bolognese sauce over zucchini noodles

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I like meat, I like sauce - so here is meat sauce. Sometimes it would be nice if blog posts that simple would fly. I know some people dearly wish they would but no such luck in this case. You have to endure either the reading or the scrolling past the rambling to get to the actual recipe. The truth is I like the writing part because through it I hope to share a bit of my life/neurosis with you (mostly the latter).

But back to bolognese sauce. This bolognese sauce is good - no, it’s great! It’s a foolproof recipe that was born in my cast iron skillet several years back. If you’ve been following me for a bit, you know well that I have a bit of an infatuation with my cast iron skillet. I’m sure this sauce would turn out perfectly fine in any other pan but for me it’s cast iron all the way. There’s something inexplicable about it; the way it infuses each ingredient it touches with an almost ethereal quality. Here I go again, professing my love for my cast iron skillet. But seriously if you haven’t gotten your hands on one, it’s a worthy investment. One you’ll forever treasure.

But as usual I’ve digressed. This time, really back to this bolognese sauce. Any recipe that starts with bacon has to be good, am I right? And if there’s wine involved, I’m pretty much going to burst into song and dance. In my opinion these two ingredients make any dish spectacular. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, expensive wine either, just one you would want to actually drink. I learned that early on from the experts. Good wine makes good food.

This speedy bolognese is a hearty recipe you can make on any weeknight. Traditional bolognese is cooked slowly for hours but I’ve decided to make a speedier version that’s heavenly every single time. And if you have a food processor in your possession, you’re in luck. Sure you can cut the vegetables by hand and enjoy the process while doing so, but on a busy weeknight a few pulses of the food processor are a welcoming aid.

You have a few options for what to serve this sauce with. If you’re not paleo or whole 30, you could go with rice pasta or regular but I like sticking with zucchini noodles as they work exceptionally well with it. So grab a glass of wine for the bolognese, one for yourself and get cooking!

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bolognese sauce over zucchini noodles

  • Prep time: 10 mins

  • Cook time: 45 mins

  • Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 large carrots peeled and roughly chopped

  • 2 celery stalks roughly chopped

  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters

  • 1/2 pint mushrooms baby portabella or white mushrooms, finely chopped

  • 1 large clove minced garlic

  • 3 slices bacon diced

  • 1 lb grass fed beef (I like 85%)

  • 1/2 cup red wine (use broth for whole 30)

  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce

  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 tbsp oregano

  • 1/2 tsp salt divided

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil

  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped italian parsley

  • 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar or maple syrup (skip for whole 30)

  • 2-3 zucchini (zoodles for serving or spaghetti if not gluten free)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1/2 cup bone or chicken broth (optional)

Equipment:

Directions:

In a food processor, add carrots, onion and celery and pulse a few times. You still want to be able to recognize the vegetables. Small but not granular is ideal. (Alternatively chop all vegetables small by hand).

Preheat cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy. About 3-5 minutes. Remove bacon from pan and place on paper towel lined plate and set aside. In the same pan, add onion, carrot, celery and 1/4 tsp salt cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add beef, stirring contentiously and breaking it up into smaller pieces. Cook until browned (about 8 minutes).

When meat is fully cooked, add wine and turn heat up to scrape any bits off the skillet. Cook until most of the wine is evaporated. Add tomato sauce and paste, oregano, mushrooms, salt, pepper and coconut sugar. Add bacon, basil, parsley and lower the heat to low. Let cook for 25 minutes stirring occasionally. If you want to thin out the sauce, feel free to use some or all of the broth. But this is optional. I like my sauce thick.

Heat frying pan, 1 tbsp of oil olive oil and add zucchini noodles. Cook for 1-2 minutes on medium heat, stirring continuously. The noodles should still have a bite to them just slightly softened.

To assemble, place zoodles on plate, top with the bolognese sauce and add additional basil if you so desire. This will pair exceptionally well with a Nebiolo or Pinot Noir.

 Want the ultimate comfort food? Bolognese sauce does it for me and I think you'll agree! With a few shortcuts this sauce can be ready in 45 minutes. It's loaded with vegetables, when served over zucchini noodles, it's low carb, paleo and whole 30. Check it out! #bolognesesauce, #bolognese, #paleo, #whole30, #meatsauce, #realfood, #calmeats, #lowcarb, #keto, #dairyfree, #glutenfree, #zucchininoodles, #zoodles



sweet potato noodles with kale and walnut sage sauce

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It’s been raining for a thousand years. Well not quite but nearly 2 months straight. I recall the day everything started when the sky opened up and day after day of rain replaced what was supposed to be a bright, sunny season. As I drown my sorrows in liquid vitamin D (which I usually reserve for the dark winter months), I realize maybe this is the new normal and I have to find a way to accept it.

It’s absurd to be frustrated at weather and yet here I am, feeling robbed of strawberry picking, beach day trips, laying in the grass, playing with my kids outside and more. I waited all summer for myself to return to some version of myself but it hasn’t quite happened. Accepting things as they are feels impossibly difficult for me. I wonder if I’m alone or if it’s simply human nature to be resistant to things that go against our expectations. But truly what is there to do other than make peace with what is? When talking about expectations someone dear once said: “if you don’t have any, you won’t be disappointed.” What a concept!

But here we are on the brink of fall and I’m going to optimistically believe that eventually the rain will stop and sunnier days will be on the horizon. They have to be, right? So I’m thinking about fall food, fall flavors and all things I love about this season. Earthy, rich, luscious and satisfying food that fits perfectly well with the start of cooler weather.

There are many foods I associate with fall but one in particular is sage. In my opinion it’s an ingredient that can easily make or break a dish. Sage is a capricious herb; use too much and you find yourself with an overpowering flavor that drowns out all other ingredients. Use too little and you miss out on the beauty and essence of what this robust herb has to offer.

It was sage that inspired the sauce for this dish - a creamy and satisfying concoction. Coconut milk, walnuts, sage and maple syrup work thoroughly well with shallot, kale and garlic to create this delightful sauce. Next came the thing to pair it with. I settled on sweet potato noodles as the ideal companion. It’s an indulgent, fall inspired dish you can throw together in 15 minutes.

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sweet potato noodles with kale and walnut sauce:

  • prep time: 10 minutes

  • cooking time: 15 minutes

  • makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 large shallot, finely cut

  • 1 large garlic cloves minced

  • 1/3 cup walnuts plus extra 2 tbsp

  • 1 can coconut milk

  • 1 tsp fresh sage

  • 1 tsp maple syrup (skip for Whole 30)

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  • 2 cups kale de-stemmed and cut into bite size pieces

  • 2 large sweet potatoes spiralized

Equipment:

  • spiralizer of your choice

  • medium frying pan

  • large frying pan

  • blender or food processor

Directions:

Blend coconut milk, sage, maple syrup and 1/3 cup walnuts. Set aside.

Preheat large frying pan on medium. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Next, add kale and cook for 5 minutes until it begins to soften but still retains a crunch.

Add walnut sage sauce and cook for 1 minute to heat sauce through.

Meanwhile, in medium frying pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil and sweet potato noodles and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add 2 tbsp water to create steam and continue cooking for another 5 minutes until sweet potato noodles are soft. You can cook them longer if you want them a bit softer. Add sweet potato noodles to sauce and combine well.

Serve right away with additional chopped walnuts and if you really love sage, a little extra on top.


 I'm a sucker for fall flavors! This rich and creamy sweet potato noodle with kale and walnut sage sauce recipe is earthy, flavorful and oh so comforting. Check out this simple 15 minute vegan, paleo recipe that also has a whole 30 option. #vegan, #fall, #autumfood, #fallfood, #sage, #kale, #paleo, #whole30, #calmeats, #sweetpotatonoodles, #sage, #glutenfree, #dairyfree




instant pot pulled pork with coleslaw

 instant pot pulled pork
 instant pot pulled pork
 sweet potato stuffed with pulled work and coleslaw
 red cabbage

Growing up, I disliked cabbage. That's a bit of a problem in a country where cabbage is eaten at alarming rates. It was often on the menu in one fashion or another and every meal was met with the same resistance. I didn't like it, I didn't want it. Defying your elders when food is put in front of you is in bad taste and doesn't happen often when you're a Romanian child, but I stood my ground - I was not going to eat it and they couldn't make me. Of course unless it was in the form of sauerkraut, but that's a different story. 

When I moved to the United States, I was introduced to coleslaw. I couldn't believe that such a food existed. It contained so much of what I loathed - not one but two types of cabbage and it tasted sweet. Why? Why would anyone eat this? 

But at a cookout several years ago, it was served along side pulled pork and I decided to give it another shot. To my surprise, not only did I like it, but loved it. In fact, I couldn't stop eating it. Which brings me back to the concept that whatever we envisioned to be true once upon a time, may not always be that way. Stay open...

But let's talk about pulled pork, which was the catalyst to my liking coleslaw and ignited my love of cabbage. I look at pulled pork as sort of the deus ex machina as it certainly changed the course of my life. I know, pulled pork? But really, it did. It opened my eyes to everything wonderful about this absurdly delicious combination. Out of maybe all classic American recipes, this may just be my favorite. I can eat pulled pork and coleslaw until I explode. Think I'm kidding? I've had to unbutton my jeans (discreetly, of course) on more than one occasion after eating it. 

So I was in the mood for this combo and decided to take some shortcuts. Shamefully patience is not always one of my virtues, especially when it come to cravings, but this is where the Instant Pot comes in. I admit, I don't use it nearly as much as I should but was glad to have it when the mood for pulled pork struck. 

I played around with a few different dry rub variations as well as the cuts of meat and I'm torn between butt and shoulder. Honestly, either will do as long as it fits in the pot. Around 4 lbs is about as big as the Instant Pot can handle. And for the coleslaw, I kept things paleo and replaced the traditional sugar with just a bit of honey. The combination of pulled pork and coleslaw is unmatched. What you serve it on is entirely up to you. I went with baked sweet potatoes (speedy instruction below) as the base but if you're not paleo, feel free to serve them on soft buns or stick with just pulled pork and coleslaw. 

Needless to say, during the recipe testing and photographing process, I ate a lot of pulled pork and think this recipe is excellent if you have about 2 hours to work with and want to have all the taste of slow cooking with none of the waiting. 

 cilantro
 stuffed sweet potatoes with pulled pork and coleslaw
 coleslaw
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 red cabbage, cilantro and pulled pork

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instant pot pulled pork with coleslaw

  • prep time: 10 minutes

  • cooking time: 1 hour 40 minutes

  • yields: 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

For pulled pork: 

  • 3.5-4lbs pork butt or shoulder

  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar

  • 3 tsp paprika

  • 1/8 tsp smoked paprika

  • 1 tbsp ground cumin

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1 tsp onion powder

  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard

  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil

  • juice of one orange

  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup broth or water

  • optional: serve with bbq sauce

For coleslaw: 

  • 1/2 cup home made mayo or store bought

  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp honey

  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

  • 1/8 tsp pepper

  • 1/4 head finely cut red cabbage

  • 1/4 head finely cut green cabbage

  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot

Equipment

  • Instant Pot

  • large bowl

  • medium bowl

  • grater

  • large cutting board

Directions

Pat pork shoulder or butt with paper towels to ensure the spice mix sticks. Combine all 9 dry ingredients under pulled pork in medium bowl. 

With lid off, turn Instant Pot on to Sauté option. Add olive oil, and sauté pork for 3 minutes on each side. Turn off instant pot. 

Add orange juice, broth, apple cider vinegar and lock lid. Turn Instant Pot on to manual for 60 minutes on high pressure. Once time is up, let Instant Pot naturally depresurize. 

Remove pork from Instant Pot on cutting board and shred with two forks. Carefully, discard about half of the cooking liquid and add pulled pork back to the Instant Pot. Seal lid, turn it back on to manual for 5 more minutes. Let naturally depresurize once more. Give it a stir and serve on its own or with this paleo bbq sauce.

While the pork is cooking, add all ingredients under coleslaw in large bowl, combine well and serve right away. It will store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

* For speedy baked sweet potatoes, pierce sweet potato a few times with fork, rub with a little olive oil and place on microwave safe plate. Use the sweet potato sensor option and cook turning once until sweet potato is soft. 

 If you're looking for a delicious, addicting pulled pork recipe, get your Instant Pot ready! This recipe takes under 2 hours to make and the combination of the moist pulled pork with the crunchy paleo coleslaw is simply divine! #pulledpork, #coleslaw, #paleo, #glutenfree, #dairyfree, #instantpot, #instantpotpulledpork, #calmeats, #realfood

 

 

 

 

paleo thai noodles

 paleo thai noodles
 red cabbage
 red cabbage and cilantro
 paleo thai noodles

It was a balmy August night. New York summers are unlike any other. The city seems to swallow up all of the sun's energy during the day and slowly release it at night, engulfing its residents in a veil of heat. But it didn't matter, the city's lights were brightly gliding by as we crossed the Brooklyn bridge. The cool cab was a welcoming respite from the temperature and I took it all in eagerly anticipating the screening of Donnie Darko at the Brooklyn Brewery. 

During my college years I went through a pretty intense movie obsession phase. When I wasn't buried in books and between nights out, I was getting my movie fix. I mostly had a thing for foreign and indie films. Sure blockbusters were cool, but I liked losing myself in character's lives and more often than not, those intense, complex stories were found in independent films. It seemed to fit my escapist nature. 

One day a friend mentioned that I really needed to see the movie Donnie Darko. I tend to be hesitant when someone tells me that I "have to" see or read something but decided to give it a shot anyway. And so my sheer infatuation with this film began. I can't say with certainty what did it. It may have been the time in my life, the soundtrack, story or simply the character's lives that had me hooked. It wasn't called a cult film for nothing.

We'd arrived and as is typical in my nature, I get overly excited about things I'm into and go overboard. Before the movie even started, I'd had several beers and was busy chatting and chain smoking when the wave of nausea came over me. I caught the opening scene only to spend the next hour or so in the bathroom. Empty stomachs and strong beers are not a good match, I learned. But somehow I miraculously pulled through and managed to catch the last part of the film. In my 20s, I had an absurd ability to hang and recover. That is no longer the case, but those were good days. 

Despite the earlier episode, I was fine, in fact, I was more than fine - I was starving and felt like I'd gotten a second chance at the night. We decided some food would probably do everyone good. Nearby we spotted a Thai restaurant and decided to make our way over. It was one of the prettiest spaces I'd been in. Whether it was my feeling better and functioning at that point or if the place really was that special, I can't recall, but the colors, shapes and energy were palpable. Everything had a mystifying glow. 

It was my first time trying Thai food and I distinctly remember that noodle dish. Entering unknown territory is scary but so exciting - a matter of perspective I suppose. That night, my love affair with Thai food began. The noodle dish in front of me had so many layers of flavor and textures that my tastebuds were experiencing nirvana. 

While today's dish will likely not bring on any such feelings, I try to play around with Thai recipes as much as I can and made a paleo version for you. The crunch from the vegetables and cashews mixed with the gooey creaminess from the almond butter and tahini, will hopefully make you swoon the way it makes me. 

*If you're not paleo, you can easily substitute peanut butter for almond butter, pad Thai noodles for the carrots and zucchini and peanuts for cashews.

 paleo thai noodles
 paleo thai noodles
 chopsticks and cilantro
 paleo thai noodles
 paleo thai noodles

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paleo thai noodles

  • prep time: 10 minutes

  • cooking time: 2 minutes

  • makes: 2 servings

Ingredients

Sauce

Vegetables

  • 1 tsp coconut oil

  • 1 large zucchini or 2 small, spiralized

  • 1 large carrot, spiralized

  • 1 cup red cabbage, sliced

  • 1/4 red pepper, thinly sliced

  • 1 tbsp chopped toasted cashews

  • 1 tbsp sliced scallion (green part only)

  • optional: a few leaves of thai basil or regular basil chopped

Equipment:

  • small frying pan

  • large bowl

  • spiralizer of your choice

Directions

In frying pan add coconut oil, zucchini and carrot spirals and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes on medium until the noodles are warm and slightly soft. Remove from heat and set on plate to cool.

In mixing bowl combine all ingredients for sauce and mix well. Don't worry if the sauce is a bit thick. Zucchini contains a lot of water and will thin it out. 

Add zucchini and carrot noodles to sauce as well as cabbage, red pepper, cashews, scallions, cilantro if you'd like Thai or regular basil. Serve right away.


 If you're in the mood for a quick Thai dish, try this paleo version of Thai noodles. It's an explosion of flavor in your mouth and your body will be grateful for vegetable overload. It takes just 10 minutes to throw this quick dish together. #paleo, #vegan, #calmeats, #thainoodles, #paleothaifood, #thai, #salad, #dinner, #glutenfree, #grainfree, #dairyfree, #10minutemeals

 

 

one pan greek lemon chicken with baby potatoes

 one pan greek lemon chicken with baby potatoes
 one pan greek lemon chicken with baby potatoes
 one pan greek lemon chicken with baby potatoes
 one pan greek lemon chicken with baby potatoes

A few years ago my father mentioned that I'm 1/16th Greek. He currently resides in Romania but is completely enthralled with Greece and its culture. So much so that he used my grandmother's maiden name (which is Greek) on one of his poetry books and does so for most of his writing. He visits Greece as much as possible and likes to share all his adventures and stories through photos, writing or in person. I'm certain that given the opportunity, he would live there permanently. 

I see a lot of similarities between Greeks and Romanians. They're often very honest (even if you don't like it), loud, talkative, passionate, they love to sing, dance and are all about their food and wine. Though I never had an obsession with Greece to the extent of my father's, I can relate on a food level and wine level. 

On his side of the family, I grew up eating food that was heavily steeped in traditional Greek cooking. My grandmother, a culinary whiz, would spend a good chunk of her day in the kitchen whipping up delicious stews that left the tiny apartment smelling divine. Though meat was often a challenge to obtain, my grandparents had no problem waiting in line for hours only to return home and cook for several more. It's just how things were done.

Two weeks ago, while doing my weekly shopping, I spotted some beautiful potted thyme. I had no idea what I would make with it but decided it was coming home with me regardless and I would figure it out later. But while watching an episode of Parts Unknown about the Greek Isles several days later, I had my answer. I would without a doubt whip up something Greek inspired - an homage to the 16th of my heritage. 

I wanted something simple yet flavorful, involving lemon, oregano and obviously thyme. And also something that required little clean up. The answer was a one pan Greek lemon chicken with baby potatoes. The flavors of thyme and oregano take me right back to my grandparents little kitchen. 

If you don't have a cast iron pan yet, I highly recommend it. It's without a doubt one of the best investments I've ever made and use it nearly every day. It's also ideal for transferring the cooking process from stovetop to oven. You may need a pair of strong hands to move it but it's most certainly worth the weight. 

 one pan greek lemon chicken with baby potatoes
 one pan greek lemon chicken with baby potatoes
 one pan greek lemon chicken with baby potatoes
 thyme and lemon on cutting board

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one pan greek lemon chicken with baby potaotes

  • prep time: 10 minutes

  • marinating time: 1-12 hours

  • cooking time: 45-50 minutes

  • makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 fresh sprigs of thyme

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

  • 2 tsp dried oregano

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3/4 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

  • 1/4 cup olive oil + 1 tbsp

  • 5 lemon slices

  • 1.5 lbs chicken thighs

  • 1 lb baby potatoes cut in half

Equipment

  • cast iron pan or other oven safe pan

  • container with lid or Ziplock bag

Directions

In container or bag, combine lemon juice, oregano, minced garlic, salt, 1/4 cup olive oil pepper and chicken and mix well. Place in refrigerator and marinade for at least one hour or up to 12 hours. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

In cast iron pan heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Remove chicken from bag and add to pan, reserving the marinade. Cook chicken on both sides for 3 minutes. 

Meanwhile, add potatoes to marinade bag and let sit until chicken has finished searing. Add potatoes and remaining marinade to chicken and arrange them evenly around chicken thighs. Add thyme sprigs and nestle lemon slices between chicken and potatoes. 

Add to preheated oven and let roast for 40 minutes giving potatoes a stir once half way through cooking. 

Serve with a side crunchy green beans. 


 One pot dishes are great, aren't they? This lemony, fresh one pan Greek lemon chicken is my go to when I want something delicious that involves little clean up. It's also gluten free and whole 30. #onepanrecipe, #chicken, #whole30, #calmeats, #chickenrecipe, #glutenfree, #dairyfree, #potatoes, #onepotmeals, #realfood