Meat-N-Veg Balls

Here’s a basic formula for making meat and vegetable balls (or patties) that lets you mix & match flavors to suit your taste.  For simplicity, each uses one pound of lean ground meat, and one bag of frozen vegetables (or a similar quantity fresh). This can go wrong when there’s too much water in the vegetables, so we’ll and drain veggies and add just a little coconut flour to absorb excess moisture. One batch will make 16-20 meatballs for a quick, complete, snack,  for lunch with cut veggies and dipping sauce, or simmered in sauce for dinner.

Basic outline

  • 1 lb. lean ground meat
  • seasoning of your choice (try italian sausage, chorizo, thai, or greek)
  • 4 servings of a vegetable (1 bag frozen or 1 bunch fresh: spinach, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  • 1 egg

What to do

  1. Prepare your herbs and spices, mix with ground meat, and let rest in the fridge overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  3. Thaw veggies and break down in a food processor or blender. Process until shredded. Stop well before they turn into a smooth puree.
  4. Toss veggies with a sprinkling of salt and place in colander. Cover with a paper towel and place a bowl full of water on top to press the moisture out. Let drain at least 30 minutes.
  5. After draining, wrap in the paper towel and squeeze out all excess moisture.
  6. In a medium bowl, mix vegetable,  coconut flour, and egg use a fork to thoroughly blend.
  7. Add seasoned ground meat. Mix well.
  8. Make golfball-sized meatballs. I keep a small bowl of olive oil on hand so I can grease my hands occasionally.
  9. Heat a well-oiled, oven-safe pan to medium high and brown meatballs. Since these do not contain breadcrumbs, they may not hold their shape as well as regular meatballs. Be gentle and make sure the pan is well oiled.
  10. Transfer pan to oven, bake for 10 minutes, turning once.

Illustrated notes

Spinach, zucchini, and cauliflower shredded and salted.

Spinach, zucchini, and cauliflower shredded and salted.

A bowl full of water weighs down the vegetables, pressing out the water.

A bowl full of water weighs down the vegetables, pressing out the water.

Really squeeze the water out of your veggies.

Really squeeze the water out of your veggies.

Coconut flower absorbs excess moisture, egg helps to bind the indredients together.

Coconut flower absorbs excess moisture, egg helps to bind the indredients together.

Mix the vegetable, eggs and coconut flower first, then add the seasoned meat.

Mix the vegetable, eggs and coconut flower first, then add the seasoned meat.

I keep a little bowl of olive oil handy so the mixture does not skick to my hands.

I keep a little bowl of olive oil handy so the mixture does not skick to my hands.

Give the meatballs plenty of space while browning. Crowding them will make them slow to crisp up on the outside.

Give the meatballs plenty of space while browning. Crowding them will make them slow to crisp up on the outside.

Let cool completely with some space before packing and refrigerating.

Let cool completely with some space before packing and refrigerating.

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Nutrition Challenge, Week 1 Menu

Many, many thanks to all of you at Mount Ogden Crossfit who joined me for Paleo Cooking Last night. Here’s what I made this week. If you have comments, questions or recipes to share, drop me a line (below) and I’ll put together an update post for Friday.

This week’s menu:

By Category

Proteins, Veggies (Carbs) and Sauces and Sides (Fats) to mix & match for the week:

Proteins:

Roast beef from Goldilocks Finds Manhattan

Veggies

Garlic cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes” from Nom Nom Paleo

  • Cauliflower Garlic Mashed “Potatoes”: Nom Nom Paleo with caramelized onions: NY Times
  • Zucchini Noodles with Fresh Tomatoes: Everyday Maven
  • Sauteed Chard: Epicurious
  • Marinated Eggplant with Capers and Mint: Epicurious
  • Spinach, Salad Greens, and Tomatoes
  • Baked Sweet Potatoes (rub in olive oil and bake at 400 for about an hour)
  • Spaghetti Squash (bake whole squash at 350 for 1:00- 1:30 or until soft)

Sauces and Sides

By Meal

Tex-Mex Paleo Tortilla from Mark Sisson

MIx and match prepared foods above for a variety of meals:

Breakfast

  • Scrambled Eggs, Steamed Spinach and Avocado
  • Spaghetti Squash, & Veggie Frittata

Lunch

Dinner

  • Roast Beef with Cauliflower Mash and Green Salad
  • “Carnitas” in “Tortillas” with avocado and tomato
  • Chicken over Zucchini Noodles with Eggplant
  • Spaghetti squash with meat sauce
  • Or any combination of meat, veggie and side/sauce

Questions, comments, or recipes for Friday’s update post:

Italian Sausage Meat Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Lean ground turkey
  • 1 28 oz can plain diced tomatoes
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
  • Emeril’s spice mix (hold the wine, and dry parsley is totally ok) make the whole recipe, and use 1/3 for your turkey
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. If you have time mix the spices into your turkey one day ahead, return to the fridge.
  2. Brown the turkey on medium-high in a large, deep, skillet until cooked through. Transfer to a bowl or dish.
  3.  In the same skillet add a couple of tablespoons olive oil, tomatoes (not drained), and garlic. Use your spatula to scrape up the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, mixing them into your sauce.
  4. Bring the tomato mix to a boil stirring frequently then reduce to a simmer.
  5. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes to an hour (less time with make thinner, fresher sauce, more will make richer, thicker sauce) Do your dishes, prep your “noodles” or knock out some housework while you simmer.
  6. Add browned turkey back in, incorporate, well and heat through, 3-5 minutes.
  7. Serve on top of steamed spinach, zucchini noodles, or spaghetti squash.

Carnit-ish

Carnitas with sweet potato chips, avocado, and cabbage slaw

This is a hybrid of a few carnitas recipes that I modified to fit:
(1) what I had in the house, and
(2) the time I had to cook it in.

The surprisingly tasty results were waiting (nearly finished) in the crockpot when we got home from a long day out. Either I was really hungry, or this was the best thing out of my slow-cooker to date.  Eat this right away, then cook down the drippings to make awesome gravy.

Slow-cooked pork:

In a small bowl, blend:

  • 1 heaping tablespoon sage*
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon good salt
use this to coat:
  • 4+ pounds bone-in country-style pork loin ribs
Brown on all sides in a pan over medium-high heat. Place snugly in a large slow-cooker. Deglaze pan with a little white wine or water, scraping up the browned bits, add to slow cooker. Sprinkle over top:
  • 1 large onion, cut into eight pieces
  • 8 cloves garlic
Set slow cooker to low for 6-7 hours. Go outside and play. Come home 6 or so hours later, the meat should be falling apart by now.  Preheat oven to 450F. Use tongs to remove solids to a large oven-safe skillet, break up and scatter over the surface of the pan. In the slow cooker add to the remaining liquid:
  • 1 cup whole milk** NUTRITION CHALLENGE EDIT: 3/4 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice** NUTRITION CHALLENGE EDIT: Juice of 1 orange
Stir. Pour liquid over meat. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until the liquid is reduced somewhat and tips of meat are browned.  Eat up!
*Carnitas traditionally call for oregano, but I was out.
**Yeah, yeah, not orthodox paleo, but really, you could do worse. And 4+ pounds of pork cancels this out completely
Gravy
After dinner, discard bones, pack up any remaining meat an onions, and place skillet with juices over low heat, add:
  • one egg yolk*
Whisk to incorporate well. Simmer, whisking often, and reduce juices by half.   Add another good splash of whole milk and simmer five to ten minutes more.
*An egg yolk seems to work well as an alternative to flour or cornstarch for thickening gravies.
Enjoyed after a great day at the Center for Land Use Interpretation on the Wendover Air Force Base. Don’t miss this place if you ever find yourself on the border between Utah and Nevada.

Get Some: PEPITAS

Living in the south, I tend to get my nuts & seeds fix from pecans.  This is perfect when you’re eating sweet potatoes under a magnolia tree.  In season – from the farmers’ market – pecans are to die for, but my pallet and my wallet have grown tired of them as summer approaches.  This week, I’ve re-discovered pepitas (pumpkin seeds popular in mexican cooking). They run about $6/lb at our higher-end super market and come raw or roasted & salted. They’re pretty, greenish and a little bigger than sunflower seeds.  They’re versatile and tasty too.

Before (bottom) & After Toasting

Toast them:

  • Spread a thick layer on a baking sheet, spray lightly with coconut oil cooking spray and toss.
  • Toast in the oven at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, until golden.

Use them for:

  • Salads
  • Curry*(along with chopped pineapple and toasted coconut)
  • Chicken or turkey mole
  • Trail mix
  • Paleo Oatmeal*
  • Granol-ish:  Sprinkle toasted pepitas and coconut over blueberries and drizzle with coconut milk
* Modified versions of these recipes are in the works. They need some substitutions to be solidly paleo.

Try this toasty sprinkle:

Mix toasted pepitas, sunflower seeds, and unsweetened coconut with a little cinnamon and ground clove. Add a little cayanne pepper for a sweet & spicy kick if it suits you.

Spicy green tomatoes

The local produce scene in Jackson, MS right now reminds me a little of the winters in Indiana, except that it is too hot, not too cold, for many summer veggies to bear fruit. My fall favorites, like onions and green tomatoes feel really seasonal right now.  As much as I love fried green tomatoes, there are lots of other ways to eat them.  Here’s one that makes a great, spicy, tangy, breakfast veggie. I mixed mine with some browned, seasoned ground turkey and topped it with a couple of over-light eggs.

In a large skillet, saute in coconut oil:
1/4 – 1/2 large red onion, quartered and sliced
until it begins to soften.  Add:
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 hot banana pepper, sliced, without seeds (I used a red one for color, use more or less to taste) saute until onions and garlic are lightly browned. Push this stuff to the edge of your pan and add:
1 very large or 2 smaller green tomatoes, quartered and sliced
Arrange in a single layer, brown and then flip to brown the other side.  Drizzle with:
3 Tablespoons cider or rice vinegar, not balsamic (I used sugar-free rice vinegar).
mix everything together and cook for another few minutes until the vinegar evaporates and everything is softened.  Season with salt to taste.

Egg-cake experiment

I’m not confused. These are NOT pancakes but I think they could be tasty pancake-like breakfast food with a little tweaking, and they don’t use, say, 10 pounds of nuts, a bunch of bananas, or anything else that I wouldn’t eat in the course of a normal meal.  They hold up really well and could be spread with whatever pancake topping you like.

Heres the basic idea…they’re fluffy because I whip the egg whites separately from the yolks and fold them in later like a souffle.  This version is totally neutral, and I imagine you could season or augment them to be sweet or savory. . . say, grated sweet potato and cinnamon – zucchini – coconut flakes – coco powder – spinach. . .

Separate:
3 Eggs, putting the yolks and whites in separate bowls
Beat egg whites until thick and fluffy, they should form soft peaks when the beaters are pulled out.

Combine:
3 yolks from above
1/3 C Water
3 Tablespoons coconut flower
Beat until thoroughly combined and as thick as possible.

Gently fold the yolks into the whites, combining without totally deflating your egg whites.  Spoon onto a greased medium skillet to form small pancakes, cook a few minutes each side until golden and just cooked through.