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

Spicy Cauliflower Salad

Spicy Cauliflower Salad 2016

Salads of all sorts get me feeling light and fresh and nourished so I make them all the time. They are also capable of dazzling my taste buds. I definitely love meat and potatoes and other things, but salads…you can do anything with a salad! I suppose it helps to love vegetables, but part of what makes them special is what you do to them. If you haven’t found a way to prepare cauliflower that you like yet, maybe just keep going! Or zucchini or broccoli or green beans. Keep trying different preparations and maybe you’ll discover that they’re pretty delicious after all.

If you’re already a veggie-lover, then here’s another little something to throw together and serve with something grilled. Crunch from the cauliflower, tender roasted peppers, a little kick from the sport peppers – yum!

Spicy Cauliflower Salad

Salad:

1 bag frozen cauliflower florets

1 roasted red bell pepper

1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 c. black olives, sliced

8 sport peppers, minced about 3 Tbsp. (or pepperoncini)

3 Tbsp. minced fresh chives

Salt and pepper to taste

Dressing:

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 small clove of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

A pinch of salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Steam the frozen cauliflower lightly (the instructions called for 6 1/2 minutes, I cooked it for 4 minutes). Drain and place in a large bowl.
  2. Slice the roasted bell pepper into strips and add to the cauliflower along with the halved cherry tomatoes, sliced olives, minced peppers, and chives. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and pour over the salad.
  4. Mix well, tossing until everything is coated.
  5. Allow the salad to rest in the fridge for 15 minutes or more so the flavors can meld.
  6. Adjust the seasonings with a little more salt and pepper if desired and enjoy!

Truffled Cauliflower Rice

Truffled Cauliflower Rice 2016-001

Want to know what my favorite pizza is? (Shhhh….I know. Pizza and I are sworn enemies. It always hurts me. But sometimes it happens. And sometimes it’s gluten-free or Paleo or meatza, but sometimes it’s not. Then I’m reminded that we don’t get along and I pick myself up and move on.) But anyway. Favorite one? Mushroom. I love it a lot.

To get around the whole pizza-and-I-aren’t-friends-but-I-really-love-mushrooms-thing, I cook with them often. And I’m considering making some that taste a lot like pizza so I can have a happy mouth and a happy mind and body too. They’re great in so many ways and here they make an appearance with truffle oil to enhance all that is earthy in both. Years ago we went to Tuscany with friends to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary and we tasted truffle oil that I can still feel. I can’t exactly taste it anymore, the memory is too far back, but I remember what it felt like to smell it and taste it and covet it. In the years that have followed, truffle oil has made its way closer and closer by way of specialty stores and, in this case, Trader Joe’s. Is it the same quality? Sometimes, maybe. Not this one. But it still gives depth and a heady, lush quality to certain dishes that is irresistible to me.

I love it here with cauliflower, that humble vegetable that takes on so many personalities. I really, really wish that cutting cauliflower and ricing cauliflower didn’t leave all those teeny-tiny bits everywhere, though. I know it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it bugs me, which means I do it less often than I would if it didn’t get everywhere. Sometimes these days, I’ve taken to buying a giant bag of the florets and tossing them in the food processor. Faster, easier, and neater. And I know that you can get it already riced now at Trader Joe’s, and probably other places. I think that’s great if you need it in an instant, but I usually want more than what comes in the bag. So it’s a trade off. And truly, more often than not, I tell myself to quit being silly and get the cauliflower. I know. A little crazy.

This is comfort food that settles and grounds my heart.

Truffled Cauliflower Rice 2016Truffled Cauliflower Rice

1 head of cauliflower

2 tsp. ghee, divided

1/2 onion, chopped

5-6 large mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. fresh chives, minced

Zest from 1/2 a lemon

1 Tbsp. truffle oil, plus more to serve

Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Start by quartering your head of cauliflower. Pulse each quarter in a food processor fitted with an s-blade about 10 times. You want it to look like grains of rice without being mushy. Put in a large bowl.
  2. Add a generous pinch of salt to the cauliflower and stir around. Cover loosely and microwave for 6 minutes.
  3. Remove from the microwave, take off the cover, and set aside.
  4. Melt 1 tsp. ghee in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, sliced mushrooms, and a pinch of salt.
  5. Sauté for 5-7 minutes until onion is translucent and mushrooms have released their water and are cooked to your liking.
  6. Add 1 tsp. ghee and the riced cauliflower. Stir to combine.
  7. Turn off the heat and stir in the chives, lemon zest, and truffle oil.
  8. Taste and season with salt and several turns of freshly cracked pepper.
  9. Plate and serve with additional truffle oil for drizzling.

Serves 4

Well-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts 2016I had no idea! Okay – so I had a little bit of an idea, but I didn’t realize that I could love Brussels sprouts even more than I already did. I have loved sprouts ever since I discovered them roasted. After that, I branched out and have discovered a number of different ways that I love to eat them. This has been going on for years now. I’ve learned ways to love them sautéd, shredded, raw, braised, natural, sauced, so many ways. What I also learned, though, is that typically I don’t like them boiled or previously frozen. Those are totally different beasts.

What happened here was that I went to watch a play-off football game at some friends’ house while I was doing a Whole30. My friend graciously roasted off brussies and cauliflower to snack on but she did them a little differently than I do. I have a tendency to cook my veggies to al dente, leaving a little bite to them and keeping some of the bright green color. When I had hers, though, they were cooked longer. And they were awesome.

Of course, I had to try it at home within days. Cooked long and low, they are allowed to really caramelize. The outer leaves get crispy, while the inside becomes meltingly tender. The flat side becomes golden and chewy. The whole vegetable is transformed. Generally I prefer the smaller ones, but not in this case. Either worked really well, but the bigger ones ended up having more crisp on the outside and more tenderness on the inside. I honestly can’t get enough of these. Here’s a little secret too – if you toss them with just a little melted butter at the end, they’re even more amazing. I hope you love them as much as I do!

Well-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

2 lbs. Brussels sprouts

2 Tbsp. Olive oil (or other fat of choice)

Large pinch of salt

Cracked black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut the sprouts in half. Generally, I will cut off the bottom, but even the stem gets tender with this preparation so I often leave them as they are.
  3. Toss the sprouts with the oil and salt generously. Add pepper to taste.
  4. Spread the sprouts on a cookie sheet, making sure the cut side of each sprout is face-down on the pan.
  5. Roast for about 45 minutes. You might even go for an hour – you want nice and dark, but not burned, so taste and decide.
  6. Try not to burn your fingers as you eat them straight from the pan.

Mexican Cauliflower Rice

Mexican Cauliflower Rice 2016

Rice is one of the carbs that I will indulge in from time to time when not doing a Whole30. It’s also one of those foods that gets discussed in the Paleo world. Some people eat it, and some people don’t. Arguments tend to be about the length of time that humans have been eating it and the relative ease with which it is digested. In general, Paleo goes towards white rice because it is easier to digest and it doesn’t have any of the anti-nutrients that are found in brown rice. I know that’s a big difference from what mainstream nutritionists say, and I wish I had the definitive answer, but I don’t. I just try to do what is right for me and my body.

Most of the time, I love having made the switch to cauliflower rice. I will admit, though, that one of my favorite comfort foods is a bowl of rice with butter and salt. So, so good. I have done that with ghee and cauliflower rice with some success, but sometimes there just isn’t any alternative to sticky, chewy, simple rice. Or sushi. With this recipe, though, I was going for flavor as well as comfort and it worked out great! I felt like I was eating Mexican rice and it was delicious. Just what I was looking for.

My least favorite thing about cauliflower rice is that it makes a mess every time I prep it. I can’t seem to figure out a way to avoid having all those little tiny bits of cauliflower stuck to the counter or the floor. If you have any secrets out there, I’d love to hear them!

With this particular batch, I used a 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle powder and it was pretty spicy. Not too spicy, I don’t think, but spicy. Some avocado went really nicely to cool it down. If you are sensitive to spice, you might try a 1/4 teaspoon first and then add from there. And I had a green bell pepper, but if you have red or yellow or orange, then go for it. Don’t let the color of your pepper stop you from making this spicy bowl of comfort food!

Mexican Cauliflower Rice

1 head cauliflower, riced

2 tsp. F.O.C. (fat of choice, I used lard from a pastured pig)

1 onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, minced

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 – 1/2 tsp. chipotle powder

3/4 c. tomato sauce

2 Tbsp. minced cilantro

Directions

  1. Microwave riced cauliflower for 6 minutes in a covered bowl. After 6 minutes remove cover and set aside.
  2. Melt F.O.C. in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell pepper, and jalapeno to the pan and sauté for about 10 minutes until the onion is translucent and the vegetables have softened.
  3. Add the salt, cumin, garlic and onion powder, oregano and 1/4 tsp. chipotle powder. Stir to combine.
  4. Pour in the tomato sauce and add the steamed cauliflower rice.
  5. Stir everything together, add cilantro, and taste.
  6. Add additional chipotle powder, salt, or a squeeze of lime.
  7. Enjoy!

 

Slow Roasted Rosemary Tomatoes and their Oil

Provencal TomatoesThere’s nothing quite like the intense flavor of slow roasted tomatoes. If you’ve never had them, it’s a lot like sundried tomatoes only there’s a little touch of freshness to them that still remains. They are packed with umami, that 6th flavor category that means something like savory, but is perhaps more easily described as deliciousness. It gives dishes a depth of flavor and richness that is thoroughly satisfying and it pays to add bursts of umami to your dishes at every opportunity.

One of the great things about slow roasting vegetables is that you can coax a lot of flavor out of something that might have been a little less-than-spectacular to begin with. At the height of summer, it’s possible to have tomatoes as they were meant to be – bursting with ripe, fresh flavor. But most of the year, they can benefit from a little boost. This is a solution to that problem!

I was inspired to make these because this past weekend, we took down the last of my tomatoes from the garden. I was so lucky this year to be nearly overwhelmed by my tomato bounty! My backyard looked a bit like a jungle because the tomato plants were overgrown, unruly monsters. One of them even had a rosebush growing through it, which meant that every time I went to harvest the tomatoes, I had to brave the thorns. I have a few scars left to prove it! Now when I look out back, my garden space is more open, you might even say barren. When I look at it, though, it seems beautiful to me just as it is. More spacious, airy, and clear. I’m sure that I’ll plant in the spring and that it will be a giant tangle again next year, but I think I’m finally ready to settle in to the quieter months of winter.

These tomatoes take a while to make, but the process is mostly hands-off so on an afternoon when you’ll be hanging around the house, take five minutes to slice a bunch of tomatoes, drizzle them with oil and pop them in the oven. When they come out, eat a few, because you pretty much have to, and then put the rest in a jar and cover them with your favorite extra virgin olive oil. After a few days, you’ll be rewarded with a deeply flavored roasted tomato oil that is exceptional drizzled on salads and maybe even better drizzled on eggs.

Slow Roasted Rosemary Tomatoes

10-12 Roma tomatoes

3 Tbsp. olive oil

about 1 Tbsp. chopped garlic

about 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (dried would work here as well)

1/2 tsp. salt

Directions

1) Turn oven to 275 degrees. There’s no need to fully preheat the oven, just prep tomatoes while it starts. Coat a baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil.

2) Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise and place skin-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon, spread the olive oil on the open side of the tomato halves.

3) Sprinkle the tomatoes evenly with garlic, rosemary, and salt. Place in the oven and roast for 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

4) When the tomatoes are dried, they can be eaten as is or sliced and added to dishes for a burst of intense tomato flavor.

Roasted Tomatoes in Olive Oil

Roasted Tomatoes in Oil

Place tomatoes in a glass jar and cover with extra virgin olive oil. Leave to marinate for a few days and then enjoy in salads, omelettes, or next to grilled meats.

Ginger Beef with Snow Peas

Ginger Beef with Snow Peas 2014The holidays can sometimes get the best of us with the various parties and social engagements, busy schedules, shopping, and treats. Lots and lots of treats. Now that I’ve been eating Paleo for a few years, I find that even when I go off-roading (and I admit, sometimes it’s rather significant off-roading), my body really wants to come back to this way of eating because I feel so much better inside and out.

I think it’s pretty clear that I have a love affair with vegetables. I don’t just eat them because they’re good for me, I truly love them and crave them. If I go very long (like a meal or two) without having enough of them, my body starts to send some clear signals that it’s time for me to load up. This time last year, in fact, I flew with my son to visit some family and friends in California for Christmas and after a day of traveling, all I wanted was a giant pile of vegetables. We arrived at my friend’s house and while she offered me anything I wanted (cheese comes to mind), what I ended up doing was grabbing a bag of baby bell peppers and sitting on the couch and chatting while I took down a ridiculous amount of peppers as if they were candy.

So that’s how this stir-fry was born. There were a few too many meals that we grabbed on the go and one or two too many cookies that were eaten. My brain thought everything was great and was having fun with all the sugar. Meanwhile, my body was begging for a vitamin. The snow peas were beautiful at the store and I always have a knob of ginger in my freezer. Quickly this dish took shape. It would have been delicious on cauliflower rice or over some finely shredded cabbage, and if you do rice, that would have been great too. This little stir-fry was just what I needed to get back on track.

Ginger Beef and Snow Peas

3 tsp. coconut oil, divided

1 carrot sliced paper thin (I used a mandoline)

2 – 2 1/2 c. snow peas, rinsed

1/2 lb. stir-fry beef

1 inch knob of ginger, grated

5 cloves of garlic, minced

5 scallions, whites chopped, green tops cut in 1 in. pieces

1/4 c. coconut aminos

1 tsp. rice vinegar

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

1) Melt 2 tsp. coconut oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the carrot and sauté for about 2 minutes, then add the snow peas with any remaining water clinging to them and the scallion whites and cook for about 4 minutes until just tender. If the pan seems too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water. Remove to a plate.

2) In a small bowl, combine coconut aminos, rice vinegar, and pepper flakes. Set aside.

3) Melt remaining tsp. of coconut oil in the pan and add the meat, stirring quickly until barely cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, reserved veggies, and scallion tops and stir until fragrant.

4) Add the sauce and cook until it reduces very slightly, about 1 minute. Adjust seasoning, adding any salt and pepper or sesame seeds to taste, and serve.

Serves 2