Bolognese (aka Meat Sauce)

When you’re marrying an Italian man (who has more Irish than Italian but who am I to question his ethnic claim?), there’s a few things you need to quickly add to your repertoire. The first being a tasty marinara. The second being a bolognese. The third is the caveat that both must taste authentic and the way his Italian grandmother makes them.

Just breathe.

No pressure.

It’s only his childhood memories that I’m up against.

Thankfully, he was willing to share a few of their secrets to help me improve what I thought was already a pretty good sauce. The below is what he and I have since concocted and perfected. I serve it over my Brussels Sprouts Braised with Mustard because when you’re paleo, you discover that traditional foods don’t necessarily have to be eaten traditionally. This also tastes fantastic with zoodles (zucchini noodles) and spaghetti squash. And when we really feel like splurging, over paleo noodles. Because sometimes you just want a noodle.

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Cinnamon might not be a common ingredient by American standards, but adding it gives the sauce a sweet flavor and doesn’t add to the sugar content. Growing up, we would use brown sugar to cut the acid and give the sauce sweeter undertones. The cinnamon does the same, all the while keeping it sugar-detox approved. Also, for the tomatoes, I process mine in the summer and freeze them at the peak of ripeness. And by process, I mean I throw mine in the Ninja for a few seconds and that’s it! Into the freezer they go! Until I decide that I’m craving a slow-cooked Bolognese. If you don’t have frozen tomatoes, fresh work, too – just make sure you adjust your cooking time and add an hour or two. Or, you can use two cans of 28-oz BPA-free organic diced tomato such as the Muir Glenn brand. (Which thankfully WinCo carries and is super cheap for all of you Pacific Northwesterners.)

Enjoy!

Bolognese

  • 1 lb pasture-raised organic ground pork
  • 3 tsp Mild Italian Sausage Seasoning 
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 quarts fresh organic diced tomatoes, with their juice – use a medley of Romas and juicier tomatoes
  • ¼ cup organic non-BPA lined tomato paste
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine spice mix and ground pork (or just use 1 lb pork sausage if you can find a good source with no added sugar). Set aside for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a medium-sized dutch oven, over medium heat, cook the pork until slightly browned, stirring often and breaking up the larger pieces. Remove pork from dutch oven and set aside, keeping the fat at the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the onion and ghee to the sausage fat and continue to cook until translucent. Add garlic and saute until lightly golden and very aromatic.
  4. Dump in the tomatoes, juices and all, and the tomato paste. Add the spices and stir. 
  5. Reduce heat to low and put a lid slightly on. Simmer, stirring often, for 3 hours. After two hours, add the meat and continue simmering. 
  6. Serve warm! And just like most Italian recipes, this makes enough to feed the whole Roman army!

Napa Cabbage Soup

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted a recipe. I sprained my ankle right before Christmas and was down for the count. I’m finally getting around enough that cooking, carrying plated food over to the window where I take my photos and balancing a camera… and maintaining balance myself, aren’t daunting tasks. Not to mention that the natural lighting has been working against me. It’s been exceptionally dark and dreary these past few weeks – even for Oregon. We’ve been socked in fog “‘thicker than frozen snot on a door knob,” according to Portland’s National Weather Service Office. So much so that my dad, who’s an umpteenth generation Oregonian, commented on how miserable it is.

Today’s soup is perfect for the dead of winter. I have fond memories of playing at a friend of our family’s farm out of Troutdale, OR. They lived in a house up on a bluff above the Sandy River and running around exploring and tormenting the older brother was heaven (it was two girls against one boy – poor kid!). They were (and still are) basil farmers and their house always smelled of the delicious, rich smell of fresh basil. So many fond memories in that house up on the bluff. My family was so taken with this simple soup that my mother had to ask for the recipe and it’s been a staple ever since in our family. I’ve made a few modifications to it over the years but for the most part, it remains the same. The best way to describe this soup is simple Italian peasant food. It’s nothing remarkable when you look at the ingredients but the flavors meld themselves together in such a harmonious blend… it’s impossible to not over-indulge and have one too many bowls.

It’s the kind of soup that will pump the lifeblood back into your bones on a cold winter’s day (or a day with dense fog) and won’t leave you overly full…. and only takes 30 minutes to cook! (Eat your heart out, Rachel Ray!)

But before the recipe, a few notes: You really want to use napa cabbage (also known as Chinese cabbage) with this soup. It’s far more delicate than your typical “green cabbage” and cooks down nicely. You retain much of the crunch and texture of the cabbage but it’s not your “normal” thick pieces. Napa cabbage can easily be found at a farmer’s market or a natural foods store – if you aren’t sure which is napa, just ask!

 

Napa Cabbage Soup

  • 1 head organic napa, shredded
  • 5 pieces organic, nitrate-free, pastured bacon, sliced (can also use half a pound of a clean pancetta – this gives it an even more delicate Italian flavor)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-oz can organic diced tomatoes, BPA-free lining
  • 7 cups meat stock
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 12-month aged, raw Parmesan for garnish (optional)
  1. In a medium-large stock pot, over medium heat, cook bacon (or pancetta) until done. Remove bacon from pan, leaving fat at the bottom. Cut up cabbage while bacon is cooking.
  2. Add garlic and saute in the bacon fat until golden, stirring often.
  3. Add tomatoes and juice from can and shredded cabbage. Stir.
  4. Add filtered water and meat stock and stir. Cover with a lid and simmer on low for about 20 minutes, or until cabbage is cooked.
  5. Add bacon back to soup and add sea salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with shredded Parmesan (optional) and an extra dollop of fat (such as coconut oil, grass-fed ghee, or more bacon fat) (optional).
A quick and easy GAPS, RESTART Program, Keto, Paleo, Whole30, and, most importantly, DELICIOUS soup that only takes 30 minutes to make!

Two Meat Chili

So before I tell you what meat is in here, let me just preface this with a disclaimer: Organ meats are really really good for you! And beef heart is no exception. Especially when it’s organic and pasture-raised. (That preface didn’t last long.)

A few months ago, my local food buying club had a buy on a whole cow. There were various cuts and it was first come, first serve. Ironically, no one wanted the ox tail, the heart or the Rocky Mountain Oysters. Okay. I didn’t want the latter, either. But for $10, now was a good a time as any to buy a beef heart. So I did. And it sat in my freezer until I was tired of looking at it this past week.

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Beef heart gets a bad rap for being a “gamey” chunk of meat. (For those of you who are gagging over this, it’s a muscle. And it’s the hardest working muscle in the body and it needs gobs of nutrients to work, making it nutrient-dense and really good for you. So… Think of it that way.)

This chili wasn’t gamey at all. It’s rich, the spices compliment each other and the beef heart is the most tender piece of meat you may ever put in your mouth. I cut the pieces up into stew meat sized bites. To the untrained observer – aka your family, they’ll have no idea.

Preparing it is a bit of a trick, you want to cut away the connective tissue (it’s tough), the valves and tendons (no one wants to chew on something that much) and the fat (it’s a hard, grisly fat that doesn’t cook well). Then, just cut it up like I would stew meat. Voila! No one knew… Until I told them. (And I did because I like to see the look on their faces. I’m mean like that.)

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Two Meat Chili

  • 3 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1 medium Organic Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1 Organic Green Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 1 Jicama, peeled and diced
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 lbs Ground Pasture-Raised Organic Pork
  • 1 Pasture-Raised Organic Beef Heart, trimmed and cut up like small pieces of stew meat
  • 1-28 oz can Organic BPA-free Crushed Tomatoes
  • ½ cup Filtered Water
  • 1 tbsp Chilli Powder
  • 2 tbsp Cumin
  • 1 tbsp Oregano
  • 1 tbsp Organic Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 ½ tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • ½ tsp Cayenne
  • 1 ½ tsp Salt or salt to taste
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  1. In a stock pot over medium heat with 1 tbsp coconut oil, brown beef and ground pork.
  2. In a separate skillet over medium heat, saute jicama in 2 tbsp coconut oil until slightly translucent.
  3. When beef is lightly browned, add onion, garlic and spices. Continue to cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add jicama (after about 6-8 minutes) to the beef, pork and onion mixture. Stir to incorporate.
  5. Add tomatoes and water.
  6. Simmer until done, about 1 hour.
  7. Serve with your favorite raw milk aged cheddar or Crème fraîche.

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Paleo Egg Roll Filling… Minus the Roll.

I made the not-so-bright decision to pull two pounds of ground pork out of the freezer.

Not one, but two.

Apparently I was over-zealous with how much I thought I could eat this week.

Or maybe how much I like homemade Italian sausage. Which is a lot.

But, seriously. I have my limits.

Perusing my fridge, I realized that I had a head of cabbage that had been hanging out in the back for…. longer than I care to admit. Cabbage doesn’t ever really go bad so I peeled off the leaves that had started rusting and voila! Inspiration was born. (I also had to steal two carrots from my roommate – but she got dinner out of the deal… and I still owe her two carrots.)

Below is the result of my said inspiration. It’s hearty, filling and 21 Day Sugar Detox-friendly.

You know that filling from egg rolls? Yea. It tastes like that. Minus the greasy fried egg roll bit. (Who likes soggy fried food anyway? mmm.. French fries in duck fat… okay. I do.) But let’s bring it back to egg rolls. I hated the roll and only ate them so I could have the filling and maybe the dipping sauce. But this recipe is so tasty that it doesn’t need the dipping sauce. So this is the best thing ever. 

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  • 1 lb organic, pasture-raised ground pork
  • ½ head cabbage, shredded
  • 1 organic carrot, shredded
  • ½ cup organic daikon radish, julienne cut
  • ¼ cup organic green onion, diced
  • 2 tsp fresh organic minced ginger
  • 1 tsp Chinese Five Spice 
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 3 ½ tbsp coconut aminos
  • ½ tsp (or more) dried red chili flakes
  1. Over medium heat, cook the pork until no longer pink along with the ginger, spices, salt and coconut aminos.
  2. Add the cabbage and carrots and cook for three minutes more, stirring often to make sure the cabbage cooks.
  3. Add the daikon radish and continue to cook until radish is slightly cooked and cabbage is cooked but still tender. (It shouldn’t be bright green – if it is, keep cooking.)
  4. Serve on a bed of lettuce or put it in a bowl and eat it. Or if you feel like being all fancy, fill Belgian endive cups with it. This would also taste good on cauliflower rice. Or just grab a fork and throw manners to the wind and eat out of your skillet.

What. Don’t judge me. 

Quick Dinners: Kale and Garlic Saute

Sometimes I’m just too lazy to cook. I’m up early in the morning, work a long day, do a bit of cleaning, catch up with the never-ending task of laundry/folding/dusting/wiping walls/ironing, tend to my little garden… and by the time I know it, it’s late in the day and I’m tired. And cooking? Heck. No.

Sound familiar? I have a feeling I’m not the only one who’s like this. Sometimes life just gets in the way of making a healthy meal. In my old days, when I was the pasta queen (seriously – I had one shelf in my cupboard dedicated to pasta), I would open a box of Barilla and a jar of Classico. 20 minutes and a bit of fresh shaved parmesan later, voila! Dinner was served. Now that I know that food was what was killing me, it’s no longer an option. Eggs are a good go-to. But… I sometimes tire from having eggs too much in my diet – I eat a few (ahem. 3.) a day for breakfast.

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Now, this recipe is by no means a beautiful thing. Nor is it mind-blowing. It’s simply my “what I eat when I don’t want to cook but I don’t have leftovers to eat” meal. And after a bit of prodding from my boyfriend to put this up on the blog, here it is. He said it’s creative, I told him it’s out of necessity – end of the pay period meals are always interesting in my house. (Dave Ramsey, you should be proud!)

Anyway, enough of that. Here’s what I do when I’d rather not be cooking or whatever.

Kale and Garlic Saute

  • 1 bunch kale, rinsed, spine removed, and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 heads garlic, minced
  • ½ lb mild Italian pork sausage (cooked) or 1 cup minced ham
  • 1 cup soaked, sprouted, and cooked organic brown rice (If you have a hard time with sprouted rice, use 1 cup cauliflower “rice”)
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • 1 ½ tsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
  • 2 tbsp lard or grass-fed butter
  1. In a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, melt the lard or butter.
  2. Add kale and garlic and cook until kale is wilted.
  3. Add cooked sausage or ham and rice and stir to incorporate.
  4. Mix in spices and cook until warmed through.

    For dinner: Serve with steamed veggies and some sauerkraut.
    For breakfast: Serve with eggs and some sauerkraut.

Meatloaf!

No, I’m not talking about the rocker-turned-famous-ballad-singer who’s music video is five parts creepy and three parts even creepier.

I’m talking about stick to your ribs meatloaf.

The American classic. And the thing of many jokes.

I decided to make meatloaf before I knew it was going to be 75 here in Portland over the next few days. Had I known, I would have turned the two pounds of ground beef I pulled out of my freezer into taco meat or hamburgers to be served in a lettuce wrap. As it stands, meatloaf isn’t all that bad and I’ll probably crumble it up and serve it on salad (because it’s 75…. and that’s warm for this area).

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Good thing this meatloaf is fantastic and super easy. I even gave my roommate a sample (she really has the best job ever of being my taste tester… except for when things don’t work out) and she said it was fantastic. And then went back for an even bigger second sample. So, here ya go. Super easy meatloaf – that’s bread/gluten/grain free and full of whole foods goodness!

Note: when buying sausage, make sure you check for additives. A lot of prepared meats will have extra stuff in it that’s not good (gluten and sugar are a big one). Talk with your butcher about what goes in it. A safe store to buy from is Whole Foods – their corporate recipe for Italian sausage is good, with no added crud.

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Meatloaf

  • 2 pounds grass-fed beef
  • ½ pound pasture-raised mild Italian pork sausage <OR> ½ pound pasture-raised ground pork and 1 ½ tsp Mild Italian Sausage Seasoning
  • 2 pasture-raised, soy and corn-free eggs
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 heaping tbsp Lacto-Fermented Ketchup
  • 1 tsp ground mustard powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp fresh ground pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. With clean hands, mix two types of meat in a large bowl.
  3. Add onions, egg and coconut flour and continue to mix the meat.
  4. Add ketchup and spices and mix.
  5. Pour into a loaf pan and pat until the surface is even.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes, allowing juices to settle. Serve hot.

South of the Border Zucchini Pancakes

These guys. So tasty. I had plain zucchini pancakes recently and wanted to give them a little flavor kick. (I’m obsessed with savory for breakfast, what can I say?) So these babies were born. I originally served them with fresh pico de gallo, sliced avocados with pink salt and hot sauce. Always gotta have the hot sauce. After I’m done with my 21 day sugar detox, I’ll serve them with a bit of crème fraîche (French fermented cream that tastes a lot like American sour cream – you can buy it relatively cheaply at Trader Joe’s) or some whole milk cojita cheese. Latin American Sauerkraut would also taste fantastic with these. Enjoy!

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A little note: conventional zucchini is a GMO crop (when at the grocery store, conventional crops start with a 4xxx, organic a 9xxx). Make sure you buy organic zucchini or buy conventional ONLY at Trader Joe’s as they do not carry any GMO products in their produce department. Their open statement on their commitment to non-GMO is only another reason why I love T.J.’s with all my beating heart.

South of the Border Zucchini Pancakes

  • 4 organic zucchini, shredded
  • 4 organic soy-free eggs, beaten
  • ¼ pound bacon, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  1. In a medium frying pan, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring often to prevent burning. Reserve the fat in the pan.
  2. While bacon is cooking and using a cheese grater, shred the zucchini. Add all of the other ingredients and stir until well incorporated. Once the bacon is done, add to the mixture.
  3. Over medium heat, and using the bacon grease in the pan, ladle about a 1/3 cup (pancakes should be about 3" wide) of the mixture. Cook each side until lightly browned, only flipping once.
  4. Serve immediately.

    Note: nightshades are not allowed for some on an anti-inflammation diet. If you do not tolerate cumin, red chili powder or cayenne pepper, simply omit.

Oven Bacon

Bacon. Is there anything more superb in the whole meat kingdom? (If any of you say “Yes,” we’re no longer friends… kidding. But seriously.) Anyway, my love of bacon is nothing new – my roommates know when I’m cooking it because the whole house smells like heaven. I’ve also been known to sport the bacon socks on a run or when I’m working out. And my friends in general hear me praise the meat almost non-stop.

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However, I hate cooking bacon in the morning when I’m in a rush and have slept in. There are usually 15 other things I need to be doing on those days in order to get out the door and get to work on time.

To solve this little problem, I started baking my bacon. It’s fast, easy, and has minimal clean-up. Also, it’s easier to capture the fat to add to my mason jar that I keep in the fridge. By the way, I use the fat to cook everything – eggs, chicken, saute onion, pan fry broccolini, broccoli, bell peppers, cauliflower… the list goes on and I’m too lazy to write it all out.

Back to bacon, it’s important to select a good quality meat. A lot of the bacon you buy in packages at the store is crap. Absolute and total crap. Bacon is supposed to have a long cure time. The way many commercial producers make it forces a brining period of a few hours due to a massive use of chemicals. Mmm… chemicals. Tasty. Also, look out for the sweetener – a lot of bacon uses high fructose corn syrup to sweeten it. When you read those words, think “Chemical shit storm.” There’s really no other way to say it.

I generally buy my bacon from New Seasons here in the Portland area. They use a traditional brining process and a honey cure. It’s not pasture-raised meat (and I do buy pasture-raised when I can), but it’s the next best thing. They also sell their bits and pieces for a pretty steep discount – if you don’t mind cutting up chunks of bacon into thinner pieces, it’s definitely the way to go. Search out a vendor in your area that sells good bacon. You might end up paying a little bit more for it but sometimes you have to dish out money to get a better quality product. If you find that your vendor sells bits and pieces, buy those. Unless you’re cooking for guests or it’s a holiday, chances are you and your family aren’t going to care if your bacon is completely picturesque. They’re just going to want to eat it ASAP. Or, visit US Wellness Meats. (I don’t get paid by them… I just really like their products.) Best of luck!

Oven Bacon

  • Line a jellyroll pan (one that has the short sides) with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  • Lay bacon onto the pan and place in a cold oven.
  • Turn the oven on to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on the degree of crispy you like. Monitor closely toward the end.
  • Remove from oven and promptly remove bacon from the hot fat to stop the cooking process.
  • Allow the fat to cool a bit and then drain into a jar for later use or, let fat harden on the paper/foil and toss. Wash pan (which should be relatively clean) and you’re done!

And yes. Seriously. It’s that easy. Here’s some before and after pics from this morning. My pan was still clean when I was done – yey for no dishes! (Sorry for the pics, I slept in, was a in a rush and my trusty 4S came to my rescue.)

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Paleo Breakfast Strata

I used to love stratas. Nothing beat stale bread, lots of butter, sauteed veggies, some kind of sweet meat and lots of eggs. Unfortunately, they didn’t like me so much. Fast forward to today. And I haven’t had a true strata in over two years. GASP!? I know. This week was looking to be busy (if only I knew HOW busy – a last minute trip to Seattle was tossed in the mix) and I needed a quick and easy breakfast that still fell within the Whole30 challenge I’m doing with a bunch of people at my gym. Cue this wonderful mistake.

I have a bunch of flax meal – I’m pretty sure my roommate wonders what it’s all for. But, I’m trying to use it up so I can make my own fresh meal (the Omega 3’s are even more potent in the fresh-made stuff). And really. I love Omega 3’s and this is a whole lot cheaper than buying salmon (which is on the menu for next week anyway). So, if you’re looking at a busy week ahead and only have time to blanch a few veggies for your breakfast and that’s about it, think about making this.

Enjoy!

p.s. A better picture is coming, I promise. I was trying to get out the house and all I had time for was my iPhone.

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Paleo Breakfast Strata

  • 12 organic, free-range eggs, beaten
  • 5 strips organic, grass-fed non-sugar cured beef bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 small organic zucchini, diced
  • 1 heirloom organic tomato, diced (omit if SCD)
  • 3 leaves organic swiss chard, diced (omit if SCD)
  • 1 organic yellow bell pepper, diced (omit if SCD)
  • 1 cup flax meal
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat an 8"x8" pan with coconut oil.
  2. In a medium skillet and over medium heat, cook bacon until done. Remove bacon from pan and set aside.
  3. Add onions to bacon fat and cook until almost translucent. Add garlic and saute for a minute or two longer.
  4. Meanwhile, chop veggies and toss in a large bowl. Add onions, garlic and bacon (and remaining fat) when done. Stir until everything is incorporated.
  5. Mix in spices and flax meal. Stir. Mix in eggs. Let sit for a few minutes (this gives the flax meal a chance to “activate”) and stir again.
  6. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a knife cut yields no runny egg in the middle.
  7. Serve hot with roasted delicata squash and blanched asparagus or cut into pre-portioned sizes and place in containers for the week. Re-heat in the oven, using an oven-safe container.