, as well as on chicken or beef, or when used as a mix-in for all sorts of “basic” ingredients to give a little kick. Paleo friendly and gluten-free.

A note on coconut cream: Coconut cream is easy to source. Take a can of full fat coconut milk, place into a container with a lid and chill a few hours or over night. A thick layer of cream will rise to the top and solidify. This is coconut cream and it is tasty.

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Sundried Tomato Basil Meatballs with Walnut Pesto and Broccolini

Based on Sun Dired Tomato Meatballs with Creamy Pesto from Everyday Paleo

For the meatballs:

2 lbs. ground beef (or a mixture of beef, veal and pork depending on your particular culinary inclinations)
4 scallions
1 big hand full basil
1/2 c. sun dried tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
Big pinch salt
Black pepper
1 Tbsp. coconut oil

For the broccolini:

1 bunch broccolini
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

For the pesto:

1 c. walnuts
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 c. basil
1/4 c. sun dried tomatoes
1/2 c. coconut cream
Big pinch salt
Big pinch red pepper flakes
2 tsp. white wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375. While you are waiting for the oven to heat, prep your broccolini by chopping the cut ends off, placing the stalks on a cookie sheet, and drizzling with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. When your oven comes up to temperature, add the broccolini and set the timer for 15 minutes.

Bring a cup or two of water to a boil. Place the sundried tomatoes in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover with a dish towel or plastic wrap and let reconstitute 15 minutes. If you are using oil packed tomatoes, skip this step.

While your tomatoes are reconstituting, mince the scallions, garlic and basil for the meatballs.

When your tomatoes are reconstituted, remove from the water and mince. Add the meatball portion to a large bowl along with the other meatball ingredients (minus the coconut oil).

Mix the meatball ingredients together and form into ping pong ball sized meatballs.

Heat the coconut oil over medium to medium-high heat in a large ovenproof skillet. Once the oil is hot, add the meatballs and brown on all sides.

When your broccolini timer goes off, flip the broccolini and return to the oven and cook an additional few minutes until browned but not burnt.

When the meatballs are all browned, slide the pan (if it is ovenproof, otherwise use a cookie sheet) into the oven and bake an additional 7-10 minutes.

While the meatballs are working, make the pesto. Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and whiz until smooth and pesto like. Taste and add more salt/vinegar/pepper as needed until your desired taste balance is reached. You’re looking for a bright and lively pesto – something you want to eat more of before dinner. If it is too thick, thin with a bit of the tomato water if you have any on hand, or regular water. Don’t forget to adjust your seasoning after thinning. I went for a thick sauce – more of a paste – and it was delicious.

To serve, pile meatballs on top of broccolini and top with pesto. And more pesto.

Serves 2-4 for dinner (meatballs and pesto – if you’re serving 4, double the broccolini quantity) or 2 for dinner + 1 for lunch with more pesto left over.

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.

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– 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…).

Charcutepalooza Challenge 12 – Cinci By Way Of Charcuterie Chili

This is it. The end of my ‘Charcutepalooza A Year of Meat’ challenges. The very last one. I must admit to being a bit sad about my timed meat adventure ending. I learned a lot this year. Not only about food, but about where it comes from, food traditions, and even a bit of science. I also learned a bit about myself, and how far I can comfortably go to prepare something (like sausage, bacon or duck confit) that I’d always taken for granted.

This year has opened my eyes not only to the breadth of preserved meats out there, but how much of it can very easily be made at home. These things are not out of my league, they’re dead simple.

All it takes is a little time, a few special tools, lots of pork and patience. Having a partner in crime like my Dearest Husband the master sausage maker doesn’t hurt, either.

As I reflect back on this past year, I can say with all confidence that it has been one of my proudest on the culinary front. Not only have I been busy salting, curing and smoking my own meats, but I have started the first fledgling forays into canning.  Zombie apocalypse? Bah. I’m good. I have duck prosciutto and summer jam.

This month’s challenge was to be a charcuterie master class of sorts – we had to use 3-4 different charcuterie elements in a single celebratory dish to show off a bit. So what did I do? I decided to go back to my roots and share a dish I loved as a kid with my hubby.

Ok now Buckeyes, don’t get up in arms. I know this isn’t traditional Cincinnati Chili. I know. Settle down. Breathe. This chili is made in the same spirit and has damn near the same profile of that ‘mole of the midwest’ Buckeyes have come to know and love.

Mmmm… quasi sacrilicious

Cinci By Way Of Charcuterie Chili

As I was coming off of an epic charcuterie fail I decided to use this dish as an opportunity to serve the bits and bobs of charcute I’ve collected over the past year.

Original Cincinnati chili calls for 1 1/2 lbs. of ground beef.  I went in a different direction.

I used some bacon from this challenge (ok, not from this challenge exactly since I’ve been making about a batch a month since the beginning of the year – this stuff goes quick!)

Some leftover brisket from this challenge (unbrined)

Some leftover breakfast sausage from this challenge (and yes the notes of ginger tasted just fine)

and the topper: the very last bit of the duck confit from this challenge.

2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. coriander
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cayenne
2 cloves, crushed
1 lb. brisket, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
4 oz. home made bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch batons
8 oz. breakfast sausage, broken up
4 oz. duck confit, shredded
1/3 can (~ 6 oz.) canned plain tomato sauce
1/2 can (~ 1 c.) canned plain diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 square (~2 Tbsp.) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans
Huge handful shredded extra sharp cheddar per person
Spaghetti

In a dutch oven or other large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, brown the bacon, brisket and sausage in batches, removing each batch as it is browned. You’re aiming to develop flavors here. If your fond (the brown bits) on the bottom of the pot is getting too burnt, add a little water to loosen. Save it if you can, but if you can’t, pitch it.

After the meats are browned, add 1 tsp. olive oil to the pot along with the onions and garlic. Cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the meat back to the pan along with the spices, beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Add water until the mixture is covered by 2 or so inches. I made my chili in a 5 quart dutch oven and added water to the fill line.

Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 2 hours until everything is very tender and delicious.

Let sit, uncovered, a few hours until ready to serve. You want to give the flavors a chance to mix, mingle and marry.

When you’re ready to serve, turn the heat on to medium while you cook the spaghetti (following package directions).

When your spaghetti goes into the pot, add the duck to the chili. Stir to combine.

Serve the chili over the spaghetti and top with a huge handful of cheese per serving.

Serves 6 – 8, depending upon your serving size.

Faker Pot Roast

Beefy, Satisfying Goodness

This recipe takes leftovers from a pretty good dinner and transforms them into satisfying comfort food that won’t break the calorie bank.

Dinner 1: Slow-Cooker Chipotle Beef Tacos with Cabbage and Radish Slaw from Real Simple Magazine

This dinner was pretty good. The beef smelled great, but came out somehow lacking in the spice and smoke department. Don’t get me wrong, this beef was good — juicy, perfectly tender and all around a nice main component — it just wasn’t the ballsy spicy richness I half hoped it would be. It tasted more like a pot roast.

Which got me thinking….

Dinner 2: Faker Pot Roast

Mmmm…. pot roast. Pot roast is one of those dishes that picks you up, gives you a nice snuggly blanket, a soft place to sit and a nice book to read. Pot roast tucks you in. I remember as a kid opening the door to the house on cold winter nights and being buffeted by the wall of warm beefy goodness only pot roast that’s cooked all day in the Crock Pot can provide. Good times.

I wasn’t feeling making another haunch o’beast, so I decided to do the next best thing. I winged it with ingredients I had on hand.

Faker Pot Roast

This spin on pot roast transforms humble leftovers into a deeply satisfying super quick to throw together weeknight meal.

Leftover slow cooker chipotle beef, approximately 1 1/2 cup.
1 c beef broth
1/4 c. red wine
1 1/2 c. carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch thick coins
1 leek, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4 inch thick moons
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. egg noodles
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. butter

Warm 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large high-sided pan over medium heat. Once the oil is up to temperature, add the leeks, onions, carrots, wine and broth. Sautee 5 mins.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Once the water is boiling, add the egg noodles. Cook to al dente according to package directions

Continue cooking veggies 10 minutes, or until the carrots are soft. If at any time things look too dry, add additional wine and/or stock.

About 2 minutes before cooking is finished, add the leftover beef. Stir to combine until the beef is warmed through. Add the noodles and toss to combine. Remove from the heat. Add the butter and parsley and stir to combine until the butter has melted.

Serves 2