Super Simple Taco Meat (no MSG required)

Taco SaladWe had some young friends visiting for dinner so I decided to make tacos. I don’t need – or even miss – the shell so I planned to have taco salad. All my life, I’ve always made taco meat with that little packet you get at the supermarket or maybe it’s even included with the taco shells. You know the seasoning packet, right? All those crazy ingredients and words you can’t pronounce? Well, I decided that I didn’t want to eat that anymore so it was time to make my own. The test would be if the kids ate the taco meat without noticing the difference. And they did! Loved it and even had seconds. No sugar, MSG, or other crazy science!

Taco salad is one of those fantastic recipes that you can make with whatever you have on hand. I would have loved some black olives, but I didn’t have any. Still delicious! If you don’t like bell pepper, it isn’t necessary. Just throw the still-hot meat onto the lettuce, top it with whatever veggies you have on hand that sound good to you, a tablespoon or more of salsa to make a dressing, a pinch of salt and away you go. Lunch or dinner (or even breakfast) is done!

Taco Meat

1 Tbsp. tallow or F.O.C. (fat of choice)

1/2 onion, chopped

1 lb. ground beef

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

3/4 tsp. salt

14 oz. can tomato sauce

4 oz. can diced green chiles

1/2 c. water

Directions

1) Melt tallow in a large skillet over medium-high. Add chopped onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.

2) Add meat and garlic and cook while breaking into smaller chunks until brown, about 10 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and salt and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3) Pour in tomato sauce, green chiles, and water. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until most of the moisture has evaporated, about 25-30 minutes. If the meat dries out too quickly, add an additional 1/4-1/2 c. water, and continue to simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Eat with salad, eggs, lettuce cups, or on its own – you can’t go wrong!

Serves 3 kids + 1 adult

Easy Meat Sauce

Spaghetti SauceWhen I think meat sauce, I imagine something simmering on the stove all day. However, when I think about my typical day, I think, “What can I get on the table in a hurry.” This meat sauce comes together in about an hour and because it marries two flavorful meats, it tastes like it’s been going all day. I simmered my sauce for about 40 minutes because that was the time until dinner, but you could even get away with simmering for 25 minutes or so, just long enough to bring everything together and intensify the flavors. Make a big batch like I did and you’ll be rewarded with leftovers that taste even better!

You can use this sauce to top zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. You could even eat it straight up like my husband kept doing. Several times he tried to sacrifice himself by skipping the spaghetti squash and just going in with a spoon. Nothing wrong with that!

Easy Meat Sauce

1 Tbsp. lard or F.O.C.

1 lb. ground pork

1 lb. ground beef

1/2 a large onion, about 1 c. chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

28 oz. crushed tomatoes

15 oz. tomato sauce

1/2 c. water

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper or more to taste (I like a lot of pepper in this)

1/4 c. fresh basil, slivered

Directions

1) Melt lard in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onion and garlic until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

2) Add both meats and cook until brown, about 10 minutes.

3) Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cover partially with a lid. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 40 minutes.

4) Add slivered basil, taste to adjust seasonings, and serve any way you like.

Makes 6-8 servings

Demystifying the Hand Roll

Sushi Hand RollsFor years, I have been afraid to make sushi of any kind. I always thought that I should leave it to the experts or that it was too fussy and time consuming. I do actually think that the best sushi is made by superior sushi chefs; there is a way to cut and arrange the ingredients that makes some sushi better than others. Recently, though, I saw a recipe in NomNomPaleo’s new cookbook, Food for Humans, that made me think I could do it. I haven’t made her version yet, but I have all the ingredients so I will be. Instead, I found myself hungry and needing something fast so I broke out my nori and went to town.

Nori is dried sheets of seaweed. You can get them toasted or toast them yourself. I bought them ready to go. If you have a favorite brand of nori, I’d love to hear it. I use Emerald Cove that I got from our local Vitamin Cottage and it is amazingly delicious.

Nori is also really nutritious. One large sheet, enough for two hand rolls, has a ton of minerals to support your health. Notably, there is a considerable amount of iodine, which is an essential mineral that has been added to table salt for years because it is a simple way to prevent iodine deficiency, a leading preventable cause of intellectual and developmental disabilities. These days, many people have switched to kosher salt or other non-iodized salts, which means we’re getting less iodine. Nori is one excellent and palate-pleasing way to make up for that!

Since making my first hand rolls, I have eaten them every single day. They have been a snack, a side next to some soup, and full on lunch. They are so quick and easy to throw together – I truly didn’t realize that. I am going to share three of the recipes that I made this week, but the variations are endless. I don’t have a picture of the chicken one because I kept eating it before taking a picture of it. We don’t have a lot of opportunity to get fresh fish here so I use whatever protein I have. I’m sure I will make a shrimp one, a tuna one, and a crab one in my near future, and then all kinds of other proteins.

Here’s the basic idea: Protein, crunchy veggies and/or fruit, something creamy like a sauce or avocado (or both!), and any other flavor additions like herbs, hot sauce, etc. I like to start with something creamy on the bottom, add the protein, then the crunchy elements, then top with a little avocado. Or avocado on the bottom, sauce on the top. Or just herbs on the top as with the Basil-Apple-Beef roll. Just start experimenting!

Asian Chicken Hand Roll

1 nori sheet

2-3 oz. cooked chicken

1 small (Persian) cucumber

1/4 bell pepper, preferably red, yellow, or orange

1/4 avocado

1 Tbsp. Paleo mayo

1/2 tsp. sesame oil

1/2 tsp. coconut aminos

A couple shakes of hot sauce

salt to taste

Directions

1) Break or cut the nori sheet lengthwise down the middle. Shred or finely chop the chicken. Slice the cucumber, bell pepper, and avocado into very thin strips. Mix the mayo, sesame oil, coconut aminos, and hot sauce in a small bowl.

2) Hold the nori sheet shiny side down in one hand. Spread 1/2 the sauce from the top left corner to about the middle of the sheet. Layer on 1/2 the chicken and a few slices of cucumber and bell pepper. Add the avocado slices last and a little pinch of salt. There might be some leftover veggies to snack on.

3) Fold the shorter, right hand corner (if the nori is in your left hand) over first and then start wrapping the longer side around to form a cone. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just rolled up! Eat immediately so the nori doesn’t get soft.

Spicy Beef Hand roll

1 Nori sheet, cut in half

1 Tbsp. Paleo mayo

A couple shakes of hot sauce

2 oz. cooked beef, thinly sliced (I used flank steak)

1/4 of a bell pepper, very thinly sliced

1 mini cucumber, very thinly sliced

1/4 of an avocado

salt and pepper

Directions

1) Hold the nori sheet shiny side down in one hand. Spread 1/2 the spicy mayo from the top left corner to about the middle of the sheet. Layer on 1/2 the beef and a few slices of cucumber and bell pepper. Add the avocado slices last and a little pinch of salt. There might be some leftover veggies to snack on.

2) Fold the shorter, right hand corner (if the nori is in your left hand) over first and then start wrapping the longer side around to form a cone. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just rolled up! Eat immediately so the nori doesn’t get soft.

Apple-Basil-Beef Hand Roll

1 Nori sheet, cut in half

1 Tbsp. Paleo mayo

2 oz. cooked beef, very thinly sliced (I used flank steak)

A few very thin slices of apple cut into matchsticks (I used some of my son’s Ambrosia apple)

Basil chiffonade, about 1 Tbsp.

Directions

1) Hold the nori sheet shiny side down in one hand. Spread 1/2 the mayo from the top left corner to about the middle of the sheet. Layer on 1/2 the beef and several apple sticks. Add the basil chiffonade.

2) Fold the shorter, right hand corner (if the nori is in your left hand) over first and then start wrapping the longer side around to form a cone. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just rolled up! Eat immediately so the nori doesn’t get soft.

Paleo Beef Stroganoff

Paleo Beef Stroganoff 2013

Do you have a pressure cooker? If you do, this recipe is done in less than an hour. If you don’t, it’s okay – you can still make this recipe. Just follow the instructions until it talks about the pressure cooker timing and either cook it on the stove top or in the oven for 2-3 hours until your meat is tender. Whichever cooking method you choose, the flavors in this recipe are rich and hearty, just perfect for a cold winter day.

Beef Stroganoff has been around for 150 years or so. It has stood the test of time for sure, sometimes disappearing for a while but always coming back into vogue. For most of its history, however, noodles were the base. Not so in the paleo world – here it’s all about zoodles! I quickly steamed my zucchini noodles for this recipe because they don’t need any flavor other than their own. All the deep, complex deliciousness comes from the beef and mushrooms.

If you’re short on time, break out the pressure cooker. If it’s a lazy weekend, you can let this simmer and fill the house with its wonderful aroma while celebrating the simple pleasures of the season!

Paleo Beef Stroganoff

1 lb. stew beef, cut into 1 in. chunks

3 tsp. coconut oil, divided

1/2 tsp. + 1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 medium onion

8 oz. baby portabello mushrooms, thickly sliced

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 tsp. onion powder

2/3 c. beef broth

1/2 c. full fat coconut milk

1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

Directions

1) Coat the beef with 1/2 tsp. salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Use your hands to rub it all over the meat and set aside for a few minutes. Melt 2 tsp. coconut oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Allow the oil to get nice and hot and then brown the beef on all sides. This is best done in batches to avoid steaming the meat. It takes about 4 minutes per batch, adding additional oil as necessary. Remove each batch of browned beef to a bowl to catch any juices.

2) Add onion, mushrooms, and 1/4 tsp. salt to the pot, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Cook until slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.

3) Return the meat to the pot with the mushrooms and onion, add the garlic, paprika, thyme, and onion powder and stir to coat everything. Add the beef broth to the pot, close and seal the pressure cooker lid, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to the point where the pressure cooker top is gently, but steadily, rocking (for me this is just below medium on my stove). Keep at this steady pressure for 15 minutes and then remove the pot from the heat. Allow the pressure to dissipate on its own, which should take about 10 minutes.

4) Remove the lid, add the coconut milk, and simmer over medium-high until the sauce reduces and thickens slightly. Serve over zucchini noodles (below) with a sprinkle of parsley.

Steamed Zucchini Noodles

Zucchini noodles, zoodles3 medium zucchini

salt

Directions

1) Cut the tops and bottoms off your zucchini. If you have a spiral slicer, use the flat blade to create these beautiful thick ribbons. If you have a julienne peeler or are using a knife, slice your zucchini into long strands.

2) Place the zucchini in a strainer over the sink and sprinkle liberally with salt. Let rest for about 20 minutes to allow some of the moisture to be pulled out of the zucchini.

3) When you are ready to eat, rinse the zucchini well and steam for about 2 minutes. I used my steamer bowl in the microwave, but you can use whatever you have. We just want the zucchini lightly steamed, not mushy.

4) Place in a bowl or on a plate and top with the Beef Stroganoff. Enjoy!

Serves 2-3

Spicy Pepper Meat Sauce

I always find it handy to have a meat sauce in the freezer to throw on top of zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash at any time. Sometimes I’ll just eat it like chili or put it on sautéed kale or a sweet potato. Whatever you choose to do with it, you can’t go wrong making a big batch and saving some for later.

A few years ago I stumbled across a light pasta recipe in Eating Well Magazine that wowed me with its use of pepperoncini. For my paleo-eating ways, though, I like to have a meaty sauce that fills me up because it’s almost always the main event. While I’m smitten with my zoodles or spaghetti squash as a base, they’re pretty light so I’m looking to the sauce for the oomph.

I assure you, this recipe does not disappoint! The sauce gets its heat and a vinegar-tang from a whole jar of hot banana peppers. You could easily swap in pepperoncini here as well. Don’t worry about the heat too much because the meat will absorb a lot of it.

IMG_0152

Hot Pepper Meat Sauce

4 slices of bacon

1 onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, sliced

2 lbs. ground beef

16 oz. jar of hot banana peppers, sliced, stems and seeds removed

28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

15 oz. jar of tomato sauce

1/2 c. water

Directions

1. Chop the bacon and brown over medium heat until crispy. Set aside, reserving 2 T. of the bacon grease in the bottom of the pot.

2. Add chopped onion and garlic, sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes.

3. Add  ground beef and cook, breaking it into chunks, until browned, about 8 minutes.

4. Add all of the sliced hot peppers, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1/2 c. water, and the reserved bacon.

5. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes. Even longer is great!

Serves 6-8