November 5, 2013
I was a pasta maniac.
Italian restaurant? I’d be ordering penne with red sauce. Chinese restaurant? Chicken lo mein for this girl. Thai restaurant? I’d shovel through at least three-quarters of a bowl of pad thai. French restaurant? I’d hope that boeuf bourguignon would be served over some form of noodle. At home, I’d eat Kraft macaroni and cheese for lunch, and for dinner, I’d request Melissa D’Arabian’s garlic pasta with Parmesan and broccoli. In short, my life basically revolved around pasta.
But now…pasta’s just for special occasions. Sure, it tastes fabulous (and no one will deny that), but it isn’t the healthiest thing in the world for you, even if you buy the gluten-free stuff. (Which is just as bad for you, in my opinion.) While many proudly claim that eating zucchini noodles is “just like pasta,” let’s get real, folks: pasta is pasta, and there is nothing exactly like it. Spiralized vegetables, although they are delicious and a ton of fun to make, will not completely satisfy your pasta craving, and that’s OK! We should appreciate foods for what they are, not what they aren’t. Instead of saying, “Aw, this tomato sauce is good, but it really needs some pasta,” say, “Yum, this tomato sauce is so good, and I’m getting in an extra serving of veggies with these tasty zucchini noodles, too!” It sounds like nothing, but your attitude can really make a difference in how something tastes. I swear.
Personally, my favorite veggie “pasta” is spaghetti squash. It’s a pain in the butt to open up the massive gourd, but once you roast it, it becomes sweet, slightly crunchy noodles that perfectly compliment heartier tomato sauces. Zucchini noodles are also good, but I feel they pair better with a lighter pesto than a sauce as dense as this bolognese. You should be able to find spaghetti squashes at your local supermarket or farmer’s market–they’re in season now–but if you can’t, I’d recommend serving this over parsnip or celery root puree. It sounds a little weird, but I promise it’s delicious!
My recipe for bolognese is adapted from this one, the first recipe my nutritionist friend Alison Held showed me to introduce me to the paleo lifestyle. Since then, it’s become a staple in my house, and I’ve tweaked the recipe to meet my family’s personal tastes. It’s SUPER easy to make, yields a bunch of leftovers, and tastes like heaven on a fork (or spoon). I usually eat this for breakfast the few days after I make this so I won’t waste any.
In a large pot or Dutch Oven, melt 2 tablespoons of ghee, butter, or coconut oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is glistening, add 2 chopped onions, 3 chopped carrots, and 3 chopped celery stalks, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, then saute until translucent and beginning to soften, about 7 to 8 minutes. It the veggies start browning, turn the heat down and add a little more salt so they’ll release some more water.
To the softened veggies, add 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of dried oregano, and 1 tablespoon of dried basil, and saute for one or two minutes longer. Then, add in 1/4 lb of sliced and cubed speck (basically smoked proscuitto), proscuitto, or bacon.
I’ve made bolognese with all three of the options above, and speck is by far my favorite. It’s smoky but not overpowering: I’ve found that proscuitto is good but doesn’t have as much flavor, and bacon makes the sauce a bit too greasy and salty. I get speck at my local butcher, but if you can’t find it, definitely use proscuitto over bacon.
After the speck has been hanging out with the veggies for a few minutes, crumble in 1 lb of ground pork and 1 lb of ground veal. You can also substitute regular old beef for the veal, but I prefer the veal’s lighter flavor in contrast with the pork’s porkiness. Saute until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes, then add in 3/4 cup of red wine, 3/4 cup of coconut milk (light or full-fat: your preference), 12 ounces (or about 2 cans) of tomato paste, and 3 bay leaves.
Stir to combine, bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to low. Let cook with the lid on until thickened, about an hour. After the hour mark, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook until you’re ready to serve.
Want to make some spaghetti squash “noodles” to go along with your delicious sauce? You’re in luck, ’cause I’ll show you!
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using the biggest knife you can get your hands on, slice your spaghetti squash in half. These are tough little (or not so little) suckers, so proceed with strength and caution. Enlist the help of your father if this proves too arduous.
Sprinkle both halves of the spaghetti squash with a generous amount of salt and pepper, then place face-down on a cookie sheet with about a teaspoon of water. Bake until the squash’s skin is beginning to brown and the flesh is tender, but not mushy, about 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the squash halves over, and let cool before scraping the squash with a fork to reveal the noodle-y magic inside.
Put some squash in a bowl, top with a generous scoop of sauce, and garnish with some chopped fresh basil. Yummy!
What’s your favorite pasta dish? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!
Tags: Allergy friendly, beef, dairy-free, delicious, gluten-free, grain-free, healthy, Italian, meat, nut-free, paleo, pork, sauce, spaghetti squash, tomatoes, vegetables
August 9, 2013
Vegetables. Some of you may have jumped for joy, while others may have thrusted your spinny chairs backwards in disgust.
I’ve volunteered as a counselor-in-training for a couple summers now, and one thing that’s been consistent is the lack of vegetables these kids are eating. On occasion, I’ll see someone’s mom has packed him or her some baby carrots, but other than that, I’ve seen NOTHING. Some of them will have fruit, but it’s usually dwarfed by a mostly-bread sandwich and some kind of chip and/or processed sweet.
“But they’re kids! They’re picky!”
Sure, kids’ taste buds are largely defined by the fact that they haven’t fully developed yet, but part of the reason they’re not eating vegetables is where their influence is coming from. I know there are plenty of adults out there that dislike vegetables just as much as five and six year-olds do.
This is part of the reason why SAD (the Standard American Diet) fails: people aren’t eating enough vegetables. Instead of having a big salad or a sauteed spinach omelette for breakfast, people are downing non-fat “fruit” yogurts (trust me—it’s mostly sugar and chemicals in there, not fruit) and bowls of carb-dense cereal. Tell me, where are the plants? How is a crunchy pellet or flake considered food and chosen over a delicious, nutrient-packed vegetable?
It’s time to change. We need to stop avoiding vegetables and replacing them with “healthy” substitutes, like “veggie” chips and juices. I challenge you, whether you’re a newbie to real food eating or an old-timer, to aim to eat at least a serving of vegetables with every meal.
Daunted? Lost? Lazy? I’m here to help with four of my favorite vegetables and two different ways to prepare each of ‘em.
Before going paleo, I barely ate cauliflower. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it…I just didn’t know what to do with it. Now that I’ve incorporated so many vegetables into my diet, cauliflower has become one of my best friends. It’s not only high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and fiber, but also makes the perfect canvass for a plethora of spices and seasonings. It’s the marriage of broccoli and potatoes in the best way possible.
So, how do I prepare it?
- Roast it. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss 4 cups of cauliflower florets with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a bunch of seasonings. I like using about 1/2 tablespoon each of paprika, garlic powder, tumeric, and cumin, plus a tablespoon of nutritional yeast for a slightly “cheesy” flavor. Roast until the tops are a dark shade of brown and the cauliflower is tender to the touch, about 30 to 35 minutes.
- Rice it. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse 2 cups of cauliflower florets at a time until the size of rice grains or cous-cous (depending on the texture you’re going for), about 30 seconds. In a pan, melt 2 tablespoons of ghee or butter over medium heat, then add all of the cauliflower. Add your seasonings of choice, then saute until softened but not squishy, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover tightly with a lid until you’re ready to eat.
Technically, tomatoes are a fruit, but today, I’m ignoring science. So take that. Anyways, when they’re in season, cherry tomatoes are my favorite food—hands down. Sweet, juicy, and just a bit crunchy, it’s like eating a piece of nature’s candy. If you’re not eating many tomatoes, now is a great time to get started: tomato season is end of July through end of August, at least where I live, so these little guys will be at their freshest and tastiest. Tomatoes are also an excellent source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and lycopene, which contributes a boatload of antioxidants as well as the bright red pigment.
So, how do I prepare them?
- Sauce them. Got squishy and/or overly ripe tomatoes lying around? Make a quick sauce! Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat, and add 2 large or 3 small cloves of minced garlic. Saute until fragrant, then add in 2 cups of chopped tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of red chili flakes, and let cook until the tomatoes have mostly broken down, about 6 minutes. During the last minute or so of cooking, add in 1/3-1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh basil. Serve over grilled chicken or roasted spaghetti squash.
- Sandwich them. I love the combination of tomatoes and balsamic vinegar, and avocado makes it even better. In the bowl of a food processor, blend 2 very ripe avocados with a generous pinch of salt until smooth, about 2 minutes. Cut a fat heirloom tomato into 1-inch wide slices, then lightly drizzle with some good balsamic vinegar. (No glucose syrup here!) To assemble, spread a heaping tablespoon of avocado onto a tomato slice and top with another of about the same size. Finish with a crack of black pepper, if you’d like.
Kale is amazing. If you don’t like it, I don’t like you. Sorry, that’s how I roll. Out with the kale haters.
I’m kidding! Chances are, if you have terrifying memories of kale, it’s because it hasn’t been fresh and/or prepared in the right way. I must admit…bad raw kale is pretty disgusting. Even if you have an emotionally-scarring back-story, I highly recommend you give this leafy green another try. It has a mind-blowing amount of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A, plus some calcium, which can be hard to come by if you’re staying away from dairy. My favorite type is Tuscan kale—the kind with the big, thick leaves bursting with crunchiness.
So, how do I prepare it?
- Massage it. Yes, I said massage it. Massaged kale salads are insanely tasty; so tasty, in fact, that they were the number one dish I missed while I was in France. Oddly enough, my favorite time to have one of these salads is at breakfast, but it’s perfect for a light lunch, dinner, or even snack. All you do is wash and dry a BUNCH of chopped kale, drizzle on some good olive oil and a bit of vinegar/citrus juice, and massage the liquids into the kale with your hands. The kale is ready when it’s turned dark green and feels considerably softer in texture. It’s best if you let it sit for at least 15 minutes before digging in.
- Crispify it. Kale chips are sweeping the nation. You don’t need a mandolin or a dehydrator to make them: you just need some olive oil, salt, a big baking sheet, an oven, and some kale! Simply toss your choice of kale with a scant teaspoon or two of olive oil (you don’t want a lot—it’ll weigh it down), salt, and some spices, if you’d like. (Paprika, chipotle chili powder, and garlic powder are my go-tos.) Lay the kale on the sheet, and bake at 400 degrees until dark green and crispy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Do not stir. Serve immediately and resist eating the whole batch.
I was a rabbit in a previous life. I am OBSESSED with carrots. I usually eat them every day, sometimes twice a day. I swear, I will eat carrots over almost anything. It’s a good thing they’re fantastic for you: plenty of Vitamin A (I guess I really like Vitamin A, don’t I?), fiber, and beta-carotene, which like lycopene is chock-full of antioxidants as well as natural pigments. Carrots are also a great kid-friendly choice: they’re bright, crunchy, and sweet, perfect for packing in lunchboxes and dipping in nut butter.
So, how do I prepare them?
- Mash them. If you like mashed sweet potatoes, you’ll love mashed carrots! Either boil them in water until soft (about 10 minutes) or roast them in the oven at 400 degrees until browning and tender (about 35 minutes), then transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Blend with 1/3-1/2 cup of full-fat coconut milk (depending on how creamy you want it), a tablespoon of butter or coconut oil, a good pinch of salt, and about 1/2 tablespoon each of paprika, turmeric, and cumin. Process until smooth, then taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
- Slaw them. Grate enough carrots to amount to 4 cups or buy them already prepared. Toss with 1/4 cup of mayonnaise (I always make my own—you can use this recipe), a tablespoon of maple syrup, a generous pinch of salt, a good crack of black pepper, and either 1/4 cup of red raisins OR a chopped apple. Let sit in the fridge for half an hour before serving.
So, have I convinced you now to give vegetables a try? If you didn’t see one you liked here, you could try…
…asparagus, beets (golden and red), broccoli/broccolini/broccoli rabe, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, cucumbers, eggplant, fiddlehead ferns, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, rutabegas, spaghetti squash, spinach, sunchokes, sweet potatoes, or zucchini, just to name a few of my favorites.
What’s your vegetable of choice and what do you like to do with it? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!
Tags: carrots, cauliflower, delicious, easy, food, fresh, healthy, kale, paleo, rants, real food, tomatoes, vegetables