Paleo Calabacitas (Sauteed Zucchini and Peppers)

Paleo Calabacitas 2 2014 This summer was really my first true vegetable garden. It still wasn’t huge, but I had multiple plants and at times a few more zucchini than any one person should eat in a day. I tried, though. Really I did.

The first time I tasted Calabacitas was at our local Chile and Frijoles festival a few years ago. Fair and festival food are generally not Paleo-friendly and my family and I don’t spend a lot of time eating our way through them, but we do like to walk around, soak up the atmosphere, get a bunch of roasted chiles if we’re at the Chile Festival, and support our local community. On this particular occasion, though, there was a stand with a man serving little cups and bowls of zucchini so, being the veggie-lover that I am, I had to give it a try.

There are many different ways to prepare this dish but I’ve found that I like it simple. The way I first tasted it, it included squash, corn, peppers, onions, lots of butter, and a sprinkling of queso fresco. It was rich and luscious and love at first bite. I created different variations over the years, but when I went Paleo 2 years back, I knew I’d need to come up with something that was Paleo-friendly. So out with the corn, butter, and cheese and in with the Paleo-approved fats. This dish is so tasty that you really don’t miss the cheese, and it’s the perfect side dish in summer when your garden is overflowing with zucchini. It goes with any grilled meat and it’s wonderful next to eggs in the morning too. Make any modifications you want – that’s what we do around here anyway. Be sure to let me know if you change something up and it makes your tastebuds sing!

Paleo Calabacitas

1 Tbsp. bacon grease

1 red onion, chopped

1 Pueblo or Anaheim chile, chopped (I generally don’t use a roasted one here, but you could!)

1 red bell pepper, chopped

3 med-large zucchini, about 4 cups chopped

1 1/2 tsp. salt pepper to taste

3 Tbsp. coconut milk

1/3 c. cilantro, minced

Directions

1) In a large sauté pan, melt bacon grease over medium-high heat. Sauté onion for 3-4 minutes, until just beginning to soften.

2) Add all the chopped peppers, zucchini, and salt. Stir to coat with the fat and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 30 minutes, until everything is soft and tender, almost velvety.

3) Stir in the coconut milk and cilantro, additional salt and pepper as desired. A squeeze of lime is nice too. Enjoy!

*Note: I don’t really know how many this serves. It never seems to last very long in our house!

Confetti “Rice” Salad with Salmon

Cauliflower Rice

I’m a cookbook junkie. I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to cookbooks plus a few shelves on a secondary bookshelf and a new shelf in the pantry, but I don’t think anyone’s noticed that one yet… ;) I was in my early 20s living in France when I first started reading cookbooks as if they were best-selling novels. I had a 90 minute commute on the metro and a regional train to the suburbs of Paris for work. When you spend that much time on public transportation, you go through a lot of books. I was also on a tight budget, so when I discovered a series of spiral-bound paperback cookbooks that covered individual topics, I was elated. They were about $2 a piece, and nearly every week I would buy a couple. I still have my collection today, but honestly, I don’t cook from them anymore. I just can’t imagine parting with them either. Over the years, I’ve collected many more cookbooks and periodically I do go through them and donate some. Each time it makes me smile to see how my tastes and cooking style have evolved over the years.

Lately, as I’m sure you can imagine, Paleo cookbooks have placed front and center and I recently got one called 500 Paleo Recipes by Dana Carpender. One of the things that I look for in a cookbook these days is that little something different, something unusual. I’m not afraid to combine exotic flavors or seemingly random ingredients to create a flavor or texture that awakens the palate and Dana does just that! I find myself wanting to try so many of the recipes and when I do, I want to make them again.

That’s what happened with this recipe. It is inspired by Dana’s own Confetti Salad but when I made it, I modified a few things along the way. It was so delicious that I immediately wanted to make it again and decided to record what I was doing so that I could share it with you. There’s something magical that happens with the soft, slightly briny artichoke hearts and the rich, toasted pine nuts with the gentle tang of white balsamic. It’s really special, I think. Just so you know, nobody out there is going to mind if you make a few of your own modifications (the original didn’t call for salmon so you could always skip it, for example) and make this your very own.

Confetti “Rice” Salad with Salmon – inspired by 500 Paleo Recipes

4 tsp. Paleo mayonnaise

4 tsp. white balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp. dry thyme

1 1/2 tsp. curry powder

1/4 tsp. salt, plus more to taste

1/3 c. artichoke hearts (I used about 1/2 a can)

1/3 c. thinly sliced bell pepper, preferably red/orange/yellow

1/2 c. thinly sliced celery

1 1/2 c. steamed cauliflower rice*

3-4 oz. cooked salmon (canned okay)

2 tsp. pine nuts, toasted

1 scallion, sliced

pepper to taste

Directions

1) In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, thyme, curry powder and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

2) If the artichoke hearts are large or need trimming, quarter or cut off any tough parts and place in a medium salad bowl. Add the bell pepper slices, celery, and cauliflower rice. Add the salmon and dressing and mix gently so the salmon stays in nice-sized pieces.

3) Taste and adjust seasioning with any additional salt, pepper, or curry powder. Top with pine nuts and scallions and serve.

Serves 1-2 (If serving 2, some hard-boiled eggs and tomato slices on the side would be nice.)

*Note: To make cauliflower rice, place florets in a food processor fitted with an s-blade and pulse 10-12 times until it looks like grains of rice. It might take a few batches so it doesn’t turn to mush. Put the rice into a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high for about 6 minutes. Let cool and then either use immediately or refrigerate to use later in the week for salads like this!

Green Chile Cauliflower Rice

Roasted Chile Cauliflower Rice 2014

I’m so sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted a new recipe. Sometimes life just gets in the way! I haven’t stopped cooking, though, and I have a few different recipes that are waiting to be shared. I would love to say that it’s a bunch of meat dishes, since I need a few more of those on the blog, but of course, it’s my beloved veggies that come first.

In Colorado, this time of year is chile roasting season. Pueblo, in particular, is known for its Pueblo chile – hotter than an Anaheim but still not habanero-hot, the Pueblo chile is meaty and flavorful and we use it for everything. Green chile (the sauce/stew, not just the chile itself) covers just about anything here from burritos to eggs to biscuits and you can do anything you want with the plain chile – I’ve even used them to replace a hamburger bun and it was delicious. We like to get our chiles roasted by the bushel and you can find that being done at farmers markets, in front of supermarkets, and at the Pueblo Chile and Frijoles festival. The air smells fantastic, even if your eyes might sting a little bit.

Since green chiles are a tradition here, I really couldn’t imagine going through fall without sharing a recipe with you that’s filled with them. If you can’t get your hands on some Pueblo chiles, you can use Anaheim or poblano chiles. You’ll just want to be sure to roast them first and you might add a jalapeno or Serrano to kick up the heat a bit. This version of cauliflower rice is currently my favorite! Happy fall!

Green Chile Cauliflower Rice

1/2 large head of cauliflower

1 tsp. salt

1Tbsp. lard, bacon grease, or F.O.C. (fat of choice)

1/2 onion, chopped

1-3 Pueblo green chiles (depending on how hot you like it), roasted and chopped

1/4 c. full fat coconut milk

1 Tbsp. lime juice

Cilantro (optional)

Directions

1) First, rice the cauliflower. Roughly chop the florets and place in a food processor with an s-blade. Pulse about 10 times until the cauliflower resembles grains of rice. This may take a few batches so that it doesn’t turn to mush. Place in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave the “rice” for 6 minutes. Let cool slightly.

2) In a large sauté pan, melt lard over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the cauliflower, salt and green chiles and cook for about 5 minutes more.

3) Turn off the heat and add the coconut milk and lime, stirring to combine. Taste to adjust the seasonings and serve.

Serves 2-3

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Dairy-free Paleo Crock Pot Beef StroganoffWhen I look at the history of my blog posts, I realize there are a lot of veggie recipes. You might start to think that I’m not a very good example of Paleo – where is all the meat? I honestly eat meat all the time, but for some reason, when I’m cooking and serving it, it just sort of gets eaten and the pictures don’t get taken and the recipe might not get fully developed. Most of the time, I’ll flavor something up quickly and simply and then use whatever cooking method I’m in the mood for and it’s done. Veggies and sides and salads, however, are where I tend to have more fun and play with flavors and textures a little differently. I’ll try harder to get some protein posts out there, but I actually still have a few zucchini ones waiting in the weeds…

Even though we are nearing the end of summer, it’s probably still a little early for a stew recipe. But in a previous post, I shared a recipe for Paleo Beef Stroganoff and it is consistently the top viewed and loved recipe on my site. It’s a pressure cooked meal, which makes it easy to get on the table during the week, and it’s ridiculously delicious. One lovely blog reader shared how much her family liked the recipe and asked about a slow cooker version. Then a dear friend of mine asked for one the other day too so I’ve decided to oblige, regardless of the fact that it’s supposed to be in the 90s. While I prefer other cooking methods for dishes that need to keep their distinct flavors and brightness, I’m a big fan of the slow cooker for cozy dishes like Stroganoff. You can always add some brightness with parsley, lemon zest, or zoodles as your base. I don’t like to dirty up a bunch of pots or use a lot of time browning meats ahead of time either, so as I’ve said before on this blog, if I’m using my slow cooker, I prefer to challenge myself to get the whole thing cooking in the time it takes me to scramble my eggs in the morning.

When you use your slow cooker, you don’t need to add a lot of moisture because the food you put in there will give off plenty. My slow cooker also runs fairly hot so I mention cooking it on high without the lid for the last hour. If you want this to have a thicker consistency and your slow cooker will do that, great! Otherwise, you might want to opt for the pressure cooker version where you can boil it down at the end. You can also just leave it a little soupy and serve it on top of a baked sweet potato or straight from a bowl. In either case, I hope you find the time to throw this together in the morning and love it when you get home.

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

2 lbs. beef stew meat

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. thyme

1 tsp. onion powder

8 oz. sliced mushrooms

1/2 onion, sliced

1/3 c. coconut cream (scooped from the top of a refrigerated can of coconut milk)

2 tsp. red wine vinegar

Directions

1) In a small bowl, mix together all of your spices. Place meat in a large bowl and sprinkle with the spices. Mix everything together, using your hands, and coat the meat well with the seasoning.

2) Place the sliced mushrooms and onion in the bowl of the slow cooker. Lay the seasoned beef on top. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 1/2 hours.

3) When the meat is tender and nearly done, add the coconut cream, vinegar, and any additional salt or pepper. Stir around and cook on high (with the lid ajar, if possible) for about an hour.

3) That’s it! Enjoy!

Serves 4-8

Approaching Balance

balancing stones 2A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease and it got me thinking about where I am in my journey and how other people have found their way to gluten-free or Paleo. It also reminded me of something that my dad asked shortly after I started this blog…”When does the balancing come in?” When he asked about it, I think I was probably in the middle of a Whole30 which, admittedly, is not balancing. It’s eliminating and experimenting and learning. I found it helpful to get me started and I learned many things about myself and my eating habits which serve me today, but it certainly wasn’t about navigating the many different circumstances of life.

I questioned for a while how much to share on this blog about what it’s really like for me to try to live Paleo. Even though I fundamentally believe perfection is unattainable – and over-rated – a little part of me would still like to be perfect. If you’re looking for a Paleo blog, do you really want to know that the woman behind it drank too much, ate a ton of smoked almonds, and then collapsed before a couple of s’mores? Because that happened – and it was only a month ago. A few days after that, I ate some amazing sourdough bread and shared a towering slice of chocolate cake with my son. (Incidentally, that night I slept horribly and learned a lesson…). Both of those instances were while I was on vacation, sharing special moments with dear friends, and in retrospect, I don’t regret them. What I’ve been trying to figure out lately is why? Or maybe it’s how? How was I able to off-road so considerably while on vacation and then get right back to eating the way my body functions best? That’s generally not how it goes for me.

In fact, this sense of actual balance is new and I’ll readily admit to loving it. All my life I’ve considered balance to be some elusive, magical theory or maybe something that only truly enlightened people can attain, because quite honestly, I’m a bit of an all-or-nothing kind of girl. I’m either working towards a goal or totally not. But this time feels different. I am still working towards a goal, but I am far more relaxed about it than I typically would be. I’m focused on feeling healthy and strong and giving my body what it needs. This also seems to be what my mind needs. The two are so often interconnected that it’s no wonder some of my close friends can tell how I’m eating based on my mood and energy.

What’s the secret then? Nothing really fantastic or revelatory, I guess. I think the main thing that has brought me here is time and patience. I’ve been eating Paleo more or less for two years now. I initially began with a Whole30 in October 2012, realized that my mind and body were better when I ate that way, and then floated around with long stretches of eating Paleo or NOT eating Paleo. A lot of that had to do with holidays and trying to figure out how to stay Paleo when it was a little harder to do it, but bit by bit, my stretches of Paleo became longer and it simply became the way that I eat.

It wasn’t until this year, actually, when it occurred to me that I eat Paleo nearly all the time. And for the past several months, I’m pretty clean Paleo too (meaning very little alcohol, dairy, Paleo baked goods or treats). I’m just eating meat, veggies, fats, fruits, and nuts. Within that framework, I don’t feel limited or restricted at all. The food I eat is delicious and satisfying. I’ll happily make rice or lentils or toast or whatever my family needs to supplement their meal, but I just don’t eat it, and I can tell you, I don’t miss it. I believe that really has to do with time in this lifestyle. I’ll put just about anything on a salad or use any possible veggie as a wrap. Trust me – today I used a roasted chile pepper as a burger bun and it was awesome.

Change can take a while under any circumstances, and when you’ve grown up unhappy with your body, frustrated with your inability to control your eating habits, and uncertain that you are actually capable of becoming the person you see in your mind, well…then change is also scary and there’s a lot of one-step-forward, two-steps-back involved. At least there is for me. I feel lucky that I was actually given the gift of time. My friends who have autoimmune issues, Celiac disease, and actual intolerances might not have that luxury. For them, it’s critical to make the change immediately and I just want to say to them that it gets better. It gets easier.

I have some thoughts that I want to share in another post about how I make eating Paleo easier, especially when I don’t have time to spend in the kitchen. I also have some ideas about eating out or making things to take on the go. I’ll definitely share those, but for now I’ll stop here and feel grateful for the balance that I’ve attained.

I want to live my life with passion and love and pleasure. For me, that includes sharing good food, a glass of wine, and lively conversation with people that I care about. My goal is to do that in a way that allows me to stay true to what makes me feel good inside and out and if that includes a little ice cream from time to time, I consider that an indulgence worth having and I definitely want a few of those in my life. But I’ve also learned that indulging feels a lot better when it’s followed closely by health.

Grilled Zucchini Salad

Grilled Zucchini Salad with Lemon Thyme 2014Summer is in full swing and we’ve been having very garden-friendly weather in Colorado. It’s been wet and not too hot and things are really taking off now. Zucchini has been making an appearance in more meals than I can count lately and when I’ve fired up the grill, I almost always toss some on. If I don’t use it right away, I’ll stick it in the fridge and either have it for a snack or add it to something later on. It’s such an easy veggie to have on hand for snacks, but then again, I love just about any vegetable at any time. Except okra, in case you were wondering. I absolutely abhor okra. Maybe one day someone will convince me otherwise but for now, if a recipe calls for okra, I’d probably substitute zucchini. :)

The herbs that I planted this year include basil (lots), dill, and lemon thyme. To be honest, I don’t always know what to do with thyme other than add it to soups and stews, mostly in the fall. And lemon thyme is a bit different – mine at least has a pretty big punch of lemon. I have a lot of it though, so I’ve been adding it rather randomly to see what I think. In this case, I knew that I wanted a citrusy counterpoint for the zucchini and I also wanted to add some dill, which is good friends with lemon too. The combination was bright and lively and it really felt like a summer evening by the grill to me. If you have different herbs that you need to use, by all means do that! These vegetables and the lemon vinaigrette are very friendly and would go with just about anything – basil, parsley, chives, rosemary. Whatever you have on hand would probably be delicious. I thought this salad improved with a little sitting time and was perfect next to eggs the next morning so don’t hesitate to make a bunch and save some for leftovers.

Grilled Zucchini Salad

4 zucchini

2 tsp. + 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

pinch of garlic powder

1/4 tsp. salt and pepper, plus more to taste

1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

about 8 kalamata olives, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp. sweet onion, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

juice from 1/2 a lemon

about 1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped

3-4 sprigs of fresh lemon thyme, about 1 Tbsp. chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1) Slice the zucchini lengthwise into quarters. Place in a bowl or plate and toss with 2 tsp. olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Allow to marinate for about 10 minutes.

2) Grill the spears over medium heat until soft and charred on all sides. Time will vary depending on heat, etc. so just keep an eye on them and grill to your liking.

3) Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Chop into one-inch chunks and place in a bowl.

4) While the zucchini are cooling, mix the mustard, lemon juice, and Tbsp. of olive oil in a small bowl and chop or slice the tomatoes, onion, and olives. Add these to the bowl with the zucchini.

5) Add the chopped fresh herbs, the dressing, and toss everything well. Allow to sit for about 15 minutes before adjusting salt and pepper and serving. This salad can be eaten slightly warm, at room temperature, or cold. They’re all delicious!

Serves 4

Zoodle Salad with Balsamic Tomatoes and Basil

Tomato Basil Salad on Zucchini Noodles 2014Having a garden is amazing and rewarding and to actually eat things that I planted just weeks ago gets me excited every single time. There is something truly fulfilling and gratifying and I can’t wait to experiment with other vegetables next year. This year, however, the learning piece has included zucchini plants. I had a bit of a debate with the person at the nursery where I purchased my little seedlings about how many to plant together because the little stick said to plant two. My neighbors have since smiled…and locked their doors. Apparently, they don’t want to share in my bounty! ;)

I am not intimidated, though, since I have a million ways to prepare zucchini. And a spiral slicer, which helps immensely. Zoodles rule and I really can’t imagine getting sick of them so you might see a few more recipes over the course of the summer. I hope they serve as launching pads for your own ideas and that you’ll share whatever magic you are making happen in your own kitchen!

Zoodle Salad with Balsamic Tomatoes and Basil

3-4 zucchini

1 Tbsp. salt

1 c. tomatoes, chopped

6 kalamata olives

1 tsp. pinenuts, toasted

2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

small clove of garlic

1/3 c. fresh basil chiffonade

pepper to taste

Directions

1) Spiral slice or julienne the zucchini and place in a strainer over the sink. Toss with salt and allow to sit for about 20 minutes. Rinse well and cut into shorter zoodles, if necessary.

2) In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar, oil, and garlic and set aside.

3) Place zucchini in a bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, pine nuts, and basil. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and toss well to combine.

4) Chill the salad for about 15 minutes, then add pepper and additional salt, if desired. Enjoy!

Serves 2

*Note: The proportions in this salad are totally flexible. Use what you have and what you like!