Monday, January 30, 2012

Beef Taco Salad with Avocado-Cilantro-Lime Dressing

I'm so excited about the fact that my local Sprouts market started carrying grass-fed beef! It does cost a little more, however several articles, including one from Mark's Daily Apple have helped me to realize that grass-fed beef is more healthful. The reason why it is advisable to choose grass-fed meat is because of a difference in the fat profile. Gras-fed cows have a higher volume omega-3 fatty acids, whereas grain-fed cows have a relatively nonexistent amount due to their diet. Basically, grain-fed cows have a poorer o-6:o-3 ratio fat compared to grass-fed. It is important to consume o-3s because it is an essential fatty acid---our bodies can't make it---so we must get it from outside sources.

I used my grass-fed beef to satisfy a craving I had for taco salad. A taco salad is easy to make Paleo, all you have to do is take away the tortilla bowl, the shredded cheddar cheese, and the sour cream. What you're left with is still pretty good, but I decided to jazz my salad up by making a pseudo-sour cream ranch dressing hybrid. It has all the tang of sour cream or ranch but without the dairy. Plus it adds the garlicky hit that ranch dressing has. Based from whipped avocado, it adds all the creaminess you would miss from the sour cream. This dressing can be made in a food processor, but I prefer and immersion blender to add a lot of air into the dressing to make it velvety-soft. For me, I normally don't prefer iceberg lettuce, but the cool crunchiness is necessary for a good taco salad, in my opinion. Just looking at these pictures makes me want to prepare this salad again! I really enjoyed this hearty salad, and thanks to the protein and healthy fats, it will keep you full for a long time.

Beef Taco Salad with Avocado-Cilantro-Lime Dressing
Printable Recipe

For the meat:

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 lb ground beef (preferably grass-fed)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
4 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste

For the salad:

1 head iceberg lettuce, coarsely shredded
2 large tomatoes, diced
2 2.25-oz can sliced black olives, drained
1/2 cup prepared salsa

For the dressing:

1 small ripe avocado
juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp water
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, grated
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a medium skillet over medium heat, add the garlic, onion, and beef. If the beef is very lean, you may need to add some oil of your choice to help the meat brown and the vegetables to soften. Cook the mixture until the meat is about 75% of the way cooked, then sprinkle over the cumin, coriander, paprika, chili powder, and salt and pepper. Cook the meat through and toss in the cilantro.
2. While the meat is cooking, prepare the salad: arrange the lettuce, tomato, olives, and salsa decoratively between 4 dinner plates. Set aside while preparing the dressing.
3. For the dressing: add all the ingredients to a bowl of a food processor or the container that your immersion blender comes with. Blend the mixture until very smooth. Set aside.
4. Finally, place the meat in the center of each salad and add thick drizzles of the avocado dressing all around. Cilantro makes a pretty garnish.

  • Servings per recipe: 4 generous servings
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 565.9
  • Fat: 44 g
  • Saturated fat: 12.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 84.8 mg
  • Sodium: 651.1 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 22 g
  • Fiber: 8.9 g
  • Sugars: 3.9 g
  • Protein: 24.7 g

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pumpkin Casserole

Even though pumpkins are more associated with autumn and the holiday season, I love them year round. I have actually acquired a love for all types of squash, so I like to find as many ways to use each variety! For instance, last night I had some spontaneous pumpkin cookie baking so I could have some treats to eat during this first full week of classes. I know I shouldn't eat a whole bunch of these at once, but it's nice to have a little prepared snack in case I get into a rush and need a little something to eat. I used the Pumpkin Spice Cookies recipe from The Food Lovers' Primal Palate. I suggest you check out both their website and their book because every recipe I've tried so far (and I've been making several a week since I got their cookbook for Christmas) have been amazing. As my mom has instructed me, I try to cook each recipe exactly as it says the first time, and then the second time I make it I can alter it. It's actually really hard for me to do that! For instance, last night I had the impulse to add an egg to the cookie batter because I couldn't imagine how it could become cohesive. Well I'm glad I didn't because these were great! A little crispy and slightly chewy in the very center. They called for flaked coconut for the bar version, but not the cookies, however I just folded a handful in because I thought it would taste good and add nice texture. I added a couple of handfuls of raisins...I couldn't help myself. I didn't think it would alter the recipe too much. I used to make pumpkin cookies with chocolate chips, oats, and raisins which were pretty much the best cookies I had ever had, but these make a great grain-free substitute.
Now here is another application of one of my favorite ingredients: I first prepared this pumpkin side dish for Christmas dinner because I wanted something slightly sweet to go with the meal. The good thing about this pumpkin casserole is that it's not so sweet that it couldn't be considered a side dish, but if you would like, it could be served as a dessert.

Pumpkin Casserole in the back of the plate at Christmas dinner

This recipe is particularly easy because you use canned pumpkin, so you don't have to roast a whole squash yourself. The latest time I made this, I didn't anticipate making a dessert, but I always have these ingredients on hand so this is nice to throw together at the last minute. I prefer this with pecans, but the last time I made it I used sliced almonds, which were also nice. Another option that I have not tried is dried coconut flakes, which I bet would be really nice too!

Pumpkin Casserole
Printable Recipe

1 egg (preferably omega-3-enhanced/free-range), well beaten
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
dash ground cloves
1 14.5-oz can pure pumpkin puree
1/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans are the best)
1 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Butter a 1.5-qt baking dish and set aside.
3. Blend the beaten egg and honey in a medium bowl. Fold in the spices and pumpkin. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the prepared pan.
4. Sprinkle the nuts over the pumpkin mixture and dot with butter. Add a small dash of ground cloves on top as a final garnish.
5. Bake the casserole for 30 minutes or until the edges are slightly firm. Serve warm or room temperature.

  • Makes 4 servings
  • Per serving:
  • Makes 4 servings
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 137.1
  • Fat: 9.8 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 54 mg
  • Sodium: 62.5 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 10.7 g
  • Fiber: 4.3 g
  • Sugars: 4.1 g
  • Protein: 3.5 g

Herbed Potluck Meatballs

I was in a bit of a hurry when I took this photo so it's a bit blurry

This past week was our new graduate student potluck that we host every new semester. I enjoy meeting new people but all the while I try to bring something substantial for myself because I never know what people will bring. I like having something good for me that everyone can enjoy. I also like something easy to prepare. For this potluck I made meatballs. Last time I made pulled pork and had about 3 servings of leftovers, so I thought this would be the case for my meatballs. I should have made more because at the end of dinner there were only 2 meatballs left! These were so simple and so good I even made another smaller batch this weekend. There's not a huge list of ingredients, with most of the flavor coming from taking the extra step to roast the meatballs before putting them into the slow cooker.

This recipe was made even easier by using store-bought sauce. I read a lot of labels before selecting Ragu, which happened to have a relatively short ingredient list plus it was pretty cheap. I selected a no sugar added version. I was surprised by how many sauces had soybean oil...I figured they'd use olive oil because they're pasta sauces, but again you have to be careful with the labels.

Inexpensive, plus the list of ingredients seem pretty natural

Herbed Potluck Meatballs
Printable Recipe

2 1/2 lbs ground sirloin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup finely diced onion
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cups marinara sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
small amount of olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Line a large baking pan with foil for easy cleanup and lightly brush with olive oil.
3. In a large bowl mix the meat, garlic, onion, herbs, and some salt and pepper. Your hands are the best tool for this. Form meatballs from about a tablespoonful of meat. I managed to make 51 meatballs. Line them up on the baking pan.
4. Bake the meatballs for 18 minutes (longer if you make larger meatballs).
5. Add about 1/2 cup of sauce to the bottom of the slow cooker. Add a single layer of meatballs, adding a little sauce on top of them. Continue layering meatballs and sauce. Turn the slow cooker on low and cook for 2-4 hours, just long enough to allow the meat and sauce to blend in flavor. Serve warm.

  • Makes about 12 appetizer servings
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 195.1
  • Fat: 9.5 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 52.2 mg
  • Sodium: 279.5 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 4.9 g
  • Fiber: 0.9 g
  • Sugars: 3 g
  • Protein: 20.8 g

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Grain-Free Banana Nut Pancakes

I normally eat a omelet or some other derivation of eggs for breakfast, but frankly that can get kind of boring at times. For a change of pace, I decided to make my first batch of almond flour-based pancakes in order to use up some ripened bananas. The bananas add enough sweetness so not other sweeteners are needed. This recipe was derived from the book The 90 Day Paleo Diet Revolution by Margarete McCallahan and Dr. Thomas Ross. They use apples or blueberries in their recipe, but I thought mashed bananas would be perfect as well. I was really pleased with the fluffy texture and that their surfaces became the same golden brown color as regular pancakes. While they don't taste like IHOP pancakes, they are good in their own right with a dab of butter, maple syrup, and a few pecans sprinkled on top. I might try and make a fruit-free version to use as "bread" in sandwiches!

Grain-Free Banana Nut Pancakes
Printable Recipe

2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
dash nutmeg
dash salt
1 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 cup chopped pecans

1. Blend all the ingredients together.
2. Heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Lightly oil the pan with the oil of your choice. Drop 1/8th-cup fulls of the batter for 3" diameter pancakes. Allow the pancakes to sit until the edges are slightly cooked and the tops are bubbling before flipping to cook on the second side. Makes about 12 silver dollar-style pancakes.

  • For 1/12th of the recipe:
  • Calories: 101.4
  • Fat: 7.1 g
  • Saturated fat: 0.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 46.3 mg
  • Sodium: 30.6 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 6.3 g
  • Fiber: 1.7 g
  • Sugar: 2.9 g
  • Protein: 3.6 g

Monday, January 9, 2012

Slow-Cooked Turkey Legs with Mushrooms

This past weekend was my last weekend in Indiana before going back to Texas for another semester. I was able to get back to my element, however, because my family and I went to a local winery and vineyard in Illinois called Castle Finn. I hadn't been their yet, but I had tasted their wines before and had heard about how pretty their location was. I enjoyed every wine I tasted; I had not had wines made from French-American hybrid vines in a long time. I like their wines because they remind me of when I first began to enjoy wine when I took a wine appreciation class as an undergrad. Besides dry, semi-sweet, and sweet wines, their selection includes both sparkling and fruit wines, which I find to be refreshing. We picked up their "Moonlight Minuet," a sweet, white table wine made from Niagara grape, which I imagine would be great for a party, especially if there are people there who claim not to like wine; it would win many people over. I also selected the blackberry wine, because blackberries are probably my favorite fruit in dessert; it's a fun change if you want to have a sweeter wine.

Also this weekend, I prepared a nice dinner based on a request from Chow Bella's Facebook page for some slow-cooker/crockpot meals. I realized I hadn't posted a crockpot recipe since February 2011! So for this meal I decided to use a cut of meat that I haven't ever posted a recipe for...turkey legs...with a really flavorful sauce made from broth and tomato paste with mushrooms, onions, garlic, and herbs. It was a really great winter supper, especially served alongside onions and cabbage, which became slightly sweet and browned from being sauteed. This is a really easy, but elegant, high-protein meal.

Slow-Cooked Turkey Legs with Mushrooms
Printable Recipe

2 lbs turkey legs (about 3)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 8-oz package button mushrooms, quartered
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
salt and pepper

1. Season the turkey legs with salt and pepper. In a large, dry skillet over medium-high heat, brown the turkey legs on all sides. When they are browned, remove them from the pan and set aside. Immediately add half of the chicken broth and scrape up the browned bits. Stir the tomato paste into the broth  to loosen it up.
2. Add the mushrooms, onion, and garlic to the crock of a slower cooker/crockpot. Layer the turkey legs on top, then add the tomato-broth mixture, the remaining broth, then sprinkle over the herbs. Set the slow cooker/crockpot on low for 8-10 hour or high from 6-8 hours.
3. Remove the cooked meat to your serving plate and pour over the tomato-y sauce and vegetables. The meat should be tender enough to pull off the bone with a serving spoon.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 330.7
  • Fat: 9.6 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 229.0 mg
  • Sodium: 475.3 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 4.3 g
  • Sugar: 0.8 g
  • Protein: 54.1 g

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy 3rd Birthday Chow Bella!

I made it through my first year of my doctorate, celebrated the holidays, had my own birthday, and now it's time to recognize the 3rd birthday of Chow Bella! I'm glad my hobby I started long ago is still in the works, despite disruption of moving and settling in a new town and university.

I have been cooking a lot since I have been home for winter break, but most of the things are off-the-cuff non-recipes. I also have been cooking a lot of recipes from The Food Lovers Make it Paleo cookbook. I hope once I accumulate enough pictures and tried a lot of recipes to do a comprehensive review. So far, every single recipe has pleased both me and those who do not eat a Paleo diet, so I think this cookbook is a winner. I even made their chocolate chip cookies for my birthday treat, and they are awesome. Not just "good for being a Paleo cookie recipe" but a good recipe in general! I have made one of their main course recipes and an appetizer recipe as well for a New Year's party. I plan to prepare a few more, then have a post with a lot of pictures.

Here is a picture of our Christmas dinner---all Paleo, with roasted turkey, a baked pumpkin side dish I kind of threw together and hope to re-make, and a Brussels sprouts recipe adapted from Loren Cordain's cookbook.

Hope you all had a nice holiday season! Luckily my class load isn't as heavy this semester so I hope to bring you all a lot more recipes!
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