Italian Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Italian Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms cropped 2016-001

It’s almost New Year’s Eve when it can be super fun to have a bunch of different nibblies to enjoy throughout the evening. So how about some stuffed mushrooms! I’ve loved stuffed mushrooms my whole life, but in the past they’ve been filled with cheese and bread crumbs and all sorts of other things which made them less than a healthy choice. Delicious, sure, but not exactly in line with my Paleo lifestyle goals. That being said, they were never the worst thing either. Still a vegetable, right?

The other day, I got to thinking how easily they could be made Paleo and how they would still be really delicious. I haven’t finished with the variations either because I think these might be one of those things that are perfect to make during a weekly cook up so that they can be lunch or snacks throughout the week. Pair a couple of them with a big handful of veggies, some carrots and bell peppers, for example, and they’re special and simple all rolled into one.

I dolloped a mixture of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard on these which added a really nice creamy kick. I would have taken a picture of it like that except the battery in my camera died after one shot – this one shot – and then I was done. I suppose we could have waited to eat them, but that just didn’t seem right.

Italian Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

1 lb. whole mushrooms with stems

1-2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. ghee

1/2 onion

3 cloves garlic

1/4 tsp. pepper flakes

1 lb. uncooked Italian sausage meat

Salt & black pepper

Optional sauce: Equal parts mayonnaise and mustard

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil.
  2. Rinse or brush off any dirt from mushrooms. Pop stems out, finely mince, and place in a large bowl.
  3. Place mushroom caps on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
  4. Finely chop or mince the onion and add to the minced mushroom stems.
  5. Melt ghee in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and mushroom mixture, along with garlic, pepper flakes, a large pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, until veggies are soft and mushroom stems have released any liquid.
  6. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or pepper flakes if needed and allow to cool slightly.
  7. Return veggie mixture to the large bowl, add the sausage and mix together well using your hands. Ensure everything is evenly distributed.
  8. Take large pinches of the mushroom mixture and stuff into the mushroom caps. You can have a full, meatball-sized amount sitting on top.
  9. Make extra meatballs out of any extra mixture and place on the baking sheet as well.
  10. Cook for 20 minutes until slightly browned on top.
  11. Add a little sauce and enjoy!

Serves 4-6

Spring Risotto with Ham and Asparagus

Ham and Asparagus Risotto 2014 3

About this time last year, some fabulous Paleo people decided to put together a bundle of e-books to sell at an amazing price. I love when that happens because it lets a lot of people get acquainted with more Paleo blogs and cookbooks in an affordable way. Eating healthy and delicious food should be accessible, I think. Within that bundle was a cookbook that compiled a number of recipes from a website called chowstalker where I have posted before. I was honored to be asked to share a recipe for the book and this risotto is what I created. For whatever reason, I didn’t post the recipe on BalancingPaleo last year but it’s delicious and I’d love for all of you to enjoy it too, so here it is!

A risotto is a rice dish from Italy with a creamy, decadent consistency that is both comforting and luxurious at the same time. It can be made many different ways, with many different ingredients. It is a dish to master so that you can create a sumptuous risotto with whatever ingredients you have on hand. For the Paleo eater, cauliflower takes the place of rice and it does so beautifully! While it might lack some of the starchiness of rice, it makes an excellent backdrop for the ham and asparagus in this risotto. Get a quality ham with some good smoke – it’s an important ingredient here and you want to love what you’re eating. Tarragon has a flavor reminiscent of licorice, which is surprisingly delightful in this dish. You could substitute parsley if you can’t find it, but I highly recommend seeking out tarragon if at all possible.

Spring Risotto with Ham and Asparagus is a beautiful dish that comes together quickly and highlights the bright freshness of the season. Serve this at your next dinner party or for a weeknight meal – either way, your taste buds are in for a treat!

Spring Risotto with Ham and Asparagus

2 Tbsp. ghee, divided

1 lb. ham

1/2 large onion

1 large head of cauliflower

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 c. vegetable broth

1/4 c. coconut milk, divided

1 bunch asparagus, about 1 lb.

2 scallions, minced

1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, minced

pepper to taste

Directions

1) Ham: Melt 1/2 Tbsp. of ghee in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cut the ham into matchsticks about 1/4 in. thick. Sear the ham until it begins to caramelize a bit, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

2) Onion and Cauliflower: While the ham is cooking, finely chop the onion. Then roughly chop the cauliflower and drop it into the bowl of a food processor fitted with an s-blade. Process the cauliflower until it looks about like grains of rice – this will take about 10-12 pulses for each batch. A large head will need to be riced in 2-3 batches so it doesn’t get mushy. Set aside in a large bowl.

3) As soon as the ham is cooked and set aside, reduce the heat to medium and add 1 Tbsp. of ghee to the pan. Sauté the onion until slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the riced cauliflower, garlic, and salt, and stir to combine. Add broth and 2 Tbsp. coconut milk. Stir again, place a lid on the pot, and reduce heat slightly. Allow to cook for about 7 minutes.

4) Asparagus: While the cauliflower is cooking, remove the tough portion at the bottom of each asparagus and slice the stalks on the diagonal into pieces about 1 1/2 in. long. If the asparagus is as thick as a finger, first slice each stalk down the middle lengthwise and then into 1 1/2 in. pieces. Add the asparagus pieces to the cauliflower and replace the lid. Cook for 3 minutes.

5) Add the ham back to the mixture and stir in 2 more Tbsp. of coconut milk. Cook uncovered for about 3 minutes until everything is piping hot.

6) Remove risotto from the heat and add 1/2 Tbsp. ghee, scallions, tarragon, and pepper. Enjoy!

Serves 4

Ham and Vegetable Chowder

Ham Chowder 2014

Snow! We are in the midst of our first real winter weather here in Pueblo and, while I already miss the long, lazy days of summer, I do love soup and stewed dishes so I plan to focus on the positive and get cooking. Our winters in southern Colorado don’t compare at all to what happens in other parts of the country. Generally, like now, we get a dusting of snow and it doesn’t stick around for very long. This cold front was a bit of a shock to the system, though. On Tuesday, I enjoyed my lunch outside in the sunshine, relishing the gorgeous 70 degree weather. About an hour later the wind was terrible and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees. Now it won’t get above freezing. Extreme shifts in temperature are common for Colorado, but I really wasn’t quite ready for it yet. I still had plans for hiking and running in the fall sunshine. Luckily, there will still be lots of occasions for that because this can’t last too long.

For now, though, it’s cold! So what’s a girl to do? Well I made chowder. I like my chowder with lots of veggies, of course, while my son chose to pick out all the chunks of ham and eat those. One day I’m convinced he’ll like vegetables just as much as I do, but I’m not holding my breath for it! This is a comforting bowl of creamy, salty, smoky deliciousness, just perfect for a chilly day. I cut everything into fairly small chunks so this chowder came together quickly. The next time a storm blows in, consider warming up with a big bowl of this and maybe a glass of wine. I promise not to tell.

Ingredients

2 tsp. coconut oil

1/2 onion

3 stalks of celery

2 large carrots

2 turnips, total about 3/4 lb.

1/2 bell pepper (I used an orange one)

4 oz. mushrooms

1/4 tsp. salt

3 c. ham, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. bouquet garni

1/4 tsp. pepper + more to taste

4 c. stock (I used pork stock)

1 c. coconut milk

Directions

1) Gather all of the vegetables together. Peel the carrots and turnips and chop everything into 1/2 in. pieces.

2) Melt coconut oil (or other fat of choice) in a large soup pot over medium high heat and sauté the vegetables with salt until beginning to soften, about 7 minutes.

3) Add the ham and herbs and stir everything together. Then add the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.

4) Once the vegetables are soft, scoop out about a cup of veggies and broth and puree (I used a Magic Bullet for this). Add it back to the chowder, pour in the coconut milk, and simmer vigorously for about 10 minutes.

5) Taste to adjust the seasoning – if the ham is salty, skip any additional salt. Serve in large bowls with lots of freshly ground pepper.

Spicy Slow Cooker Pork

Pork with green chiles 2014I have had some busy mornings with busy afternoons lately and that can make it difficult to eat right in the evenings. Unless I pull out my slow cooker, of course. You probably know the rules already – for me, it has to come together quickly and I don’t want to do any extra browning of this or that. I just want to throw it all in the pot and come home later to something tasty. This does not disappoint!

I didn’t even thaw the meat. My pork was already cut into one inch pieces so I put the whole block in the crock pot, added the other ingredients, stirred it after a few hours, and a couple more hours later, it was done. If your pork isn’t frozen, that’s no problem – it just won’t take as long. The chiles I used were quite spicy so if you like it milder, go ahead and use mild green chiles. And you can serve this a lot of different ways. I went with a pile of spaghetti squash, but there’s no reason you can’t wrap it in a Paleo tortilla or top a baked sweet potato with it. Or even just eat it on it’s own. I’m already looking forward to leftovers!

Spicy Pork Slow Cooker Stew

2 lbs. pork, cut into 1″ pieces, frozen

1/2 onion, chopped

7 oz. diced green chile peppers, canned, hot or mild

1 c. full-fat coconut milk

4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

1 Tbsp. dried oregano, rubbed to release flavors

1 1/2 tsp. salt

cilantro, optional

Directions

1) Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Stir, breaking up the chunks of pork and combining everything well. Cover.

2) Cook for about 2 more hours until pork is tender.

3) Plate, top with fresh chopped cilantro, and serve.

Serves 6

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder with Sage

Crockpot Pork ShoulderWake up. Throw this together in 10 minutes. Come home later to an amazing dinner. If you don’t have a slow cooker, I highly recommend getting one. There is something magical about putting a bunch of ingredients into a pot in the morning and then coming home later that day to a marriage of rich flavors and crazy-tender meat. Pork shoulder is ideal for this kind of low, moist heat – it gets truly transformed.

Once you have a pot of shredded pork, there are all kinds of things you can do with it. In my house, it’s hard to even get it to the dinner table because everyone walks by and has to steal a bite. We liked this version just piled on our plate with the juices over the top, but you can wrap it up in a lettuce leaf or add it to your eggs in the morning. Whatever you want to do, pork probably makes it better.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder with Sage

about 2 lbs. of pork shoulder, trimmed of most of the visible fat

1 1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 a large onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic

1 large stalk of fresh sage, about 8-10 leaves

1/2 c. coconut milk

Directions

1) In a small bowl, mix together salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Rub this mix all over the pork shoulder, getting into the nooks and crannies, and set aside.

2) Put the chopped onion in the bottom of the cooker. Pour in the coconut milk, add the whole garlic cloves and fresh sage. Place the pork on top of the mixture and put the lid on. Cook on low heat for about 8 hours, until the meat is fall apart tender.

3) Remove the meat to a bowl and remove any excess fat from the meat that you don’t want. Strain the liquid at the bottom of the cooker into a fat separator or any container to put in the fridge. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or more and then remove the layer of fat that solidifies at the top.

4) When you are ready to eat, reheat the meat and juices together and pile on your plate.

Serves 6

Italian Meatballs

Italian MeatballsMeatballs are a Paleo girl’s (or guy’s!) best friend. You can make a bunch of these fairly quickly and then eat them for multiple meals or snacks throughout the week. One of the things that I’ve learned on my Paleo journey is that having prepared food in the fridge makes a world of difference. When you eat the Standard American Diet, if you’re hungry at a moments notice, you can grab a granola bar or yogurt and move on. Sometimes being Paleo means you have to be a little more creative and a little more flexible with how you look at food. I like to have extra protein in my fridge at all times, and meatballs are perfect for that!

As a matter of fact, these meatballs started first as a dinner. I threw together a quick marinara sauce on the stove and plopped in about a dozen of the already cooked meatballs. I let them simmer for a bit to get comfortable together, and then we ate them on top of roasted spaghetti squash. The next day, they were my lunch and it looked more like the picture. Confession: After I took the picture, I chopped the meatballs up, added some more tomatoes, and spread them across three large lettuce leaves. More lettuce, more lunch. That’s how I like it.

I hope you have fun with these and please share with me if you do something delicious with them!

Italian Meatballs

2 lb. ground beef

1 lb. ground pork

1/3 c. coconut milk

1/2 c. almond flour

2 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. onion powder

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. fennel seed, lightly crushed

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 c. fresh parsley, minced

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and gently mix everything together. Hands work great for this because you can mix thoroughly but with a light touch.

2) Pinch off a small golf ball sized amount of meat. Gently roll the mixture in your hands to form a meatball about 1 1/2 in. across. Place on a baking sheet. Continue forming meatballs until the mixture is gone.

3) Place in the oven for about 23 minutes until cooked through. Use these meatballs for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks!

Makes about 35 meatballs

Puerto Rican Pork and Potato Stew

Puerto Rican Pork and Potato StewThis stew is delicious. I’m serious. Salty, briny, meaty, filling…everything you want on a cold, winter night. I say that, but I think it would be delicious on a hot summer day too. Once you get the meat browned, the rest comes together quickly and then it just simmers on the stove making you hungry. My husband loved it to and my son ate the pork like crazy and left the rest. He doesn’t like olives, though, so I guess we’ll let that be his excuse.

I’m not Puerto Rican but this dish brings together many typical ingredients in Puerto Rican cuisine, like olives, capers, and oregano. I used pork here because I had some stew meat all cut up and ready to go, but it would also be great with chicken if that’s what you have on hand. The white sweet potato worked perfectly – not too sweet but just providing a soft, starchy contrast and something to absorb the saltiness of the olives and capers. Either way, it’s a wonderful dish that keeps well and makes you really look forward to leftovers.

Puerto Rican Pork and Potato Stew

2 lbs. pork stew meat, 1 1/2 – 2 in. cubes

1 tsp. + 1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. + 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

2 Tbsp. + 1/2 Tbsp. coconut oil (or F.O.C.)

1/2 large onion, chopped about 1 c.

1 bell pepper, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 jalapenos, sliced, seeds removed

1/2 c. green olives with pimentos, rinsed and sliced

1/4 c. capers, rinsed and roughly chopped

14 oz. can diced tomatoes

4 c. broth

1/2 lb. white sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1 in. cubes

1 c. water

1/2 c. cilantro, chopped about 1/4 c.

pepper

Directions

1) Massage pork with 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. oregano and set aside for about 30 minutes. Melt 1 Tbsp. coconut oil over medium-high heat in a large (preferably cast iron) pot and brown 1/2 the pork until well caramelized. Remove to a plate to catch any juices, add 1 Tbsp. coconut oil to the pot, brown the rest of the meat, and set aside.

2) Reduce heat to medium and add 1/2 Tbsp. coconut oil.  Add the onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic and 1/4 tsp. salt, plus a few grinds from a pepper mill, and sauté until soft, about 5-7 minutes.

3) Add tomatoes and stir up any browned bits from the bottom. Return meat to the pot, add broth, capers, olives, and 1/2 tsp. oregano. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 2 hours until the meat is tender and the stew is reduced by about half.

4) Peel and chop the sweet potato. Add it to the stew with the water and simmer for an additional 30 minutes.

5) When the potato is soft, add the cilantro and serve in big bowls with a green salad on the side. Enjoy!