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!

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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!

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

Cumin-scented Zucchini Soup

Cumin-scented Zucchini Soup 2013

Growing up, I could tell when we were in diet mode because one of the things that would make it on the menu was zucchini soup. We would rave about how low in calories it was – it’s just zucchini and onions! – and how healthy – it’s just zucchini and onions! While it is those things, the actual reason for eating it was that we really, truly liked it. So zucchini soup has always been in my cooking repertoire.

Recently I changed it up a bit. I added cumin. This might seem like a minor change, but once you take your first bite, you’ll see that cumin’s warm, earthiness grounds this soup and makes it nearly impossible to stop eating. In each bite, you recognize the cumin, but then you need to take just one more bite because you wonder if, maybe, there’s something else. It seems layered, nuanced. That’s the magic of cumin.

Cumin-scented Zucchini Soup

1 tsp. coconut oil

3 medium zucchini, about 1 1/2 lbs.

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp. cumin

4 c. chicken or vegetable broth

1 tsp. salt

Directions

1) Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a 4-5 qt. soup pot. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes.

2) Cut the zucchini lengthwise into quarters, then into approximately 1 in. pieces, and add them to the onions. Add the garlic and salt and cook for about 8 minutes until beginning to soften.

3) Add the cumin, stir for about 30 seconds, then add 4 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for about 35 minutes, allowing some of the broth to evaporate and concentrate the flavors.

4) Remove from the heat and use a blender or immersion blender to blend the soup until it is silky smooth. Taste to adjust any seasonings and delight in your diet.